Sigmund Freud’s concepts of the id, ego, and superego provided theorists with a greater understanding of how personalities work. He thought that a person’s personality was defined by the id, ego, and superego. Freud also stated that conflict played a role in shaping an individual’s personality. The combination of all three components create a person’s personality, as well as, the unconscious drives from within a person. In 1923, Freud wrote, “The Ego and the Id,” he had adopted the view that defense processes were unconscious (Erdelyi, 2001). The id delights in instant gratification when it seeks satisfaction and happiness. These are the wishes and desires that people seek in their daily lives. During processing, the id works on a conscious level and can be unconsciously at work during an individual’s thought processes. Furthermore, the ego and superego help us to control wishes and desires by pacifying the id with resources that are realistically a better choice. Reality changes the way a person thinks, due to the realization that a person cannot have everything they want. The ego works both on a conscious level and an unconscious level to give some satisfaction to the id. The superego assists the ego with the task of what is considered moral and what is not. Often, people who seek perfection in their lives are unaware that guilt and shame play a part in changing their thought patterns.
One might think that the id, ego, and superego would have everything worked out, but this is not always the case. Often, a person can become overwhelmed with the trials and conflicts of life. When this happens, unconsciously the ego will alter reality to ward off unpleasantries and prevents anxiety from taking over. When the ego becomes stressed out by the id and superego, unconsciously an individual will go into survival mode. The ego deals with anxiety by implementing some type of defense mechanisms to help us feel better. People often use more than one defense mechanism. Patients often lack the foggiest notion of the self-deception games they engage in (Erdelyi, 2001).
My two defense mechanisms I use the most are dissociation and compensation. I learned the skill of disassociating at a very early age. Living life as a child who was repeatedly abused and sexually assaulted, I quickly found a way to escape pain, environments, and my thoughts. My home was full of violence and was controlled by a raging alcoholic and an abusive mother. I found that my mental processes did not have to be part of my consciousness. Dissociating came easy for me and was a great coping skill. This defense mechanism served me well as a child, but not so well as an adult. For me, it is a gateway that now leads to isolation and depression. Often, I lose track of time and cannot recall certain memories. I believe I was drawn to law enforcement early in life, because I never could protect myself as a child. Dissociation has ruined many a relationship and has resulted in some bad decisions.
Compensation is the defense mechanism that drives me from my mother’s grave. It helps me conceal all my failures and poor choices I made in my life. I often try to make up for those actions by over achieving to feel better about myself and my future. Often, I overachieve in one area to make up for my failures or weaknesses in another. This process gives me hope, confidence, and self-esteem. I focus on my exterior performances to the point of perfection. Even while in law enforcement I tried to be the best cop I could be. There for a while, law enforcement became my identity just as being the perfect student has now become my identity. Making perfect grades and trying to be perfect in every aspect of my life increases my anxiety. I do this because I quit college when I was 18 years old. My mother told me I would never amount to anything. This drives me to be top notch in everything I do. In 1998 I got married and turned down a chance to train for the 2000 Olympics. The marriage did not last, and I quit riding all together. I wanted to be the best rider, and that meant going to the Olympics. I did not ride or compete for 10 years, until recently I joined the equestrian team here at Mississippi College. Even today I still struggle with wanting to be perfect in my riding. The truth is, redirecting all my energy to be the best is wearing me out. My quality of life would improve drastically if I could just learn that it is ok not to be perfect. I do not have to compensate for my past shortcomings, nor must I overachieve in every area of my life. My future is promising, and I am moving forward to my goal of being a counselor.
I am thankful for my defense mechanisms because they helped me survive my past. Counseling has now provided me with new ways to cope and understand the difference between irrational thought patterns and wise thinking. God knew what he was doing when he created our brains, built with a protection plan.
Alfred Adler’s Perspective
Alfred Adler believed that a person’s behavior, characteristics, along with birth order shaped one’s personality. He also thought that problems and events in childhood affected a child’s personality. Adler concluded that birth order was connected to how a person functions later in life as an adult. Position in family is not necessarily about when a person is born. However, it is about how the effects of birth order affect a person’s emotions and psyche. As a child there are many elements that influence the person you become. Birth order also plays a role in how the family treats everyone, as well as, the uniqueness of characteristics that evolve for everyone. Your relationships with your siblings as well as your parents determine your behaviors, life skills, ambitions, profession, and level of intelligence. Adler believed that every time the birth order changed, other members of the family felt the effects of the new line up. Everyday life changed and roles within the household changed for everyone. These changes lead to the development of a person’s personality and self-image. The environment in which you grow up in, good or bad can also determine one’s healthiness, or economic status. The level of education that a person seeks to obtain is also influenced by the birth order.
