I. Overview of Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
Freud's psychoanalysis is the best known of all personality theories because it (1) postulated the primacy of sex and aggressiontwo universally popular themes; (2) attracted a group of followers who were dedicated to spreading psychoanalytic doctrine; and (3) advanced the notion of unconscious motives, which permit varying explanations for the same observations.
II. Biography of Sigmund Freud
Although he was born in the Czech Republic in 1856 and died in London in 1939, Sigmund Freud spent nearly 80 years of his life in Vienna. A physician who never intended to practice general medicine, Freud was intensely curious about human nature, and in his practice of psychiatry he was perhaps more interested in learning about the unconscious motives of his patients than in curing neuroses. Early in his professional career, Freud believed that hysteria was a result of being seduced during childhood by a sexually mature person, often a parent or other relative. However, in 1897, he abandoned his seduction theory and replaced it with his notion of the Oedipus complex. Some recent scholars have contended that Freud's decision to abandon the seduction theory in favor of the Oedipus complex was a major error and influenced a generation of psychotherapists to interpret patients' reports of early sexual abuse as merely childhood fantasies.
III. Levels of Mental Life
Freud saw mental functioning as operating on three levels: the unconscious, the preconscious, and the conscious.
The unconscious consists of drives and instincts that are beyond awareness but that motivate many of our behaviors. Unconscious drives can become conscious only in disguised or distorted form, such as dream images, slips of the tongue, or neurotic symptoms. Unconscious processes originate from two sources: (1) repression, or the blocking out of anxiety-filled experiences and (2) phylogenetic... [continues]
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