Psychoanalytic theory is the real theory of personality and organization and the dynamics of personality development that guides psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology. First laid out by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century, psychoanalytic theory has undergone many refinements since his work. Psychoanalytic theory came to full prominence in the last third of the twentieth century as part of the flow of critical discourse regarding psychological treatments after the 1960s, long after Freud’s death in 1939, and its validity is now widely disputed or rejected. Freud had ceased his analysis of the brain and his physiological studies and shifted his focus to the study of the mind and the related psychological attributes making up the mind, and on treatment using free association and the phenomena of transference. His study emphasized the recognition of childhood events that could influence the mental functioning of adults. His examination of the genetic and then the developmental aspects gave the psychoanalytic theory its characteristics. Starting with his publication of The Interpretation of Dreams in 1899, his theories began to gain prominence.
Terminology and definition
Psychoanalytic and psychoanalytical are used in English. The latter is the older term, and at first simply meant ‘relating to the analysis of the human psyche’. But with the emergence of psychoanalysis as a distinct clinical practice, both terms came to describe that. Although both are still used, today, the normal adjective is psychoanalytic.
Psychoanalysis is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as
A therapeutic method, originated by Sigmund Freud, for treating mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the patient’s mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind, using techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. Also: a system of psychological theory associated with this method.
Through the scope of a psychoanalytic lens, humans are described as having sexual and aggressive drives. Psychoanalytic theorists believe that human behavior is deterministic. It is governed by irrational forces, and the unconscious, as well as instinctual and biological drives. Due to this deterministic nature, psychoanalytic theorists do not believe in free will.
Freud first began his studies on psychoanalysis in collaboration with Dr. Josef Breuer, especially when it came to the study on Anna O. The relationship between Freud and Breuer was a mix of admiration and competition, based on the fact that they were working together on the Anna O. case and had to balance two different ideas as to her diagnosis and treatment. Today, Breuer can be considered the grandfather of psychoanalysis. Anna O. was subject to both physical and psychological disturbances, such as not being able to drink out of fear. Breuer and Freud both found that hypnosis was a great help in discovering more about Anna O. and her treatment. The research and ideas behind the study on Anna O. were highly referenced in Freud’s lectures on the origin and development of psychoanalysis.
These observations led Freud to theorize that the problems faced by hysterical patients could be associated with painful childhood experiences that could not be recalled. The influence of these lost memories shaped the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of patients. These studies contributed to the development of the psychoanalytic theory.
Sigmund Freud determined that the personality consists of three different elements, the id, the ego and the superego. The id is the aspect of personality that is driven by internal and basic drives and needs. These are typically instinctual, such as hunger, thirst, and the drive for sex, or libido. The id acts in accordance with the pleasure principle, in that it avoids pain and seeks pleasure. Due to the instinctual quality of the id, it is impulsive and often unaware of implications of actions. The ego is driven by the reality principle. The ego works to balance the id and superego, by trying to achieve the id’s drive in the most realistic ways. It seeks to rationalize the id’s instinct and please the drives that benefit the individual in the long term. It helps separate what is real, and realistic of our drives as well as being realistic about the standards that the superego sets for the individual. The superego is driven by the morality principle. It acts in connection with the morality of higher thought and action. Instead of instinctively acting like the id, the superego works to act in socially acceptable ways. It employs morality, judging our sense of wrong and right and using guilt to encourage socially acceptable behavior.
The unconscious is the portion of the mind of which a person is not aware. Freud said that it is the unconscious that exposes the true feelings, emotions, and thoughts of the individual. There are variety of psychoanalytic techniques used to access and understand the unconscious, ranging from methods like hypnosis, free association, and dream analysis. Dreams allow us to explore the unconscious; according to Freud, they are “the ‘royal road’ to the unconscious”. Dreams are composed of latent and manifest content. Whereas latent content is the underlying meaning of a dream that may not be remembered when a person wakes up, manifest content is the content from the dream that a person remembers upon waking and can be analyzed by a psychoanalytic psychologist. Exploring and understanding the manifest content of dreams can inform the individual of complexes or disorders that may be under the surface of their personality. Dreams can provide access to the unconscious that is not easily accessible.
