Updated: Sep 23, 2020
The ego and the id. I’ve been studying this lately and applying it to the Netflix show Bojack Horseman. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it, and stick it out for as long as you can before you feel like swallowing a handful of pills. It’s some hard-hitting stuff, despite being a cartoon. In fact, I believe it must be a cartoon because of how heavy it is. Many of the characters are half-human, half-animal with Bojack being half-human, half-horse. Removing the realism from the subject seems to be very deliberate in its delivery of some tough issues. In fact, nothing in the show feels coincidental, everything is deliberate and psychoanalytic.
If you’re unaware of the ego and the id, it is a Freudian theory in which the id within us comes first, followed by the ego. The id is our natural state of being, with no understanding of the world. The id is what drives us to pleasure and has no concept of consequences. When we are born, we are governed by the id. Think of a child running wild, talking to strangers, interrupting church services with their relentless and loud questions. They don’t understand social constructs or consequences, because they know only impulse. This is the id. The ego comes after, once we have grown and understood the world. The ego stops us from acting on impulse and immediately satisfying the pleasure centre of our being. It understands that there are rules and social constructs we must abide by and live within. You might find yourself hungry in the middle of a meeting, but you don’t stand up and walk out, returning ten minutes later with some fish and chips. The ego is reminding you that you can satisfy that hunger with the pleasure of food once the meeting is over. The ego knows it would be rude and you might risk losing your job.
I have had problems with alcohol and drugs over the years. As well as binge-eating, smoking, sex, and shopping. My impulsivity has got me in a lot of trouble. When I learned about the ego and the id, a lightbulb of recognition started to blaze in my head. I could see, comically so, how my id and ego have fought tooth and nail in the past for control of my actions, much like the character Bojack Horseman. My instinct, or id, was saying, ‘drink, you are miserable, so the clear solution is to inebriate yourself and you won’t have to feel pain/fear anymore’. But my sensibilities, the ego, would counter that with, ‘do not drink. There will be consequences. You’ll spend too much money/make a tit out of yourself/fall in the river/end up on a bender for four days/wet yourself in public. You’ll feel anxious and suicidal all week’. This fight was a real and audible conversation. I would hear both sides fighting it out in my head. I have overcome all these vices – with the exception of shopping, but that one won’t kill me – and I no longer hear Mr Id shrieking incessantly in my head. Occasionally he’ll rear his head and whisper something half-heartedly, but Mrs Ego will shoot him down with such immediate and absolute force that I no longer have to listen to them fighting to the death.
The thing is, I miss it. I miss oblivion. I miss having no cares. Sometimes I pass drug addicts and homeless people in the street, smoking and clearly drunk or high and I’m ashamed to say I have a moment of envy. Not for their circumstances - I understand that I have no concept of their struggles and I regularly chat with them and give them food - but I have a fleeting nostalgia for the days I spent high in the street at sixteen, with no care for where I would sleep or what I would eat. Or the long weekends I spent on three-day benders, drunk in bars and dancing in Pop World, running from the shattering reality that sobriety would bring when I finally put down that bottle.
I am happy for the first time since I can remember, and that is due to sobriety. I would never give that up for a brief moment of pleasure.