In describing and explaining the whole structure or system of the scientific field and subject known as ‘psychoanalysis,’ Sigmund Freud wrote:
“The division of the psychical into what is conscious and what is unconscious is the fundamental premiss of psycho-analysis; and it alone makes it possible for psycho-analysis to understand the pathological processes in mental life, which are as common as they are important, and to find a place for them in the framework of science.”
By virtue of its attempt to uncover the “inner depths” or “inner workings” of the human soul, psychoanalysis is a “much attacked” field and subject amongst the empirical scientific community to borrow from Freud. Nevertheless, at the heart of the conscious level of the psyche or human mind is ‘repression,’ which is essentially a ‘force’ that ‘opposes’ the contents and ideas of the ‘unconscious’ level from becoming conscious. Repression emanates directly from the conscious level of the mind as a result of the input which goes into the conscious mind from the external world. As mentioned before, forgetfulness and brain fog are all signs of the ‘repression’ emanating from the conscious level of the mind. Thus, and as Freud argued, the idea of the unconscious is “derived” from “the theory of repression.” In turn, the notion of there being a repressed level of the mind “is the prototype of the unconscious for us.”
Yet, the paradox is that the conscious is also unconscious because both the conscious and unconscious overlap and intersect with one another, as Freud argued. ‘Word-representations’ are considered as the intermediaries between the memories residing in the unconscious and the conscious levels of the mind. And in a sense, the ‘word-representations’ emanating from the conscious mind towards the external world are the ‘residue’ of memories.
The ‘conscious’ is known as the ‘ego’ in psychoanalytic parlance, and the ‘unconscious’ is known as the ‘id.’ Nevertheless, the ‘ego’ does distinguish itself from the ‘id’ in the sense that the ego “seeks to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavors to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestrictedly in the id.” It follows that: “The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions.”
Because the ‘ego’ and the ‘id’ overlap and intersect with one another, and given that the ego is essentially the ‘representative of the external world’ for the ‘id,’ it follows that the ‘residues’ of “countless egos” are situated over the ‘id.’ The main task of the ‘ego,’ according to Freud, is to ‘master’ what is known as the ‘Oedipus complex.’ Once the ‘ego’ masters the ‘Oedipus complex’ by virtue of either identification with the mother or the ‘intensification of the identification with the father’ by virtue of eliminating the ‘object-cathexis’ of the mother, the ego then controls and tempers the ‘vicissitudes’ of the ‘id,’ which is no easy task. Religiosity is then figurative or emblematic of the “intensification of the identification with the father” resulting from the ego’s mastering of the ‘Oedipus complex.’
‘Eros’ and ‘sadism’ or ‘destructiveness’ are the primary ‘instincts’ emanating from the ‘id,’ as Freud argued. However, the reality is that: “The erotic instincts appear to be altogether more plastic, more readily diverted and displaced than the destructive instincts.” Thus, there are “sadistic constituents which have attached themselves to Eros” and as a result, there is a widespread “struggle against the Eros” which is often overlooked.
In turn, the ego is either in the process of assisting or conquering the id with the underlying aim of sublimating the ‘id.’ And in the end, the relationship of the ‘id’ with the ‘ego’ is such that: “The id…has no means of showing the ego either love or hate. It cannot say what it wants; it has achieved no unified will.” Freud added in regards to the ‘id’:
“Eros and the death instinct struggle within it; we have seen with what weapons the one group of instincts defends itself against the other. It would be possible to picture the id as under the domination of the mute but powerful death instincts, which desire to be at peace and (prompted by the pleasure principle) to put Eros, the mischief-maker, to rest; but perhaps that might be to undervalue the part played by Eros.”
How the ego assists the ‘id’ is manifested in a sense by anxiety. As Freud argued, anxiety emanates directly from the ego, and the role of anxiety is to act as “the general reaction to situations of danger.” Thus, the ‘ego’ is not playing an entirely negative role, and as a result of its production of anxiety as a danger signal, the ‘ego’ is in fact playing a constructive role to a certain extent. On the flipside, fear and anxiety amount to “misused libido” and the ‘diversion’ of the libido away from constructive uses, as Freud argued. Thus, the more one’s libido is ‘economized’ and used for constructive and meaningful aims and purposes, the instances and occurrences of anxiety and neurotic fear may also diminish. Freud also contended that abstinence and sexual restraint may be connected with anxiety to a certain extent, but the proper economization and management of the libido may overcome the anxiety which is associated with abstinence and sexual restraint.