Freudian Concepts for Gambling Techniques?

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Sigmund Freud said that the human mind was composed of three different components. This is perhaps what the famous psychologist is most well known for, along with his often quoted thoughts relating to Oedipus. Referred to as the Id, Ego and Super Ego, these three parts of the mind are created during all of our development, a process that involves many stages: The Oral Stage; The Anal Stage; The Phallic Stage; The Latency Stage; and The Genital Stage.

So how does what Freud said relate to gambling? We all know that psychology plays a major role when it comes to gambling, the desire to win money, the thrill that comes with the potential of losing money, and the heartbreak when that money is lost. All of us experience gambling (and winning and losing) in different ways, and this could be down to how our brains are wired, and to how prominent these three areas of our brain are.

Id

This is where our most basic and primal desires lie. It’s all about hedonism, and if you want to find the route of the buzz that gambling brings, along with the desire to gamble in the first place, then this is it. The Id is all about seeking pleasure, and it does that in any way that it can.

Freud said that the Id is unconscious, which means these acts are totally instinctual. He called it a “dark and inaccessible part of out personality,” stressing the “our” because, as with the other concepts below, the Id is not exclusive to certain people. It is something that all of us have, although how much of an impact it has on our lives and on our day to day actions may change from one person to the next. If the Id is dominant in you then you may gamble purely for the pleasure of the chase. You might do it for the thrill, the adrenaline rush, as opposed to any financial gain. A gamble is also likely to be a quick and impulsive act, and those with a dominant Id are not necessarily the ones who do their research and ensure that the bet they place is an educated one. The Id is also likely to lead to bigger gambles, to lotteries and to long-shots, as opposed to smaller bets with smaller odds.

Freud considered all newborn babies to be mostly “Id”, as they were driven by instinct and by desire. Over time this changed, with other areas of the brain beginning to push the Id to one side, but in some people the Id remains dominant.

Ego and Super Ego

The Ego is more realistic than the Id, more driven by realistic bets than by outside ones.
The Ego works in conjunction with the Id and aims to please the Id, although it is more sensible about the ways that it chooses to do this. The Ego is built of many different constituent parts, including ones that act in a defensive way and ones that like to plan everything out. There exists in the Ego an awareness of consciousness, but that is not to say that the Ego is entirely conscious of itself.

The Super-Ego watches the Ego carefully, and it is from this observation that we get feelings of guilt. For instance, the Ego might desire to please the hedonistic desires of the Id by placing a large bet. It may decide that a heavy bet is okay if the odds or Evens or Odds-on, because whilst the losses will be severe, a win is more likely and the return for a win is very good. The Super-Ego lays the seed of doubt after this though. This is why it seems like such a good idea beforehand, but less so over time. When the bet loses, the Super-Ego initiates feelings of guilt, and even if the bet wins then these present themselves in one way or another.

The Ego does its best to put up defences against these feelings of guilt, and Freud recognized many of these feelings, including displacement, denial, suppression and compensation. This is why following such a big loss you may try and ignore it, tell yourself that it’s okay or simple try to forget about it.

The Super-Ego strives for perfection in all areas. This is the area of your brain that desires order and organization, and may be the least active area of the gambler’s brain. Perfectionists, those who strive for everything to be “just so” tend not to be gamblers, but if they do have a rare gamble and lose, then they also tend to punish themselves more. This is because the Super-Ego is dominant and therefore they are punished with more feelings of guilt, which may otherwise be overridden by the Id in those who gamble regularly.

The Ego, at least as far at Sigmund Freud’s concepts are concerned, are not related to how we translate the word “ego” today, that is to say that feelings of self-importance, inflated confidence and narcism are of no relation to Freud’s concepts.

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