Freudian slips (also known as parapraxes) occur when the ego and superego do not work properly, exposing the id and internal drives or wants. They are considered mistakes revealing the unconscious. Examples range from calling someone by the wrong name, misinterpreting a spoken or written word, or simply saying the wrong thing.
The levels of consciousness or topological model of the mind
The human being, however, does not realize the whole process of energy generation and release. To explain this fact, Freud describes three levels of consciousness :
The conscious (al. Das Bewusste ), which encompasses all phenomena that at a given moment can be consciously perceived by the individual;
The preconscious (al. Of the Vorbewusster ) refers to phenomena which are not conscious at a given moment, but can become, if the individual wishes to occupy himself with them;
The unconscious (al. Of Unbewusster ), which concerns phenomena and contents that are not conscious and only under very special circumstances can become. (The term subconscious is often used synonymously, although it was abandoned by Freud himself.)
Freud was not the first to propose that part of psychic life develops unconsciously. He was, however, the first to deeply research this territory. According to him, human desires and thoughts often produce contents that would frighten the individual if they were not stored in the unconscious. This has a very important function of stabilizing conscious life. His research led him to propose that the unconscious is allogenic (and therefore open to contradictions); timeless and spatial (ie contents belonging to different times or spaces may be nearby). The dreams are seen as an expression symbolic of unconscious contents.
Through understanding the concept of the unconscious the understanding of motivation in classical psychoanalysis becomes clear : many desires , feelings, and motives are unconscious because they are too painful to become conscious. However, this unconscious content influences the conscious experience of the person, for example, through acts of error , seemingly irrational behavior, unexplained emotions , fear, depression , feelings of guilt. Thus unconscious feelings, dreams, desires, and motives influence and guide conscious behavior.
Structural model of the personality
Freud later developed (1923) a structural model of personality, in which the psychic apparatus is organized into three structures:
Id (in German : es , “he, that”): The id is the source of psychic energy , the libido . The id is formed by drives, instincts, organic impulses, and unconscious desires. It works according to the principle of pleasure ( Lustprinzip ), that is, always seeks what produces pleasure and avoids displeasure. It does not make plans, it does not wait, it looks for an immediate solution to the tensions, it does not accept frustrations and knows no inhibition. He has no contact with reality, and a satisfaction in fantasy can have the same effect as that achieved through action. The id does not know judgment, logic, values, ethics or morality, being demanding, impulsive, blind, irrational, antisocial and directed to pleasure. The id is completely unconscious.
Ego ( ich , “I”): The ego develops from the id in order to allow its impulses to be efficient, ie, taking into account the external world. It is the so-called principle of reality . It is this principle that introduces reason, planning, and waiting for human behavior. The satisfaction of the drives is delayed until the reality allows to satisfy them with a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of negative consequences. The main function of the ego is to seek a harmonization initially between the desires of the id and the supervisory / reality / repression of the superego.
Superego ( Über-Ich , “super-ego”, “beyond-self”): The moral part of the human mind and represents the values of society. The superego has three objectives: (1) to repress, through punishment or guilt, any impulse contrary to the rules and ideals dictated by it; (2) to force the ego to behave in a moral way, even if irrational; and, (3) lead the individual to perfection in gestures, thoughts and words. The superego is formed after the ego, during the effort of the child to injectthe values received from parents and society in order to receive love and affection. It can function in a very primitive way, punishing the individual not only by practiced actions, but also by unacceptable thoughts; another characteristic is dualistic thinking (all or nothing, right or wrong, without a middle ground). The superego is divided into two subsystems: the ideal ego , which dictates the good to be sought, and the consciousness ( Gewissen ), which determines the evil to be avoided.
