Pleasure Principle according to Freud

In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the pleasure principle is the driving force of the  id , which seeks immediate satisfaction of all needs, desires and impulses . In other words, the pleasure principle strives to fulfill our most basic and primitive impulses, including hunger, thirst, anger and sex. When these needs are not met, the result is a state of anxiety or tension.

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How does the Pleasure Principle work?

Remember that ID is the most basic and animalistic part of personality.

It is also the only part of the personality that Freud believed was present from birth. ID is one of the strongest motivating forces, but it is the part of the personality that also tends to be buried at the deepest, unconscious level . It consists of all of our most basic impulses and desires.

During early childhood, the id controls most of the behavior. Children act under their impulses for food, water, and various forms of pleasure. The pleasure principle guides the id to satisfy these basic needs and help ensure survival. Freud noted that very young children often try to meet these needs, often biological, as quickly as possible, with little or no attention paid to behavior that is considered acceptable.

The Development of the Ego

As children mature, the ego develops to help control the impulses of the id. The ego is concerned with reality. The ego helps to ensure that the id’s needs are met, but in ways that are acceptable in the real world. The ego operates through what Freud referred to as the  principle of reality . This reality principle is the force of opposition to the instinctual impulses of the pleasure principle .

Rather than seeking immediate gratification for impulses, the reality principle guides the ego to seek ways to meet those needs, but in ways that are realistic and socially appropriate.

Example of action of the pleasure principle and reality principle

Imagine that a very young child is thirsty. She can simply take a glass of water from someone else’s hands and start drinking. The pleasure principle dictates that id look for the most immediate way to satisfy this need. However, the reality principle will push the ego to look for more realistic and acceptable ways to meet those needs. Instead of simply taking someone else’s water, the child will ask if he can also drink.

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