Into the Mind Palace of Sherlock Holmes

Good morning readers, and by morning, I mean it is 1:30 a.m. here in South Carolina. Sorry for not writing in ohh… a month. I didn’t forget, I just have been really busy with school. I like to refer to November as hell month, because it is my busiest month. After November we have hell week and then exam time. So I’ll be going AWOL for the next two weeks, but hey, if you guys want to wish me luck on my exams, PLEASE DO!!!!

Anyway, so for my psychology of personality class, I had to write an eight page paper discussing a character, and you guessed it right, I did Sherlock, cause why not?

So the first thing I need to do is for those people who don’t know Sherlock, please watch it is on BBC and Netflix.

Sherlock Holmes was born in the United Kingdom, most likely is a town outside of London. He moved to London where he currently lives and solves crimes. Sherlock is a very determined man and will do very brave, yet often, board line stupid things to solve a case with no regard for his life. Sherlock is a unique young man, around the age of thirty, with a mind like a ‘racing engine’. He is highly intelligent and very observant which makes him arrogant and selfish. He has an older brother, Mycroft who is pretty much “the British government.”


Sherlock, throughout the series, lacks social graces and therefore has struggles forming relationships. He has a deep fascination with Irene Adler, the Woman. His interest in her come from her being able to be the only one, aside from his brother, to be able to outsmart Sherlock. Sherlock does, at one point, have a girlfriend but we find out later that he is only using her to solve a case. Sherlock’s best friend is Dr. John Watson, an Army doctor who craves action and danger. Sherlock is a brilliant man but is often aloof, rude, and insensitive. He has set himself up as the world’s only consulting detective, whom the police grudgingly accept as their superior.

Okay, so some background on personality theory cause I know I have no covered it in earlier post. 

Id, Ego, Super-Ego

(I am so sorry that I am writing about Freud. Fellow B.F. Skinner fans, please forgive me.)

Freud saw the psyche structured into three parts: the id, ego and superego, all developing at different stages in our lives. Although each part of the personality comprises unique features, they interact to form a whole, and each part makes a relative contribution to an individual’s behavior. The id is the instinctive component of personality. The id is the source of our bodily needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives. The id knows no judgments of value: no good and evil, no morality. It is the dark, inaccessible part of the personality. The relationship of the ego to the id is, at the same time, a mutually beneficial one and a submissive one. The id remains juvenile in function throughout a person’s life and does not change with time or experience. The id is not affected by reality, logic or the everyday world, as it operates within the unconscious part of the mind. The id engages in primary-process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy-oriented. This form of process thinking has no comprehension of objective reality and is selfish and wishful in nature. The id operates on the pleasure principle which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of the consequences. When the id achieves its demands pleasure is experienced, when it is denied tension is experienced.

The ego seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bring grief. The ego separates out what is real. It helps to organize thoughts and make sense of the person and the world. The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world. It is the decision-making component of personality. The ego operates according to the reality principle, working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often compromising or postponing satisfaction to avoid negative consequences of society.  Like the id, the ego seeks pleasure and avoids pain, but unlike the id the ego is concerned with devising a realistic strategy to obtain pleasure. The ego has no concept of right or wrong; something is good simply if it achieves its end of satisfying without causing harm to itself or to the id.

The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learned from one’s parents and others. The superego reflects the internalization of cultural rules, mainly taught by parents applying their guidance and influence; it is also known as conscience. The Super-ego can be thought of as a type of conscience that punishes misbehavior with feelings of guilt.  The super-ego works in contradiction to the id. The super-ego strives to act in a socially appropriate manner, whereas the id just wants instant self-gratification. The super-ego controls our sense of right and wrong and guilt. It helps people fit into society by getting them to act in socially acceptable ways. The super-ego’s demands often oppose the id’s, so the ego sometimes has a hard time in reconciling the two. The super-ego also has the job of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection. The superego consists of two systems: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt.  The super-ego can also reward through the ideal self when the person behave ‘properly’ by making him/her feel proud.

Defense Mechanisms

repressing-emotionsFreud also coined the term ego defense mechanisms. If the ego fails in its attempt to use the reality principle, and anxiety is experienced, unconscious defense mechanisms are employed, to help ward off unpleasant feelings or make good things feel better for the individual.

Repression is an unconscious mechanism employed by the ego to keep disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious.  Thoughts that are often repressed are those that would result in feelings of guilt from the superego.

Sublimation takes place when we manage to displace our emotions into a constructive rather than destructive activity. Sublimation for Freud was the cornerstone of civilized life, arts and science are all sublimated sexuality. This is not a very successful defense in the long term since it involves forcing disturbing wishes, ideas or memories into the unconscious, where, although hidden, they will create anxiety.

Regression is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress.  When we are troubled or frightened, our behaviors often become more childish or primitive.

Birth Order

Frank Sulloway and various other psychologists like Alder have shown that there seems to be a relationship between birth order and a how a person behaves and their personality. While the eldest child is programmed for excellence and achievement, the middle child is raised to be understanding and conciliatory and the baby seeks attention. The eldest child will have had so much control and attention from their first-time parents, they are over-responsible, reliable, well-behaved, careful, and smaller versions of their own parents. They are high achievers who seek approval and are perfectionists. The middle child is most likely understanding, cooperative and flexible, yet competitive. They are concerned with fairness. Though often a late bloomer, middle children find themselves in power careers that allow them to use their negotiating skills. The youngest child has more freedom than the other siblings and, in a sense, are more independent. As the youngest child, they also have a lot in common with the oldest sibling, as both feel special and entitled. The range of influence for youngest children extends throughout the family, which supports the child both emotionally and physically. And as the baby of the family, they have had less responsibility, and therefore don’t attract responsible experiences.


