Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality by Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalytic Theory

Strictly speaking, psychoanalytic theory is the first personality theory created by Sigmund Freud in the twenties of the 20th century. On this theory and its possibilities are written thousands of pages of admiration and criticism, but as one says “despite the harsh criticism already 100 so and more years it does not leave the scene of psychological science because it deals with issues which have a stunning burden for our lives, for the reason that this theory has social, moral, ethical, anthropological resonance on the understanding of human nature”. There is no psychological theory that is not based on a certain point of view for a human. Usually, there is a meeting of biological and cultural-historical approaches, and from here unfinished discussions and controversies begin. In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, there is something unique about the fact that this theory is built on the dialectics of conscious and unconscious psyche. Dialectics is a science of the fact that the phenomena are contradictory. When something new appears, it contains something old. Such an understanding and view where the presence of the unconscious psychic in the person’s psyche shocks humanity. Shocking is that Sigmund Freud creates another image of man. He says, “You are not really what you think that you are”, “You are not masters in your own home”. He thinks that human behaviour is guided by motifs we do not realize, but in their place, we put reasonable explanations. Freud was the first to characterize the psyche as a battlefield between the irreconcilable forces of instinct/drive and reason, nature and culture, the biological and social. Until the 20s of the 20th Century, he affirms the view that man is the bearer of a conscious and unconscious psyche. After 1920 years, he is taking a step forward and building a psyche structure. This structure allows the theory to be called “psychoanalytic” or “depth” or “confrontational”. In a sense, it is “motivational,” and the common name of this theory and the theories that resemble it is “psychoanalytic”. The term “dynamic” replaces the term “change”. This term describes the change of structures and the interaction between them. According to psychoanalytic theory, the life of a person is accompanied by an inner conflict that is based on unconscious, primary, sexual, and aggressive tendencies.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

What is personality?

According to Psychoanalytic theory created by Sigmund Freud, the personality is a psychodynamic structure of processes in a state of conflict which regulates behaviour. Freud creates the idea of the three structural psychic instances (Id, Ego and Super-ego).

But what is hiding behind them?

Id is the unconscious part of the psyche or the psychic apparatus (this part appears before the consciousness). Id contains everything inherited and repressed which is unconscious. This psychic instance/structure is not a reflection of the outside world, its core is the instinct or more specifically – the drive. Works on “the pleasure principle”. He also thinks that people are born with primary instincts/drives and that there is a hierarchy of these instincts/drives. He also raises the hypothesis that the main tendency of the unconscious is satisfaction, which in turn is accompanied by a pleasant experience, and exactly because of that there is no morality, since experiencing pleasure is a natural pursuit and cannot be condemned. Morality could be found in the manner in which we get satisfaction and this manner is designed by the culture.

Somewhere higher and later the consciousness appears. This part of the psyche Freud marks by the name “Ego”. In his view, consciousness evolvingly arises as a structure and process. Its occurrence is related to servicing the unconscious, searching for objects to satisfy the instincts/drives/needs. Consciousness works on the “principle of reality” which means one knows the outside world, the time, the space, and only in the sense of consciousness one can distinguish the real from the fantasmic object. “Ego” acquires a role and a value when it becomes clear that it is capable of internalizing/assuming cultural rules and norms, exercising control and resistance against the catharsis/instincts pressure/drives, to work as something more which is above the Ego called “Super-ego”.

The Super-ego, in its content, is not a biological structure. It is content acquired from culture, first through the parents, then through the school and the requirements of the institutions. Sigmund Freud, calls this structure conscience or censorship. What does “Super-ego” do? It guides, forbids, allows, controls, and all of this is in the form of our consent. If we manifest behaviour incompatible with the Super-ego, we experience a sense of guilt, but if we do not accept certain requirements, we do not feel guilty. What lies behind the guilt? The answer is clear – the fear of being rejected by others. When there are fantasmic ideas in the Super-ego that eliminate the value of the other, the justice, and when a morality that overlooks others is respected, this Super-ego acts as a pathology. It is not difficult to find a person with a hypertrophic Super-ego. The Hypertrophic Super-ego always reduces the value of the Ego and can crush it and depersonalize it. The Super-ego functions as a socially unconscious. There are also people with a very developed/autonomous Ego.

The three structures Id – Ego – Super-ego have a complex internal dynamics, and according to Sigmund Freud, the early years of human life (up to the age of 5-7) and the events that occurred during these years are crucial to the development and formation of the personality. During these years there may be different clashes, traumas and failures in development. Freud believes in the so-called biographical/event factor. It is the idea that the character is formed depending on what happened to the individual. If at a certain stage the instinct/drive doesn’t receive satisfaction, the individual will be afraid to go to a higher stage, and thus a fixation is obtained at that stage, and if he receives a flawless and endless satisfaction, he will not want to move further and he will have a fixation on the stage of the satisfaction. If there is a fixation, then at later stages of development, the individual will want this satisfaction that he had at the earlier stage. If an individual is fixated in the oral stage but is already an adult, he can seek satisfaction in drinking, eating and smoking. Such a late fixation accompanied by a return to that passed, but satisfying stage is called regression. Regression is an individual’s striving to live in a way that is experienced at an earlier stage. Regression occurs when there is a lot of stress in the later stages. The peculiarities arose out of the early stages appeared in the later stages of personality development.

