Freud and Psychodynamic Theories of Personality: The Role of the Unconscious
Figure 1. A photograph of Sigmund Freud.
Figure 2. The mind as an iceberg. Note how the Ego is largely visible above the water in the image, while the superego and id are submerged at varying depths.
Id, Ego, and Superego
Figure 3. The ego, id, and superego interact to help an individual solve and work through problems.
Table 1. The Major Freudian Defense Mechanisms
|Defense mechanism ||Definition ||Possible behavioral example |
|Displacement ||Diverting threatening impulses away from the source of the anxiety and toward a more acceptable source ||A student who is angry at her professor for a low grade lashes out at her roommate, who is a safer target of her anger. |
|Projection ||Disguising threatening impulses by attributing them to others ||A man with powerful unconscious sexual desires for women claims that women use him as a sex object. |
|Rationalization ||Generating self-justifying explanations for our negative behaviors ||A drama student convinces herself that getting the part in the play wasn’t that important after all. |
|Reaction formation ||Making unacceptable motivations appear as their exact opposite ||Jane is sexually attracted to friend Jake, but she claims in public that she intensely dislikes him. |
|Regression ||Retreating to an earlier, more childlike, and safer stage of development ||A college student who is worried about an important test begins to suck on his finger. |
|Repression (or denial) ||Pushing anxiety-arousing thoughts into the unconscious ||A person who witnesses his parents having sex is later unable to remember anything about the event. |
|Sublimation ||Channeling unacceptable sexual or aggressive desires into acceptable activities ||A person participates in sports to sublimate aggressive drives. A person creates music or art to sublimate sexual drives. |
Table 2. Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development
|Stage ||Approximate ages ||Description |
|Oral ||Birth to 18 months ||Pleasure comes from the mouth in the form of sucking, biting, and chewing. |
|Anal ||18 months to 3 years ||Pleasure comes from bowel and bladder elimination and the constraints of toilet training. |
|Phallic ||3 years to 6 years ||Pleasure comes from the genitals, and the conflict is with sexual desires for the opposite-sex parent. |
|Latency ||6 years to puberty ||Sexual feelings are less important. |
|Genital ||Puberty and older ||If prior stages have been properly reached, mature sexual orientation develops. |
Figure 4. An infant chewing on their toy, exhibiting the “oral stage.” (Photo Credit: Polina Tankilevitch, Pexels License)
- Stages of sexual and emotional development: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.
- Human personality contains the id, ego, and superego.
- Individuals have unconscious drives and should be allowed to follow their own instincts.
- A more relaxed approach to child-rearing for improved well-being.