According to Sigmund Freud’s structural theory of the mind, the id, the ego and the superego function in different levels of consciousness. There is a constant movement of memories and impulses from one level to another. The id is the unconscious storage area of our drives, which are constantly active. Ruled by the pleasure principle, the id demands immediate satisfaction of all its urges, regard- less of what undesirable effects may be caused. The ego operates mainly in cons- cious and preconscious levels.
The ego also contains unconscious elements, both the ego and the superego evolved from the id. Ruled by the reality principle, the go takes care of the id s urges as soon as the adequate situation is found. Inapp- ropriate desires are not satisfied but they are repressed. Only partially conscious, the superego serves as a censor on the ego functions and causes the individual’s guilty feelings and fear of punishment to appear. Fear arises in response to an actual danger which may cause anxiety.
Anxiety is a State of intense apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a threatening event or situation, often to a degree that the normal physical and psychological functioning of the affected individual is disrupted. In other words, it is a feeling of dread or a panic attack. Some of the symptoms of anxiety may be palpitations, dry mouth, dilatation of the pupils, shortness of breath, sweating, abdominal symptoms, tightness in the throat, trembling and dizziness.
The psychological symptoms also include irritability, difficulty with concentration, and restlessness, release of forbidden impulses or memories looking for gratification are felt as threatening and provoke anxiety. The same is true in relation to deeply buried traumatic experiences that haunt the ego, demanding further attention. Freud also identified the defense mechanisms. These are unconscious psychic processes that provide the ego with relief from the state of psychic conflict between the intruding id, the superego and the powerful influences coming from external reality.
The major defense mechanisms are for our protect- tion. Let’s say you are angry with a professor, because he is very critical of you. Here’s how the various defenses might hide or transform that anger: The first defense mechanism I will address is repression. This is the with- Drawl from consciousness of an unwanted idea, affect, or desire by pushing it Into the unconscious part of the mind. You revert to an old, usually immature behavior to ventilate your feeling. The student may upset the class or say some- thing like, “Let’s shoot spitballs at people.
In denial, the student will completely reject the thought or feeling. “I’m not angry with him! ” There is a refusal to recognize a situation. With suppression you are vaguely aware of the thought or feeling, but try to hide it. “I’m going to try to be nice to him. ” If you conform to a reaction formation, you will turn the feeling into its opposite. “I think he’s really great! ” If you use displacement, you redirect your feelings to another target. I hate that secretary, its her not him. Projection is when you think someone else has your thought or feeling.
That professor hates me. or That student hates the professor. ” Rationalization is giving a reasonable explanation for an event. You come up with various explanations to justify the situation (while denying your feelings). “He’s so critical because he’s trying to help us do our best. ” Isolation of affect is when you “think” the feeling but don’t really feel it. “I guess I’m angry with him, sort of. ” When undoing you try to reverse or undo your feeling by doing something hat indicates the opposite feeling.
It may be an “apology” for the feeling you find unacceptable within yourself. “I think I’ll give that professor an apple. ” While many of Freud’s ideas concerning personality have been criticized and largely dismissed, his concept of defense mechanisms is still helpful to many psychologists. They are used to defend against anxiety and to maintain self- esteem. The use of defense mechanisms can indicate problem areas for a person, as a defense mechanism gives some relief from anxiety producing thoughts and actions at the expense of distorting the real world.