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Psychodynamic approach

Believes our behaviour is influenced by emotions that are beyond our conscious awareness. Such emotions are buried in the unconcious mind as a result of events in early childhood, which may have been traumatic. 

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  1. Influence of childhood experiences.

  2. The unconscious mind.

  3. Tripartite personality.
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Influence of childhood experiences

Experiences during childhood shape our personality. Freud proposed it takes place in psychosexual stages and each stage represents the fixation of libido (sexual drives/instincts). Each stage is associated with a particular part of the body and problems at any stage of the development can result in the child getting fixated at the body part associated with the stage which will have a long-lasting effect on personality. Fixation at any of these stages can occur through:

  • Frustration- when the stage has not been resolved because needs haven’t been met. (i.e. if the child in unsatisfied).

  • Overindulgence- this is when the needs have the child have been more than satisfied. (The child may feel too comfortable/reluctant to move on to the next stage).
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STAGE: Oral (0-18 months) 

Origin of libido and source of pleasure: Mouth: sucking. chewing, swallowing and biting. 

Key events: Breastfeeding and weaning onto solid foods.

Outcome of fixation: Frustration- pessimism, envy, sarcasm. Overindulgence- optimism, gullibility, neediness.

STAGE: Anal (18 months to 3 years) 

Origin of libido and source of pleasure: Anus: withholding, expelling, playing with faeces.

Key events: Potty training.

Outcome of fixation: Frustration- stubborn, possessive, overly tidy. Overindulgence- messy, disorganised, reckless.

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The unconscious mind

Freud proposed the mind is like an iceberg-much of what goes on in the mind lies under the surface. This is the preconscious and the unconscious mind. Conscious mind- logical. Unconscious mind- not logical and ruled by seeking pleasure. Can’t be directly accessed, but expresses itself indirectly through (i.e. dreams). He believed it determines much of our behaviour/ motivated by unconscious emotional drives. Believed it contained unresolved conflicts that effect behaviour/experience (he argued many of which showed up in our fantasies/dreams but the conflicts are so threatening they appear in disguised forms, in shapes of symbols).


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The unconscious mind

It related to ego defence mechanisms.To reduce unpleasant feelings,ego might use defence mechanisms which can be the cause of disturbed behaviour if overused i.e. a boy who can’t deal with what he perceives as maternal rejection when a new baby brother is born may regress to an earlier development stage, soiling his clothes and becoming more helpless. Other examples are displacement (transfer of impulses from one person or object to another), projection (undesirable thoughts are attributed to someone else) and repression (pushing painful memories deep down into our unconscious mind, so they are effectively forgotten).  

Freud believed that conflicts between these two structures resulted in conflicts associated with psychosexual stages. Conflict between the id,ego and superego create anxiety.

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Tripartite personality

Freud believed adult personality's structured in three parts that develop at different stages in our lives.

Id-Impulsive (passionate/unrepressed) side of our personality. Present at birth.Demands immediate satisfaction-pleasure principle.Main aim: gain pleasure at any cost.

Ego-Conscious, rational part of mind.Develops at age two.Balances demands of Id in socially acceptable way.Governed by reality principle (meet demands of external world)

Superego-Develops at four.Embodies child’s sense of right and wrong as well as ideal self. Seeks to perfect and civilise our behaviour. Learnt through identification with one’s parents and others.

The Id and superego are in conflict thus the ego has to work as a referee and resolve the conflict, considering consequences of a person’s actions. It’s described as a structural model and it’s important to remember that the three parts are symbolic processes.

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STAGE: Phallic (3-5 years)

Origin of libido and source of pleasure: Genitals, masturbation.

Key events: The Oedipus complex (an unconscious sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex and wish to exclude the parent of the same sex- boys. Electra complex-girls)leads to superego and gender identity.

Outcome of fixation Self-assured,vain,may have problems with sexuality and difficulty building and maintaining relationships in adulthood.

STAGE: Latency (5 years-puberty)

Origin of libido and source of pleasure: Little/no sexual motivation

Key events: Acquiring knowledge and understanding of the world)

Outcome of fixation: No fixations as no pleasure focus.

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STAGE: Genital (puberty onwards)

Origin of libido and source of pleasure: Genitals: Heterosexual intercourse

Outcome of fixation: Well- developed adult personality, well adjusted (if complexes during phallic stage are revolved)

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