The early work in twins is suggestive of the possibility that eventually, with enough knowledge about human DNA, scientists will be able to discover a specific gene for, well, for anything related to personality, preferences, intelligence, or physical characteristics.

Okay! Now that you have all the facts  and boring stuff, time for the fun! Sherlock’s Personality! Warning: As the great River Song would say, “Spoilers”

            Typically, a person has all three-psyche structured: the id, ego, and superego. Sherlock, however, is only the ego and therefore for balance to occur others need to id and the ego. Sherlock’s id is Professor Jim Moriarty. Moriarty is a consulting criminal. He fixes people’s problems by “taking care of” them. This is one example of how the id is the source of our wants, desires, and impulses. The id knows no judgments of value: no good and evil, no morality. It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality. He is ruthless and does anything he can to get what he wants, he has no regard for human life, and as long as he can Sherlock to play his games he has no problems using other people as pawns and toys to keep him from getting bored. Moriarty has had an obsession with Sherlock since the start of the series claiming “I am your biggest fan” and “I love you.” This an example of the relationship of the ego to the id which both a mutually beneficial one and a submissive one.

Sherlock is the ego.  He only ego. Sherlock solves cases that Moriarty has set in motion for him. To Moriarty and Sherlock, it is a game, where Sherlock has constantly said: “the game is on.” While Moriarty does not create all the cases for Sherlock, there are a few key ones like The Lady in Pink and The Great Game. During the Great Game, we see that Sherlock is bored and apparently, his id (Moriarty is too). So, Moriarty kidnaps people wraps bombs on them and then has Sherlock go on a massive clue hunt to save their lives. Sherlock is not the super-ego because Sherlock is pleased and welcomes the challenge. Sherlock is an example of how the ego seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways by saving lives rather than taking.

There are various super-egos in Sherlock’s life. His brother Mycroft could be considered one. However, Dr. John Watson, per The Abominable Bride is Sherlock’s super-ego. During The Great Game, Moriarty attaches bombs to John. This is an example of how the super-ego’s demands often oppose the id’s, so the ego sometimes has a hard time in reconciling the two; it was Sherlock who went to save John from Jim. The super-ego controls what seems right and wrong and guilt. It helps need the social graces that Sherlock lacks, which is another example of why John is Sherlock’s super-ego. Finally, in The Abominable Bride, we see into Sherlock’s mind, where Sherlock and Moriarty are battling on a cliff. Sherlock is losing to an out of control Moriarty, but John comes to save Sherlock and it is John who pushes Moriarty off the cliff resulting in the super-ego’s victory and the id’s defeat.

The ego has defense mechanisms that Sherlock uses. The first mechanism is repression. Sherlock states that he does not know how many planets are in the solar system because he deletes useless information for his brain to store up more knowledge. This is ideal, until a small fact of Sherlock is known. Sherlock, who was the youngest of three, saw and could have caused the death of his eldest brother, Sherrinford. Mycroft being the middle and caring child he was, had to make Sherlock forget the existence of Sherrinford. Mycroft replaced Sherrinford’s memory with the memory of a dog. This is a perfect example of repression or blocking the memories of something traumatic that happened. Sherlock, to deal with the sudden death of his eldest and favorite brother, developed a drug addiction. To keep from abusing drugs, Sherlock needs cases to solve. Sherlock has displaced his emotions into something productive and effective rather than destructive, also known as sublimation. Finally, when Sherlock Holmes is bored, he starts to act like a child in order to avoid causing chaos or using drugs. He goes from a mental stage into a lower one also known as regression.

In His Last Vow, we see the effects of birth order coming into play. Sherlock is a lot closer to his mother than his brother Mycroft is. In various episodes, Mycroft uses their mother’s emotions to get to Sherlock. Additionally, we see that Sherlock’s parents visit Sherlock once a month, but they hardly very see Mycroft. Much like the youngest child, Sherlock has a better relationship with his parents than Mycroft does. This explains why Mycroft cannot be the oldest. His relationship with his parents is distant, eldest and youngest children have a close relationship with their parents, even if there are only two siblings. Mycroft also holds extreme power but is understanding and caring of Sherlock, which in turn causes Sherlock to think he can get away with murder, which he does.


Finally, genetics plays a key role in the Holmes family. Mrs. Holmes was a mathematician who gave up her career to have a family. It is believed that Sherrinford, the eldest brother, was extremely smart and very perfectionist. Additionally, Sherlock knows that he is the dumbest of the others when in His Last Vow, he tells John that Mycroft is never wrong. Mycroft is constantly calling Sherlock stupid making bets with Sherlock based on wit, again another reason Mycroft fits more a middle child personality than first-born. Genetics have an impact on Sherlock’s personality as he strives to prove himself to be as smart or smarter than his mother and brother Mycroft. This trying to prove himself causes him to overcompensate.

Sherlock shot a man without really thinking twice about it, very much like sociopaths, who in general, tend to be more impulsive and unpredictable in their behavior. Sherlock has very few friends and relationships that include: the Woman, Dr. Watson, and Mary, this is because while also having difficulties in forming attachments to others, some sociopaths may be able to form an attachment to a like-minded group or person. Based on these personality traits and analysis it is safe to conclude that Sherlock is a high-functioning sociopath.



One thought on “Into the Mind Palace of Sherlock Holmes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s