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In Pursuit Of The Elusive Trinity: It, I And Super-I - Self-development
In Pursuit Of The Elusive Trinity: It, I And Super-I - Self-development

Video: In Pursuit Of The Elusive Trinity: It, I And Super-I - Self-development

Video: In Pursuit Of The Elusive Trinity: It, I And Super-I - Self-development
Video: 12 Ways to Expand Yourself | personal growth ideas & resources 🌟 2023, December

Before Freud, the human soul seemed to be one. Freud made a real scientific revolution, declaring that, in addition to consciousness (I), there is also the unconscious (It). He acted in the role of a prophet who uttered something like: "And there were two of them!" And a little later, there were three, since the Super-I was added to the I and It

Unconscious sleep

The very idea of the unconscious is paradoxical. As the phenomena confirming the existence of the unconscious, Freud names drives, dreams and "the psychopathology of everyday life" (reservations, cases of forgetfulness or "false memory", specific humor, etc.).

But if, for example, I can remember and tell about my dream, then what is this “fact of the unconscious”? If I remembered a dream and talk about it, it means that it is already a fact of my consciousness! The same can be said for other phenomena in the Freudian unconscious.

From this flank, Freud is actively attacked by philosophers, who reasonably note that the true unconscious must be something like the Kantian “thing in itself”, absolutely inaccessible to our consciousness. Freud is similarly criticized by phenomenologists, existentialists and analytical philosophers.

There is an excellent book by N. Malcolm "The State of Sleep", where he directly formulates the question of how much awareness of sleep (statements like "I am sleeping" or "I saw / see a dream") is identical to the state of sleep. And he comes to the conclusion that the concept of "sleep" (or "dream") has no meaning at all without those conscious impressions and interpretations that were made after awakening.

Repression from above

From the other flank, Freud is attacked by those who did not like the threefold structure of the psyche, namely the "moral authority" proposed by Freud - the superego. Some critics (among them, for example, E. Fromm, H. Arendt, G. Marcuse) believe that the Superego appeared in the structure of the psyche only because of Freud's ideological timidity. In their opinion, Freud was afraid that his views would be considered too radical, and made a kind of intellectual concession to the religious and ideological views of the time.

Recall that the super-ego is a repressive substructure, whose task is to control and suppress unconscious impulses in such a way that their implementation does not violate the social and moral norms of human society.

According to Freud, the Superego and It are in a state of eternal conflict, and if It wins, a person becomes a violator of social norms (sociopath and psychopath), and if the Super-I wins, then a classic neurotic with chronically suppressed needs is formed

Within the framework of Freud's logic, any influence from the side of the superego is repressive, generating internal tension and neurotic conflicts. While the supporters of socioanalysis (E. Fromm and others) say that the content of the Super-I depends on those external norms and rules (moral, social, ideological, political, etc.) that a person assimilates in the process of socialization.

Moreover, these very norms and rules will differ in different societies. In totalitarian states, the Superego will absorb totalitarian norms (which will lead to neurotization of the entire society as a whole), and in the "free world" the Superego will assimilate the norms of a free society. And in the second case, it makes no sense to talk about conflicts between the Id and the Super-I (they may well not conflict, but act in concert). Moreover, this very substructure (superego) loses its meaning and becomes simply superfluous, unnecessary.

Three parts of the brain

Let us assume that the above arguments that It and the Super-I do not exist have not convinced us … Methodologists argue that any mental structure must have its own neurophysiological mechanism, and in addition, any structure must perform its unique functions (which can be verified in different ways).

If we prove that the “Freudian trinity” (It, I, Super-I) is based on specific brain structures and / or we find manifestations of the “trinity” using other methods (not psychoanalytic), then its existence can be considered proven

Freud himself avoided answering the question of which physiological structures of the brain correspond to the id, the I and the superego. But he believed that science would discover such structures in the future, and he was partly right. In defense of the psychoanalytic "trinity", one can cite the block-functional model of the brain, developed by A. R. Luria and adopted in Russian neuropsychology.

According to this model, the brain is made up of three large blocks that are responsible for various mental functions:

  • energetic (responsible for general activity, including motivation and emotions);
  • informational (responsible for processing information from the senses, and combining them into a holistic image);
  • regulatory (responsible for setting goals, planning behavior, volitional self-regulation, etc.).

In Western neurophysiology, there is a similar three-part model by PD McLean, in which the so-called "reptilian brain", the emotional brain and the neocortex are distinguished.

You can see the correspondence of the energy block of the brain to the Freudian Id, informational - I, regulatory - Super-I. But there are as many as three "buts" to consider …

  • The functional blocks of the brain can be distinguished in another way (that is, the approach of A. R. Luria today is far from the only and not indisputable).
  • At the beginning of his professional career, Alexander Romanovich was fond of psychoanalysis. Which naturally raises the question: was he not borrowed the idea of a three-part structure of functional blocks from psychoanalysis? That is, first the principle was chosen, and then the brain mechanisms were selected for it?
  • The block-functional approach is, in principle, not the only one today.

In neuropsychology, there is also an approach based on the dynamic localization of functions. The neural structures responsible for mental functions (especially for such complex ones as personality traits or motivation) are not static and constant. The localization of functions (and related blocks / structures) changes depending on age, external circumstances, training, etc.

In domestic neurophysiology, academician N. P. Bekhtereva was seriously engaged in research on the dynamic localization of functions, and in Western neurophysiology this topic is especially popular in the study of brain neuroplasticity. From the point of view of dynamic localization of functions, the question of the existence of the neural foundations of the "Freudian trinity" still remains open …

Factor analysis

Few people know, but in the 1960s – 1970s, R. Cattell (one of the classics of modern psychodiagnostics) with his colleagues tried to verify the existence of the “Freudian trinity” (It, I, Super-I) using his approach, independent of psychoanalytic ideas.

Cattell theorized that each of these structures creates its own unique motivation. Motivation can be hidden, but it predetermines behavior, which in turn forms stable personality traits that can be observed "on the surface" in human behavior.

Kettell's approach was that, knowing the superficial personality traits (of which there are hundreds and even thousands), it is possible to generalize them using the factor analysis procedure and identify a small number of initial (or deep) personality traits

Factor analysis is a mathematical procedure in which the researcher can vary the number of factors identified. Moreover, each factor corresponds to a certain depth line.

Cattell proceeded from the simple assumption that if you collect a large enough data array and apply a three-factor solution to it, then in terms of their content, the three obtained factors will have to correspond to how Freud describes the id, the self and the superego.

Kettell concluded that the three obtained factors "largely" coincide in meaning with the Freudian characteristics of the id, the self, and the superego. At the same time, Kettell carefully adds that the coincidence is not complete and that it is impossible to unequivocally assert that the "Freudian trinity" really exists.

We also add that factor analysis (as a mathematical procedure) can give different results depending on the sample of research participants and on the chosen factorization algorithm. Only those results (factors) that are consistently reproduced in different samples can be considered reliable.

Studies by Cattell's colleagues when trying to test the stability of the three identified factors proved exactly the opposite - the three factors identified in different studies seem to be similar, but not identical. That is, the strict scientific evidence confirming the existence of It, I and the Super-I, Cattell's team using their methods have not been able to find.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the question of the real existence of the "Freudian trinity" (the structure of the psyche, consisting of three substructures performing various functions - It, I, Super-I) remains open. In modern science, many arguments have accumulated both "for" and "against", and the scientific search continues.