The Psychodynamic Approach


Two assumptions (4 marks)

1. Behaviour is influenced by the three parts of the mind (tripartite personality):

Freud believed that the adult personality is structured into three parts that develop at different stages in our lives:

  • The ID: (0-1 year) this is the impulsive, greedy part of our presonality (unconscious) and is present at birth. It demands immediate satisfaction = pleasure principle. If the ego is dominant, the child will become selfiash as the new born infant is only driven by the ID.
  • EGO- (1-3 years) this is the conscious, rational part of the mind. It's function is to develop rational, realistic ways of balancding the demands of the ID in a socially acceptable way. It is governed by the reality principle. It struggles to balance the ID and the superego from disturbing thoughts by using defence mechanisms.
  • SUPERGO- (age 4) It embodies the child's sense of right and wrong as well as his or hers ideal self and is driven by the anxiety principle. It begins to develop when the child begins to internalise parents values and beliefs. If the superego is dominant, you are obsessive and known as the obsessional type.
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Two assumptions: A2 (4 marks)

2. Behaviour is influenced by different levels of consciousness and ego defences:

Freud proposed that much of what goes on in the mind lies under the surface. This is much like an iceberg and that the majority of what goes on in the mind is preconscious or unconscious.

  • Conscious mind = logical.
  • Unconscious mind = pleasure.

The ego protects itself with 'ego defence mechanisms' (but the defences can be the cause of distrubed behaviour if overruled)-

  • Displacement- transfer of undesirable impulses from one person or obkect to another.
  • Projection- undesirable thoughts are attributed to someone else.
  • Repression- pushing painful/uncomfortable memroies deep down into the unconscious mind so that they are effectively forgotten e.g. case study of Irene who watched her mother die over a 60day period, after her mother had died, she lost all recollection of the event. Freud believed that this was because the event was too traumatic for Irene to comprehend so she pushed it into her unconscious.
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Freud's theory of personality development (8 marks

Q. 2) Personality consists of the id, ego and superego that work together to create complex behaviours and conflicts with each other. Someone with a good ego strength can manage pressure effectively and isn’t too self-centred or too unyielding. A healthy person should have a balance between the three elements.

Psychosexual stages: This is the stages in development described by Freud and at each stage the libido is attached to an organ in the body.

  • Stage 1: Oral Stage (0-1.5 years)- pleasure is gained through suckling and eating and the libido is focused on the mouth such as breastfeeding as the baby takes comfort and information through the mouth. At this point, the only personality trait is the ID.
  • Influences of the psychosexual stages on personality- A healthy resolution of this stage means the ability to form relationships and accept affection.
  • Frustration or harsh treatment = leads to an aggressive character who is dominant and suspicious.
  • Overindulgence = Oral receptive character that is optimistic, gullible and too trusting.
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Freud's theory of personality development (No.2)

  • Stage 2: Anal Stage (1.5-3 years)- Pleasure is gained through expelling and/or withholding faeces and the libido is focused on the anus. This is when toilet training takes place and the ego has begun to form leading conflictions between the id and ego.
  • Influences of the psychosexual stages on personality-
  • Healthy resolution of this stage = ability to deal with authority and to have a balance between being orderly and disorganised.
  • Frustration = anal retentive character who is neat and precise.
  • Overindulgence = anal expulsive character who is generous, messy and careless.
  • Stage 3: Phallic Stage (3-6 years)- Focus is on the genitals and initially on the parent of the opposite sex. Resolution occurs when coming to identify with the same-sex parent. At this point the boy goes through the Oedipus complex and the girl goes through the Electra complex.
  • Influences of the psychosexyal stages on personality- Healthy resolution of this stage = development of a conscience and a mature moral development.
  • Frustration/overindulgence = phallic character is reckless, self-assured and harsh with some sexual identify problems. Freud suggested this fixation might lead to homosexuality.
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Theory of personality development (Conflicts)

