The Psychodynamic Model

In the psychodynamic method, theorists believe an individual's behavior is determined largely by underlying psychological forces of which they are not consciously aware. The internal forces interact with each other and their interaction gives rise to behavior, thoughts, and emotions. Abnormal syptoms are viewed as conflict of these forces. Theorists like to explore an individuals past experiences because psychological conflicts are tied to early relationships and to traumatic experiences that occurred during childhood. Psychodynamic theories rest on the idea that no symptoms is accidental. All behavior is determined by past experiences.

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The Beginning

The psychodynamic model was first created by Viennese neurologist, Sigmund Freud, at the turn of the 20th century. Freud worked first with Josef Breuer as they both did experiemtns on hypnosis and mysterious physical ailments with no apparent medical cause. Building on his early work with Breuer, Freud developed the theory of psychoanalysis to explain both normal and abnormal psychological functioning as well as psychoanalysis, a conversational method of treatment.

Freud believed that three forces shape personality - instinctual needs, rational thinking, and moral standards. All of these forces operate at the unconscious level, where they are unavailable to immediate awareness. He called the forces: id, ego, and superego.

  • Id - The id describes the instinctual needs, drives, and impulses. The id works with the pleasure principle, to constantly seek gratification. Freud also believed all id insticts were sexual as he further suggested that a person's libido, or sexual energy, feeds the id.
  • Ego - During our youth, we understand that our environment will not meet every need or desire we have. Part of the id separates and becomes the ego. Like the id, the ego unconsciously seeks gratification, but the ego also focuses on reality. Theo ego, using reason, guides us to know when we can and cannot express those impulses. The ego also develops basic strategies to control the unacceptable id impulses and avoid or reduce the anxiety they arouse. One of the most basic involves repression, preventing unacceptable impulses from ever reaching consciousness. There are many other ego defense mechanisms, and each individual uses some more than others.
  • Superego - This area grows from the ego, just like the ego grows from the id. When we learn from our parents that many of our id impulses are unacceptable, we adopt our parents' values. Judging ourselves by their standards, we feel good when we uphold their values just like when we go against those standards we feel guilty. This is developing a conscience.

These three parts of the personality are often in conflict. A healthy personality has an effective working relationship between the three forces. If the three forces are in conflict, the person's behavior shows signs of dysfunctions.

Developmental Stages

Freud stated that at each stage of development, from baby to adult, challenges force the individual to adjust to their id, ego, and superego. If the adjustments are successful, they lead to more personal growth. If the adjustments are not successful, the person is stuck in an early stage of development. Because parents are environmental figures, they are often seen as the cause of improper development.

  • Oral Stage - First 18 months of life
  • Anal Stage - 18 months until 3 years
  • Phallic Stage - 3 to 5 years
  • Latency - 5 through 12 years
  • Genital - 12 years until adulthood

Defense Mechanisms

Individuals develop defense mechanisms to deal and cope with difficult situations in life. Listed are 9 defense mechanisms and a description of their uses.

  • Repression - An individual avoids anxiety by not allowing painful or dangerous thoughts to be conscious.
  • Denial - A person refuses to acknowledge the existence of an external source of anxiety.
  • Projection - An individual moves their own unacceptable impulses, motives, or desires to other individuals.
  • Rationalization - A person develops a socially acceptable reason of an action that reflects unacceptable motives.
  • Reaction Formation - An individual develops behavior that is the exact opposite of impluses they are afraid to acknowledge.
  • Displacement - A person replaces hostility from a dangerous object and onto a safer substitute.
  • Intellectualization - An individual represses emotional reactions in favor of an overly logical response to a problem.
  • Regression - A person steps away from an upsetting conflict to an early developmental stage where no mature behavior or responsibility exists.
  • Sublimation - An individual expresses sexual and/or aggressive energy in ways that are acceptable to society.

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Comments 2 comments

sparkster profile image

sparkster 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Very good hub, I found this interesting to read.


kathryn1000 profile image

kathryn1000 3 years ago from London

Well explained

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