Stages of development as a tool for typology of personality:

Oral personality – Here the main area of excitement is the mouth. Middle-aged people who are fixated at this stage have an orality that occurs in eating, smoking, kissing. There is harmony between sexual and aggressive tendencies. They are primarily interested in themselves. They are a narcissistic type of persons. Other people acquire meaning for them through what they give. Oral persons are a receiving types of people. They are “cultural beggars”. They possess disguised aggression. They are demanding, jealous, impatient, vindictive, pessimistic, suppressed, “if they suck, they won’t let go”.

Anal Personality – Here the satisfaction of needs and drive is related to the anal appeal. Learning to go to the toilet is a socio-psychic process and it reflects the authority of the parent and the way this authority is used. The middle-aged person who is fixated at this stage is a very cold, peculiar type. He is relieving himself from all the inconveniences, from everything bad. When he does it, he is satisfied, not shamed. He is rigid, firm, impermeable. He possesses a sense of power and control over others. He has a strong interest in how he looks and how he behaves. The main fear of this type of personality is the “fear of losing control.” He enjoys the pleasure of acquiring a property. The anxiety of this type of personality is between the two forms of evolutionary reactions “to fight” and “to obey”. The transition from oral to anal personality develops from the “give me” position to “do what I say”. It can be assumed that this personality is an illustration of the contradiction – release from the inside and demands from the outside.

Phallic personality – This stage is characterized and centred on sexual and aggressive feelings associated with sexual organs and erogenous zones. It is assumed that there is a bit of identification with the Oedipus complex. Fixation here is different for men and women. The man rejects the possibility of castration (“I am great in the eyes of others”). At this stage, the woman identifies herself with her mother. The woman is hysterical (romanticizes life and relationship with the man). Castration anxiety pushes the sexual desire towards the mother and enhances the hatred to the father. The Super-ego, in turn, is the heir of the Oedipus complex and blocks / inhibits the movement towards incest and aggression. Rediscovery of childhood and fixation in later ages is a natural content of the psychoanalytic method. The fixations are related to serious work with the Ego and the Super-ego.

After 1921/1922 Sigmund Freud came to the conclusion that human functioning had a motive. This motive he sees in the face of the two main tendencies/instincts/urges/impulses/drives: The first is the so-called “Life Drive”. It is characterized by the fact that it preserves, proceeds life. It is a constructive and creative instinct. Freud calls him “Eros”. The second is the so-called “Death Drive”. It is characterized by its destruction, aggression and mortification. It is a necrophilia instinct. This is where the many disagreements with Sigmund Freud’s theory begin, which will be discussed in the following lectures.

He announces that the drives are the main content of human motivation, calling them “obsessive motives”. You can not reverse them, forbid or avoid them. The tendency towards death creates a bad image of man. Sigmund Freud is a representative of the solid Jewish thought, which means that he is a dialectician. He says that contradictory in the face of opposites is a fundamental property of being. Everything has its opposite. There is creation, but there is also destruction. Life is a backward movement to death. He is also a representative of Ernst Haeckel’s old German physicochemical school, which says that individual development of man is an abbreviated repetition of the phylogenetic development of humanity. Freud witnesses the First World War and asks, “What is the cause of this destruction?”. These illogical, destructive phenomena in life make him allow such a basic inclination, namely, “Death Drive”. He thinks that mankind cannot overcome its destructive attraction. He thinks that in the flow of our lives, the sexual drive or the so-called “Life Drive” is stronger and significantly blocks the pressure of the aggressive drive “Death Drive”. People have an affection to life and partly controls their aggressive drive. Freud discovers the fact that sexual instinct suffers deformities not for biological reasons but for cultural and historical situations. It is true that this instinct maintains the type of homo sapiens. In the sexual act, which is one of the drive’s realizations, two tendencies, two impulses, two needs, two inclinations meet. On one side is the sexuality that has a biological origin, and on the other is the socio-cultural directions, that is the model of the realization of sexuality, the choice of partner, etc. There are cultural norms that are needed, but there are ones that deform sexual drive. Freud thinks that the problem of pleasure is that there is more to one, and to others less, and concludes that human life is flowing into the conflict between instinct and culture that is initially hostile to the drive. Freud says that by virtue of this conflict, in this functioning is involved “Ego”, that is, the face of our consciousness.

As a conclusion to this lecture, we will say that the building of psychoanalysis is not built only from clinical cases but from a forest of reliable observations, which, according to Sigmund Freud, are stronger than any experiment. Freud accepts the stories of his patients for scientific data. Everyone can imagine what a great method is the introspection of the couch, free from all limitations and inhibitions. The analytical séance is a scientific method more valuable than the experiment because it is unique in the necessity, it is a natural experiment. There are no artefacts, no experience of something that is not in life. Psychoanalysis is defended as a science by the success it achieves.

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