Psychodynamic Perspective: an Inside Look

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This paper will discuss the psychodynamic perspective and its importance in understanding human behavior. The major concepts and propositions of this perspective will be highlighted and briefly discussed. Finally, this paper will discuss how to use this perspective in social work assessment and intervention. Concepts

The psychodynamic perspective is defined by Hutchinson (2003) as “an approach that focuses on how internal processes motivate human behavior.” Three concepts important in understanding the psychodynamic perspective are emotions, unconscious, and conscious mental activity, and early childhood experiences. According to this perspective emotions have a central place in human behavior. This means that individual’s feelings can shape how they behave or react in certain situations. For example, if a male child is taught that “men do not cry” then, as an adult, he may keep his feelings bottled up inside and not talk about them. Topographical theory of the mind states that there are three states of mind: conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. These concepts serve as motivating forces in human behavior. Conscious mental activity is the activity of which we are fully aware. Preconscious mental activity is thoughts and feelings that can be easily brought to mind. Unconscious mental activity is thoughts, feelings, and desires of which we are not aware. Due to past experiences, individuals may have thoughts and feelings that they are or are not aware of. Certain situations may trigger emotions that an individual is unaware of. Early childhood experiences are an important factor in the shaping of human behavior. Abuse experienced or witnessed as a child can lead to emotional problems in adulthood. According to Browne, Saunders, and Staecker (1997), men who experienced abuse as children will imitate this behavior as adults and feel that they can get what they want from their victim by being abusive. Propositions

One important proposition in the psychodynamic perspective is the object relations theory. This theory studies “how people develop attitudes toward others and how those attitudes affect the view of the self as well as social relationships” (Hutchinson, 2003, p.69). According to Browne, Saunders, and Staecker (1997) “men’s attitudes and behaviors toward themselves and women come primarily from childhood lessons created by various individual and cultural factors.” As young children, these men observed the poor treatment of themselves and women. This lead to these men developing an attitude of superiority over women. These men also learned to suppress emotions and devalue intimacy because it is not considered “manly” to express feelings.

Another important proposition of the psychodynamic perspective is self-psychology. This proposition focuses on “the individual need to organize the personality into a cohesive sense of self and to build relationships that support this cohesive sense of self” (Hutchinson, 2003, p.69). This refers to the self-image, or what each of us perceives when we look into the mirror. Self-psychology has three types of the self, grandiose self, idealized parent image, and twinship. The grandiose self “arises from the positive affirmations we internalize from others; it gives rise to our ambitions and enthusiasm” (Hutchinson, 2003, p. 178). If individuals do not experience this type of self, they will not have any drive to do something productive with their lives. The idealized parent image “represents guidance from others, which results in our ability to be self-directed and to set goals” (Hutchinson, 2003, p. 178). Behavior is learned through observation when a child is growing up. If a child does not receive the appropriate guidance while growing up, they will not be self-directed and will not have goals they wish to attain. Twinship “represents our natural social propensities to connect with others and through this process, to develop our...
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