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Psychoanalytic and Trait Approaches to Personality

By circlediamond Mar 18, 2010 1163 Words
Psychoanalytic and Trait Approaches to Personality
Michael Mousaw
University of Phoenix
Sarah Jenkins
February 25, 2010

Psychoanalytic and Trait Approaches to Personality
The authors’ first question is, “What is a psychoanalytic approach to personality?” Sigmund Freud describes it as (1) a theory of the mind or personality, (2) a method of investigation of unconscious process, and (3) a method of treatment (Westen, 1999 pg57). With this thought process in mind the authors’ first progression would be to describe this approach to personality as kind of a ghost hunt. The authors’ intention here is to bring to light the differences between psychoanalytic and trait approaches to personality test. Understanding Psychoanalytic Personality

How is anyone supposed to understand what a person’s mind is doing in an unconscious state? If that person, themselves, does not have a clue as to what is going on inside his or her mind how is the psychologist going to come to a conclusion that it is an unconscious thought? Freud’s thinking was a simple assumption: if there is something the person is doing that they cannot explain or report, then the relevant mental process must be unconscious if they are to fill in the gaps (Westen, 1999 pg59). Freud himself did not fully look into this. He based his theory on test that was done on his more important research, understanding psychopathology. In these test he wrote and studied patients on what they did through free association test and transference phenomena. These test revealed patterns of interpersonal cognitive-affective behaviors of the person being tested. Freud’s theory is based on three types of thought: (1) the conscious, what a person is immediately aware of, (2) the preconscious, what a person is not currently aware of but can bring to the conscious thought and (3) the unconscious, what a person is not aware of and kept hidden due to content (Westen, 1999 pg59). Fritz Riemann concluded in his theory of personality that was published in his work entitled Grundformen der Angst (Basic Forms of Anxiety in 1952 that human beings come into this world with basically four needs or impulses; (1) the need for self-preservation, (2) the need for belonging, (3) the need for security, and (4) the need for personal transformation (Drooker, 1999). For Riemann, the greatest influence is the significant loss, either imaginary or actual; of an object or a person and that this loss has the ability to affect that person subconsciously for their entire life time. The Psychoanalytic Personality Test

The psychoanalytic tests are designed to interpret a person’s subconscious thoughts. By this means these tests should give the person or company an ideal into how that person sees things. This author does not agree with this train of thought. The reason being is that the subconscious is exactly that subconscious. It has no real bearing into what a person may do in a given situation. This author believes that if one person passes this test in a clinical setting and one person does not, that person who did not, may be the one who saves this authors life in a life threatening situation. This author’s believes, that, in a real life event the one who does not think about his or her subconscious will be the first to react and quite possibly be there to pull a human being out of a fire, falling building or a car accident. This person may also be the first to give mouth to mouth in order to save that accident victims life. Understanding Trait Personality

Traits, unlike subconscious thoughts, are what we a born with. These traits are what an individual perceives, feels, believes, or acts. Trait theorists believe that most traits are genetically passed from parents to their children. This is not to say that these traits cannot be changed over a his or her lifetime, they can, although it is rare. This author believes that these personality traits change more than psychiatrists’ think they do. This author has seen people’s trait personalities change over the last five years. Openness to experience refers to the dimension ranging from outgoing, liberal, interested in new things, and imaginative to reserved, conservative, traditional, and conforming.  Like all of these five traits, people will fall somewhere on a continuum, with most falling somewhere in the middle (Heffner, 2002). This openness is fundamental to the existence of human beings. Human beings are social creatures by nature. This personality test is a self-report test. In other words, the person taking the test tells on him or herself and what they believe in their selves. These forms of test this author has more faith in than the test that measure a person’s subconscious. A person knows their selves and what his or her beliefs are. The trait theory test relies on statistical or objective data. This data has been studied and researched and has been proven. The personal experience of the theorist’s play no role in trait theory as they have in subconscious theories. Freud's relationship with his mother, Adler's childhood illness, or Jung's belief in mythology could be said to have influenced their theories. Although not proven.  In that sense, subjectivity may have biased their ideas.  Trait theory has no bias (Heffner, 2002). Conclusion

This author has taken both types of test over the years and believes that in his or her experience the one that has saved his or her life on more than one occasion has been the people who did not think about what is going on in their subconscious. They were they to help and had no preoccupation with what the outcome would be. This author has seen this happen. This author has been at the site of major accidents and it was the people who, in this authors’ opinion, reacted and did not act on subconscious thought. This author is described as an ESTJ personality. In the research this author has done he or she is considered a guardian. This is very much true. This percentage of the population that is the same as the author is 8.7 percent. This author believes that his or her personality is best described in the trait personality test rather than the psychoanalytic personality test. This author experience has been that his or her trait characters or more about living life today than psychoanalytic personality test are. These trait experiences have helped this author’s life in more than one occasion.

Drooker, Nancy L. (1999).  Exploring the therapist's subjectivity: The influence of the psychotherapist's ego-syntonic personality traits on technique. Ph.D. dissertation, The Wright Institute, United States -- California. Retrieved February 26, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text. (Publication No. AAT 9920528). Westen, D., Gabbard, G.O. 1999, Handbook of Personality, Second Edition; Psychoanalytic Approaches to Personality pgs 57-102. Retrieved February 25, 2010 from the World Wide Web site:

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