Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 40: Psychodynamic Theories
Psychodynamic theories of personality view human behaviour as a dynamic interaction between the conscious
and unconscious mind, including associated motives and conflicts. These theories are descended from Freud‟s
psychoanalysis, which first focused clinical attention on our unconscious mind
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Perspective: Exploring the Unconscious
How did Sigmund Freud’s treatment of psychological disorders lead to his view of the unconscious mind?
Speaking of ego, repression, projection, complex (as in “inferiority complex”), sibling rivalry, Freudian slips, and
Freud turned to free association, in which he told the patient to relax and say whatever came to mind, no matter
how embarrassing or trivial. He assumed that a line of mental dominoes had fallen from his patients‟ distant past
to their troubled present. He believed free association would allow him to retrace that line, following a chain of
thought leading into the patient‟s unconscious, where painful conscious memories, often from childhood, could be
retrieved and released. He called his theory of personality and the associated treatment techniques
Freud believed that the mind is mostly hidden. Iceberg = ID (unconscious energy) lies below the water; EGO
(mostly conscious; makes peace between the id and the superego) lies mostly above the water and to the left;
SUPEREGO (internalized ideas) lies mostly above the water and to the right, but more under the water than the
EGO. == == == Conscious mind (above water); Preconscious – outside awareness but accessible (a bit above
and under water) and Unconscious mind (below water). Beneath our awareness is the larger unconscious mind
with its thoughts, wishes, feelings, and memories. Some of these thoughts we store temporarily in a
preconscious area, from which we can retrieve them into conscious awareness. Of greater interest to Freud
was the mass of unacceptable passions and thoughts that he believed we repress, or forcibly block from our
consciousness because they would be too unsettling to acknowledge.
For Freud the determinist, nothing was ever accidental. He believed he could glimpse the unconscious seeping
not only into people‟s free associations, beliefs, habits, and symptoms but also into slips of the tongue and pen.
The remembered content of dreams (their manifest content) he believed to be a censored expression of the
dreamer‟s unconscious wishes (the dream‟s latent content). – inner conflicts.
What was Freud’s view of personality?
Human personality - including its emotions and strivings - arises from a conflict between impulse and restraint –
between our aggressive, pleasure-seeking biological urges and our internalized social controls over these urges.
He believed personality arises from our efforts to resolve this basic conflict – to express these impulses in ways
that bring satisfaction without also bringing guilt or punishment.
ID: unconscious psychic energy contantly strives to satisfy basic drives to survive, reproduce, and aggress.
Operates on the pleasure principle – immediate gratification. (Newborn infant crying out for satisfaction)
EGO: operating on the reality principle, seeks to gratify id‟s impulses in realistic ways that will bring long-term
SUPEREGO: around age 4 or 5, recognizes the demands of the newly emerging superego, the voice of our moral
compass (conscious) that forces the ego to consider not only the real but the ideal. Someone with exceptionally
strong superego may be virtuous yet guilt-ridden; another with a weak superego may be wantonly self-indulgent
and remorseless. The ego struggles to reconcile demands that oppose the id and superego.
What developmental stages did Freud propose?
Series of psychosexual stages which the id‟s pleasure-seeking energies focus on distinct pleasure-sensitive areas
of the body called erogenous zones.
Oral (0-18 months) Pleasure centres on the mouth – sucking, biting, chewing
Anal (18-36 months) Pleasure focuses on bowel and bladder elimination; coping with demands for control
Phallic (3-6 years) Pleasure zone is the genitals; coping with incestuous sexual feelings
Latency (6 to puberty) A phase of dormant sexual feelings
Genital (puberty on) Maturation of sexual interests
Oedipus complex – Oedipus who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother; females Electra
Identification process – children‟s superegos gain strength as they incorporate many of their parents‟ values.
Identification with the same-sex parent provides our gender identity.
Conflicts unresolved during earlier psychosexual stages could surface as maladaptive behaviour in the adult
years. A person who had been orally overindulged or deprived (perhaps by abrupt, early weaning) might fixate at
the oral stage and that grown adult may exhibit either passive dependence or an exaggerated denial of this
dependence; or seek oral gratification by smoking or excessive eating.
How did Freud think people defended themselves against anxiety?
Freud believed that anxiety is the price we pay for civilization. Sometimes the ego fears losing control of the inner
war between the id and superego. The presumed result is unfocused anxiety that leaves us feeling unsettled but
unsure why. Ego protects itself with defense mechanisms – tactics that reduce or redirect anxiety by distorting
reality. All defense mechanisms function indirectly and unconsciously. Repression underlies all the other
Defense Unconscious process employed to avoid Example
Mechanism anxiety-arousing thoughts or feelings
Regression Retreating to a more infantile psychosexual stage, A little boy reverts to the oral
where some psychic energy remains fixated. comfort of thumb-sucking in the car
on the way to his first day of school.
Reaction Formation Switching unacceptable impulses into their Repressing angry feelings, a person
opposites. displays exaggerated friendliness.
Projection Disguising one‟s own threatening impulses by The thief thinks everyone else is a
attributing them to others. thief.
Rationalization Offering self-justifying explanations in place of the A habitual drinker says she drinks
real, more threatening unconscious reasons for with her friends just to be sociable.
Displacement Shifting sexual or aggressive impulses toward a A little girl kicks the family dog after
more acceptable or less threatening object or her mother sends her to her room.
Denial Refusing to believe or even perceive painful A partner denies evidence of his
realities. loved one‟s affair.
According to Freud’s ideas about the three-part personality structure, the ego operates on the reality principle and
tries to balance demands in a way that produces long-term pleasure rather than pain, the id operates on the
pleasure principle and seeks immediate gratification, and the superego represents the voice of our internalized
ideals (our conscious). In the psychoanalytic view, conflicts unresolved during the first three psychosexual stages may lead to fixation at
Freud believed that our defense mechanisms operate unconsciously and defend us against anxiety.
The Neo-Freudian and Psychodynamic Theorists
Which of Freud’s ideas did his followers accept or reject?
Neo-Freudians accepted basic ideas:
personality structures of id, ego and superego
importance of the unconscious
shaping of personality in childhood
dynamics of anxiety and defense mechanisms
But broke off:
placed more emphasis on conscious mind‟s role in interpreting experience and in coping with the
doubted sex and aggression were all-consuming motivations
Tended to emphasize loftier motives and social interactions
Alfred ADLER and Karen HORNEY agreed with Freud that childhood is important. But they believed that
childhood social, not sexual, tensions are crucial for personality formation.
*Adler who had proposed the still-popular idea of the inferiority complex believed that much of our behaviour is
driven by efforts to conquer childhood inferiority feelings that trigger our strivings for superiority and power.
*Horney said childhood anxiety triggers our desire for love and security. She also countered Freud‟s
assumptions, arising as they did in his conservative culture, that women have weak superegos and suffer „penis
envy‟ and she attempted to balance the bias she detected in his masculine view of psychology.
Carl Jung placed less emphasis on social factors and agreed with Freud that the unconscious exerts a
powerful influence. But to Jung the unconscious contains more than our repressed thoughts and feelings. He
believed we also have a collective unconscious, a common reservoir of images, or archetypes, derived from
our species‟ universal experiences.
Some of Freud‟s ideas have been incorporated into the diversity of perspectives that make up psychodynamic