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Freuds psychoanalytic theory of a personality

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 2051 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

In the field of therapy, psychoanalysis assumes that an individual’s behavior and emotions are a result of an assortment of factors that the individual is unaware. Sigmund Freud is mostly accredited as the pioneer of this field with most of his theories finding acceptance by most psychological schools of thought. In his book titled An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud explains that psychoanalysis finds its foundation on the id, the ego and the superego, as the forces behind the physical apparatus. Freud explains that the id consists of what is inherited, instincts and it is characterized as being unconscious. The ego on the other hand as Freud further explains, is characterized as being conscious and it is the force which “acts as the intermediary between the id and the external world” (Freud, 1989, p.14).

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The principals characteristics of the ego as Freud (1989) describes them, include the ability to perform voluntary movements when it is required, preserving itself such as creating a sense of awareness to stimuli by storing them in the “memory”, escaping excessive stimuli by “flight”, or dealing with reasonable stimuli by “adaptation”. The ego also has the characteristic of learning how to deal with expedient changes in the external environment to its advantage through “activity”. The ego in relation to the id controls the demands of instincts by satisfying them, denying them or postponing them to an appropriate time favorable with the external world. Tensions produced by the stimuli whether internal or external guide the ego. When these tensions are increased it results in unpleasure while their decrease results in pleasure. The ego will generally tend to achieve pleasure and avoid unpleasure. The superego on the other hand represents the influence of dependence on parents during childhood. The id mediates the demands of the superego, while the ego tries simultaneously to satisfy the demands of the id and the ego. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality defines conscious psychical ideas, as those one is aware, while preconscious ideas are those that have the potential of becoming conscious. This is in contrast to unconscious ideas, which cannot be explained.

Ewen (1998) points out that Freud presented four stages in the sexual development of an individual; oral stage, anal stage, urethra stage, phallic stage and genital stage. The oral stage is characterized through satisfaction through the mouth such as sucking of mother’s breast, which the baby gets pleasure. During the anal and urethra stage, the child achieves pleasure through excretion. At the phallic stage, the child is afraid of the father, and sees him as a rival and sexually fantasizes about his mother referred to as the Oedipus stage. The genital stage involves completion of the sexual function to achieve pleasure.

Coon (2009) points out that Freud considered that the dynamics of personality involve a conflict of the id, ego and super ego, for example “the id’s demands for immediate pleasure often crash with the superegos mortal restriction” (p.147). An example would be an individual craves for sex. The id will aim to achieve immediate satisfaction, an action that the superego will oppose. The ego on the other hand will be caught in the middle and in an aim to reduce tension; it may lead to actions of courtship. However, the id may overpower the ego and it may give in to seduction while if the superego excels, then the energy will be transferred elsewhere such as sports.

In conclusion, it is evident that Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality argued that humans are not masters of their destiny. This is true according to his arguments that unconscious forces and the fact that the personality of an individual is strongly determined by childhood experiences, govern human behavior. He also stressed that the personality of an individual is shaped by how one deals with sexual urges.

Carl Roger’s Theory Person-Centered Theory (for personality)

The term client-centered therapy is synonymous with Carl Rogers. The humanistic approach philosopher is famous for his theory of personality. Rogers aimed at advising therapists to allow patients to discover their solutions. Through what he refers to as “unconditional positive regard”, Rogers argues that each individual has the ability to grow and develop, thus influence his/her self-esteem and self-actualization. In order for an individual to achieve this, it becomes imperative for the therapist to accept fully the patient through reflection with the patient. This implies that the patient autonomously dictates the course of the counseling session with the therapist only intervening to assist the patient in identifying certain factors. Roger’s theory, although at first widely used in psychotherapy, became referred to as “person-centered” due to its expansion to other fields such as marriage, education and other diverse professional fields. According to Rogers, the idea behind this approach revolves around what he believes that an individual possesses “vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self concept, attitudes, and direct behavior”. This makes it possible to tap these resources in a “definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes” (Rogers, Kirschenbaum & Henderson, 1989 p.135).

