Eros, Thanatos and Id Revisited

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The most widely known model for mental illness is the psychoanalytic model founded by Freud almost one hundred years ago. Not all of the theory is used today but parts of it have been modified to fit today’s society. Freud postulated that the mind

We have reviewed the medical disease model for mental disorders and now we will take a look at probably the most known model of all.  The psychoanalytic model was formulated by Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). As you can see from time of his life it is a very old model but it has been modified to reflect a more modern approach to mental illness.  We will start from the beginning and work our way through so there will be several articles related to this model.

Freud as we know, divided the mind also known as the psyche, into three different parts.  He called these parts, the id, ego, and superego and they each had a different function. His whole theory was a developmental theory meaning it started at birth and matured as time went on.  In this article will just have time to review the various part and functions of the Id.

Freud’s theory is a sexual and developmental theory


The Id is present at birth; it is the part that is responsible for our basic needs.  The Id is represented as biological urges for food, water, affection, warmth, illumination, and sex.  Since the good Doctor was a neurologist he considered the ID to be a biological need. Later he converted the Id into unconscious needs of the psyche.

The Id has two parts within it.  They are what he called Eros (love) and Thanatos (death).


Eros was the most important of the two forces and was responsible for all the life sustaining functions such as eating and drinking.  Eros was by far the most important of the two functions. He also regarded it to be sexual in nature.  When we hear the term libido we get that directly from Freud.  He coined the term. Sometimes love and Eros and sexually energy have been separated, but other times it is used to mean everything that biologically keeps us alive. 

Try thinking about this as love of ourselves to make sure we get the biological things we need in life. Therefore, it would make sense that sex would be included because it is a biological need in a normal healthy human being.


Thanatos was the death of an aggressive behavior not deemed appropriate, but Freud really didn’t elaborate much on this point.

Pleasure principal

The Id works on what Sigmund called the pleasure principal and it needs immediate gratification.  The reason for this is to relieve tension in the body.

Reflex activity

When the Id feels tension in the body it has to do something about it.  According to Freud babies come into the world with no intellect all they knew were biological urges. When a baby felt hungry he or she would cry but if food did not come immediately the baby would automatically suck his or her thumb.  This is what the doctor called a reflex activity. Reflex activities were the first interaction with the environment, meaning activity taking place outside of the body to ease the urges that come from within.

A husband that demands sex from his wife immediately is acting on the needs of the Id.

Primary process

The primary process is a mechanism generated by the Id to relieve tension when immediate gratification is not forthcoming.  This process is the generating of mental images. The baby according to Freud would begin to visual his or her mother’s breast because the baby knew it was the source of food. 

Of course if a full grown man is refused sex by his wife, he has the urges and can imagine sexual images or he can look at porn, masturbate and so on.


Id: Life and Death Drives


carol roach
Posted on May 4, 2012
Jerry Walch
Posted on May 4, 2012
Posted on May 4, 2012