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Freud’s Model of the Human Mind

Understanding the human mind is at the core of psychoanalytic theory. Since the introduction of the theory of Sigmund Freud in the early 1900’s and despite the many advancements in the study of psychoanalytic theory Freud’s basic thoughts retain a strong hold on the shaping of views regarding the theory of the human mind.

At the center of Freud’s theory are psychopathologies that result in a mental illness within a subject. It is Freud’s premise that within the human mind is contained in three levels of awareness or consciousness. It is the introduction of these psychopathologies that affect people, thus requiring more than simply talking about them. The effective treatment of these deep seated psychopathologies is psychoanalysis.

In the illustration below is Freud’s division of these three levels and the estimated usage of each level. They are the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Working together they create our reality.

mind structure

Although acceptance of Freud’s psychoanalytical theory has ebbed and flowed over time few professionals would suggest dismissing it. Within it is a model or concept that has withstood the many tests of time.


The origin of the meaning of the mind offers a long and rich history. Unlike many other words and phrases there is no clear evolution given for its use. Its meaning was more dependent on the context of its usage rather than any single meaning.

If spoken of by a philosopher the mind may well mean one’s personality, identity, and their memories. For the religious the mind houses the spirit, an awareness of God, or to the scientist the mind is the generator of ideas and thoughts. The mind has carried with it many diverse labels. In its infancy references to the mind truly were metaphoric.

It was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that the generalization of mind to include all mental faculties, thought, volition, feeling, and memory gradually developed.

In the late 19th and early 20th century brought psychology to the forefront as a respected science. Due in no small part to the work of Freud and others, the popular focus on the human mind, its role in the behavioral sciences, and the mind/body question solidified. Today, the concept of the mind and its functions is almost always discussed from a scientific point of view.

Psychology – A Timeline

Psychology – A Timeline

Fasten your seat belt and join me as we take a trip through the history of psychology. I spent over three decades as a clinician, a researcher, and an educator. As a part of my ongoing professional interest in mental health, or as it is often called today behavioral health, I looked into the history, the contemporary work, and the introduction of up and coming approaches. It became apparent that the field of psychology has three distinct eras.

Pre-Modern Psychology: This era takes us back many centuries to a time when psychology was viewed as a philosophy and not a science. The transition from the pre-modern to the modern was slow in coming, but come it did.

Modern Psychology: In the late 19th century, this transition from pre-modern to modern psychology took on a life of its own. The speed at which this change occurred was dramatic. The stamp of approval for psychology to move from a philosophy to a science was given. With it came the hope of providing a more meaningful life to those suffering mental deficiencies.

Post-modern Psychology: With new theories, energy, and vision, there were those in the psychological community that sought clarity to what had gone on before them. In particular was the search and research for a more integrative understanding of the human mind than those offered by Freud and others who remained committed to the psychoanalytic view of the mind.