For this to happen, Rogers highlights three conditions; congruence, unconditional positive regard and emphatic understanding. The first element congruence which also refers to as realness or genuineness implies that if the therapist involves himself more in the relationship without regard to professionalism or personality, then the greater the chance that the client will grow and develop constructively. The second element, unconditional positive regard refers to the creation of a climate suitable for change. This implies that the therapist acts does not judge the person, which greatly enhances the therapeutic process. The third element as Rogers pointed out, is emphatic understanding. According to Jefferies (2005, p.3), he points out that Rogers defined it as “entering the private perceptual world of the other…being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person” (Rogers 1980, p. 142). This implies that the therapist is supposed to sense and understand the feelings and meanings of the client and has the ability to define and clarify not only those that the client is aware of, but those that may also be unaware. 

In addition to the above elements, Rogers also pointed a number of conditions that are required for constructive personality change. The first condition is that of the person coming for help, which is a significant step in acquiring help since the individual realizes that he/she needs help. The next situation involves the counselor setting the goals straight to the client. According to the theory by Rogers, the counselor is supposed to explain to the client that he does not have the answers but he can assist the client to work through the solutions. The counselor will then encourage the client to be free to express his thoughts and this is through the positive, friendly, receptive and interesting environment that the counselor creates. The counselor then takes up to himself to recognize, clarify, and reveal the negative feelings to the client. After the client expresses the negative feelings, positive impulses, which aid in growth, are then created and the counselor has to likewise accept and reveal the positive feelings to the client. This paves the way for insight from the client and the counselor paves way for positive action and ideas. This decreases the need for help from the client (Horthersall. 2003).

Social Cognitive Theory

The social cognitive theory advanced by Albert Bandura, centers on the fact that human behavior can be understood, predicted and changed. The theory takes human development as an embodiment of three forces “environment conditions (learning), cognitive-personal factors and behavior” (Plotnik and Kouyoumdjian, 2010 p.458). The two authors’ further point out that cognitive factors involve beliefs, values, expectations, while personal beliefs involve the emotional, biological and genetic makeup of an individual. Behaviors on the other involve a myriad of personal actions such as talking, gesturing among others. Lastly, environmental factors are the social, cultural and economic factors. This is against the backdrop of the psychodynamic theory advanced by Freud, which argues that the personality of an individual is inborn, and Carl Rogers’s humanistic theory that argues that humans are generally good. The social cognitive theory advances the notion that we are neither good nor bad but our personalities are shaped by the three aforementioned factors that Bandura points.

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Personality development according to the social cognitive theory is shaped by four cognitive processes, which enhance the ability of an individual to develop, grow and change; language ability, observational learning, purposeful behavior and self-analysis. The language ability acts as a powerful means which ideas, goals, values and other factors can be processed and understood. Observational learning allows an individual to imitate and thus enhances the learning process. Purposeful behavior enhances the ability to predict, plan and set goals for events. Lastly, self-analysis acts as an internal process whereby an individual analyzes his thoughts and actions (Plotnik and Kouyoumdjian, 2010 p.459).

According to Shaffer and Kipp (2009), “Bandura emphasizes observational learning as a central developmental process”, this simply implies learning from observation (49). This can be in the form of a child imitating his parents and learning how to speak a language or perform some gestures. Sigelman and Rider (2008) argue that observational learning diverts from conditioning precisely because it involves paying attention, constructing and responding. According to the theory, individuals intrinsically have cognitive control over their actions, a trait manifested during infancy when one realizes they can make things happen, and regulate their actions according to the consequences. This results in the development of self-efficacy. Sigelman and Rider (2008) describe it as the “belief that one can effectively produce desired outcomes in a particular area of life” (p.43). According to his theory, Bandura refutes the notion of studying rat behaviors instead of human beings and argues that a human is very sophisticated with regard to cognitive behavior.  Although Bandura’s idea closely resembles that of social learning theory, he argued that his idea should be referred to as social cognitive theory since his theory centered on “motivating and self-regulating role of cognition in human behavior” (Sigelman and Rider, 2008 p.42).

In Bandura’s model, an individual’s thoughts and actions influence the interaction between the individual and his/her behavior. On the other hand, social influences and the environmental structures, lead to the development of cognitive competencies and belies, which influence the interaction between the individual and the environment. In his model, the interaction between the behavior of an individual and the environment is influenced by how the individual determines the aspects of the environment, which later modify the individual’s behavior.

Bandura uses the term reciprocal determinism to explain the phenomenon of a human being as being cognitive. This argument is based on his assertions that personalities are not shaped by the environment, nor are they biological, but through reciprocal interactions between the three factors.


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