The Stages of Sigmund's Freud Theory of Psychosexual Development

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Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Viennese physician, trained in neurology that can be considered as the most influential of the psychodynamic theorists. He created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior, focusing on the unconscious instinct and urges rather than the conscious (Morris & Maisto, 1998). Freud stressed that human nature was based more on desire than reason and ones past experiences as being the major determinants of future behavior and personality development.

Turner & Helms 1995 outlines that Freud devised a theory of personality that can be applied to the behavior of both child and adult. Freud theorised that there are three parts of personality, the ID, EGO and SUPEREGO. They become integrated through a sequence of stages. The ID is the source of basic biologic needs and desires. As outlined by Atkinson et al 2000, the id is an unconscious drive and operates according to the pleasure of hedonistic principle which means obtaining immediate pleasure and avoiding pain at all cost. The ids force operates at the unconscious level and drives the individual to desire instant gratification. The EGO is the conscious rational part of personality that emerges in early infancy to direct the id’s impulses at acceptable times and places to appropriate objects. Freud postulates that the ego exists solely to fulfill the aims of the id but that ego maturity develops as a means of restraining the ids demands. The ego operates by the, using intelligent reasoning, it delays satisfying the id’s desires until it can do so safely. (Morris & Maisto 1998) The SUPEREGO is the center of morality and conscience which develops from interaction with parents and the demands of society, and through the ego facing the task of reconciling the demands of the id, the external environment and with the internal superego. The superego acts as an internal restraint and moral guide to the id and ego. Atkinson et al 2000 describes the superego ‘as the internalised representative of the values and morals of society and comprises the individuals conscious as well as the image of the morally ideal person or the EGO IDEAL’. Berk 2009 documents that according to Freud the relationship established between the id, ego and superego during early development determines the individual’s basic personality. Conflict between the id, ego and superego causes anxiety and tension. The ego alleviates these stressors by either consciously or unconsciously creating protective devices called defenses mechanisms. PSYCHOSEXUAL THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT

Morris & Maisto 1998 outlined that while treating his adult patients Freud observed that a number of them had physical disabilities and nervous symptoms with no evidence of actual physical impairment. He noted that through hypnotic therapy when these adults talked freely about painful childhood events it freed them of such problems as paralysis and hallucinations. Using these memories he examined the unconscious motivation of his adult patients and constructed his PSYCHOSEXUAL THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT (Berk 2000). Freud, in his psychosexual theory states that infants and children experience sexual feelings, although not as an adult would for intercourse but rather for pleasure, affection and gratification. Sexual instinct or EROS exerts a force or energy known as LIBIDO which is described as an unconscious, instinctive sex drive (Bee 2000). The libidinal energy and sexual impulses shift their focus from the oral to anal then genital regions of the body as the child matures; and represents a new stage in psychosexual development in terms of personality. The main focus of Freud’s theory emphasises that the methods parents use to manage their child’s sexual and aggressive drives in infancy are crucial for healthy personality development. It highlighted the importance of...
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