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In the first decade of the twentieth century, Freud expressed the idea that humans are sensual-sexual creatures. The mentioned sensuality occurs in infancy and accompanies an individual to the phase of adulthood (Silverman 1). Aside from the given idea, Sigmund Freud also advanced the theory that human personality is composed of three elements: the id, the ego, and the superego. The way these components interact usually determines what sort of personality will be formed.
Stages of Psychosexual Development
Freud argued that the psychosexual development of a personality goes through five stages. In psychology, these stages are named oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital (Silverman 1). Each phase is characterized by conflicts that either stimulate or restrain personal development. Successful completion of a particular stage leads to the occurrence of a healthy personality. In the meantime, the inability to complete the phase results in a fixation, which can be defined as the focus on an earlier psychosexual stage (Silverman 2).
The oral stage is the first on the list; it begins right after the birth of an infant. During this period, the interaction with other individuals is mostly performed through the mouth. At the age of one, a child enters the anal stage, during which he/she learns to control bladder and bowel movement (Silverman 2).
The phallic phase begins at the age of three: a child becomes aware of anatomical differences, as sensitivity is now concentrated in his/her genitals. When the latency stage arrives (5 or 6 years old), libido turns out to be dormant, as interests are shifted towards hobbies and friendship. Finally, puberty signals the arrival of the genital stage, which is accompanied by sexual experimentation and further one-to-one relationships.
ID, Ego, and Superego
Human personality represents a complex mechanism consisting of several components. The ID is an entirely unconscious component that a person acquires from birth; it only covers primitive and instinctive behaviors (Silverman 4). Its functions are mostly reduced to fulfilling the infant’s needs at earlier stages of one’s life. The second element is the ego, the one that is responsible for dealing with the real world. The ego develops from the ID and fulfills preconscious, conscious, and unconscious functions. The given element presupposes controlling and directing one’s actions (Silverman 4). The final component called the superego represents a collection of moral standards an individual receives from interaction with society. Its main function is to guide a person in making judgments.
Defense mechanisms are specific strategies that unconsciously engage in protecting an individual from anxiety caused by undesired feelings or thoughts. They are used by the ego to signal that the survival of an organism is at threat. The four most commonly met psychological defense mechanisms are regression, projection, denial, and displacement (Silverman 3). Regression is a movement back in time to the point of stress: children may start sucking their thumbs when reminded of the need to go back to a hospital. Projection is attributing one’s unacceptable thoughts to other individuals: when hating someone people often think that others hate them too.
Denial can be viewed as refusing to experience the event or situation that makes a person feel uneasy: smokers tend to reject the fact that smoking is harmful. Displacement is redirecting impulsive emotions towards a substitute object: a person frustrated by a boss may come back home and hit his/her dog in anger.
Freud outlined the five stages of psychosexual development that are named oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stage. Each stage is attributed to a particular period of life of an individual and predetermines his/her psycho-emotional growth. Along with completing the mentioned stages, a person experiences the formation and development of the three components of human personality: the id, the ego, and the superego. The ego is known to have defense mechanisms, the four most commonly met of which are regression, projection, denial, and displacement.
Silverman, Doris K. “Psychosexual Stages of Development (Freud).” Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 2017, pp. 1-5.