Classical Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud
Heavily emphasizing “the role of unconscious psychological conflicts in shaping behavior and personality”, the dynamic between these critical parts of the thinking mind are theorized to progress through no more than five particular stages of psychosexual development. A staggering number of attempts have been made to dismantle Freud’s theories over the last 100 years due to the fact that they place an emphasis on human sexuality above all as the primary driver of personality development.
Sigmund Freud set the standard. An Australian neurologist, he was the one who established classical psychoanalysis: that is the clinical treatment between patient and doctor.
The triangular power structure that exists between the fundamental components of the brain; especially pertaining to each desire, is what determines the way human beings behave and how they approach life. It is precisely the balance that people strike between these three parts of their mind and our ability to exercise control over the need to pursue pleasure that dictate the ability to resolve problems.
Concepts of Theory
Of the three proposed structures, the id exists as the most primitive in that it focuses on instant gratification that comes with basic biological needs and physical urges; operating completely autonomously outside of regular conscious thoughts. If, for example, the human mind only operated with respect to the id, it would have people unforgivingly take exactly what they wanted without any regard to lawful property, legal rights, theft, morality, etc.
What overrides the savage, reptilian instincts that operate on the id level is the superego; the component of the mind that is responsible for understanding the rules of sociology and morality. In other terms, it could be best described plainly as the conscious mind or moral compass. While the superego works to overpower the primal behaviors of the id, a significantly strong id could counteract the superego’s attempts to control the mind; making a person seem like an uneducated/unlawful animal. This takes into account of course the hypothetical notion that only the superego and id exist.
Finally, the most developed and advanced component of human personality exists with the pragmatic and rational ego. Operating on both a conscious and unconscious level, Freud described and considered the ego to be the true definition of the self; its job defined as maintaining a balance between the demands of the superego and the id in what is realistically possible to achieve.
Role of Society and Individual Differences
Freud claimed that the very nature of the struggles between the id, ego, and superego evolve as time passes during the human growth cycle. As a human transitions between child and adult, the aforementioned conflicts go through a series of stages with a different type of focus for each; these include “oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital”.
While the five proposed psychosexual stages of human development possess different focuses, they are all directly linked to a distinct type of central physical pleasure. He argued that the stages progress in a series due to the fact that any given child is always going to be presented with various conflicts that take place between biological instincts and social conscience; all urges taking place at differing parts of the human body. These parts were defined and labeled by Sigmund Freud as “erogenous zones”.
A basic example and test of this theory is a popular question given to young children as a way of determining their success as an adult later in life. Based on the idea of delayed gratification, the question presented involves whether they would desire one marshmallow at the moment they are being tested, or would they rather desire two marshmallows in an hour.
This test is directly based on Freud’s theory of how a child is able to resolve their internal biological conflicts affecting “their future ability to cope and function as an adult”. According to Freud, the failure or inability to successfully resolve a stage can lead to a person becoming fixated; ultimately leading one to possessing unhealthy and unresolved personality traits while the successful ability to resolve them leads to a healthy life as a future adult.
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