Last semester I did an introduction to Psychology, which at one point discussed human consciousness and how individuals perceive the world around them. Our film was a satire of of people who used the defence mechanism of their ego to get through their lives. While I’m used to experimenting with visuals to create the illusions of psychology, like many filmmakers, I’m ignorant as to what ego actually is and what is the best way to understand it, so a little psychology lesson gives me a chance to get away from design and creative to focus on intellectual processes.
Having briefly read through various parts of Sigmund Freud’s ‘Beyond The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘The Ego and The Id’ (translated from German in 1984) last year, I never made much sense of ego due to the complexity of psychoanalysis. Yet, looking at more condensed and accessible pieces such as all psych.com, ego is very much more than just about excessive pride, a common misconception from laypeople.
During his development of the structural model of personality, Freud argued that there are several stages of the human psyche that make people commit social actions such as the way they present themselves to others and their general behaviour in life. ‘Id’ is what makes us who we are and pushes our human instincts and desires. Freud suggested that our id is driven by the ‘pleasure principle’ which refers to our need to seek good ideals over pain. We refuse the ‘reality principle’ which suggests we should act according to the logic of real world rules – go to work, do what you’re told, etc.
As we grow as individuals in the world (which is defined by what Functionalist sociologists call ‘socialisation’ – social rules and expectations), Freud remarked that our ego take effect around the reality principle are helps control the rationale behind our behaviour. It’s essentially the part of our psyche that keeps us in line; the superego being our immensely self-critical version of ourselves that tends to be more judgemental and focused on morals.
What’s more interesting (especially in context to our film), is the notion of defence mechanisms. Due to it’s intense job, the ego may stumble to satisfy both the id and the superego, thus resulting in a ‘scape goat’ of some sort – it defends itself. For example, we deny issues, displace them by targeting vulnerable targets or even suppress negative thoughts. We mask our personalities using our ego to boost our confidence or undermine other things.
This defence mechanism is an element to our film as our main character treats everything with happiness and pride to repress the forthcoming argument with his girlfriend. The other character then treats everything with depression and loneliness to ease the pain of what he thinks will be a bad interview.
Researching ego wasn’t just for the purposes of the film, it was also very enlightening when trying to get familiar with the process of working in a group. People get overly cocky, arrogant and even angry, thus knowing when defence mechanisms are deployed gives a dimension to how to respond to such an attitude. This way, it kinda helps avoiding arguments and tearing each other apart. Naturally, we are take our ego seriously, but knowing when others do it is a whole other game in itself.
I miss sociology and psychology…