The ego balances the id, superego, and reality to maintain a healthy state of consciousness. It thus reacts to protect the individual from any stressors and anxiety by distorting reality. This prevents threatening unconscious thoughts and material from entering the consciousness. The different types of defense mechanisms are: Repression, reaction formation, denial, projection, displacement, sublimation, regression, and rationalization.
Among defense mechanisms one must consider, on the one hand, the very elaborate mechanisms for defending the ego (ego), and on the other hand those who are simply charged with defending the existence of narcissism . Freud (1937) says that defensive mechanisms falsify the inner perception of the subject by providing only an imperfect and deformed representation.
Freud described many defense mechanisms in the course of his work and his work was continued by his daughter Anna Freud ; the main mechanisms are :
Repression is the process by which conflicts and frustrations too painful to be experienced or remembered are withdrawn from consciousness, repressing them and repressing them into the unconscious; what is unpleasant is thus forgotten;
Reactive training consists in sporting a procedure and externalizing feelings opposed to true, unwanted impulses.
Projection consists in attributing to others the ideas and tendencies that the subject can not admit as his own.
Regression consists in the person returning to immature behaviors, characteristic of the stage of development that the person has already passed.
Fixing is a development freeze, which is prevented from continuing. A part of the libido remains attached to a certain stage of development and does not allow the child to pass completely to the next stage. Fixation is related to regression, since the probability of a regression at a particular stage of development increases if the person has developed a fixation by it.
Sublimation is the satisfaction of an unacceptable impulse through socially accepted behavior.
Identification is the process by which an individual assumes a characteristic of another. A special form of identification is identification with the aggressor.
Displacement is the process by which aggressions or other undesirable impulses, not being directed to the person (s) to which they refer, are directed to third parties.
Freud’s take on the development of the personality (psyche). It is a stage theory that believes progress occurs through stages as the libido is directed to different body parts. The different stages, listed in order of progression, are: Oral, Anal, Phallic (Oedipus complex), Latency, Genital. The Genital stage is achieved if people meet all their needs throughout the other stages with enough available sexual energy. Individuals who don’t have their needs met in a given stage become fixated, or “stuck” in that stage.
n important part of Freudian theory is devoted to the development of personality. Two hypotheses characterize his theory :
Freud was the first to affirm that the first years of life are the most important for the development of the person and
the development of the individual occurs in phases or psycho-sexual stages. Freud was thus the first author to state that children also have a sexuality.
Freud describes four distinct phases by which the child goes through its development. Each of these phases is defined by the region of the body to which the drives are directed. At each stage new needs arise that demand satisfaction; the way these needs are met determines how the child relates to other people and what feelings she has toward herself. The transition from one phase to another is biologically determined, so that a new phase can start without the previous phase processes being completed. The phases follow one another in a fixed order, and although a phase develops from the previous one, the processes triggered in one phase are never fully completed and continue to act throughout the person’s life.
The oral phase
The first phase of development is the oral phase, which extends from birth to approximately two years of life. In this phase the child experiences pleasure and pain through the satisfaction (or frustration) of oral drives, that is, through the mouth. This satisfaction comes from the satisfaction of hunger, but initially from it. Thus, for the child to suck, chew, eat, bite, spit etc. have a function linked to pleasure, and serve food. When confronted with frustrations the child is forced to develop mechanisms to deal with such frustrations. These mechanisms are the basis of a person’s future personality. Thus, insufficient satisfaction of the oral drives can lead to a tendency towards anxiety and pessimism; already an excessive satisfaction can lead, through a fixation in that phase,
The oral phase is divided into two smaller stages, defined by the birth of the teeth. Until then the child is in a passive-receptive phase; with the first teeth the child goes through a sadistic-active phase through the possibility of biting. The main object of both phases, the maternal breast, thus becomes an ambivalent object. This ambivalence characterizes most human relationships, both with people and with objects.
