Structural and Topographical Models of Personality

Sigmund Freudís Theory is quite complex and his writing on psychosexual development has set the groundwork for how our personalities develop. This is one of the 5 parts of his overall theory of personality. It is important to have these structural models as a reference in order to understand the inner workings of being.


The structural Model [the id, the ego and the super-ego]

The id

†† We are born with our Id.† The id is an important part of our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs met. Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation. When a child is hungry, the id wants food and therefore the child cries. When the child needs to be changed the id cries. When the child is uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold or just wants attention, the id speaks up until his needs are met.

†† The id doesnít care about reality, about the needs of anyone else, only its own satisfaction. When the id wants something, nothing else is important. It is the child who sits in front of a birthday cake and climbs into it hands and face and doesnít care that other people also want cake -† Impulsive.


The ego

†† Within the next 3 years, as the child interacts more and more with the world, the second part of the personality begins to develop. Freud called this part the EGO. The ego is based on the reality principle. The ego understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes being impulsive or selfish can hurt us in the long run. It is the egoís job to meet the needs of the id, while taking into consideration the reality of the situation.

†† It is the child who would think twice before doing something with the knowledge that it could possibly be wrong to climb into the cake this way. Impulse control is learnt.


The superego

†† By the age of 5, or the end of the phallic stage of development, the SUPEREGO develops. The Superego is the moral part of us and develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by our caregivers. Many equate the superego with the conscience as it dictates our belief of right and wrong.

†† In a healthy person, the ego is the strongest so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego and still take into consideration the reality of every situation. Not an easy job, but if the id gets too strong, impulses and self-gratification take over the personís life. If the superego becomes too strong, the person would be driven by rigid morals, would be judgmental and unbending in his or her interactions with the world.


Stages of Psycho-sexual Development

Oral StageóBirth to 18 months

†† During the oral stage, the child is focused on oral pleasure [sucking]. Too much or too little gratification can result in an Oral Fixation or Oral Personality which is evidenced by a preoccupation with oral activities. This type of personality may have a stronger tendency to smoke, drink alcohol, over-eat, or bit his nails. Personality wise, these individuals may become overly dependent on others, gullible and perpetual followers. On the other hand, they may also fight these urges and develop pessimism and aggression toward others.


Anal Stageó18 months to 3 years

†† The childís focus of pleasure in this stage is on eliminating and retaining faeces. Through societyís pressure, mainly via parents, the child has to learn to control anal stimulation. In terms of personality, after effects of an anal fixation during this stage can result in an obsession with cleanliness, perfection and control [anal retentive]. On the opposite end of the spectrum, they may become messy and disorganised [anal expulsive].


Phallic StageóAges 3 to 6

†† The pleasure zone switches to the genitals. During this stage boys develop unconscious sexual desires for their mothers. Because of this, he becomes rivals with his father and sees him as competition for the motherís affection. During this time, boys also develop a fear that their father will punish them for these feelings, such as by castrating them. This group of feelings is known as Oedipus Complex [after the Greek Mythological figure who accidentally killed his father and married his mother.]

†† Later it was added that girls go through a similar situation, developing unconscious sexual attraction to their father. Although Freud disagreed with this theory, it has been called the Electra Complex.

†† According to Freud, out of fear of castration and due to the strong competition of his father, boys eventually decide to identify with him rather than fight him. By identifying with his father, the boy develops masculine characteristics and identifies himself as a male and represses his sexual feelings toward his mother. A fixation at this stage could result in sexual deviancies [both overindulging and avoidance] and week or confused sexual identity according to psychoanalysts.


Latency StageóAge 6 to puberty

†† It is during this stage that sexual urges remain repressed and children interact and play mostly with same sex peers.


Genital StageóPuberty on

†† The final stage of psychosexual development begins at the start of puberty when sexual urges are once again awakened. Through the lessons learned during the previous stages, adolescents direct their sexual urges onto opposite sex peers where the primary focus of pleasure is the genitals.


Structural and Topographical Models of Personality