Freud’s approach to understanding human behaviour – psychoanalysis – has had a profound effect on psychology. His approach is one of many that share some common assumptions, while differing fundamentally in others. Contemporaries of Freud, such as Jung and Adler were inspired by Freudian theory, but emphasised different issues in human development and experience. Collectively these theories are described as “psychodynamic” because they emphasise the factors that motivate behaviour (i.e. the dynamics of behaviour). They challenged the biomedical view that mental disorders had physical origins. The psychodynamic approach views abnormal behaviour as caused by unconscious, underlying psychological forces. Key features of the psychodynamic approach
Freud believed that all behaviour – normal and abnormal – derived from unconscious forces and that psychopathology arose from the dynamic working of the personality (psyche), rather than from physical causes. In other words psychopathology is psychological in origin. According to Freud, the psyche consists of three interrelated structures, the id, the ego and the superego. He believed that the human mind had conscious and unconscious areas. •The unconscious part of the mind was seen as being dominated by the “id” – a primitive part of the personality that pursues pleasure and gratification. The id is not concerned with social rules, but only with self-gratification and is driven by the pleasure principle. It allows us to get basic needs met as a newborn with no thought for the needs of others. This disregard for the consequences of behaviour is referred to as “primary process thinking”. •The second area is the “ego”, which dominates the conscious mind. This part of our mind is in contact with the outside world and considers the consequences of an action, and understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes being impulsive or selfish can hurt us in the long run. Thus the ego carries out “secondary process thinking” and is driven by the reality principle. •The third part of the mind is the “superego” which develops around the age of 4 as we become more aware of the rules and conventions of society and, specifically, of our parents. It contains our social conscience and guides us towards socially acceptable behaviour and the experience of guilt and anxiety when we do something wrong,
According to Freud, the ego and the superego are located largely in the conscious mind whereas the id is in the subconscious. In a healthy person the ego is the strongest so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego and still takes into account the reality of every situation. Not an easy job to do but if the id gets too strong impulses and self-gratification take over the person’s life, leading to destructiveness and immorality which may result in conduct disorders in childhood and psychopathic behaviour in adulthood. If the superego becomes too strong the person would be driven by rigid morals, would be judgemental and unbending in his interactions with the world, which would lead to neurosis such as anxiety disorders, phobias and obsessions.
Psychological disturbances in adulthood are assumed to be the result of unconscious, unresolved psychological conflicts and experiences that date back to childhood;
Unresolved conflicts – the ego may be unable to balance the compelling demands of the id and the superego. Freud maintained that these internal conflicts occur at an unconscious level, so that we are unaware of their influence. Although conflict between the superego and the id can occur at any time in our life, it is most marked in early childhood because the ego is not yet fully developed. Freud also believed the children go through stages of psychosexual development; oral, anal, phallic, latency and...