The name personality has several meanings that suit various situations. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is one of the theories describing the personality in human beings. According to Freud, the theory seeks to explain why people behave the way they do, studies human’s brain, and explains more about their personality.
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This paper discusses the various elements of the theory, its history, development and research. In addition, it takes a detailed look at Sigmund Freud who came up the theory and seeks to explain the various elements of the theory, and reliability of the research.
Psychoanalytic theory was developed at the end of the 19th century in 1880’s. It was based on the discovery made by Breuer, who studied a person who had a trauma in childhood, consequently affecting him during his adult life. According to this research, it was discovered that someone’s personality is related to his/her childhood experiences.
Freud states that it is through mechanical terms that people’s mental energy is released. Through various stages of child’s development, a person changes his/her character and releases his/her mental energy.
Psychoanalytic theory developed by Sigmund Freud is arguably the most famous amongst the personality theories. According to Freud, family life has a subconscious influence on a human’s sexual drive. Family also affects the individual’s nonsexual development. According to the psychoanalysis carried out by Freud, there are other effects that affect our thoughts (Carver and Scheier, 2011).
The thoughts and the motivation we have around us are such factors that affect the way we act, as well as the way we do things. According to Freud, the main drives or motivators of an individual’s personality are related to the sexual and aggressiveness. The theory further explains that the problems experienced during a person’s adult life are as a direct result of the conflicts during their childhood experiences.
As a result, the theory breaks down the process of childhood growth according to the psychosexual motivators as a child develops. These stages of growth seek to show that at various stages during growth, a person (child) has various motivators that shape their behavior, and keep changing as they move to the next stage of psychosexual growth. Any faulty growth or unsuccessful/unhealthy passage of any of the stages is said to result in the adult life conflicts, which eventually determines a person’s personality.
Just like any other theory, Psychoanalytic theory has its assumptions. One such assumption is the fact that humans have unconscious urges in their brain. The unconscious mind contains desires which the mind wish for, but the desires are usually limited by the world as they may not always be fulfilled.
The Psychic determination is the other assumption. It is assumed that everything that goes through people’s mind is as a resultant of an identifiable element. Through this assumption, things like accidents and miracles are eliminated. There is also the assumption that though the brain is an internal structure, it has several separate parts that are always competing amongst each other.
To learn about Freud’s theory, it is important to understand the basics the developer of the theory lays down first. One of the things he puts across is existence of a conscious and a non-conscious mind. The conscious portion of the mind is all about anything that we are knowledgeable about. Since this portion includes things we know of, it is usually easy to retrieve them whenever they are needed. Therefore, retrieving information from this part of the memory is usually very easy.
The section of the body that contains this information is referred to in Freud’s theory as the preconscious portion of the brain. The unconscious mind is like a reserve that contains thoughts, the feelings a person has as well as the memories that the human mind is not aware of. The main content of information of this portion is feelings of pain and anxiety. However, though we may be unaware of these feelings, it is evident that they are also involved in controlling our behavior (Beystehner, 2001).
Freud highlights three elements that are contained in a person’s personality; the super ego, the Ego, and the Id are the three elements that affect an individual’s personality. When a person is born, the id element of personality is in him/her. The id element is unconscious and contains primitive and instinct behavior of the person.
It is simply what would be considered as the primary component of a person’s personality. Notable about this element is the fact that it uses the pleasure principle (Carver and Scheier, 2011). The pleasure principle focuses on how the needs of a person are met. If for instance the needs are not met within the required time, anxiety and tension results. Id is important especially when it comes to children in their young age as it allows them to express their feelings through crying so that their demands are met.
However, satisfying the demands that we may have is not always possible. The pleasure principle is therefore not always applicable. However, according to Freud, a primary process results in a bid to ensure that the tension created by the pleasure principle is resolved. The second principle in this theory is the Ego. The ego component is all about the reality of life and it tends to express the Id element in the real world. Ego encompasses all the parts of the mind previously discussed.
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The principle incorporated in this element is the reality principle, which aims at fulfilling the Id element in an appropriate way. Through using the reality principle, the Ego basically tries to fulfill the images created by the Id element. Fulfilling the Id element is done by finding the solution in the real world by looking for an object to fit the image at the primary process level. Super Ego is the other element that forms part of the personality (Pervin, 1996).