  • Oedipus Complex- This is when the young boy (for example Little Hans) focuses his sexual energy on his mother and sees his father as a threat. The boy is jealous of his father, as his father has sexual possession over his mother. The boy is scared that his father will castrate him (castration anxiety) leading the boy to realise that the only way he can possess his mother is to become his father. This complex is resolved by the boy internalising with his father. Such identification leads to the development of the superego and is the basis of moral behaviours. 
  • Electra Complex: This is when a young girl realises she doesn't have a penis so begins to develop penis envy, she begins to develop sexual feelings towards her father as she realises he has a penis. Then she begins to see her mother as a rivial so blames her. The desire for a penis is then replaced with the desire for a baby.
  • Little Hans: He was obsessed with playing with his 'widdler', so his mother used to tell him off. Freud believed that  Hans really was a little Oedipus who wanted to have his father 'out of the way' to get rid of him so that he might be alone with his beautiful mother and sleep with her. One day Little Hans saw a horse fall down, this terrified Little Hans and created a phobia, Freud believed Little Hans was scared of the horse because of his large penis (penis envy) he then later demonstrated how the facial features on the horse represented facial features of his father whom he had good internal reasons for fearing, because of his Oedipus confict he saw his father as a rival for his mother's affection and wanted him out of the way.
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Theory of personality development (No.4

  • (OPTIONAL)- Stage 4- Latency Stage (7 years- Puberty) - At this stage, not much sexual development takes place. Here children play with the same sex friends and do the same sex things. (General development of external factors)
  • Stage 5- Genital Stage (Puberty) – At this stage, the libido is again focused on the genitals but also the development of independence. Gratification is received from the opposite sex rather than their parents.

 Ego defences may affect personality and some could lead to mental disorders:

 Normal defences:

  • ·        Use of humour
  • ·        Sublimation (negative emotions transformed to positive ones)
  • ·        Suppression (pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the preconscious).

Defences to cause mental disorders:

  • ·        Denial (refusing to accept reality).
  • ·        Distortion (reshaping external reality to meet internal needs).
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Therapy: Dream analysis: (12 marks)

  • Dream analysis: The process of assigning meanings to dreams.
  • A psychodyanmic therapy aims to treat mental disorders.
  • Psychodynamic therapies aim to bring unconscious conflicts into the conscious mind where they can be confronted and dealt with.
  • Dream analysis involves a therapist listening to a client's dream and then using the manifest context (the context you actually experience) to help maintain the latent context (which is what is actually going on). The latent context is transformed to the manifest context through the process of dreamwork.
  • Freud described dreams as "the royal road to knowledge of the activities of the unconscious mind".
  • Link to assumption 2: Behaviour is influenced by different levels on consciousness and this is that our unconscious mind contains thoughts and feelings that we are unaware of and cannot access. This therapy helps to access these thoughts through dreaming as this is when the ID (unconscious part of the mind) has the most freedom. This can help to deal with the client's problems by accessing repressed memroies or feelings.
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Therapy: Dream Analysis (No.2):

Four dreamwork components-

  • 1. Condensation: Condensing the vast amount of detail and context into one image which stands for several associations and ideas.
  • 2. Displacement: Emotional significance of a dream object which is separated from its real content and attached to a completely different one so that the dream content is not censored.
  • 3. Symbolisation: using a symbol to replace an action, person or idea.
  • 4. Secondary elaboration: unconscious mind collects all the different images and pieces them together to form a logical story.

Findings (Research evidence to support the therapy):

Solms (2000) - used PET scans to highlight the regions of the brain that are active during dreaming, showed that the rational part of the brain is inactive during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, whereas the forebrain centres concerned with memory and motivation are active.

Hopfield- looked at neural networks (computer stimulations that aim to mimic actions of the brain). The computer stimulations show that neural networks deal with an overloaded memory by condensing 'memories'. This supports Freud's idea of condensation where unacceptable desires are censored and dealt with by recombining fragments until they emerge in a new form.