The oral phase presents, therefore, five modes of functioning that can develop in characteristics of the adult personality :
The incorporation of food appears in the adult as an “incorporation” of knowledge or power, or as the ability to identify with other people or to integrate into groups;
The holding of the breast, not wanting to separate from it, are shown later as persistence and perseverance or as a decision;
Biting is the prototype of destructiveness, so of sarcasm, cynicism, and tyranny;
Spitting turns into rejection and
Closing the mouth, preventing feeding, leads to rejection, negativity or introversion.
The main process in the oral phase is the creation of the link between mother and child.
The anal phase
The second phase, according to Freud, is the anal phase, which runs from about the first to the third year of life. In this phase the satisfaction of the drives is directed to the anus, to the control of the intestinal tension. At this stage the child has to learn the control of the sphincters on the act of defecating and in this way must learn to deal with the frustration of the desire to satisfy their needs immediately. As in the oral phase, the mechanisms developed at this stage also influence personality development. Immediate and uncontrolled stool is the prototype of rabies attacks; already a very rigid hygiene education can lead to either a tendency to chaos, carelessness, a clutter, or a tendency to overly controlled and compulsive organization. If the mother gives too much praise to the child’s being able to wait until the toilet, a connection may arise between giving (stool) and receiving love, and the person can develop generosity; if the mother overvalues these biological needs, the child can develop creatively and productively or, on the contrary, become depressed if it does not live up to expectations; children who refuse to defecate may develop as collectors, collectors, or misers.
The phallic phase
The phallic phase, which ranges from three to five years of age, is characterized by Freud’s importance of the presence (or, in girls, absence) of the phallus or penis ; at this stage pleasure and displeasure are thus centered in the genital region. The difficulties of this phase are linked to the direction of the sexual or libidinous drive to the parent of the opposite sex and to the resulting problems. The resolution of this conflict is related to the Oedipus complex and identification with the same-sex parent.
Freud developed his theory mainly with the boys in view, since, for him, they would experience the conflict of the phallic phase in a more intense and threatening way. According to Freud the boy wishes at this stage to have the mother only for himself and not to share it more with his father; at the same time he fears that his father avenges himself by castrating him. The solution to this conflict is the repression of both the libidinous desire for the mother and the aggressive feelings towards the father; in a second moment the identification of the boy with his father is carried out, which brings them closer together and thus leads to the boy’s internalization of values, convictions, interests and posturesof Father. The Oedipus complex represents an important step in the formation of the superego and in the socialization of the boys, since the boy learns to follow the values of the parents. This compromise solution allows both the ego (through diminishing fear) and the id (because the boy can indirectly own the mother through the parent with whom he identifies himself) to be partially satisfied.
The conflict experienced by girls is similar, but more likely to be solved. The girl desires her own father, partly because of the envy she feels for not having a penis (al. Penisneid ); she feels castrated and blames her own mother for having her deprived of a phallus. On the other hand, the mother represents a less serious threat, since castration is not possible. Due to this different situation, the identification of the girl with her own mother is less strong than that of the boy with her father and, therefore, the girls would have a less developed awareness – a statement that was rejected by empirical research. Freud used the term “Oedipus complex” for both sexes; later authors limited the use of the expression to the boys, reserving for the girls the term ” Electra complex “, but that was rejected by Freud in the text “About the Feminine Sexuality” of 1931.
The presentation of the Oedipus complex given above is, however, simplified. In reality the result of the resolution of the Oedipus complex is always an identification as both parents and the strength of each of these identifications depends on different factors such as the relationship between the male and female elements in the physiological predisposition of the child or the intensity of fear castration or envy of the penis. In addition, the mother maintains a primordial role in both sexes, always remaining the main object of the libido .
