Recently, I have become aware of how pervasive Freud’s thinking about Id, Superego and Ego is in our understanding of human interaction. Now, although I studied Freud and the psychoanalytic tradition 34 years ago, I can honestly say that I am only beginning to understand it and that because of an excellent little passage in David Baboulene’s book ‘Story’ about the role of each function.
Basically, ‘ Id’ is our unfettered inclination that determines what we truly desire. Think of it like a cat that irrespective of whether it’s hungry or not will kill a mouse, bird, frog (even us if it could!). Why? because this is it’s predisposed desire and nothing deters it from that objective.
Unlike cats, humans although affected by Id are also aware of social conventions and expectation – this is the superego which facilitates us mitigating our raw desire to that which is open to and affected by societal awareness and a correct response – in other words, if I attack my noisy neighbour, there will be consequences. I may have to go to court. My name and face will be splashed across the front pages and people will shun me in the streets.
The last component, ‘ego’, is the last aspect that remains and describes the bipartite between the influence that remains after Id and Superego have worked their influence! We might not want to go to jail but it doesn’t change the way we feel about our annoying neighbour. So what has this to do with coronavirus and politics?
Well…Christians often use the issue of freewill to describe people’s good and poor choices. Whether they obey government advice about self-isolating for the sake of everyone (superego) or do what they want even if it results in people contracting the virus and dying as a result (Id). But what are we to make of a government prepared to change guidelines to facilitate a return to work – can we say that is ‘superego’ (designed with the best interest of everyone in mind?) or ‘Id’ (central to an individual, unchecked desire like becoming productive while some will lose lives?)
However you understand the recent coronavirus advice and the sensibility of what is proposed now and how it differs from what was advised 12 weeks ago, know this: Id and superego is at work and will tell us more about our individual want then fulfilling our consensus need.
Til next time!