Adler’s theory of birth order concluded that oldest children communicate well with adults and strive to meet expectations. They also are considered the most responsible and often choose perfection as a goal. Personalities of older siblings set the pace for second born, due to the second child’s interest in their older siblings’ activities. Second born who are six years apart try to be first in anything among their siblings, ranging from sports to seeking their independence. These children tend to be irresponsible and compete against their siblings. The effects of the order tend to shape the child’s mind set to thinking they must outdo their older sibling. Middle children often feel the pressure of where they fall in the order. They tend to seek their own independence and can be stubborn. They also see themselves as being low on the totem pole. Their characteristics may be negative as to they may feel like they can not get ahead and develop a negative attitude. The youngest child often receives all the attention and is forevermore considered the baby of the line up no matter their age. These children may have many achievements and often manipulate others to get what they want. One effect of the birth order is the fact that they pursue things in life that never come to pass. Children without siblings are often gifted for their age and find themselves content in the company of adults. These children cooperate with adults, yet do not like to share or have close relationships with their peers.
As an only child, my birth order places me as first and the last to be born. I was an accident as to my mother was told she could never have children due to her illnesses. Nonetheless, I was a miracle baby even though my mother did not want a baby. I was not over protected, spoiled, or receive 200% attention from my parents due to the dysfunctional environment I was raised in. As first born I was very responsible and did slowly grow to strive for my independence without my parents knowing. Due to the dysfunction I learned some very bad coping skills that I modeled from my parents. My parents let me drink at age 12 and did not care where I went. I do not recall striving to be the best at anything and often wanted only to be alone. As the last to be born I do not feel as if all of Adler’s characteristics fit my personality. As a child I never wanted to be perfect nor wish to be social, I only wanted perfect parents. I was an introvert and only wanted to cuddle up with my dog and a book. I spent hours in the barn with my horses and often camped by myself in the woods all night. Most 10-year old children would never even considered being alone in the woods overnight. I never got involved in groups at camp and was often aggressive if approached. I was never in tune with the outer world, only my inner world and the things I loved.
In conclusion to Adler’s birth order theory I believe that the order fit me in relation to my personality as an introvert. I was also a responsible child in the fact that I gained my independence without them knowing and lived to tell about it. I was responsible for my survival, even though my choices were not always best. I do not agree with all of Adler’s characteristics. However, I do agree with him regarding how birth order shapes our behaviors, life styles, communication skills, level of education, and overall personality. One should keep in mind that Adler’s theory is based on birth order and the environment we experience. Whether that environment is a positive or negative experience has great bearing on the outcome of a child’s life. I do understand that Adler’s characteristics do not line up with me because of the dysfunctional environment I grew up in. Adler gives great insight as to the problems I have dealt with throughout my life. I now understand why I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and how the effects of my childhood environment made life hard for me. I am working on over coming the past and learning skills that I should have learned as a child during Adler’s birth order process.
Industry vs Inferiority
Erikson’s fourth stage is industry vs inferiority, this period happens around the ages of 6 to 11. This should be when a child starts school and is taught precise skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Once in school a child normally becomes familiar with other children their age. Two main components in their school environments consist of their teacher and friends. The combination of the two will play an important role as to how the child’s self-esteem develops. Other children create competition in many areas and the child then feels the need to win others approval. They feel the need to accomplish a task and gain a sense of self-importance. Children who are praised for their endeavors begin to feel productive and become confident.
On the other hand, a child who is not rewarded or restricted, begin to feel inferior. This leads to a child second guessing his or her abilities and one may not reach their capacity. When a child fails at a skill they may believe that their peers look down upon them. Often, this occurs while playing sports and games. Failing is not always a bad thing, as to there should be a sense of balance between proficiency and self- consciousness.
Erikson’s psychosocial stages are building blocks that an individual must go through. When trials arise in life, and problems are successfully dealt with children and adults both develop life skills and complete Erikson’s stages. Both good and bad results affect one’s personality. Outcomes of these stages are based on a person desires from a psychological point. Often, this conflicts with the wishes of people from a social point of view. People who successfully complete all stages have good personalities and qualities. This means that a person can handle problems in life and has the coping skills needed to thrive. Failure within a stage can lead to the development of an unhealthy thought processes.
Aspects that I found true within this stage were based upon my personality disorder and environment at home and school. I never developed a sense of accomplishment while in grade school. My parents did not help me with my school work and I struggled. As a child I failed this stage due to poor parenting. Often, I was shamed, or kept from doing something that would have helped me gain a sense of confidence and self-esteem. From that point on I struggled with each stage. Even as an adult today I struggle with self-esteem and confidence, therefore I have not mastered industry vs inferiority.
Later, in high school other people tried to help me do better. My grades improved, and I began succeeding, and began to gain a new sense of myself. I was praised by the teachers who helped me and went on to graduate despite my troubles. I still wound up hitting a brick wall within other stages. I never truly mastered identity vs role confusion or intimacy vs isolation. I did not find any aspects that did not fit my development stage.