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.
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.
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 endowment, or inherited experiences that lie beyond an individual's personal experience.
The preconscious contains images that are not in awareness but that can become conscious either quite easily or with some level of difficulty.
Consciousness is the only level of mental life directly available to us, but it plays a relatively minor role in Freudian theory. Conscious ideas stem from either the perception of external stimuli (perceptual conscious system) or from unconscious and preconscious images after they have evaded censorship.
Provinces of the Mind
Freud conceptualized three regions of the mind: the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id, which is completely unconscious, serves the pleasure principle and seeks constant and immediate satisfaction of instinctual needs. As the region of the mind that contains the basic instincts, the id operates through the primary process.
The ego, or secondary process, is governed by the reality principle; that is, it is responsible for reconciling the unrealistic demands of both the id and the superego with the demands of the real world.
The superego, which serves the idealistic principle, has two subsystems: the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience results from punishment for improper behavior whereas the ego-ideal stems from rewards for socially acceptable behavior. V.
Dynamics of Personality
The term dynamics of personality refers to those forces that motivate people. The concept includes both instincts and anxiety.
Freud grouped all human drives or urges under two primary instincts: sex (Eros or the life instinct) and aggression (the destructive or death instinct).
The Sexual Instinct
The aim of the sexual instinct is pleasure, which can be gained through the erogenous zones, especially the mouth, anus, and genitals. The object of the sexual instinct is any person or thing that brings sexual...
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