Towards Art: Ego Vs. Libido

What are Ego and Libido according to Sigmund Freud(1856-1938)? 

The two are psychological constructs and are sources of energy.


  • Control of consciousness
  • The force that denies and suppresses the unconscious
  • Protected by suppressions
  • Slowly educated by the influence of external necessity to the appreciation of reality
  • Full of Law
  • Mediates between instincts to morality and life demands

The ego is an illusion


  • Fund of energy
  • Always seeks satisfaction
  • Seeks to return to happy times
  • Frustrated by reality

Both forces might and inevitably clash with each other, and a conflict arises. After the conflict, the libido is suppressed and the unconscious takes over.  The ideas of the libido are caged in the unconscious. The situation then is similar to dream formation.

The Ego follows the suppression by a counter siege, but the suppressed libido strives and keeps seeking satisfaction even if partial and regressed.

The unresolved conflict and suppression might continue to develop to a neurosis that includes these symptoms:

  • Cripple
  • Distaste and suffering 
  • No connection to external reality
  • Result of conflict aroused by a new form to gratify libido
  • Causes Injury: Psychic exertion cost + Further exertion to combat

The Neurotic is held fast somewhere in his past. 

Phantasies start to evolve, as a way of the libido to stay alive and seek its desires. By the use of imagination, man enjoys freedom from external compulsion.  The libido wants to return to phantasies, as an intermediate step to symptom development, and that can be processed wisely by the practice of Art.

The use of Art can bring imagination to reality.

The Artist according to Freud, is an early introvert who is impelled by powerful instinctive needs. The Artist is able to utilize the collective phenomena of internal conflicts towards reality. He eliminates the personal elements of his imagination so others can feel shared experiences.

He is able to mold specific material to the faithful image to the creatures of imagination and thus releases suppressions for himself, and also makes it possible for others to obtain solace for their own unconscious suppressions.


From Introduction to Psychoanalysis


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