It comprises of all the aspects that a person gained from the society or the parents and people around them. It is through this that a person learns what is deemed right and what is wrong. Judgment is developed from guidelines. Super ego may further be broken down into two main parts; the ideal ego and the conscience.
The ideal ego is inclusive of what is considered good behavior by people in the society or the parents. When a person gets to follow the rules laid down in the society or by the authority, a feeling of accomplishment and pride is the resultant.
On the other hand, conscience is inclusive of engaging in actions that are considered not right by the society or the parents. When a person does these wrong acts, the resultant is a feeling of guilt.
Interaction between these elements is different amongst different individuals. For a person to live what would be considered healthy living there is need to ensure that a balance of the three elements is reached. One must have what Freud referred to as Ego strength so that he can fight the competition brought about by these three elements.
Individuals who have good ego strength are able to strike a balance between these forces, while those people with low ego strength may succumb to this pleasure. Research shows that there exists a balance between explorations of the child with their safety for the exploration to be there. According to International Journal of Psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis therapy may be in single consultation therapy and may as well take about one year or more to achieve success on a person.
Psychoanalytic theory uses free association as a way of measuring the personality in humans. Free association entails the patient speaking out on a certain subject and then an analysis carried out from what the he says. It is from this analysis that a conclusion is later derived. However, there have been issues of reliability of this tool of measuring someone’s personality.
For one, it is hard for the analyst to be sure that the memories that he accesses are representing the actual memories or what the patient is imagining. Sharp criticism was bestowed upon this method of inferring conclusions. Those opposing the theory argued that by having patients talk out their issues to a professional and having them draw conclusion based on the information, there were no precise guidelines and predetermined checklist or comparing and measuring the information given so as to make reliable conclusions.
Another criticism based its argument in the fact that different patients of mental illnesses talked to different professionals, and there being no guidelines to gauge the information, interpretations were likely to vary between different professionals. Though there have been issues of validity of measurement of people personality, success may only be achieved through having the analyst inspect the transcript closely (Beystehner, 2001).
Research onto this theory has brought out the fact that there certainly is a relationship between an individual’s behavior and the subconscious portion of the mind. The theory forms a base of the modern day psychopathology. Research has also shown that, as a method of treatment for mental illnesses, psychoanalytic theory attempts to change and work on the unconscious part of the brain. Ultimately, the theory proposes that a person’s personality is dependant on the three main components of personality.
The Id component is all about the person getting gratification for the needs that he requires. On the other hand, Ego tends to fulfill the desire of Id but in a realistic way, since at times Id may not always be realistic. Finally, super ego aims at adding morality in ensuring that the ego is fulfilled.
One of the great cornerstones of Freud’s work was interpretation of dreams. Through interpretation of dreams, the subconscious mind is brought out. It also made it easier for analysts to learn and understand people’s personality well. The way a person behaves is entirely dependant on their experiences as they grew up as well as the environment one is brought up in.
Freud clearly outlined in the psychoanalytic theory that the particular way in which humans behave is determined by psychic energies and their experiences during psychosexual development. A healthy adult life can thus be achieved by successfully going through the early childhood experiences or psychosexual stages. Such are some of the things the theory talks about.
The theory emphasizes on how learning of the subconscious bit of a person can lead to the analyst unraveling important information about the patient (Pervin, 1996). By way of analyzing and understanding both the conscious and the non-conscious mind of a person, it is possible to infer the individual’s behavior as well as why they result in that particular behavior. Though there are various elements of criticism of psychoanalytic theory, its contribution to modern day therapy is undeniable.
Progress has been achieved in treatment of mentally ill patients through the bases of Freud’s work outlined in his theory. It would therefore be unfair to discard it since it offers much contribution to modern day science. Though some people dismissed psychoanalytic theory as not belonging to the science field based on its lacking methodology, the theory brought about a new branch in the science field called experimental psychology.
Beystehner, K. M., (2001). Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Revolutionary Approach to Human Personality. Retrieved from http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/beystehner.html
Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F., (2011). Perspectives on Personality (7th Edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Pervin, L. A., (1996). The Science of Personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons.