Personality Psychology PSY 405
SIGMUND FREUD: A PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY OF PERSONALITY
His main contributions are as follows:
1. Theory of personality
2. Method of treatment- Psychoanalysis
3. Set of clinical observations (e.g., defenses)
4. Methods of investigation (free association, dream analysis)
Freud's Theory of Personality-Major Assumptions
1. Psychic determinism--all our behavior has a purpose
2. Unconscious motivation--universally accepted
3. Freud emphasized the predominance of unconscious motives and processes -
Recent translation into cognitive psychology
The Theory of Consciousness
Original theory is based on experience with hypnosis and early treatment of hysteria. Sigmund Freud, a
young Viennese physician, he theorized that individuals are in a perpetual state of conflict motivated by
their unconscious sexual and aggressive urges.
Freud with his active writing and clinical practice developed:
(1) The first comprehensive personality theory
(2) An extensive body of clinical observations based on his therapeutic experience and self-analysis
(3) A compelling method for treating mental or behavioral disorders
(4) A procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way.
Freud's personality theory and its underlying assumptions will be examined.
Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856, at Freiberg, a small Austrian town now part of Czechoslovakia.
When he was four years old, his family suffered financial setbacks and moved to Vienna. He remained a
resident of that city until he migrated to England in 1938. He was the oldest of seven children, although his
father had two sons by a former marriage and was a grandfather when Sigmund was born.
From a very early age, Freud excelled as a student. Despite the limited financial position of his family
which forced all members to live in a crowded apartment, Freud had his own room and even an oil lamp to
study by. The rest of the family made do with candles. Like other young people of his time, he had a
classical education, studying Greek and Latin and reading the classics of various countries. He had a superb
command of the German language and fluency in French, English, Spanish, and Italian.
Freud recalled that he often had childhood dreams of becoming a great Austrian general or minister of
state. He reluctantly decided upon a medical career and entered the Faculty of Medicine of the University
of Vienna in 1873. He received his M.D. degree in 1881. In 1880 he began working with Breuer.
The year 1885 marked an important turning point in Freud's career, for it was then that he went to Paris to
study hypnosis a method of treatment which eliminated hysterical neurotic symptoms. Freud later rejected
hypnosis as a therapeutic technique and developed the method of Free Association, resistance, dream
analysis, transference and counter- transference.
In 1886 he married Martha Bernays he had six children and his daughter Anna Freud is a famous child
psychiatrist. In 1895 he published book called studies in Hysteria and in 1897 he began his self analysis but
the year 1900 is important because his most famous book called interpretation of dreams was published. In
1909 Freud was invited by Stanley Hall to deliver a series of lectures on Psychoanalysis this provided him
Personality Psychology PSY 405
an opportunity to familiarize his brand of psychology internationally. He in 1923 discovered he had cancer
of the mouth and went through some 33 operations he died in 1939.
Levels of Consciousness
(How Personality Is Organized?)
For a long time in the theoretical development of psychoanalysis, Freud employed a topographical model
of personality organization. According to this model, psychic life can be represented by three levels of
consciousness-the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious. Freud used this mental "map" of the
mind to describe the degree to which mental events such as thoughts and fantasies vary in accessibility to
The conscious level includes all the sensations and experiences of which we are aware at any given
moment. Freud insisted that only a small part of mental life (thoughts, perceptions, feelings, memories) is
contained in the realm of consciousness. Whatever the content of conscious experience may be for a given
person at a given time, it is the result of a selective screening process largely regulated by external cues.
Moreover, it is actually conscious only for a brief time and can be quickly submerged into preconscious or
unconscious levels as the person's attention shifts to different cues. In short, the conscious represents a
small and limited aspect of personality.
The preconscious domain, sometimes called "available memory," encompasses all experiences that are not
conscious at the moment but which can readily be summoned into awareness either spontaneously or with a
minimum of effort. This might include memories of everything you did last week, your Social Security
number, all the towns you ever lived in, your favorite foods, and a host of other past experiences. In Freud's
view, the preconscious bridges the unconscious and conscious regions of the mind. For example, under the
influence of certain therapeutic techniques, unconscious material may emerge into the preconscious and
from there become conscious.
The deepest and major stratum of the human mind is the unconscious. Freud was not the first to focus
attention on the importance of unconscious processes in understanding human actions; several eighteenth-
and nineteenth-century philosophers had suggested the influence of unconscious experience on behavior.
Unlike his philosophical predecessors, however, Freud gave the concept of an unconscious life an empirical
status. Specifically, he contended that the unconscious must not be conceived as a hypothetical abstraction
but rather as a reality which can be demonstrated and thus proved. Freud firmly believed that the really
significant aspects of human behavior are shaped and directed by impulses and drives totally outside the
realm of awareness. Not only are these forces unconscious, but there is great resistance within the
individual to their ever becoming conscious. In contrast to preconscious modes of thought, unconscious
ones are completely inadmissible to awareness, yet they largely determine the actions of people. However,
unconscious material may be expressed in disguised or symbolized form, an insight that Freud utilized in
his work with disturbed persons. Psychoanalysis thus emphasizes the interpretation of fantasies and dreams
as avenues for deeper understanding of the unconscious processes underlying behavior.
