Freud, Feelings, Scripture and the Super Ego

Feelings are stupid. I said that the other day to a friend and made myself chuckle. I didn’t mean to be so abrupt, and blunt, but I believe the words came from the Holy Spirit. I’ve been caught in the storm of my emotions pretty heavily recently. I have been up and down, tossed around and it’s maddening! We read in the study in youth this morning Ephesians 4:14 where Paul says, “Don’t be like children, tossed to and fro, by every wind of doctrine.” I wrote next to that verse in the margin of my bible, “I am so sick of this!” Being tossed to and fro by the winds of emotions is no fun at all.

What is wonderful is to be held, grounded, full of peace and patience and abiding in the strength of Christ in my life. That’s certainly my desire, but it’s a battle I fight with my inward man daily. I was talking with a friend last night at a wedding and she’s in psychology classes. She’s just learning about Freud and said to me, “You know, I was learning about the ‘id’ and the more I heard the more I thought to myself that the ‘id’ is just like the devil. And then I began to learn about the ‘super ego’ and thought to myself the ‘super ego’ is just the Holy Spirit.” Ha! She’s so right! (Freud fans will have to bear with me). Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9) and he came way before Mr. Freud, so even though the world looks at Freud as the Father of Psychology, he’s really just a guy who came up with his own spin on what had been around forever- the truth of God.

There are absolutely three parts to the person. The Word says those are- the body, soul and spirit. Scripturally, the body is often referred to as the ‘flesh’ and is what we both, literally, dwell in (this tent) and also the sin-nature we battle, even as believers. The soul is discussed as the ‘mind, will and emotions’ and is impacted by the body and the spirit. David would speak to his soul to align it with things of the Spirit when it was off (see Psalm 42 and 43). And the spirit of man is the place that has been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, this is the regenerated part of person who has been born again. The spirit is where God dwells and communes with us, even though we live still in the flesh.

Now, let’s look at those in relation to what Sigmund propagated. Freud said the three parts to our personality (or inner self) were the ‘id’, ‘ego’ and ‘super ego’. The ‘ego’ as Freud explained was our sort of baseline, foundational, neutral self. It wasn’t necessarily bad and it wasn’t necessarily good. Now, that definition differs slightly from God’s definition, but we’ll go with that as, what the Word calls, our ‘soul’.

The soul of man is that more ‘neutral’ part. Now, we are all born in sin and raised in iniquity and like Adam, we all die because of it, so ‘neutral’ is a very loosely applied word here. However, we can see the parallel I think. Our soul is the component of us that is effected by the other two. The soul doesn’t so much effect the spirit or the body, but rather the body and the spirit effect the soul. Similarly the ‘id’ and ‘super ego’ effect the ‘ego,’ not the other way around.

Quickly, I’ll address the other two components, but as my brilliant (and lovely) friend already summed up for us, the ‘id’ is the parallel to Satan (the enemy of our souls) and the ‘super ego’ is the parallel to the Holy Spirit, the One given the task of reconciling us to right relationship with God and aiding us in navigating against the body/’id’.

So what’s the big idea writing about Freud and these psych terms and maybe getting some of you lost in my gibberish about Solomon and the things of the soul… well, precisely that, actually… the things of the soul.

I opened up with a confession (and frustration) at the waywardness of my feelings, lately. They have been driving me mad and I’ve been following them around, letting them lead me. My soul has been tossed ‘to and fro’ by the winds of my ‘id’ (my body/flesh/the enemy) working against me. The Word teaches us to be “renewed in the spirit of our mind” (Eph. 4:23) and yet this flesh I live in wars against the things of the Spirit. The warring between my body and soul (my ‘id’ and ‘ego’) manifests itself in my emotional turmoil.

My flesh/the enemy tells me I am not loved by God, tells me that I am not pretty, tells me that I am not smart. This ‘id’ component of Katy lies and my God-given emotions get wishy-washy and I lean toward self-condemnation and feeling bummed.

*Enter the Holy Spirit/ ‘super ego’.*

As Freud would explain, this is where my ‘super ego’ begins to speak. We know Him as the Holy Spirit, and He says to my tossed-around soul, “Be still and know that I AM.” He whispers to my messy heart, lost in the sway of sorrow and confusion, “I love you, Katy. You are Mine. Rest, dear one. Trust Me and return to Me.”

I admit that my analysis of Freud’s personality theory is surface, at best, but for the purpose of this little article, I enjoyed comparing them to the truth of Scripture. The ‘ego’, according to Freud, is constantly attempting to deal with the impulse desires of the ‘id’ and constantly attempting to appease the scrutiny of the ‘super ego’. The first part of that proposition is true to the Word. Our soul does war against the flesh and the enemy. Like Paul, there are absolutely days when I cry out, “Oh! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I do the things I do not want to do and do not do the things I want to!” (Romans 7). My sins are many and the struggle against the pull to give into them is stronger some days than others. However, the second assertion he makes is where our understanding of truth as presented by God differs from Freud’s. Freud suggests the ‘ego’ is also constantly attempting to appease weighty requirements of the ‘super ego’, but we relate very differently the to Holy Spirit.

You see, unlike the ‘super ego’, the Holy Spirit brings to us grace. Grace! Oh, what glorious grace! He calls me into grace. He calls me into rest. He calls me to trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding. He calls me to gaze on the beauty of Christ Jesus who, for love’s sake, gave Himself for me that I might come, freely, to Him and drink deeply of His forgiveness. In a right understanding of the Holy Spirit’s job in my life, I am not bearing down under the weight of the requirements He sets before me. Instead, I am running into Him for freedom from those very weights against me.

Romans 8: 3-4 is an incredible statement illustrating this truth-

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Woah! This flesh (the body or ‘ego’) that is tossed to and fro by the winds of impurity and wrongful desire and inaccurate feelings has been redeemed! What this flesh could not do (for the law was established so that I could be brought near to God again, but I just couldn’t stinkin’ ever do it), God did! God did it on my behalf, and yours. He condemned the ‘id’ and my flesh so that the righteous requirement would be fulfilled; now I can walk according to the Spirit and rejoice! My relationship with the ‘super ego’/Holy Spirit is now one of joy, peace, reconciliation, power, freedom and love. He is not the annoying, boss-like, goody-two-shoes, on my shoulder merely taking the fun out of life and harshly directing me right from wrong. Rather, He is the Spirit of the living God dwelling on the inside of me and teaching me to live in accordance with Him!

The war between my soul and the tempestuous emotions of my flesh has been won!

Back to my thoughts on feelings… If we jump down to Romans 8:14 we read something that my soul needs to marinate on more often when the “stupid feelings” and pulls of the world come on strong. It reads, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” The world, my ‘id’, is wrong; I am not ugly, fat, dumb, unwise, messing up, or whatever else those lies would like me to believe. I am His daughter. By being led by the Spirit of God, I am a child of God! Feelings can be stupid. What is true, says the Holy Spirit, is that I am-

a child
an heir
a saint
a lover of God
glorified in Christ

(see the rest of Romans for that list)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Though my feelings may condemn me, my ‘ego’ (soul) does not live according to the pressures and pulls of the flesh anymore. I now live by the Spirit (my Freudian-termed ‘super ego’). He is my hope. My body is one of death and is, just as the ‘id’, a nemesis at times. My feelings succumb to the foolishness of the enemy. But, by the grace of God I am reminded, instead, of the great love He has for me and what He has spoken over me instead.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)

Be loved.


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