In writing, the protagonist is often driven by an overly developed Super Ego. Similar to our discussion of Musterbation, the protagonist feels the pressure to strive towards some heroic ideal that may or may not be realistic. When the protagonist fails to live up to this ideal is when we see her/him as human and struggling with real shortcomings that the reader can identify with. Without the benefit of therapy, our characters have to figure out how to break out of the cycle of guilt at their failure on their own so that they can continue along towards their goals. The way I like to conceptualize the resolution of a characters conflict between the ideal and the actual by the protagonist in essence saying, “I’m may not be the hero you want me to be, but I can be the hero you need me to be.”
The Super Ego as a concept is not always something that needs to be “worked out.” Just as the Id functions as the devil on the character’s shoulder, the Super Ego acts as the angel. This is a secondary voice in the character’s head that can give a positive (i.e., healthy) ideal to strive for. It can be a parent or role model that has instilled a working moral compass into our character; the Super Ego can serve as the voice that the character falls back on when s/he is struggling with her/his own doubts or desire to give into the Id, so it functions as a source of strength to tap into so that they can push on.
As it is within us, so it is with our characters. We are made up of conflicting voices and we seek to balance these voices to lead us to the most auspicious results. As writers we need to think if the Super Ego is going to be a conflict for our character to work out as s/he accepts that s/he is not perfect and comes to terms with who s/he is at the core, or is it going to serve as a voice of comfort and strength providing our character drive and direction towards an achievable ideal.