Levels of Consciousness:
Personality Psychology PSY 405
According to this triangle, the top smallest part is the conscious experience the middle small layer is
subconscious and the largest portion is unconscious.
According to Freud that part of the mind about which we are aware is consciousness but it is a small part of
mental life. You are listening to me it is your conscious mental activity. The preconscious are thoughts or
activities that are easily made conscious by an effort to remember or say, you have the present lecture's
handout in front of you and you are conscious that you are writing on it. The largest segment is the
unconscious not easily reachable / accessed yet it gives rise on to important needs and influences our
All your nightmares, phobias, fears which influence you but why you have them is because of the
unconscious, you don't have an answer. Freud suggested ways / techniques of reaching the unconscious
You stand near a river, the top water is the conscious part, fill out some muddy water in container, it is the
sub-conscious and when you dug the river bed and find something buried in it well that is the unconscious
The Anatomy of Personality
The concept of unconscious mental processes was central to Freud's early description of personality
organization. However, during the early 1920s he revised his conceptual model of mental life and
introduced three basic structures in the anatomy of personality: id, ego, and super ego.
The word "id" comes from the Latin word for "it" and refers exclusively to the biological component of
personality. The id is the mental agency containing everything inherited, present at birth, and fixed in the
individual's constitution- especially sexual and aggressive instincts. It is raw, animalistic, and unorganized,
knows no laws, obeys no rules and remains basic to the individual throughout life.
Freud identified two mechanisms the id employs to rid the personality of tension: reflex action and primary
process. In the former, the id responds automatically to sources of irritation, thereby promptly removing the
tension which the irritant elicits. Examples of such inborn reflex mechanisms are sneezing, coughing, and
blinking. Id is the unorganized reservoir of wishes or passions related to our sexual and aggressive drives, it
strives for immediate gratification that bypasses demands of reality, order logic and reason. The Id is like a
child when it wants something it wants it there and then without regard for consequences, so Id operates on
This refers to Greek concept of hedonism meaning pleasure. The energy within the Id is labeled as the
libido. The Id has its own characteristic way of processing information, cognitive style referred as primary
process. The thinking patterns of Id are illogical, irrational, emotional immature and purely selfish.
The ego is that portion of the psychic apparatus that seeks to express and gratify the desires of the id in
accordance with the restrictions of both outer reality and the superego. The ego acquires its structure and
functions from the id, having evolved from it, and proceeds to borrow some of the id's energy for its own
use in response to the demands of the environment. Ego thus assures the safety and self- preservation of
the organism. In its battle for survival against both the external world and the instinctual demands of the id,
ego must continuously differentiate between things m the mind and things in the outer world of reality. The
hungry man in search of food, for example, must distinguish between a mental Image of food and an actual
perception of food if tension reduction is to occur.
The ego operates according to the reality principle and the cognitive operations of the ego are characterized
by logic, reason and are referred as the secondary process. The ego is the master control, it tries to resolve
conflicts between t he demands of Id with in the permitted boundaries of super ego.
Personality Psychology PSY 405
The ego has the role to mediate conflict between the Id and super ego according to realities of the world. If
it mediates successfully, we see an intelligent, creative individual who is well adjusted while if ego is
unsuccessful either Id or super ego will be strong.
If Id is strong, we see an antisocial criminal and if super ego is strong we see a pure, rigid, nonflexible
individual. Super ego is the storehouse of moral and ethical standards taught by parents, teachers and
culture (it also refers to the conscience of the psyche). It operates according to the moral Principle when we
do something wrong, when ethical, moral standards are violated than super ego generates guild.
You go to a garden where you see red roses you face intra-psychic conflict
I want red rose and I want I can afford to buy red roses Stealing is bad. The sign says
from flower shop
don't pluck flowers.
You go to a store you see a lovely jacket but the price is high but no one is looking you face intra-psychic
I want the jacket and I I have to be realistic I Stealing is bad.
want it now.
cannot afford the jacket.
In order for a person to function constructively in society, he or she must acquire a system of values,
norms, ethics, and attitudes which are reasonably compatible with that society. These are acquired through
the process of "socialization," and in terms of the structural model of psychoanalysis are developed through
the formation of a superego. The superego is the last major system of personality to be developed and
represents an internalized version of society's norms and standards of behavior. In Freud's view, the human
organism is not born with a superego; rather, children must incorporate it through interactions with parents,
teachers, and other 'formative" figures. As the moral-ethical arm of personality, the superego results from
the child's prolonged dependence upon parents. It makes its formal appearance w en the child is said to
know right from wrong, good from bad, moral from immoral.
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