Freud also theorised that personality was made up of 3 systems – ID, EGO and SUPEREGO, each with its own function, but together they govern behaviour. ID, the most primitive of drives and, as it is present in a newborn, is first to develop. Ego and superego develop from the id. Basically, id seeks pleasure, ego mediates and tests reality and superego strives for perfection and constrains. Not surprisingly, there is always conflict between id and superego. (Gross 2005, Gross, R. et al 2000)
Because of the continuous conflict, Freud theorised that the ego develops a series of defence mechanisms to protect itself – Repression, Projection, Rationalisation, Suppression, Denial, Displacement, Identification and Reaction-Formation. Conflict is inevitable and if the primary cause of anxiety and unhappiness, these defence mechanisms are a way in which people can deal with inner conflict. (Gross 2005) Another chapter in Freud’s theories was the psychosexual stages – that during the first five years of life a child goes through five stages of personality development.
During each stage the impulses of id, focus on and derive pleasure from, an area of the body and activities connected with that area. It begins in the first year – the oral stage, during which the infant derives pleasure from sucking, nursing and putting anything they can into their mouth. The anal stage follows, during this phase the child learns control in the form of toilet training. The third stage, between the ages of three and six, is the phallic stage – the child focuses on their genitals and is aware of differences between the sexes.
They may focus this awareness on the parent of the opposite sex – the Oedipus and Electra complexes need to be resolved at his stage. A latency period follows, during which the child is less focused on their bodies and instead turns attention to gaining skills for life. The final genital stage occurs during adolescence – the young adult turns their sexual interest towards others in a more mature way. Freud believed that if problems occurred during any stage, it could be detrimental to development e. g.
if a baby was weaned too early – wasn’t able to nurse for long enough, it may become fixated at the oral stage. As an adult they may be fixated with oral pleasures such as eating, drinking, perhaps smoking or nail biting. Later psychoanalysts felt Freud emphasised too much on instinctive and biological aspects of personality and didn’t recognise that society played a part. More recently it is viewed that society, environment and people in general have a greater impact on shaping personality than biological needs, considering people to be better decision makers and planners that Freud gave credit for.
(allpsych. com, Gross 2005) Some techniques that Freud developed are used today; free association and word association are still popular therapies. Interpretation of dreams is another technique, along with another indicator – the simple ‘slip of the tongue’ or ‘Freudian slip’. A more modern approach to therapy would include physical cues such as, blushing, posture, change in voice and expressions of the unconscious. Whilst Psychodynamic theories had a huge impact on psychology, they aren’t without weaknesses.
When Freud conducted studies into psychosexual development, it was at a time when sex was taboo and standards were strict, therefore many of his patient’s conflicts, centred round sexual desire. In today’s more permissive society, sexual conflicts are less frequent; so this may not be a contributory factor of personality disturbance. (Ornstein 1988) There was criticism of the type of patients Freud helped, in that most had serious emotional problems and if observations where based purely on those patients, his theories may not be appropriate to a normal healthy personality.
His theories were sexist too, in a time when males enjoyed greater independence and social standing, his theory that female psychosexual development was shaped by ‘penis envy’ and that she may have felt unworthy due to her lack of equipment, is now viewed that she was more likely envious of his freedom and social standing than his genitals. (Gross, R. et al 2000) When compared, psychodynamic and behaviourist approaches share many aspects, one of which is Darwin’s evolutionary theory.
Freud believed in the importance of biological instincts on behaviour, his theory of psychosexual motivation is clearly linked to the fact, sex and reproduction, are foundations of evolution. Behaviourists also believe that fundamental similarities between species allow for general rules of behaviour to be adapted from animals. Both greatly rely on the importance of environment as a dominant force for development of personality. (Gross 2005, Class notes 2007)
They share that each has contributed greatly to modern psychology – therapies like behaviour modification techniques are still evolving and many of Freud’s ‘on the couch’ therapies are used today, albeit modified versions. Current behaviour is determined by past experiences, a view common to psychoanalysts and behaviourists – psychoanalysts believe unpleasant experiences that occur in the past get locked away in the mind but remain influential on future behaviour, whilst the behaviourist view is that you act from past experiences, through conditional learning.
If the approaches are compared in terms of the nature – nurture debate, common ground is found, both believe an individual’s personality develops as they grow, therefore, they are on the nurture side of the argument as opposed to nature, which suggests people are born with genetic dispositions and only possess innate, inherited personality. (Carlson 1990)