Psychoanalytic theory is the theory of personality organization and the dynamics of personality development that guides psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology.
Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality argues that human behavior is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the id, ego, and
This "structural theory" of personality places great importance on how conflicts among the parts of the mind shape behavior and personality. These conflicts are mostly unconscious.
According to Freud, personality develops during childhood and is critically shaped
through a series of five psychosexual stages, which he called his psychosexual theory of
During each stage, a child is presented with a conflict between biological drives and social expectations; successful navigation of these internal conflicts will lead
to mastery of each developmental stage, and ultimately to a fully mature personality.
Freud's ideas have since been met with criticism, in part because of his singular focus
on sexuality as the main driver of human personality development.
FREUD'S STRUCTURE OF THE HUMAN MIND
According to Freud, our personality develops from the interactions among what he proposed as the three fundamental structures of the human mind: the id, ego, and superego. Conflicts among these three structures, and our efforts to find balance among what each of them "desires," determines how we behave and approach the world. What balance we strike in any given situation determines how we will resolve the conflict between two overarching behavioral tendencies: our biological aggressive and pleasure-seeking drives vs. our socialized internal control over those drives.
The superego is concerned with social rules and morals—similar to what many people call their "conscience" or their "moral compass." It develops as a child learns what their culture considers right and wrong. If your superego walked past the same stranger, it would not take their ice cream because it would know that that would be rude. However, if both your id and your superego were involved, and your id was strong enough to override your superego's concern, you would still take the ice cream, but afterward you would most likely feel guilt and shame over your actions.
In contrast to the instinctual id and the moral superego, the ego is the rational, pragmatic part of our personality. It is less primitive than the id and is partly conscious and partly unconscious. It's what Freud considered to be the "self," and its job is to balance the demands of the id and superego in the practical context of reality. So, if you walked past the stranger with ice cream one more time, your ego would mediate the conflict between your id ("I want that ice cream right now") and superego ("It's wrong to take someone else's ice cream") and decide to go buy your own ice cream. While this may mean you have to wait 10 more minutes, which would frustrate your id, your ego decides to make that sacrifice as part of the compromise– satisfying your desire for ice cream while also avoiding an unpleasant social situation and potential feelings of shame. Freud believed that the id, ego, and superego are in constant conflict and that adult personality and behavior are rooted in the results of these internal struggles throughout childhood. He believed that a person who has a strong ego has a healthy personality and that imbalances in this system can lead to neurosis (what we now think of as anxiety and depression) and unhealthy behaviors.
PSYCHOSEXUAL STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
Freud (1905) proposed that psychological development in childhood takes place in a series of fixed stages. These are called psychosexual stages because each stage represents the fixation of libido (roughly translated as sexual drives or instincts) on a different area of the body. As a person grows physically certain areas of their body become important as sources of potential frustration (erogenous zones), pleasure or both. Freud believed that life was built round tension and pleasure. Freud also believed that all tension was due to the build up of libido (sexual energy) and that all pleasure came from its discharge. In describing human personality development as psychosexual Freud meant to convey that what develops is the way in which sexual energy accumulates and is discharged as we mature biologically. (NB Freud used the term 'sexual' in a very general way to mean all pleasurable actions and thoughts).
Freud stressed that the first five years of life are crucial to the formation of adult personality. The id must be controlled in order to satisfy social demands; this sets up a conflict between frustrated wishes and social norms. The ego and superego develop in order to exercise this control and direct the need for gratification into socially acceptable channels. Gratification centers in different areas of the body at different stages of growth, making the conflict at each
. Oral Stage (0-1 year)
In the first stage of personality development the libido is centered in a baby's mouth. It gets
much satisfaction from putting all sorts of things in its mouth to satisfy the libido, and thus its id demands. Which at this stage in life are oral, or mouth orientated, such as sucking, biting, and breastfeeding. Freud said oral stimulation could lead to an oral fixation in later life. We see oralpersonalities all around us such as smokers, nail-biters, finger-chewers, and thumb suckers.
personalities engage in such oral behaviors, particularly when under stress.
