The purpose of this project is to explore a psychoanalytic approach to personality. Psychoanalytic theory has been studied for several centuries and its influences have been felt in various disciplines, including clinical psychology, sociology, literature, and arts. Sigmund Freud is the proponent of this school of thought. Besides, Carl Jung and Alfred Adler also made their contributions through analytical psychology and social interests respectively. The theorists present diverse views of the development and maturity of the human mind.
Compare and contrast the psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Jung, and Adler
The three psychologists, Freud, Jung, and Adler developed the most influential and relevant psychoanalytic theories in attempts to explain personality in individuals (Schacter, Gilbert, & Wegner, 2011). According to Freud, individuals developed personality in various stages of development associated with exogenous factors. Individuals who failed to achieve a full developmental circle at any stage experienced challenges in their adulthood. Besides, Freud viewed personality development as a rather automatic factor, and individuals had limited choices. Jung’s analytical psychology wanted to balance the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind.
He maintained that personality development increased with self-realization or individuation. Jung, however, did not agree with Freud’s views particularly with the reference to intuition. Institutions greatly influenced individuals’ psyche. Adler also held a different view on personality development. Adler’s views recognized that personality was unique to every person, and environments and social constructions mainly influenced it. Hence, people could influence who they become. Adler focused on the importance of social influences on personality development.
Social interests and environments have profound influences on predisposing the genetic composition of individuals toward specific personality traits. Various psychology researchers have highlighted the importance of social environments and their influences on personality development. The unconscious desires that emanate from social constructs greatly affected individuals’ personality development.
One can achieve psychological consciousness by enhancing psychological balance and wholeness. That is effective psychological balance results in the well-being of the whole person.
Freud viewed every stage of personality development as erogenous zones. In other words, individuals acted in a manner that reflected sexual envy of the opposite sex. It is noteworthy that one may not easily prove Freud’s erogenous views on personality development.
Alder imagined a perfect society in which there was harmony in each person. Social interests and connectedness are innate and should be consciously developed. However, a sense of real social security is difficult to achieve in any society. Thus, the ideal society that Adler imagined through social innovation and evolution is not practical.
The stages of Freud’s theory and Personality Characteristics
Freud introduced various stages of human personality development in psychoanalytic theory (Feist & Feist, 2009). This implied that personality development took place in stages.
The first stage: Oral
This stage is also known as the dependency stage, and it occurs from birth to two years. The child relies on the mouth to explore the environment. Failure to meet needs at this stage, an individual develops but strives to meet these needs in later stages of life. Specifically, traits such as drinking, eating, and smoking are attempts to compensate for these needs. Frequent, recurring dreams reflected these unsatisfied needs (Tyson, 2002). This implies that psychologically fit individuals strive to prevail over any feelings of inferiority and aim for success.
Second stage: Potty Training or Anal Stage
At this stage, an infant masters how to control normal body activities. Any abuse, trauma, or failure to handle the stage effectively could lead to severe consequences for the child, including rigid and retentive anal. Children may later have obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Also, affected children may strive to ensure that everything is kept in order while dreams are experienced to ensure order.
Third Stage: Phallic Stage
The child experiences this stage between the age of three and five years old. Children note the differences between male and female figures. Freud noted that children have completely developed their personality during this stage. Freud used the term Oedipus complex for boys and the Electra complex for girls. The boy’s behaviors reflect love toward the mother while is jealous or fears the father. On the other hand, the girl child has a love for the father and exhibit ‘penis envy’ and hatred for the mother.
Fourth Stage: Latency Stage
This stage takes place between the age of three and seven. The child recognizes that his or her sexual desires for parents can never be achieved and will abandon these sexual desires and identifies with parents of a similar sex. Children may express their libido to same-sex friends. Sublimation and repression are used as defense mechanisms in socially accepted manners.
Fifth stage: Genital
Children experience this stage at the age of 12 years old. Children develop new sexual interests at this stage.
Uses of Freudian defense mechanisms with real-life examples
Freud further introduced various ways that the psyche relied on to overcome conflicts (Friedman & Schustack, 2011). These mechanisms strived to misrepresent reality as a means of safeguarding the ego. First, people have often used denial as a defense mechanism. In this case, individuals refuse to accept the reality or stimuli that cause anxiety. For example, a person may block certain behaviors although they are the reality.
Gamblers may deny their addiction and continue to engage in such behaviors because of benefits derived from them. Second, people may also use a repression mechanism to keep unwanted thoughts in the unconscious parts of the brain. For instance, individuals who experience traumatic events and fail to get psychological interventions may repress their experiences at attempts to forget such events. Third, reaction formation is also a form of defense mechanism. It pushes as far as possible threatening thoughts by focusing on the opposite of what happened. For instance, individuals who engage in excessive drinking may overemphasize the importance of avoiding drugs.
Finally, another significant Freudian defense mechanism the mind uses to manage impulse in a given situation in isolation. For example, individuals may use isolation to avoid extremely emotional experiences and focus on the issue as a normal one. Isolation is common in emergencies in which an individual may strive to maintain composure, but later on the breakdown. Hence, the psyche strives to meet the demands of the immediate social environments by suppressing emotional needs considered as signs of weaknesses.
This project has focused on personality development using a psychoanalytic approach. It shows that one may use various theories to explain personality, including those ideas provided by prominent theorists such as Freud, Jung, and Adler. The theorists show how personality evolves through various stages of life and social environments. Hence, one cannot assess personality through a single school of thought but rather use various schools of thought to understand it, and no technique is superior to others.
Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2011). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D. T., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.
Tyson, P. (2002). The challenges of psychoanalytic developmental theory. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50, 19-52.