Psychodynamic Theory Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Psychodynamic Theory

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Is a cigar ever just a cigar?
- Sigmund Freud

This is the stereotypical psychology - looking into your past, discovering hidden desires, rummaging through the unconscious. It was what started it all, but it is also the most radical of the five theories, and by far the most criticised - accused of being sexist, seeing the human population as ill, and considering sex and hostility as the only motivation for human actions. However, this theory has proven to be one of the most influential forces in the 20th century.

Good Morning Beheaded - Err, I Mean Beloved

Sigmund Freud believed that there was a lot more to the mind than met the eye, much like an iceberg - only the very tip is showing. He's the one who came up with the concept of one's unconscious - the part of the mind where desires and memories are stored, unrecognised, only hinted at through dreams or slips of the tongue.

Rallying between the conscious and unconscious are the id, ego, and superego - separate and conflicting forces, requiring a balance for mental health and normal behaviour. The id is a person's animal force, their need to satisfy basic psychological needs. The superego is the 'ideal' force, the civilised, competent figure the person strives to be. The ego sort of regulates the two, keeping the id satisfied while staying within the guidelines of the superego. It is seen as the 'reality principle'. The strength of each individual force is a factor in personality - if a person's superego is too strong, they are seen as rigid and guilty. If a person's id is too strong, they are seen as delinquent and antisocial.

The psychodynamic theory also established the idea that what happens in a person's childhood is one of the most important factors in personality development, especially traumatic experiences. The theory states that children who go through such things repress their memories, and this is the cause of adulthood mental disease.

In order to further understand how personalities are shaped during childhood, Freud thought up the psychosexual stages. This shows the development of the id and the establishment of pleasure-sensitive areas known as erogenous zones. This also brings about the idea of fixations - the theory concludes that my nails are chewed to the bone because I was orally deprived, and now have a fixation. (See: Oral Fixation)

StageFocusDevelopment in Personality
Birth - 18 Months
Mouth is the source of nourishment and pleasureIf child is not sufficiently nourished, they fixate their pleasure seeking energies on this stage - constantly stimulating the mouth through smoking, biting, chewing, etc. The person also exhibits passive dependence (like a nursing infant).
18 - 36 Months
Bowl and bladder elimination is source of pleasure due to the ability to controlEither become anal expulsive - disorganised and often late to appointments, etc. or anal retentive - highly controlled, rigid, and compulsively neat.
3 - 6 Years
Coping with incestuous sexual feelingsOedipus Complex1 - The male child develops feelings for his mother and hatred for his father, who is in control of the mother's attention. If there is the absence of a father, the child will later develop problems with authority as he has never really concluded his Oedipal cycle.
6 Years to Puberty
DormantFreud really couldn't think of anything to put in this box.
Puberty - Adulthood
Maturation of sexual interestsThis box really need not be filled as the person is an adult now, whose personality is already developed.
The female... acknowledges the fact of her castration, and with it, too, the superiority of the male and her own inferiority; but she rebels against this unwelcome state of affairs.
- Sigmund Freud

There is much controversy over Freud's exclusion of females. In short, he loved his masculinity and could only imagine the horror of living without it. But we must remember that this was during the Victorian era, and just as equality is big stuff now, that was big stuff then. He is still considered one of the biggest thinkers in history, without whom we wouldn't know as much about ourselves as we do.

1Later other psychologists developed a parallel Electra complex for females. This addition was never accepted by Freud.

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