Sigmund Freud, born in 1856 was a well established Austrian neurologist who would later go on to found the discipline of psychoanalysis. He is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and repression and his concept of the dynamic unconscious suggesting that it is our unconscious minds that indeed determine how we as people behave, also establishing sexual drives as the dominant motivation of human life.
He saw the unconscious mind as being the source of mental energy which determined behaviour, basing these findings on the results of his use of hypnosis where he found that he was able to produce and remove symptoms of hysteria. There have been numerous approaches in the field of psychology that have put forward the belief that behaviour is directed by an individuals goals but the idea behind a goal-directed unconscious is an original Freudian concept.
The main underlying belief of this theory is that any individuals behaviour is the direct result of the influences that prior experiences have had on them. These influences having an even greater effect if they are from our childhood. Freud believed that our early experiences formed the solid foundations on which we would form the structure of our life and that the adult personality is indeed formed in childhood according to the situations, treatment and feelings experienced as a child.
Freud defined the human psyche as comprising of three parts, the unconscious or sub-conscious containing material that we are unable to bring into our conscious awareness and therefore unknowable. The preconscious which consists of information that is not at the present moment in our conscious awareness but is stored in our memory and can if need be easily recalled to the conscious level. And the conscious part of our mind which is where all current and new incoming content is processed.
Within these parts operate the Id, the Ego and the Super Ego that work together to create complex human behaviours. The Id is the only part of our personality that is present from birth and is entirely unconscious, seeking instant gratification and fulfilling instinctive human needs. The Id is governed by the pleasure principle desiring the fulfilment of all desires, needs and wants. If these are not immediately satisfied this results in a state of anxiety or tension.
The Id serves of great importance early on in life, a child will cry as a result of their ID if they are hungry or in discomfort and ensures that their needs are met. Later on in life it is not always realistic or indeed possible to immediately satisfy such needs, it would be morally and socially unacceptable for us to just help ourselves to other people's things in order to satisfy our own needs and wants and so later in childhood our Ego comes in to play.
The Ego is responsible for dealing with reality and acts to ensure that the impulses of the Id are satisfied in a way that is acceptable to the real world and functions in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious parts of our mind. The reality principle weighs up the pro's and con's of an action before deciding whether or not to act upon the impulse. Often the impulses of the Id can be satisfied but through delayed gratification with the Ego allowing the behaviour at an appropriate time and place. The Ego is a part of the Id that has been somewhat modified and rounded by external factors in the environment in which we live. Freud originally used the word Ego to mean a sense of self but later revised it to represent a set of psychic functions such as judgement, control, intellectual functioning and memory.
Finally we develop our Super Ego. The Super Ego is the part of our personality that holds our morals and ideals that we have acquired from our parents and environment and acts as a voice for right and wrong. As with the Ego...