4 February 2013
CHAPTER 12: PERSONALITY [CONT’D]
THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH
Sigmund Freud was trained as a physiologist and an expert in observation which marked his work
thereafter. He was fascinated by ailments that seemed to have no physiological cause and worked with
Charcot on hypnotism. He came to believe that all human behavior is motivated by instinctual desires
that provide psychic energy and these drives could be unconscious as well as conscious. Freud looked
for personality in the details the meanings and insights revealed by careful analysis of the tiniest
blemishes in a person’s thought and behavior. Working with patients who came to him with disorders
that did not seem to have any physical basis, he began by interpreting the origins of their everyday
mistakes and memory lapses, errors that have come to be called “Freudian slips.”
Psychoanalysis is both his theory of personality and his method of treating patients. Freud’s idea was
that personality is a mystery to the person who “owns” it because we can’t know our own deepest
Psychodynamic Approach is a personality formed by needs, strivings, and desires largely operating
outside of awareness; motives that can produce emotional disorders. The real engines of personality, in
this view, are forces of which we are largely unaware.
Dynamic Unconscious is an active system encompassing a lifetime of hidden memories, the person’s
deepest instincts and desires, and the person’s inner struggle to control these forces.
STRUCTURE OF THE MIND
To explain the emotional difficulties psychodynamics of the mind consists of three independent,
interacting, and often conflicting systems: the id, the ego, and the superego. The manner in which our
internal energies are released determines our personalities.
Instinct (ID) is the part of the mind containing the drives present at birth; it is the source of our bodily
needs, wants, desires, and impulses, particularly our sexual and aggressive drives. Completely below our
consciousness, the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, a cauldron full of seething excitations filled
with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no conscious will, but
only a striving to bring about that satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the pleasure principle.
Pleasure Principle is the tendency to seek immediate gratification of any impulse, the desire to obtain
immediate gratification in whatever form it may take. The ID is also linked to “libido”, the primary
source of instinctual motivation for all psychic forces (IE: If governed by the id alone, you would never be
able to tolerate the buildup of hunger while waiting to be served at a restaurant but would simply grab
food from tables nearby). All that the id can do is wish.
Conscience (SUPEREGO) is the mental system that reflects the internalization of cultural rules, mainly
learned as parents exercise their authority. It is charged with the task of making you the sort of person
that will fit in well with society or just the person you would like to be. It consists of a set of guidelines,
internal standards, and other codes of conduct that regulate and control our behaviors, thoughts, and
fantasies. It acts as a kind of conscience, punishing us when it finds we are doing or thinking something
wrong (by producing guilt or other painful feelings) and rewarding us (with feelings of pride or self- congratulation) for living up to ideal standards. Ego-Ideal is the internalized notion of what society
values in a person what it means to be “good”, “liked” or “appreciated”. Conscience is the
internalization of the rules and restrictions of society in punishes wrong doings with feelings of guilt.
Reason (EGO) is the component of personality, developed through contact with the external world that
enables us to deal with life’s practical demands. The Ego attempts to find ways to satisfy the desires of
the Id without invoking guilt from the Super-ego, almost like a referee, it tries to make both sides happy.
Reality Principle is the regulating mechanism that enables the individual to delay gratifying immediate
needs and function effectively in the real world, the tendency to satisfy the Id’s desires in realistic ways.
Sexual and aggressive drives are obviously the least easy to satisfy given societal desires to keep these
controlled this explains why psychodynamic theory emphasizes them so much. Sex and aggression is
what makes the ego work overtime (IE: The ego helps you resist the impulse to snatch others’ food and
also finds the restaurant and pays the check).
The relative strength of the interactions among the three systems of mind, which system is usually
dominant, determines an individual’s basic personality structure. The id force of personal needs, the
superego force of social pressures to quell those needs, and the ego force of reality’s demands.
The manifest content of a dream refers to its actual storyline, which Freud assumed was often a “super-
ego” cleansed version of the latent content which reflected the actual no-cleansed (IE: ID driven)
motivation for the dream. Thus, to the extent that psychic energies were exerting themselves in
problematic ways, the analysis of dreams provides a potential royal road to the unconscious.
DEALING WITH INNER CONFLICT
Dynamics among the id, ego, and superego are largely governed by anxiety, an unpleasant feeling that
arises when unwanted thoughts or feelings occur. When the ego receives an “alert signal” in the form of
anxiety, it launches into a defensive position in an attempt to ward off the anxiety. Repression is a
mental process that removes painful experiences and unacceptable impulses from the conscious mind,
“motivated forgetting.” Repression of memories may involve decreased activation of the hippocampus,
a region that is central to memory. Defense Mechanisms are unconscious coping mechanisms that
reduce anxiety generated by threats from unacceptable impulses:
Rationalization involves supplying a reasonable sounding explanation for unacceptable feelings
and behavior to conceal (mostly from oneself) one’s underlying motives or feelings (IE: Someone
who drops a class after having failed an exam might tell herself that she is quitting because poor
ventilation in the classroom made it impossible to concentrate)
Reaction Formation involves unconsciously replacing threatening inner wishes and fantasies
with an exaggerated version of their opposite (IE: Being excessively nice to someone you dislike,