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Two Strengths of the psychodynamic approach:

  • Nature and Nurture (Interactionist): It takes into account both sides of the nature/nurture debate. According to Freud, we are born with an id- these urges are innate and are therefore a product of nature. Also Freud believed that a person's early childhood experiences played a significant role in the development of personality and affects our later mental health. This is a strength because it acknowledges the role of nurture so this is an interactionist approach.  
  • Usefullness/Applications: It can be applied to real life situations and has helped develop therapies to treat people outside of the theories. For example, psychoanalysis has been used to treat mental disorders and has proven to be highly successful. Bergin found that 80% of people benefitted from psychoanalysis whereas only 65% benefitted from electric therapies. This is a strength because it is helpful in understanding mental health problems and how they caused.
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Two Weaknesses of the Psychodynamic approach:

  • Not scientific: It is difficult to falsify as Freud's opinions in his case studies such as Wolfman and Ratman cannot be proved as there is no evidence to support his ideas. For example, it is difficult to test if Freud is correct about the ID, ego and superego as the unconscious mind is inaccessible so cannot be proven. This is a weakness as other scientists may not agree with the conclusions of Freud as his predictions are notoriously 'slippery'.
  • Reductionist: It can be seen as being reductionist and being a type of 'mechanistic reductionism'. For example, it simplifies the complex human behaviour to the mechanics of the mind and childhood experiences like psychosexual stages. It ignores other influences on behaviour such as biochemistry and genetics which could possibly have a greater influence and can be used to explain other disorders e.g. autism. This is a weakness because it ignores other influences on behaviour and can be an oversimplification of some underlying processes like autism.
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The methodology:

  • Case Studies:

One assumption of the psychodyanmic approach is that the behaviour is influened by three parts of the mind. To support this claim Freud used case studies as it gives an insight into the mind. To support this claim Freud used case studies as it gives an insight into the mind. Case studies use an ideographic approach (emphasises that we are all unique) that involves studying an individual or small group in detail for a long period of time. The psychodynamic approach uses case studies as a method as it identifies abnormal behaviour.

Example: One case study carried out in the psychodyanmic approach was studied by Freud who observed Little Hans to enable him to develop his ideas about the Oedipus Complex. (SEE PREVIOUS CARD DETAILING INFO ON OEDIPUS/LITTLE HANS STUDY).

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:)- Provides indepth information and shows a true insight into the behaviour studied as case studies spend a long time focusing on one individual whereas a lab experiment tests a collection of people e.g. Little Hans.

:)- Good ecological validity as it studies the individual in their real life, natural environment meaning there is limited chance of demand characteristics.

:)- Descriptive and qualitative data can be obtained which provides reasons as to why the person is behaving in the certain way e.g. Freud obtained reasons as to what Little Hans had dreamt as oppose to just how many times he'd dreamed.

:(- Can't be generalised to the whole population as it has only been focused on one individual e.g. Freud only carried out a few case studies, each in different situations and only two of these studies were focused on men.

:(- The information collected it qualitative data meaning it is interpreted differently by different people and therefore could be subjective. It may be based purely on beliefs and opinions.

:(- Unreliable as it relies on the individual recalling past events and situations which they may have forgotten or changed.

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The Methodology:

  • Clinical Interview:

This therapy which involves encouraging clients to talk about their past emotions/events and the patient can talk freely about what they like. Example: Freud used the clinical interview technique to help him diagnose patients during dream analysis.

:)- Allows a good, close relationship between the interviewer and patient meaning that the client s likely to feel more at ease and open up to the interviewer and emotions.

:)- Flexible as the interview can easily be changed in a different direction to cover specific topics and the interviewee/client can asking they like.

:)- Interview can record verbal and non-verbal behaviour such as body language and tone of voice which may lead to more detailed findings e.g. in dream analysis this may lead to Freud making a more exact diagnosis which best suits the client.

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:(- Open to interview bias as it is possible for the interviewer to interpret results in a specific way which may be different to how another interviewer would.

:(- Can't be generalised as clinical interviews produce qualitative data which is difficult to summarise and can be difficult to summarise and can be difficult to detect trends in the information.

:(- May lead to social desirability as it is possible that the client responds in the way that they think the interviewer may desire or want to hear due to the characteristics of the interviewer such as race, gender or age.

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