Freud’s has a view of human nature that is driven by instinct. It is deterministic. The two dominant forces are the life and death forces that Freud calls Eros and Thanatos. The three levels of awareness for Freud are what he called the conscious, preconscious, and the unconscious. The most important of the three is the role of the unconscious. Problem formation according to Freud occurs when there are repressed memories, drives, or desires in the unconscious. There is a constant battle between the Id and the Superego and the Ego serves to mediate between the demands of both. This mediation of the two can serve to threaten the ego and cause anxiety, thus forcing the ego to utilize other defense mechanisms. The mother of all defense mechanisms is repression. Other problem formation occurs during a disturbance or trauma during the psychosexual stages of development which causes the person to become fixated at the stage. Consequences are to be experienced in later adulthood. Finally, change occurs when memories, drives, and desires are brought into consciousness. This can be achieved according to Freud through the techniques of free association, dream analysis, and transference.
Keywords: instinct, eros, thanatos, conscious, unconscious, preconscious, id, ego, superego, repression, psychosexual development, stages, techniques
Freud essentially embraced a deterministic view of human nature. Human behavior is determined by uncontrollable irrational forces that are continuously operating in the individual. The human person is unconsciously motivated and key biological and instinctual drives manifest within the person over what Freud called the psychosexual phases of development in the first 6 years of life (Corey, 2009).
Freud’s view of human nature takes on some basic assumptions that are key to understanding his position. The foundation of his psychoanalytical theory rests on the notion of the unconscious. Freud proposed that that the human mind consists of three main parts. These parts are the unconscious, the conscious, and the preconscious. The most important of these is the unconscious for it is here where the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and memories that will not easily move into the conscious are stored. Moreover, certain drives and instincts that allow people to behave the way they do are also stored in the conscious(Krapp, 2005, p. 155). That which a person is aware of is stored in the conscious. The preconscious then is the part of the mind that can be accessed if needed, but is not part of the active conscious(Krapp, 2005, p. 155).
Moving on with human nature and Freud it is also important to understand the notion of instinct as the driving force in the human personality. To be more specific, Freud describes this instinct as a stimulus of the mind that originates in the body that puts forth a pressure(Sugarman, 2010, p. 13). This pressure needs to be released or satisfied. Instincts provide a means of survival for the human person. Furthermore, instincts allowed the person to develop, grow, and be creative.
According to Mullahy (1955), Freud takes the idea of stimuli from physiology and expounds on it. Human instinct acts like an internal stimulus that is constant and inescapable. According to Freud then instincts were a sum of energy forcing its way in the human person. (p. 3) The 3 characteristics of human instinct thus is that it has a source of excitation from the body, an aim to remove that excitation, and an object by which the achievement of satisfaction is met(Mullahy, 1955, p. 4). Out of his theory of instinct comes Freud’s larger idea of the life (eros) and death (thanatos) instinct. As Noland (1999) explains, Freud believed that all humans have a death instinct. He supported this notion by observing how all organic matter eventually returns to its inorganic state, in...