Chapter 9: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Personality
February 9 , 2012
Fundamental Assumptions of Psychoanalytic Theory (FREUD)
- Psychic Energy: is the source of energy in everyone that fuels motivation.
o Freud believed that psychic energy operated according to the law of
conservation of energy: The amount of psychic energy an individual
possessed remained constant throughout his or her lifetime.
o Personality change was viewed as a redirection of a person’s psychic
- Basic Instincts: Sex & Aggression
o Instincts: are strong innate forces that provided all the energy in the
o Freud’s original theory on instincts was influenced by Darwin’s theory
of evolution. (Darwin’s theory of natural selection: selection by
survival and selection by reproduction, Freud’s categories of instincts:
self preservation instincts and sexual instincts.)
o After experiencing World War 1, Freud then collapsed the self-
preservation and sexual instincts into one, which he called the libido
(life instinct), and then developed the idea of the death instinct,
referred to as the thanatos.
o Libido: also used this term to refer to any need satisfying, life-
sustaining, or pleasure-oriented urge. (early focus in Freuds career)
o Thanatos: also used this term to refer to any urge to destroy, harm, or
aggress against others or oneself. (focus later in his life)
o Both used in combination of one another in various ways. (i.e. eating
supplies nutrients to your body which is necessary for survival, but
also involves tearing, biting and chewing which can be seen as
o Because psychic energy exists in a fixed and limited amount within
each person, it can be directed and redirected in various ways. (i.e. a
person directs his or her death instinct into a socially acceptable
channel such as competitive sports has less energy to expend this
energy towards more destructive areas.
- Unconscious Motivation
o According to Freud the human mind consists of three parts:
The Conscious Mind: the part that contains all of the thoughts,
feelings, and perceptions that you are presently aware of.
The Preconscious Mind: Any piece of information that you
are not presently thinking of, but that could easily be retrieved
and made conscious, is found here. (memories and dreams) The Unconscious Mind: is the largest part of the human mind,
which the conscious mind has no awareness. Those memories,
thoughts, and feelings or urges are so troubling or even
distasteful that being aware of them would make a person
Society does not allow people to express freely all of their
sexual and aggressive instincts, so people control their urges
by keeping these thoughts and feelings from entering the
conscious mind and by banishing them to the unconscious
mind. (Happens a lot during the course of a childhood)
Structure of Personality
1. Id (Reservoir of Psychic Energy): Id is something that we are born with
and is the source of all drives and urges.
o Using the plumbing metaphor, the id is the plumber who wants to let
off all pressure at the slightest hint of strain or tension.
o Another example would be that the id is a spoiled child- selfish,
impulsive and pleasure loving.
- The id operates according to the Pleasure Principle: the desire for
o Id is very dominant in infancy.
o Because it operates according to the pleasure principle it does not
listen to reason, does not follow logic, has no values or morals, and
has very little patience.
- The id also operates with Primary Process Thinking: thinking without
logical rules of conscious thought or an anchor in reality.
o i.e. dreams and fantasies.
- When the id requires an external object or person, and they are not available,
the id creates a mental image or fantasy of what they need to satisfy them.
This process is called Wish Fulfillment.
o Wish fulfillment only works temporarily to gratify the id because the
need is not satisfied in reality.
2. Ego (Executive of Personality): is the part of the mind that constrains
the id to reality.
o The ego is the plumber who works to redirect the pressure produced
by the id instincts into acceptable or at least less problematic outlets.
o It develops in the first 2 or 3 years of life (after terrible 2’s)
- The ego operates according to the Reality Principle.
o The ego understands that the urges of the id are often in conflict with
social and physical reality.
o The ego understands that direct expression of id impulses must be
avoided, redirected or postponed. - The ego engages in Secondary Process Thinking: the development of
strategies for solving problems and obtaining satisfaction.
o This process involves taking into account the constraints of physical
reality about when and how to express a desire or an urge.
o i.e. teasing one’s sister is more acceptable then hitting her, and this
can perhaps satisfy the id’s aggressive urge.
- Superego (Upholder of Societal Values and Ideals): is the third part of the
mind that internalizes the values, morals, and ideals of society.
o Usually installed by various socializing agents, such as parents,
schools, and organized religions.
o Parents have big role in the development of a child’s self-control and
o The superego is the plumber who wants to keep the valves closed at
all times and even wants to add more valves to keep the pressure
o Part of the personality that makes us feel ashamed, guilty or
embarrassed when we do something wrong and makes us feel pride
when we do something right.
o It sets moral goals and ideals of perfection and, so, is the source of our
judgments that some things are good and some things are bad.
o It is not bound by reality. It is free to set standards and virtues at any
i.e. People who develop very powerful internal standards, due
to a superego that demands perfection, are burdened. These
people might suffer from a chronic level of shame because of
their continual failures to meet unrealistic standards.
- Interaction of the Id, Ego, and Superego
o These three parts of the mind are in constant interaction. They have
different goals, provoking internal conflicts within an individual.
o Anxiety: is an unpleasant state, which acts as a signal that things are
not right and something must be done.
It is a signal that the control of the ego is being threatened by
reality, by impulses of the id, or by harsh controls exerted by
Physical Symptoms: sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, irregular
A well-balanced mind is free from anxiety, which is achieved by
having a strong ego. Have to balance the forces of the id and
the superego. Dynamics of Personality
- The three types of anxiety are:
1. Objective Anxiety: is fear. Occurs in response to a real, external threat to a
- I.e. a big scary looking man comes at you with a knife while your trying to cut
through a back alley.
- Only type that is caused by external factors.
2. Neurotic Anxiety: occurs when there is a direct conflict between the id and
- The danger is that the ego may lose control over an unacceptable desire of
- I.e. A woman who becomes very anxious whenever she feels sexually
attracted to someone, who panics at event the thought of sexual arousal.
3. Moral Anxiety: is caused by a conflict between the ego and the superego.
- I.e. A person who suffers from chronic shame or feelings of guilt over not
living up to proper standards, even though such standards are not attainable.
- People who punish themselves, who have low self-esteem, or feel worthless
and ashamed most of the time.
- Suffer from a very overly powerful superego.
- Efforts to defend oneself from anxiety are called Defense Mechanisms.
- They serve two functions:
(1)To protect of the ego, and
(2)To minimize anxiety and distress
- Repression: according to Freud, refers to the process of preventing
unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or urges from reaching conscious awareness.
o Forerunner of all other forms of defense mechanisms.
o Through using repression, a person avoids the anxiety that would
arise if the unacceptable material were made conscious.
o A strategy that the ego uses to maintain forbidden impulses in the
- Denial: a person in denial insists that things are not the way they seem.
o Involves refusing to see the facts.
o I.e. man might convince himself that his wife HAD to leave him for
some reason, that is really was NOT her fault and that she would
return if only she could.
o When receiving negative feedback a person in denial will simply
dismiss it, rather then changing their views of themselves. o Fundamental Attribution Error: when someone blames outside
forces for failure, but accept responsibility for success.
- Displacement: when a threatening or an unacceptable impulse is changing
or redirected from its original source to a nonthreatening source.
o I.e. A woman who has an argument with her supervisor at work is
really angry at them, but instead of taking her anger out on her
supervisor, who is her boss and could make her work life very