Humanistic Approaches to Positive Growth and Self-Acceptance

Perspectives in Psychoanalytical Psychology

Freudian/Neo-Freudian Theorybitmoji-15918124353711

Freud was the founding father of psychoanalysis, a method for treating mental illness and also a theory which explains human behavior.  Psychoanalysis is often known as the talking cure.

Freudian theory, “couch therapy” encouraged patients to speak freely and describe

what was bothering them physically, and what was on his or her mind, psychologically.  This first formal theory of personality was advanced by Freud in the early years of the 20th century, and it is the prototype of the psycho-dynamic approach.

Freud was convinced that an unconscious part of the mind exerts great influence on behavior.

  • Conscious mind: Consists of mental events in current awareness.
  • Preconscious mind: Contains memories, thoughts, feelings, and images that we are unaware of at the moment but that can be recalled (a friend’s telephone number).
  • Unconscious mind: A dynamic realm of wishes, feelings, and impulses that lies beyondour awareness.

Freud’s theory divides the personality into three levels of consciousness:info-tabs3

1. Conscious

2. PreconsciousIceberg

3. Unconscious

and three levels of the mind

1. Id

2. Ego

3. Superego

Freud is the first major theorist to research non-biological approaches to illness. Specifically what was called hysteria. Hysteria was considered a medical issue during this time period. Freud re-shaped this medical diagnosis with his theories.

Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, is one of the most read and most controversial books on personality. This book describes Freud’s interpretation of the human psyche by introducing the concept of the unconscious mind to the medical world.  In a world of biological theorists, this concept was not accepted by many of his colleagues.

As we progress, keep in mind the era of Freud’s theories. Think of how his relationship may have been with his mother and father and think critically as to how these aspects of Freud’s life may have influenced his theories. Did Freud base these theories on his own life, did these insights allow Freud to discover the unconscious drives in people? Whatever our opinion, Freud’s theories are very much a part of today’s psychological theories.

According to Freud, there are two basic drives that motivates thoughts, emotions, and behavior: Sex and Aggression or Life and Death. According to Freud these underlie all motivation that humans experience.

Freud’s emphasis always indicates sex as the primary motivating factor. Aggression, or the death instinct, on the other hand serves just the opposite goal.  Aggression is a way to protect us from those attempting harm.  The aggression drive is a means to allow us to procreate while at the same time eliminating our enemies who may try to prevent us from doing so.

As Freud’s theory evolved Freud placed more emphasis on internal struggles, or his structural model,, the ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO.

Basic Elements of Psychoanalytic Thepsychoanalyticalory

Dream Interpretation – Examining dreams to find clues to unconscious conflicts and problems.

Free Association – Patients are asked to say aloud whatever comes to mind, regardless of its apparent irrelevance or senselessness. Analysts attempt to recognize and label the connections between what a patient says and the patient’s unconscious.

Resistance – Inability or unwillingness to discuss or reveal particular memories, thoughts, or motivations.

Positive and Negative Transference – The transfer of feelings to a psychoanalyst of love or anger that had been originally directed to a patient’s parents or other authority figures (Mann, 1997; Gordon, 2000; Van Beekum, 2005).

Dissension in the Ranks – The Beginning of Neo-Freudian Psychology

Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis and the father of modern personality theory. Freud was known to be stubborn in his beliefs and refused to accept any other theories. Many other theorists found themselves at odd’s with Freud and broke away from the Freudian camp.

This break away from the Freudian camp brought about new psychological theories and concepts. The one common denominator is that these new theories do have the same underlying belief of psychoanalysis particularly the view of the unconscious as an important drive in human emotions, cognitions, and behaviors.

The idea of the defense mechanism of the unconscious has been maintained in many of these new theories as well as the importance of early development of the formation of personality.

Neo-Freudian psychoanalysts disagreed with certain aspects of Freud’s thinking

They believed that Freud did not give social and cultural factors a sufficiently important role in the development and dynamics of personality

Also believed that Freud laid too much emphasis on the events of childhood as determinants of adult personality

Neo-Freudian psychoanalysts disagreed with certain aspects of Freud’s thinking

They believed that Freud did not give social and cultural factors a sufficiently important role in the development and dynamics of personality

Also believed that Freud laid too much emphasis on the events of childhood as determinants of adult personality

The First to Leave:

Alfred Adler joined Freud’s analytic society in 1902 and was even named the first president in 1910.  However, after growing disagreements he left with several other theorists in 1911, starting his own group originally named the ‘Society for Free Psychoanalytic Research.

The name subsequently changed to Individual Psychoanalytic Research.

Adler insisted that human are inherently social beings, motivated by social interest and the desire to advance the welfare of others.

Carl Jung, believed that humans possess a personal unconscious and also a collective unconscious.

Carl Jung’s break from Freud’s Psychoanalytic Society was perhaps the most disappointing for Freud.  When they met it is reported that they spent over 12 hours discussing psychoanalytic theory, and soon after, Jung became the logical successor to the society he resigned from the organization in 1914 after intense disagreements with his mentor.

The main disagreement he had with Freud was his belief that there was more to the unconscious than Freud theorized.  Jung believed that there were fears, behaviors, and thoughts  that children and adults exhibit that are remarkably similar across time and culture.  He believed that this was more than coincidence and represented what he called the collective unconscious and this is an influence on personality. Jung believed that humans possess both personal and collective unconscious.

Erik Erikson believed that personality development continues throughout the life span as individuals confront challenges that are specific to particular phases in their lives. Erikson believed that people with a strong sense of identity is one who knows where he is in life and has accepted this position and has workable goals for change and growth. Erikson theorized that one can have a sense of uniqueness while also having a sense of belonging and wholeness.

Karen Horney One of the earliest psychologists to champion women’s issues, sometimes called the first feminist psychologist. Suggested that personality develops in the context of social relationships and depends on the relationship between parents and child and how well the child’s needs are met. Rejected Freud’s suggestion that women have penis envy, asserting that what women envy most in men is not their anatomy but the independence, success, and freedom that women are often denied (Horney, 1937; Miletic, 2002).

Karen Horney made the most significant contribution to new concepts in psychology. Horney disagreed with Freud’s view of women.

Horney is responsible for changing the perceptions of gender. She countered Freud’s concept of penis envy, and also disagreed with the belief that males and females were born with inherent differences in personality.

Horney argued for society and cultural explanations of these theories.

Horney argued that men and woman were equal!


Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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