Psychoanalytic Personality Assessment
Sigmund Freud believed that there were underlying factors of the unconscious mind that guide or direct a person’s behavior or personality. Psychoanalytic theory is based on Freud’s work from the conscious and unconscious mind to his psychosexual development of personalities. Freud believed that in the unconscious mind the id, the ego, and the superego controlled the actions and personalities of all people. Freud’s psychosexual theory of development gave way for a deeper understanding of how, in Freud’s opinion, personality is developed as a result of childhood experiences. Although Freud’s theories have influenced modern psychology, there were people who disagreed with him and his theories.
The Conscious and Unconscious Mind
Freud characterized the conscious and unconscious mind into three categories: the id, the ego, and the superego. Freud declared that the id was the only component of a person’s personality that was present from birth. The id is guided by the pleasure principle and requires immediate gratification of any desires. The id is not controlled by right or wrong and for this reason; Freud deemed the ego the component of personality responsible for reality and right from wrong. The ego is the only component that is active in the three stages of consciousness. The ego is guided by the reality principle, which means that the ego attempts to satisfy the desires of the id in realistic and socially acceptable ways. The superego is the last component of an individual’s personality to develop according to Freud. The superego is the part of personality that handles a person’s moral standards and encourages well-thought out judgment calls in life. Each of the components of personality emerges in an individual at different times during his or her life; usually by the age of five, all three have been activated and will grow with the person throughout his or her life. Freud based his studies and observations on these three aspects of personality and human development when he created psychosexual development.
The Stages of Freud’s Theory and Characteristics of Personality
Each stage of Freud’s psychosexual development different personality types are said to have the potential to form. There are five stages of Freud’s theory; the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency period, and the genital stage. Freud believed that when people are born they begin their five stages of development and their personalities are dependent upon different reactions in each stage, the ease of transference from one stage to the next, or the difficulty of transference from one stage to the next. The oral stage begins at birth. During this stage, the babies are naturally guided to seek satisfaction of hunger and thirst. The id plays a role here because the baby will seek immediate gratification for the need at hand. In adulthood, the individual who is “fixated at the oral stage” will “remain preoccupied with issues of dependency, attachment, and ‘intake’ of interesting substances” or ideas (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 68). The second stage of Freud’s theory is the anal stage.
In most modern cultures, babies will were diapers or other coverings until about age two and a half or three. At this time, the child should become toilet trained. Freud dubbed this stage the anal stage because of the important event of teaching the children where and when to use the proper facilities in the event the children have the urge to relieve themselves. Some children do not take well to this stage of development and may hold the urine or feces until a time when the child is ready and not the parents. If an adult is fixated in this stage, it could lead to a personality type of person who likes “bathroom humor or making messes…or [he or she] may be overly concerned with neatness, parsimony, order, and organization” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 69). The third stage of development is called the phallic stage. This stage is made up of two subcategories; the Oedipus complex and penis envy. The phallic stage is the stage in which sexual tension is focused on the genitals. According to Friedman and Schustack (2012), during this stage, beginning at about age four, “children may explore their genitals and masturbate” (p. 69). The first subcategory of this stage is the Oedipus complex. Freud coined this term to describe a male child’s “sexual feelings for his mother and rivalries with his father” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 70). The second subcategory is penis envy. This is shown when a female child “develops feelings of inferiority and jealousy over her lack of a penis” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 71). Personality differences between male and female children come from this stage of development because boys will develop traits similar to the father’s personality and the girl child will develop personality traits based on giving birth. The fourth stage of psychosexual development is the latency period.
During the latency period, unknown by Freud, the individual’s “adrenal glands are maturing and there is a growth spurt coupled with changes in the adrenal-stimulated hormones” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 72). The ages of six to 11 are times when children are more concerned with making friends and attending school. Freud named this stage the latency stage of development because he did not witness any sexually driven motives during this time. According to Friedman & Schustack (2012), during the five-year period, a child is learning to “become a leader or follower, to cooperate with teachers and other authorities, and to develop study and work habits” (p. 72). It may be obvious to say that the personality development during this period will set the foundation for work and social ethics. The last stage of Freud’s psychosexual development is the genital stage.
Freud believed that is a person did not become fixated in any of the other stages; he or she would embark on “an adult life of normal sexual relations, marriage, and child-rearing” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 73). However, if the person did not engage in marriage or child-rearing, he or she was not normal and was considered flawed. Based on the modern social and cultural acceptances but this is not fact. Freud did not take into consideration that some cultures or religions do not condone sexual activity outside marriage; even if the act were with the privacy of oneself. Personality types are said to be well-adjusted in this stage of development. However, there were people who did not agree with Freud’s sexual connections of development and personality.
Disagreement: Jung and Adler
Carl Jung and Alfred Adler had different thoughts and beliefs regarding how personality was developed. The first way they disagreed with Freud was based on their firm beliefs of the importance of the “teleological aspects, or goal-directedness, of human nature” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 115). Jung viewed personality in the aspect of goals and future orientation; whereas, Freud believed that personality developed solely based on childhood experiences of psychosexual development. The second way they differed from Freud was the way in which they saw the unconscious. Jung named the three levels of the mind the conscious ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Alder’s views on the placement of the origin of motivation also differed from Freud’s emphasis placed on pleasure. The fourth way Jung and Adler disagreed with Freud was the concern for social conditions because Freud did not concern himself with the differences in society based on the development from birth to adulthood.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and psychosexual development laid the foundation for modern personality theories but was the bases for many controversies. Freud firmly believed that personality was based on the development of people from birth to adulthood through the sexual desires and the attachments, or lack thereof to the parents. Carl Jung and Alfred Adler did not agree with Freud because they believed that personality and development were not as sexually based as Freud thought. Regardless of the differences these men had with one another, their work has paved the way for personality testing and understanding.
Friedman, H. S. & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
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