Psychoanalytic theories-1

Psychoanalytic Theories




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Psychoanalytic Theories

Personality encompasses everything about a person; it comprises physical, mental, social and emotional aspects. Some theorists believe that the best to way study a personality is to observe external factors such as actions and observable behavior however majority of psychologists hold the view that the core is often in the subconscious, hidden from others and even oneself. There are various psychoanalytic approaches that try to explain, control and predict human behavior but none of these theories should be treated as undeniable or infallible truth. Therefore, to get a good grasp and understanding of human behavior it is wise to adopt and use a variety of these personality theories (Ewen, 2003).

Sigmund Freud’s views personality as made up of both the conscious and the unconscious circumstances and the conflicts that go on within a person. Consequently, he holds that analyzing personality on the basis of the conscious or the observable is very much inadequate (Hall & Lindzey, 1970).Freud likened the mind in his ‘tip of the iceberg’ theory to an iceberg in which a small part shows on the surface (conscious) but there is a much larger mass below the water level (subconscious) that includes, one’s thoughts, emotions, feeling and urges that control the conscious (deeds and actions of people). Sigmund identifies three components of the mind that are in conflict with each other; the id, the ego and the superego. The three constitute a personality, the id is the biological part of personality and it is amoral because it doesn’t care about right or wrong but rather it operates on ‘pleasure principle’ (Rickyman, 1985). However, no man lives in a vacuum so the ego part channels and controls the impulses of the id part of the brain to comply with the surrounding environment. Freud (1960) put it this way, the ego and id part are like a ‘battlefield’ always clashing with each other. The superego is the third part of personality, it is the moral part of a person concerned with what is wrong or right (Hall &Lindzey 1970).

Carl Jung’s psychoanalysis view isn’t exactly the same as Sigmund Freud’s. While Freud stresses the role of inherited and instinctive factors and how they shape personality, Jung emphasizes the role of social and environmental factors. Jung maintained that aims, causes and destiny plays a crucial role in shaping one’s life (Hall& Lindzey, 1970). Jung holds that although ancestry plays a role in determining a personality it combines with other forces such as aims, purpose and aspirations to get a full picture (Jung, 1960). Adler on the other hand differs with both Jung and Freud by regarding the idea of inherited personality as mere superstition. According to Adler people are able and they select their own life goals and methods of achieving those goals. Adler agrees with Freud much development takes place in the first five year but he rejects the notion that there are any specific development stages one must go through (Ewen, 2003).

The two points that I agree with as presented in the psychoanalytic theories is that someone grows and develops in stages. As Sigmund Freud established much development takes place in the first five years of growth. Early life experiences play a great role in personality formation but not rigidly the later experience may modify our personality. I also believe that human beings are selfish and egocentric to the core. There is an innate tendency in everyone to operate according to the ‘pleasure principle’ and this urges need to be suppressed and controlled (Freud, 1960)

However, I don’t agree with the view that how we react, our thought pattern i and make decisions is predetermined by external forces and events. I believe that human beings have free will and we are masters of our own destinies. I also believe that the role of nature (inherited traits and attributes) in shaping personalities is exaggerated and overrated. My view is that the conditions under which one lives plays a crucial role in determining what kind of personality one develops.

The first psychosexual stage according to Sigmund Freud is oral stage; it lasts to about the age of one and half years. Pleasure and interest in activities is centered on the mouth. It includes activities such as biting and sucking (Ewen, 2003). Adult personality characteristics that arise from this oral stage include smoking, nail biting and overeating etc. The second stage is anal, as the name suggest it refers to rear end. This stage begins from the age of 18 months to about 3 years. The child is being toilet trained to hold in and let out at appropriate times. This learning as Freud suggests has impact on adult personality traits .Anal retention can morph into characteristics such as cleanliness, punctuality and perfectionism while anal expulsive (lateness, generosity and impulsiveness). Phallic stage is the third, at this stage that lasts from 3 to six years, the child is preoccupied with his sexual parts and derives pleasure. A boy child develops closer relationship with its mother and views the father as a threat while the girl child develops closer ties with the father, a concept famously known as the Oedipus complex.

The latent stage lasts from 6 to 12 years. At this stage personality has been formed and the sexual urges are dormant. Boys act squeamish around girls and girls in turn are also not interested or a shy around boys. Finally the genital stage lasts from puberty to adulthood. Genital stage is the pinnacle of psychosexual development and psychological maturity. Sincere interest in other people is developed and sexual interests can lead to finding love and affection.

Sigmund Freud has outlined defense mechanisms that people employ in various circumstances in his psychoanalytic theory such as displacement, rationalization and projection (Ewen,2003). The defense mechanism displacement is the ability to transfer of feelings from an object that is less threatening from one that is more threatening. This can be seen in a man who physically abuses his wife and kids. It is because he can’t stand up to other men and challenge or when humiliated or harassed by his boss that he releases his pent up anger and frustration to his wife and children because they can’t challenge him or him. Rationalization is a defense mechanism that entails the use of plausible explanations to justify a failure or something we don’t like. For example if one fails an exam the person to blame is the teacher for not setting a good enough paper. Sour grapes is another common example of rationalization. If we don’t get something we want, say a job we rationalize it by saying we are better off without it or it is not as good. Projection is the defense where we unconsciously attribute wrong feelings, thoughts or habits we have to others. For example if one is involved in drug taking or peddling might expect others also to do that, it is a defense mechanism that reduces the feelings guilt after all others are also doing it.

In conclusion, regardless of the personality theory one subscribes to it is important to note that there is no one theory that has been wholly accepted as infallible. All have their weak and strong points therefore it will be good to draw and learn something from all of them.


Ewen, R. (2003). An introduction to theories of personality (6th ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence

Erlbaum Associates.

Freud, S. (1960). The ego and the id. Translated by J. Riviere; ed. J. Stachey, New York: Norton.

Hall, C.S., and Lindzey, G. (1970). Theories of personality. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Jung, C.G. (1960). On the nature of psychology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rickyman, R, M. (1985) Theories of personality. California, Monterey: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

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