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Psychoanalytic approaches to personality: Classical
Larsen/Buss cover

Chapter Outline

Psychoanalytic Approaches to Personality

  • Ross Cheit: A case of recovered memories
  • Brief biography of Sigmund Freud
Fundamental Assumptions of Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Human mind is like a "hydraulic" system, operating by internal pressure
  • Personality change occurs with redirection of a person's psychic energy
  • Basic Instincts: Sex and Aggression
    • Instincts: Strong innate forces that provide all the energy in the psychic system
    • Freud's original theory of instincts was influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution
    • In initial formulation, two instinct classes: Self-preservation instincts, sexual instincts
    • In later formulations, Freud collapsed self-preservation and sexual instincts into one, called life instinct (libido); added death instinct (thanatos)
    • Although Freud initially argued life and death instincts oppose each other, later he argued they could combine (e.g., in eating)
    Unconscious Motivation: Sometimes We Don't Know Why We Do What We Do
    • Unconscious: Part of the mind holding thoughts and memories about which person is unaware; includes unacceptable sexual and aggressive urges, thoughts, and feelings
    • Human mind consists of three parts
      • Conscious: Contains thoughts, feelings, and images about which you are presently aware
      • Preconscious: Contains information you are not presently thinking about, but can be easily retrieved and made conscious
      • Unconscious: Largest part of the human mind
    • Iceberg metaphor
    • Freud argued that unconscious material can take on a life of its own—Freud called this the "motivated unconscious"—material can "leak" into thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
    Psychic Determinism: Nothing Happens by Chance
    • Freud argued that nothing happens by accident—instead, there is a reason behind every act, thought, and feeling
    • Everything we do, think, say, feel is an expression of our mind—either conscious, preconscious, or unconscious
    • Reasons could be discovered if contents of the unconscious could be examined
    • Most symptoms of mental illness are caused by unconscious motivations
    • To cure psychological symptoms, the unconscious cause must be discovered
    • A Closer Look: Subliminal Psychodynamic Activation
Structure of Personality
  • Psychoanalytic personality theory concerns how people cope with their sexual and aggressive instincts within the constraints of civilized society
  • One part of the mind creates these urges, another part has a sense of what society expects, and another part tries to satisfy urges within the bounds of reality and society
  • Mind as a plumbing system, which contains water under pressure
  • Pressure is a metaphor for energy from instincts, which builds up and demands release
  • Regarding this internal pressure, three different schools of plumbing:
    • One plumber (Id) suggests we open up all valves at the slightest pressure
    • Another (Ego) offers ways to redirect pressure so that the strain is relieved without making a mess
    • Another (Superego) wants to keep all the valves closed
Id: Reservoir of Psychic Energy
  • Most primitive part of the mind, source of all drives and urges
  • Operates according to the pleasure principle, which is the desire for immediate gratification
  • Functions according to primary process thinking, thinking without logical rules of conscious thought or anchor in reality
  • Wish fulfillment: Something unavailable is conjured up and the image of it is temporarily satisfying
Ego: Executive of Personality
  • Constrains id to reality
  • Develops within first two or three years of life
  • Operates according to reality principle: Ego understands that urges of id are often in conflict with social and physical reality
  • Operates according to secondary process thinking, development and devising of strategies for problem solving and obtaining satisfaction
Superego: Upholder of Societal Values and Ideals
  • Internalizes ideals, values, and moral of society
  • What some refer to as the "conscience"
  • Main tool of the superego in enforcing right and wrong is the emotion of guilt
  • Like id, superego is not bound by reality
Anxiety and the Mechanisms of Defense
    Types of Anxiety
    • Anxiety is an unpleasant state that signals that things are not right and something must be done
    • Signals that control of ego is being threatened by reality, by impulses from id, or by harsh controls exerted by superego
    • Objective anxiety occurs in response to real, external threat to a person
    • Neurotic anxiety occurs when there is direct conflict between id and ego
    • Moral anxiety is caused by conflict between ego and superego
    • In all three types of anxiety, the function of ego is to cope with threats and to defend against dangers in order to reduce anxiety
    • Ego accomplishes this through the use of defense mechanisms
      • Repression
      • Denial
      • Displacement
      • Rationalization
      • Reaction formation
      • Projection
      • Sublimation
Psychosexual Stages of Personality Development
  • Freud argued that all people pass through a series of stages in personality development
  • At each of the first three stages, young children must face and resolve specific conflicts
  • Conflicts revolve around ways of obtaining sexual gratification
  • Children see sexual gratification at each stage by investing libidinal energy in a specific body part
  • If a child fails to resolve a conflict at a particular stage, he or she may get stuck in that stage or become fixated
  • Each successive stage represents a more mature mode of obtaining sexual gratification
    • Oral stage (birth to 18 months)
      • Main sources of pleasure and tension reduction are the mouth, lips, and tongue
      • Key conflict is weaning—withdrawing from the breast or bottle
    • Anal stage (18 months to three years)
      • Child obtains pleasure from first expelling feces and then, during toilet training, from retaining feces
      • Many conflicts arise around the child's ability to achieve self-control
    • Phallic stage (three to five years)
      • Child discovers he has (or that she doesn't have) a penis
      • Sexual desire directed toward the parent of opposite sex
      • Produces Oedipal and Electra conflicts—unconscious wish to have opposite-sex parent all to self by eliminating the same-sex parent
    • Latency stage (six year to puberty)
      • Little psychological development occurs
      • Focus of child is on learning skills and abilities necessary to succeed as adult
    • Genital stage (puberty through adult life)
      • Libido is focused on the genitals, but not in manner of self-manipulation associated with the phallic stage
      • This stage is not accompanied by specific conflict
      • People reach this stage only if conflicts are resolved at previous stages
Personality and Psychoanalysis
  • Psychoanalysis also a method of psychotherapy—a method of deliberately restructuring personality
  • Making the Unconscious Conscious

    • Goal of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious
    • First aim of psychoanalysis is to identify unconscious thoughts and feelings
    • Once a patient is aware of this material, the second aim is to enable the person to deal with it realistically and maturely

    Techniques for Revealing the Unconscious

    • Free association
    • Dream analysis
    • Projective techniques

    The Process of Psychoanalysis

  • Psychoanalyst offers interpretations of psychodynamic causes of problems
  • Through many interpretations, the patient gains "insight"—an understanding of the unconscious source of problems
  • But process is difficult and wrought with roadblocks and challenges
    • Patient resistance
    • Patient transference
    • Repetition compulsion
Evaluating Freud's Contributions
  • Psychoanalysis has had major impact on psychology, psychiatry, and Western thought generally
  • But many criticisms
    • Freud's theory is primarily of historical value and does not directly inform much current personality research
    • Freud did not believe in the value of experimentation or hypothesis testing in establishing the validity of psychoanalysis
    • Freud relied on case studies of a select group of wealthy women to generate his theory of human nature
Some personality psychologists take issue with Freud's negative view of human nature