The latency period
After the agitation of the first years of life follows a more tranquil phase that extends until the puberty. At this stage the libido is divested of fantasies and sexuality, making them secondary, but reinvested in other means such as cognitive development, learning, assimilation of values and social norms that become the main activities of the child, continuing the development of the ego and the superego.
The genital phase
The last phase of psychosocial development is the genital phase, which occurs during adolescence . At this stage the sexual drives, after the long latency phase and following the body changes, awaken again, but this time they address a person of the opposite sex. As can be seen from the previous discussion, the choice of partner is not independent of previous development processes, but is influenced by experience in previous phases. Moreover, although they continue to function throughout the individual’s life, the internal conflicts typical of the earlier stages reach relative stability in the genital phase, leading the person to an ego structure that allows him to meet the challenges of adulthood.
Freud’s theory and work with psychosexual development lead to Neo-Analytic/ Neo-Freudians who also believed in the importance of the unconscious, dream interpretations, defense mechanisms and the integral influence of childhood experiences but had objections to the theory as well. They do not support the idea that development of the personality stops at age 6, instead they believed development spreads across the lifespan. They extended Freud’s work and encompassed more influence from the environment and the importance of conscious thought along with the unconscious. The most important theorists are Erik Erikson (Psychosocial Development), Anna Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Karen Horney, and including the school of object relations.
The psychoanalytic theory of mental disorders
The best way to define “disorder” is to characterize it as a psychological disability with repercussion in the emotional and interpersonal area. This term characterizes a range that ranges from mild neurotic forms to madness, in the fullness of its term. “Normal” would be that personality with the ability to live efficiently, maintain a lasting and emotionally satisfying relationship with other people, work productively, rest and enjoy themselves, be able to measure, judge and deal realistically with their qualities and imperfections, as they are. The failure of one or the other or all of these characteristics may indicate the presence of a psychological impairment or mental “disturbance”.
Mental disorders are classified into 3 major basic types:
First type: neuroses
It is the existence of excessive and prolonged tension, of persistent conflict or of a long-frustrated need, it is a sign that the person has developed a neurosis. Neurosis determines a modification, but not a disorganization of the personality, much less loss of values of reality. Neurotic symptoms are usually cataloged in certain categories, such as:
a) Hysteria – When a psychic conflict finds its way out through conversions. In this type of neurosis, the conflicting idea with the ego is converted into physical symptoms, such as blindness, mutism, paralysis, etc .; which have no organic origins. Hysteria has now been banned from psychiatric manuals, leading many people in the health care field, including psychologists, to believe that hysteria no longer exists. However, hysteria still exists and will always exist, even though the symptoms may vary according to society and the time to which it refers. Something quite specific about hysteria is its reference to body and sexuality, especially with regard to “what is a woman?”.
b) Anxiety (of distress) – the person is taken by generalized and persistent feelings of intense distress without objective cause. Some symptoms are: heart palpitations, tremors, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea. There is an exaggerated and anxious concern for oneself.
c) Phobias – an area of personality begins to operate by responses of fear and anxiety. In anguish the fear is diffuse and when it comes to the surface it is a sign that it already existed for a long time. It is enveloped in a lot of tension, worry, excitement and disorganization of behavior. In the phobic reaction, fear is restricted to a limited class of object stimuli and representations. Usually the association of fear with certain objects, animals or situations is verified.
d) Obsessive-compulsive: obsession is a term that refers to ideas that repeatedly impose on consciousness. They are therefore difficult to control. Binge eating refers to impulses that lead to action. It is closely linked to a psychological disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder .
