New York Times, August 18, 2012
"There is a curious passage early in Freud's 'Ego and the Id' where he remarks that the id behaves 'as if' it were unconscious. The phrase is puzzling, but the meaning is clear: the id is the secret driver of our desires, the desires that animate our conscious life, but the ego does not recognize it as such. The ego - what we take to be our conscious, autonomous self - is ignorant to the agency of the id, and sees itself in the driver seat instead. Freud offers the following metaphor: the ego is like a man on horseback, struggling to contain the powerful beast beneath; to the extent that the ego succeeds in guiding this beast, it's only by 'transforming the id's will into action as if it were its own.'
By Freud's account, conscious autonomy is a charade. 'We are lived,' as he puts it, and yet we don't see it as such. Indeed, Freud suggests that to be human is to rebel against that vision - the truth. We tend to see ourselves as self-determining, self-conscious agents in all that we decide and do, and we cling to that image. But why? Why do we resist the truth? Why do we wish - strain, strive, against the grain of reality - to be autonomous individuals, and see ourselves as such?"