The reality, morality, and pleasure principles are based on Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. The latter has more to do with biological drives, whereas the ego and super-ego are concerned more with satiating biological drives in a socially acceptable manner. Sounds confusing? Here’s an easy version by PsycholoGenie that clearly explains the difference between them. Take a look!
The terms id, ego, and super-ego, aren’t creations of Freud. They are translations of ‘das Es’ (the It), ‘das Ich’ (the I), and ‘das Über-Ich’ (the I above), respectively.
Although all three principles are different, they are interconnected portions of the human mind. One is incomplete without the other. According to Freud’s structural model, the pleasure principle can be attributed to id, whereas the reality one is attributed to the ego. The third, which is the super-ego, operates on the morality principle. It is nothing but the conscience of a person―the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
Id seeks instant gratification of drives, whereas ego delays gratification in order to function effectively in the real world. Super-ego is the decision-making authority, it analyzes the outcomes presented by ego and chooses one.
Here, explained below are some differences between the three with suitable examples.
Difference Between Reality, Pleasure, and Morality Principle
➔ The most basic difference, as mentioned previously, is the three structural divisions of the mind as given by Freud. The pleasure principle is linked to the id, the reality principle is linked to the ego, whereas the morality principle is linked to the super-ego. Each of the three are necessary for healthy mental functioning.
➔ During infancy, the child’s behavior is completely based on the pleasure principle. This is because all the child’s needs are almost instantaneously gratified by his/her parents. However, as the child grows up, the ego begins to develop. For instance, when the child goes to school and cries wanting to see his mother, his/her need isn’t gratified immediately. The teacher might pacify the child by the means of distraction, giving the child a toy to play with, etc. This makes the child realize that certain needs are not gratified instantly, they need to wait.
This implies that the ego develops in succession to the id. This happens as the child is gradually exposed to people other than his parents, and places other than his home. The ego comes from the child’s understanding of how the world functions. The id on the other hand, being more biologically triggered, exists right from birth. The presence of id in the initial years of life is of great importance, as this is what makes the child cry to satiate his/her needs for food, sleep, and love or attention.
Likewise, the development of ego post infancy also helps the child to adjust or tolerate the societal norms. But this doesn’t mean that the id has disappeared. It still exists, but is governed by the ego. Ego is like an executive or administrative manager. It acts as a mediator between the external world, super-ego, and the needs of the id.
➔ The deciding entity is ultimately the super-ego. It’s definitions of right and wrong determine which option to choose. The super-ego develops through experience and learning. For example, a child is taught that lying is bad, and speaking the truth is good. When the child lies, he’s scolded by his parents or punished by his teacher. When he speaks the truth, he is appreciated. This is how his super-ego develops.
➔ Consider that you’re hungry, and returning home from school. On the way, you pass by a pizza joint. You got money which your mom had given you to pay the school fees, but you forgot to pay it. Your id is pleading for gratification, you cannot wait as you’re extremely hungry. This is where the ego comes in. It’ll analyze the situation, and compute all the possible options and their respective outcomes. Note that the ego doesn’t give a biased picture, it only shows different aspects in which a situation can be handled.
The options could be you using the fee money to eat a pizza. But if you do that, you’ll have to answer to your mom, and she would be extremely angry. You can rush home, and have your supper. However, in case you’re craving to have a pizza, you can go home and ask your mom for some money to eat pizza. Now that the id has given all the possible options and outcomes, it consults the super-ego (morality principle) for a correct decision.
Although ego mediates between id and super-ego, it has more affinity towards the former. Once, the super-ego gives a verdict, the ego does the job to execute it. So if the child’s morale is well-developed, he would head straight home and either eat his supper, or ask his mom to order a pizza for him.
➔ The final decision is always taken in consultation to the super-ego (morality). However, as mentioned earlier, the ego is slightly partial towards the id; it sometimes may execute pleasurable desires in favor of the id. This may make the super-ego furious (if it has judged the act to be wrong), and it might induce a sense of guilt or inferiority. In such cases, ego uses defense mechanisms to amend the values of the super-ego. This can be widely seen in case of addictions. The pleasure derived from smoking a cigarette is so immense that the super-ego, which previously denied such an act, begins approving it. Additionally, as the addiction increases, the super-ego’s scope shifts from ‘not doing it’, to ‘doing it in a socially acceptable and safe way’. So if a person is craving for a cigarette, and can’t have one because of the presence of his family, he may excuse himself and go to an isolated spot to feed his id.
➔ Although smoking or addiction of any sort doesn’t technically suffice the id, it is in some way associated with some or the other biological or psychological drive. For instance, smoking or doing drugs can be associated with peer pressure or the desire to be part of a clique which engages in such addictions. It can also be associated with aversive sensations; a person might fall prey to a deadly addiction, just because he feels that it relieves him of stress or anxiety. Addictions can also be a result of social rejection.
This is how Freud defines the pleasure (id), reality (ego), and essentially, the morality (super-ego) principle.