Tag Archives: psychoanalytic theory
Very few things survive the test of time by remaining unable or unwilling to change. It was 1895 when Sigmund Freud introduced his work in the area of human personality with the publishing of his book entitled “Studies on Hysteria.” Almost 120 years later, it remains one of the few works continuing to impact the entirety of mental health treatment. This raises a legitimate question: Is Freud’s Personality Theory Relevant Today?
It has undergone many iterations by several equally talented theorists. Each one adding to the Freudian paradigm. In addition, the work done by Freud in the field of experimental psychology gave approval for others to offer their findings. A goal of this article is to examine whether Freud’s personality theory and psychodynamic theory as its extension are still relevant.
We already discussed core concepts of Freud’s personality theory in the previous post, so here is just a brief summary. In a nutshell, Freud identified five stages of growth occurring from infancy through adulthood:
Oral: 0 – 1.5 years of age
Anal: 1.5 to 3 years of age
Phallic: 3 – 5 year of age
Latency: 5 – 12 years of age
Genital: 12 – adulthood
The experiences and information from those stages is sorted by three levels of the human mind:
Conscious – associated with super ego
Unconscious – associated with ego
Subconscious – associated with id
Imbedded in the Freudian theory is his own terminology with its dependence on human sexuality as the genesis of our behavior. As indicated in his five stages of development each stage is associated with a healthy management of the impulses, needs, and desires of each stage. Failure to do this may result in personality flaws and mental disorders.
Sigmund Freud is considered to be the father of psychiatry. Among his many accomplishments is, arguably, the most far-reaching personality schema in psychology: the Freudian theory of personality. It has been the focus of many additions, modifications, and various interpretations given to its core points. Despite many reincarnations, Freud’s theory is criticized by many (e.g. for its perceived sexism) and it remains the focus of hot discussions on its relevance today.
Freud was a one of a kind thinker. There can be little question that he was influenced by earlier thinking regarding the human mind, especially the idea of there being activity within the mind at a conscious and unconscious level yet his approach to these topics was largely conceptual. His theoretical thoughts were as original as they were unique. It is a testament to Freud’s mind to know that whether you agree, disagree, or are ambivalent about his theory, it remains as a theoretical cornerstone in his field of expertise.
Human Personality: The adult personality emerges as a composite of early childhood experiences, based on how these experiences are consciously and unconsciously processed within human developmental stages, and how these experiences shape the personality.
Not every person completes the necessary tasks of every developmental stage. When they don’t, the results can be a mental condition requiring psychoanalysis to achieve proper functioning.
Stages of Development
Believing that most human suffering is determined during childhood development, Freud placed emphasis on the five stages of psychosexual development. As a child passes through these stages unresolved conflicts between physical drives and social expectation may arise.
These stages are:
- Oral (0 – 1.5 years of age): Fixation on all things oral. If not satisfactorily met there is the likelihood of developing negative oral habits or behaviors.
- Anal (1.5 to 3 years of age): As indicated this stage is primarily related to developing healthy toilet training habits.
- Phallic (3 – 5 year of age): The development of healthy substitutes for the sexual attraction boys and girls have toward a parent of the opposite gender.
- Latency (5 – 12 years of age): The development of healthy dormant sexual feelings for the opposite sex.
- Genital (12 – adulthood): All tasks from the previous four stages are integrated into the mind allowing for the onset of healthy sexual feelings and behaviors.
It is during these stages of development that the experiences are filtered through the three levels of the human mind. It is from these structures and the inherent conflicts that arise in the mind that personality is shaped. According to Freud while there is an interdependence among these three levels, each level also serves a purpose in personality development. Within this theory the ability of a person to resolve internal conflicts at specific stages of their development determines future coping and functioning ability as a fully-mature adult.
While some doubt its existence for others the unconscious mind is considered to be a cornerstone of the psychoanalytic process. Within the unconscious mind is the processes believed to occur automatically in the mind. By definition the use of the term unconscious suspends introspection about them, while including related behaviors, thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation.
Much of the current empirical research into the unconscious mind, or automatic thoughts strongly suggests that theorists such as Freud, Schelling, and Coleridge were on the mark in their inclusion of this phenomenon into the analytic lexicon.
With the names of more modern era thinkers attached to its ideology it would be easy to overlook the importance of the idea of the unconscious mind on the views of the world held by much of humankind. For some cultures it has served as a way of explaining ancient ideas of temptation, divine inspiration, and the predominant role of the gods in affecting motives, actions. evil, bad dreams, or other catastrophes of life.
Dating back to between 2500 and 600 BC the experience of the unconscious mind can be found in Hindu texts. Whatever name is attached to it, the idea of unspoken thought as an integral part of the functions of the mind continues to be important in the psychoanalytical world.
In the 21st century any definition of the unconscious mind must rely on language, and in particular the metaphor to be valid. There are so many words and phrases used interchangeably with the unconscious mind that one can easily lose track of what it is being must discussed. Among these words and phrases are:
- The subconscious
- The Id
Of equal importance is to distinguish between unconscious process (psychoanalytic stimuli) and the unconscious mind (the reaction to that stimuli). Recent studies seem to support that while unconscious processes occur as though they were in a vacuum the human reaction to them is measurable and real. How is this explained? Let’s look at these three approaches.