Essay: Freudian Theories

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Freudian Theories

Sigmund Freud was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and became known as the father of psychoanalysis. He was a very influential thinker of the twentieth century. He initially worked very closing with Joseph Breuer, but later elaborated the theory that the mind is a complex energy-system on his own. He expressed and refined the concepts of the unconscious, of infantile sexuality, of repression, and proposed a tripartite account of the mind's structure. All of this was part of a radically new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions. Freud's most important and frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a new science of the mind, remains the subject of much critical debate and controversy even today (Sigmund Freud (1856 -- 1939) 2005).

Freud began writing when Darwin put forth his theory of evolution, which linked human beings to their animal ancestry. Medicine was emerging as a science and was dominated by mechanistic principles that viewed mental disorders as organic in nature. The psychology of the day focused on consciousness and society reflected the aftermath of a repressive and restrictive Victorian period with respect to sexuality and the role of women (Goldstein 2001).

Freud believed that a person's personality could be broken down into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the part of the personality that consists of instincts. These are an individual's reservoir of psychic energy. According to Freud's view, the id is totally unconscious; it has no contact with reality. As children become familiar with the demands and constraints of reality, a new structure of personality emerges, know as the ego. This is the Freudian structure of personality that deals with the demands of reality. The ego is referred to as the executive branch of personality because it uses reasoning in order to make decisions. The id and the ego are thought to have no sense of morality. They do not take into account whether something is right or if something is wrong. The superego is the Freudian part of personality that is the moral branch. The superego, unlike the id, takes into account whether something is right or wrong. The superego is what we often refer to as our conscience (Freud's personality theory 2002).

Sigmund Freud set out with extraordinary passion, ingenuity and insight, to acquire scientific evidence about the essence and activity of the ego. He believed that the ego could be attained only by isolating the various facets of the mind and consciousness as mechanisms. The repercussions that he discovered were revolutionary. In the fifty years of groundbreaking research into the human psyche that he did, Freud detailed a network of theories about the surface of the human personality. This included: the conscious and unconscious; the ego, id and superego; the libidinal and aggressive drives; the Oedipus and Electra complexes; and the defense mechanisms (Bridle and Edelstein 2009).

According to Freud, everyone was born with our Id. The id is an important part of the personality because as newborns, it allows one to get their basic needs met. Freud believed that the id is based on a pleasure principle. In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no thought for the reality of the situation. When a child is hungry, the id wants food, and so the child cries until it is fed. When a child needs to be changed, the id cries, so that someone will change it. When the child is uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold, or just wants attention, the id speaks up so that his or her needs are met. The id doesn't care about reality, or about the needs of anyone else, only its own satisfaction. When the id wants something, nothing else matters (Psychology 101-2003)

As the child begins to interact more and more with the world around it, the second part of the personality begins to develop. Freud called this second part the Ego. The ego is based on the principle of reality. The ego understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes being impulsive or selfish can hurt in the long run. it's the job of the ego to meet the needs of the id, while considering the reality of the situation at hand. This generally occurs by age three (Psychology 101-2003)

Freud believed that by the age of five the Superego develops. The Superego is the moral part of a person and develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on one by the people who take care of a person. It is often believed that the superego is associated with the conscience as it dictates our belief of right and wrong (Psychology 101-2003)

Only the ego is visible on the surface of person. While the id and the superego remains below the surface. The id is thought to represent biological forces. It is also a constant in the personality as it is always present no matter what. The id is controlled by the pleasure principle. Early in the development of his theory Freud saw sexual energy or the libido, as the sole source of energy for the id. It was this idea that led to the popular conception that psychoanalysis was all about sex. After World War I, Freud felt it necessary to add another instinct, or source of energy, to the id. He proposed Thanatos or the death instinct. Thanatos accounts for the instinctual violent urges of people (Ego, Id, Super-Ego n.d.).

The ego is part of the personality that is on the surface. It is the part that one shows the world. The ego is controlled by the principle of reality. A good example is a child who may want to swipe a cookie from the kitchen, but will not do it if they know a parent is present. Id desires are still present, but the ego realizes the consequences of the cookie theft. The ego develops with experience, and accounts for developmental differences in behavior (Ego, Id, Super-Ego n.d.).

The superego is made up of two parts, the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience helps one to decide what course of action they should take. The ego-ideal is a romanticized view of one's self. Comparisons are often made between the ego-ideal and one's actual behavior. Both parts of the super-ego are developed because of social interactions that people have with others. According to Freud, a strong super-ego serves to inhibit the biological instincts of the id, while a weak super-ego gives in to the id's urgings (Ego, Id, Super-Ego n.d.).

According to Freud, the ego is the strongest of the three parts, so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego, and still take into consideration the reality of the situation. This is not an easy job by any means, but if the id gets too strong, impulses and self gratification take over a person's life. If the superego becomes to strong, a person would be driven by rigid morals, would be judgmental and unbending in his or her interactions with the world (Psychology 101-2003)

According to Freud, the ego emerges from the id, the biological, inherited, unconscious source of sexual drives, instincts, and irrational impulses. The ego extends out of the id's interaction with the external world. It is produced from the non-biological forces brought to bear on one's biological development and functions as an intermediary between the demands of the id and the external world (a Brief Outline of Psychoanalytic Theory nd.).

The ego can be seen as a variable aspect of the subject constructed as a system of beliefs that organize one's dealings with the internal and external demands of life according to certain laws referred to by Freud as secondary process. It reconciles the biological, instinctual demands and drives, both unifying and destructive in nature, of the id with the socially determined constraints of the super-ego and the demands of reality (a Brief Outline of Psychoanalytic Theory nd.).

Although Freud often made attempts to move away from the classic scientific model of biological instincts to a more ego-oriented way of thinking, the ego that became more and more central to his thought was the unconscious system ego of his tripartite structural theory. Freud always took the conscious self for granted, and left it mostly implied (Conn 1997).

A significant aspect of Freud's developmental theory was his description the psychosexual stages that a person goes through. These include: oral, anal, phallic or oedipal, latency and genital. He particularly focused on the controversial oedipal period, when a child is 5 to 6 years of age. He argued that a child's fantasies connected to Oedipus complex, in which the parent of the opposite sex is desired and the parent of the same sex if feared, resulting in anxiety and conflict. When this stage is resolved, then the superego is thought to have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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