PSYC231 – Chapter 2: The Psychoanalytic Approach 02/07/2013
Psychoanalysis: Freud’s theory of personality and system of therapy for treating mental disorders
Psychoanalysis is based on clinical observations of patient’s feelings and past experiences, which are
creatively interpreted. Freud considered both conscious and unconscious processes, but focused especially
on the latter.
Instincts: The Propelling Forces of the Personality
Instincts: in Freud’s system, mental representations of internal stimuli, such as hunger, that drive a
person to take certain actions
Basic elements of personality, the motivating forces that drive behaviour
A bodily need transformed into a feeling of tension transformed into a mental state/wish (to restore
equilibrium – homeostatic approach)
Freud thought that psychic energy could be displaced into substitute objects (ex. Sexual energy could be
displaced into sexual activity, or sports, or anything). He thought that how we chose to displace this energy
explained human diversity in behaviour
Types of Instincts:
Life instincts: drive for survival of the individual and species by satisfying the needs for food, water, air,
Libido: to Freud, a form of psychic energy manifested by the life instincts, that drives a person toward
pleasurable behaviours and thoughts (not just sex)
Cathexis: an investment of psychic energy in an object or person
Death Instincts: the unconscious wish to die as well as the drive toward decay, destruction, and
Aggressive drive: the compulsion to destroy, conquer, and kill
Freud saw people as “predominantly pleasureseeking” and saw sex as our primary motivation
The Levels of Personality
The Conscious: all the sensations and experiences we are aware of at any given moment. Freud saw
the conscious as limited.
The Preconscious: the storehouse of memories, perceptions, and thoughts that we are not always
consciously aware of, but can easily summon into consciousness. The Unconscious: the part of ourselves we are not aware of. Where the instincts and driving forces
behind our behaviours lie
The Structure of Personality
The id: the aspect of personality associated with the instincts and the unconscious. A source of psychic
energy, the id operates according to the pleasure principle. Primary process thinking. Selfish, amoral,
primitive, rash. The id has no awareness of reality.
Pleasure Principle: process by which id functions to avoid pain/tension and maximize pleasure
PrimaryProcess Thought: childlike thinking by which the id attempts to satisfy the instinctual drives
The Ego: the rational aspect of the personality, responsible for directing and controlling the instincts
according to the reality principle. Both conscious and preconscious.
SecondaryProcess Thought: mature thought processes needed to deal rationally with the
The ego doesn’t try to suppress or thwart the id’s impulses, but rationalizes socially acceptable times,
places, and ways for the instincts to be satisfied
Note that the ego cannot be independent of the id. It gains its energy and power from the id.
Reality Principle: the ego function to provide appropriate constraints on the expression of the id
If ego is too severely strained by id, superego, and reality, the result is anxiety
The Superego: the moral aspect of personality; the internalization of parental and societal values and
Conscience: a component of the superego that contains behaviours for which the child has been
Egoideal: a component of the superego that contains the moral or ideal behaviours for which a person
should strive/behaviours for which one has been praised for
With development, parental control is replaced by selfcontrol and we begin to experience shame & guilt for
Doesn’t try to postpone impulses but tries to eliminate them overall. Ultimate goal = absolute morality.
Anxiety: A Threat of the Ego
Freud believed that anxiety ultimately stemmed from our traumatic experience of being born (out of secure
womb into complex world). When we experience impending doom/anxiety thereafter, we are taken back to
the sense of helplessness we experience in infancy. Anxiety (to Freud): a feeling of fear and dread without an obvious cause; reality anxiety
is a fear of tangible dangers; neurotic anxiety involves a conflict between id and ego; moral
anxiety involves a conflict between id and superego
o Reality Anxiety ▯ serves to protect us from real dangers. However, these can sometimes
become abnormal (ex. phobias)
o Neurotic Anxiety ▯ an unconscious fear of being punished for impulsively displaying id
dominated behaviour. Tension between id and ego = anxiety.
o Moral Anxiety ▯ guilt or shame experienced when conflict between id and superego occurs.
In all cases, anxiety signifies that something is wrong and that the ego is threatened. How can the ego
protect itself? ▯ escape anxietyevoking situation, inhibit impulsive need, obey the conscience (morality). If
none of these work, person likely to resort to defense mechanisms (the nonrational strategies of ego
Defense Against Anxiety
Defense Mechanisms: strategies the ego uses to defend itself against the anxiety provoked by
conflicts of everyday life. Defense mechanisms involve denials or distortions of reality.
We rarely use just one, and some overlap exists among the ones we use.
Share 2 common characteristics: unconscious & distort/deny reality
Repression: a defense that involves unconscious denial of the existence of something that causes
Denial: a defense that involves denying the existence of an external threat or traumatic event
Reaction Formation: a defense that involves expressing an id impulse that is the opposite of the one
that is truly driving the person (ex. a person threatened by sexual longing may become an intense crusader
Projection: a defense that involves attributing a disturbing impulse to someone else (ex. Claiming
someone hates you when you really hate them)
Regression: a defense that involves retreating to an earlier, less frustrating period of life and displaying
the usually childish behaviours characteristic of that more secure time
Rationalization: a defense that involves reinterpreting our behaviour to make it appear more
acceptable to us
Displacement: a defense that involves shifting impulses from a threatening object or from one that is
unavailable (ex. Replacing hostility towards one’s boss with hostility towards one’s child)
Sublimation: a defense that involves altering or displacing impulses by diverting instinctual energy into
socially acceptable behaviours
Psychosexual Stages of Personality Development Parentchild interactions contribute strongly to character development. Believed personality was
essentially formed and remained stable after 5 years of age.
Child tries to maximize pleasureseeking impulses of id, while parents impose societal restrictions of
reality and morality
Psychosexual Stage of Development: the oral, anal, phallic, and genital stages through which
all children pass. In these stages, gratification of the id instincts depends on the stimulation of
corresponding areas of the body. A conflict exists in each stage that must be resolved before the child can
progress to the next stage
Oral (01): mouth. Pleasure derived from sucking, biting, swallowing.
Infant completely dependent on mother. Mother’s responsiveness affects how infant will view the world
(good or evil)
2 stages of behaving in this stage:
Oral incorporative behaviour (taking in)
Adults fixated at this level of the oral stage are excessively obsessed with eating, smoking, kissing, drinking
▯ if as children they were well provided for/supported, th