Egosyntonic and Egodystonic [Adj.]


  • In conflict, or dissonant, with the needs and goals of the ego (the self), or, further, in conflict with a person’s ideal self-image.


  • In harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego (the self), or consistent with one’s ideal self-image. It is a psychological term referring to behaviours, values, feelings that are in harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego, or consistent with one’s ideal self-image.

Psychological Projection

A psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defence mechanism where a person unconsciously denies their own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, a tool, or to other people. Thus, it involves imagining or projecting that others have those feelings. It is known as one of the six main self-defence mechanisms.

Sigmund Freud

Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted unconscious impulses or desires without letting the conscious mind recognize them.

An example of this behaviour might be blaming another for self failure. The mind may avoid the discomfort of consciously admitting personal faults by keeping those feelings unconscious, and redirect their libidinal satisfaction by attaching, or projecting, those same faults onto another.

According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defence mechanism whereby one projects one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. ‘Emotions or excitations which the ego tries to ward off are spit out and then felt as being outside the ego […] perceived in another person’. It is a common process that every person uses to some degree. (The related defence of) ‘projective identification differs from projection in that the impulse projected onto an external object does not appear as something alien and distant from the ego because the connection of the self with that projected impulse continues’.

To understand the process, consider a person in a couple who has thoughts of infidelity. Instead of dealing with these undesirable thoughts consciously, they unconsciously project these feelings onto the other person, and begin to think that the other has thoughts of infidelity and may be having an affair. Thus one can obtain ‘acquittal by his conscience – if he projects his own impulses to faithlessness on to the partner to whom he owes faith’. In this sense, projection is related to denial, arguably the only defence mechanism that is more primitive than projection. Projection, like all defence mechanisms, provides a function whereby a person can protect their conscious mind from a feeling that is otherwise repulsive.

Projection can also be established as a means of obtaining or justifying certain actions that would normally be found atrocious or heinous. This often means projecting false accusations, information, etcetera, onto an individual for the sole purpose of maintaining a self-created illusion. One of the many problems with the process whereby ‘something dangerous that is felt inside can be moved outside – a process of projection’ – is that as a result ‘the projector may become somewhat depleted and rendered limp in character, as he loses part of his personality’.

Oedipus Complex

The Oedipus complex, in psychoanalytic theory, is a group of largely unconscious – dynamically repressed – ideas and feelings which concentrate on the desire to possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the parent of the same sex. According to classical psychoanalytic theory, the complex appears during the so-called oedipal phase of libidinal and ego development; between the ages of three and five years, though oedipal manifestation may be detected earlier.

Oedipus and the Sphinx

The complex is named after Greek mythical character Oedipus, who – albeit unknowingly – kills his father, Laius and marries his mother, Jocasta. According to Sigmund Freud, the Oedipus complex is a common phenomenon, and is responsible for much unconscious guilt.

Freud spoke of the mythical Oedipus in these terms: “His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours – because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so.”

Classical theory considers the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex to be developmentally desirable, the key to the development of sexual roles and identity. Freud posited that boys and girls resolved the conflicts differently as a result of the male’s castration anxiety – caused by Oedipal rivalry with the father – and the female’s penis envy. He also held that the unsuccessful resolution of the Oedipus complex could result in neurosis, paedophilia, and homosexuality.

Classical theory holds that a resolution of the Oedipus complex takes place through identification with the parent of the same sex and temporary renunciation of the parent of the opposite sex; the opposite-sex parent is then rediscovered as the growing person’s adult sexual object.

In classical theory, people who are fixated at the Oedipal level are ‘mother-fixated’ or ‘father-fixated’, and reveal this by choosing sexual partners who are discernible surrogates for their parent(s).

The classical paradigm in a human (male) child’s psychological maturity is to first select the mother as the object of libidinal investment. However, this is expected to arouse the father’s anger, and the infant surmises that the most probable result of this would be castration. Although Freud devoted most of his early literature to the Oedipus complex in males, by 1931 he was arguing that females do experience an Oedipus complex, and that in the case of females, incestuous desires are initially homosexual desires towards the mothers. It is clear that in Freud’s view, at least as we can tell from his later writ, the Oedipus complex was a far more complex procession in female than in male development.

The infant internalizes the rules pronounced by his father. This is how the super-ego comes into being. The father now becomes the figure of identification, as the child wants to keep his penis, but resigns from his attempts to take the mother, shifting his libidinal attention to new objects.

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Id, Ego, and Super-ego

Freud’s Diagrams on the Ego and the Id

The id is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. It contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution – above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organisation, and which find a first psychical expression here in the id in forms unknown to us. The id comprises the disorganised part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the pleasure principle – The pleasure principle states that people seek pleasure and avoid pain, for instance; people seek to satisfy biological and psychological needs – seeking to avoid pain or unpleasant feelings and are aroused by increases in instinctual tension.

The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions. In its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces. The ego comprises that organised part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. The ego separates what is real. It helps us to organise our thoughts and make sense of them and the world around us.

The Super-ego can be thought of as a type of conscience that punishes misbehaviour with feelings of guilt. For example: having extra-marital affairs. The Super-ego strives to act in a socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant self-gratification. The Super-ego controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt. It helps us fit into society by getting us to act in socially acceptable ways. The Super-ego aims for perfection.