Anal Stage (1-3 years)
The libido now becomes focused on the anus and the child derives great pleasure from defecating. The child is now fully aware that they are a person in their own right and that their wishes can bring them into conflict with the demands of the outside world (i.e. their ego has developed). Freud believed that this type of conflict tends to come to a head in potty training, in which adults impose restrictions on when and where the child can defecate. The nature of this first conflict with authority can determine the child's future relationship with all forms of authority. Early or harsh potty training can lead to the child becoming an anal-retentive personality who hates mess, is obsessively tidy, punctual and respectful of authority. They can be stubborn and tight-fisted with their cash and possessions. This is all related to pleasure got from holding on to their faeces when toddlers, and their mum's then insisting that they get rid of it by placing them on the potty until they perform!
Phallic Stage (3 to 5 or 6 years)
Sensitivity now becomes concentrated in the genitals and masturbation (in both sexes) becomes a new source of pleasure. The child becomes aware of anatomical sex differences, which sets in
motion the conflict between erotic attraction, resentment, rivalry, jealousy and fear which Freud called the Oedipus complex (in boys) and the Electra complex (in girls). This is resolved through the process of identification, which involves the child adopting thecharacteristics of the same sex parent
The most important aspect of the phallic stage is the Oedipus complex. This is one of Freud's most controversial ideas and one that many people reject outright. The name of the Oedipus complex derives from the Greek myth where Oedipus, a young man, kills his father and marries his mother. Upon discovering this he pokes his eyes out and becomes blind. This Oedipal is the generic (i.e. general) term for both Oedipus and Electra complexes. In the young boy, the Oedipus complex or more correctly, conflict, arises because the boy develops sexual (pleasurable) desires for his mother. He wants to possess his mother exclusively and get rid of his father to enable him to do so. Irrationally, the boy thinks that if his father were to find out about all this, his father would take away what he loves the most. During the phallic stage what the boy loves most is his penis. Hence the boy develops castration anxiety. The little boy then sets out to resolve this problem by imitating, copying and joining in masculine dad-type behaviors. This is called identification, and is how the three-to-five year old boy resolves his Oedipus complex. Identification means internally adopting the values, attitudes and behaviors of another person. The consequence of this is that the boy takes on the male gender role, and adopts an ego ideal and values that become the superego. Freud (1909) offered the Little Hans case study as evidence of the Oedipus complex.
For girls, the Oedipus or Electra complex is less than satisfactory. Briefly, the girl desiresthe father, but realizes that she does not have a penis. This leads to the development of penis envy and the wish to be a boy. The girl resolves this by repressing her desire for her father and substituting the wish for a penis with the wish for a baby. The girl blames her mother for her 'castrated state' and this creates great tension. The girl then represses her feelings (to remove the tension) and identifies with the mother to take on the female gender role.
Latency Stage (5 or 6 to puberty)
No further psychosexual development takes place during this stage (latent means hidden). The
libido is dormant. Freud thought that most sexual impulses are repressed during the latent stage and sexual energy can be sublimated (re: defense mechanisms) towards school work, hobbies and friendships. Much of the child's energy is channeled into developing new skills and
acquiring new knowledge and play becomes largely confined to other children of the same
Genital Stage (puberty to adult)
This is the last stage of Freud's psychosexual theory of personality development and begins in
puberty. It is a time of adolescent sexual experimentation, the successful resolution of which is
settling down in a loving one-to-one relationship with another person in our 20's. Sexual instinct is directed to heterosexual pleasure, rather than self pleasure like during the phallic stage. For Freud, the proper outlet of the sexual instinct in adults was through heterosexual intercourse. Fixation and conflict may prevent this with the consequence that sexual perversions may develop. For example, fixation at the oral stage may result in a person gaining sexual
pleasure primarily from kissing and oral sex, rather than sexual intercourse.