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The Psychodynamic Approach
One assumption of the Psychodynamic Approach is that behaviour can be explained in terms of
tripartite personality (the id, ego and superego). The id is the first to develop and is our unbridled
wants and desires, or the "pleasure principle". The ego develops next and is our consciousness, or
the "reality principle" which balances the demands of the id and superego. The superego, which
develops last, is our strict moral code which attempt to perfect all our behaviour.
Another assumption is that our behaviour can be explained in terms of different levels of
consciousness and ego defence mechanisms. Freud stated our mind is like an iceberg with the
majority being the unconscious and the preconscious (id and superego) whilst only a small part is the
conscious (ego). Ego defences work to protect us from the unconscious battles between the id and
superego and can include displacement (transferring impulses), projection (attributing undesirable
thoughts onto someone else) and repression (pushing painful memories into the unconscious).
Freud's theory of personality development begins with the core of the personality which is the id
(pleasure principle), ego (reality principle) and superego (our strict moral code). Freud believed that
a person's "ego strength" caused personality as someone with too little ego strength may have too
much id which may lead to addictive or sexual behaviour or too much superego which leads to overly
strict behaviour along with extreme guilt.
Freud also developed the psychosexual stages of development in order to explain personality. The
oral stage is the first stage occurring from birth and where libido is concentrated on the mouth. A
healthy resolution of this stage results in the ability to form relationships whereas a fixation on this
stage due to frustration results in an aggressive personality and a fixation due to overindulgence
results in a gullible and optimistic character.
The next stage is the anal stage which occurs between 1.5 and 3 years old. A healthy resolution of
this stage results in ability to deal with authority and a balance between organisation and
disorganisation. On the other hand, if a child becomes fixated due to frustration they will be overly
orderly in nature whereas if they become fixated due to overindulgence they will appear to be
disorganised and messy.
The phallic stage occurs next and includes the Oedipus Complex explained through the case study of
Little Hans. The Oedipus Complex suggests boys have sexual desires towards their mother's and
hatred or jealousy towards their father. Boy's eventually learn to identify with their father and adopt
their moral code (the superego is developed here). However, Freud believed that a fixation on this
stage was the cause of homosexuality in adults.
The last psychosexual stage, the genital stage, results in a healthy and well-adjusted mature adult
with the ability to deal with the world around them.
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One assumption of the Psychodynamic Approach is that we use ego defence mechanisms such as
repression when we have troublesome experiences (often from childhood) to protect the ego from
the battles between the id and superego. Free association aims to uncover these repressed
memories and bring them to a conscious level in order to resolve conflicts and help fix disordered
The process of free association begins with the patient expressing their thoughts and feelings as
they occur whilst making sure not to censor them.…read more
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One weakness of the Psychodynamic Approach is that it is not falsifiable and a lot of the theories are
"slippery" in that they can not be proven. For example, Freud suggested that all men have repressed
homosexual tendencies- this can never be proven as it could be said to be true if a man denied this
(Freud would say it is so repressed) or if he agreed.…read more
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The Psychodynamic Approach assumes that an individual's history including childhood experiences
should be looked into in order to fully understand behaviour. The use of case studies such as Little
Hans in order to explain the oedipus complex supports this approach in an idiographic manner.
Case studies hold strengths in that they provide in-depth qualitative data rather than quantitative
data. For example, the case study of Little Hans is recorded in great detail.…read more