Second type: psychoses
The psychotic may now find himself in a state of depression, now in a state of extreme euphoria and agitation. At one time he acts in one way and in another he behaves in a totally different way. There has been a disruption of his personality. The clinical data to measure psychosis is to change the judgments of reality. The psychotic begins to perceive reality differently, but no less real in their perception. That is why he asserts with conviction that he has perceptions that seem to us unreal not supported nor justified in logic and reason. In psychoses, besides behavioral changes, hallucinations (alterations of sense organs: hearing voices, seeing things, smelling or touching) and delusions (changes in thinking in the form of conspiracies, persecution, greatness, wealth, omnipotence or predestination).
a) Schizophrenia – emotional apathy, lack of ambition, general disorganization of the personality, loss of interest in life in personal and social achievements. disorganized thinking, superficial and inappropriate affection, unusual laughter, bobice, childishness, hypochondria, delusions, and transient hallucinations. (Consult DSM-V or CID 10 for more subtypes)
b) Manic-depressive – it is characterized by lasting and intense psychic disturbances, due to a loss or external traumatic situations. The manic state can be light or sharp. It is characterized by exacerbated behavior, hypersexuality. The maniacs are full of energy, restless, loud, loud and have bizarre ideas, one after another. The depressive state, on the contrary, is characterized by inactivity and discouragement. His symptoms are: apathy, regret, sadness, discouragement, crises of crying, loss of interest (affective dullness) for work, for friends and family, as well as for his usual distractions. He becomes slow in speech, he does not sleep well at night, he loses his appetite, he can get a little annoyed and very worried.
c) Paranoia – is characterized above all by fixed illusions. It’s a delirious system. The illusions of persecution and greatness are more enduring than in paranoid schizophrenia. The resentments are deep. He is suspicious, aggressive, self-centered and destructive. He believes that the ends justify the means and he is unable to solicit affection.
d) Alcoholic psychosis – is usually marked by violent unrest, accompanied by hallucinations of a terrifying nature.
Third type: psychopaths
Psychopaths do not structure certain dimensions of personality, and there is a kind of failure in the construction itself. The main characteristics of the psychopaths are: diminution or absence of moral consciousness (Super eu). Right and wrong; the permitted and the forbidden do not make sense to them. In this way, to simulate, dissemble, deceive, steal, rob, kill, do not cause feelings of repulsion and remorse, either in their consciousness or in the form of action or thought. The only value to them is their selfish interests: lack of empathy; absence of hallucinations; absence of neurotic manifestations; lack of confidence; search for strong stimulations; inability to postpone satisfactions; they do not tolerate a routine effort and do not know how to fight for a distant goal; do not learn from their own mistakes, because they do not recognize these errors; in general, have a good level of intelligence and low affective capacity; seem unable to get emotionally involved. They do not understand what is socially productive.
Critics of psychoanalytic theory
The psychoanalytic approach has a variety of advantages and limitations that have spurred further research and expansion into the realm of personality development.
The theory emphasizes the importance of childhood experiences.
It initiated and addressed the importance of the unconscious, sexual and aggressive drives that make up the majority of all human beings’ personalities.
The approach also explains defense mechanisms and why every individual reacts differently to similar situations.
Some claim that the theory is lacking in empirical data and too focused on pathology.
Some claim that this theory lacks consideration of culture and its influence on personality.
Psychoanalysis and aesthetics
Psychoanalytic theory is a major influence in Continental philosophy and in aesthetics in particular. Freud is considered a philosopher in some areas, and other philosophers, such as Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida have written extensively on how psychoanalysis informs philosophical analysis.
Sigmund Freud’s work was continued by his daughter Anna Freud . Other authors sought to develop the theory, emphasizing other aspects and seeking to solve the critical points, among which the most outstanding are the psychoanalysts Heinz Kohut, Melanie Klein and Karen Horney; the humanists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers ; the founder of individual development psychology Alfred Adler and the founder of analytical psychology Carl Jung .
Psychoanalysis and literature
When analysing literary texts, the psychoanalytic theory could be utilized to decipher or interpret the concealed meaning within a text, or to better understand the author’s intentions. Through the analysis of motives, Freud’s theory can be used to help clarify the meaning of the writing as well as the actions of the characters within the text.
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