What is the Id?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2016
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The id is a term developed by Sigmund Freud to describe a part of the brain. He also used the terms ego and superego to describe the two other part of the brain, that along with the id, drive the personality. It is specifically all our uncomplicated needs for pleasure, food, and survival. To Freud, it represented the instinctual behavior of each person.

According to Freud, the id cares not about whether its needs are rational or detrimental. It is a common undercurrent that sometimes causes us to behave in selfish or destructive ways when we are not using our egos and superegos to control it. It’s not always that the id is bad or good, or has any kind of moral value. It is amoral, rather than immoral, since it doesn't contain the moral controls. Instead the superego has this job and gradually asserts morality onto the id to make the ego behave.

Young children, especially babies are id-driven. Having very little moral concept, and miniscule concept of the rules of society or the needs of others, they’re going to ask for what they want pretty much all of the time. This can be seen in their need to be fed, held, get adequate sleep, and have clean diapers.


As the baby starts to grow, he or she gains a sense of self, the ego, and a sense of the rules imposed by the society of his or her home and later the society of its world, called the superego. But it takes a long time for children to move from that place of being driven by the id to being able to control it, and some don’t learn. This can be seen in a child claiming that everything in the house is “mine,” or in the sudden temper tantrums when his or her wishes are thwarted.

Even well adjusted people have their id-driven moments. An example of this is eating comfort foods. A sudden burst of anger is another type of id response. It’s not rational and it’s usually not helpful, but it is common.

Freud would look at addictive behavior, especially where there is no outward physical addiction, like compulsive gambling, shopping, or sex addiction as behavior driven very much by the id. In these cases, treatment would mean learning to control or at least ignore it.


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