The Psychodynamic Approach

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 03-05-15 19:32


  • Behaviour Is Influenced By The Tripartite Model of Personality:
    • Id: The impulsive, unconscious part of our brain which is present from birth. It works on the pleasure principle; it demands immediate satisfaction and aims to gain pleasure.
    • Ego: Is the conscious, rational part of our brain which is present from about 2 years of age. It works on the reality principle; it aims to balance the demands of the id rationally.
    • Superego: Is our 'ideal self', our moral centre, and develops around 4 years of age. It seeks perfect and civilised behaviour, and is learned through identifying with our parents.
  • Behaviour Is Influenced By Early Childhood Experiences:
    • The ego isn't developed enough to deal with traumas, so we repress them.
    • Later in life, other losses may bring up an earlier loss that we have repressed. For example, depression is caused by unexpresed anger over a previous loss.
    • Fixation on these traumas may have a lasting effect on our personality.
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Theory Of Personality Development


  • Oral Stage: Pleasure is gained by eating and suckling, e.g. babies breastfeeding.
  • Anal Stage: 1.5 - 3 years of age. Pleasure is gained from expelling and/or with-holding faeces.
  • Phallic Stage: 3 - 6 years of age. The focus is on the genitals and the opposite sex parent. Freud described the resolution of this stage as the Oedipus Complex:
    • Boys feel sexual attraction towards his mother, and sees his father as a love rival.
    • He wishes to kill his father, but feels guilty because of that.
    • He feels that his father will castrate him if he discovered the boy's true feeling; castration anxiety.
    • The boy overcomes this by internalising and identifying with his father, leading to the development of the superego.
    • Girls go through the Electra Complex; they blame their mother for their lack of penis (penis envy) and their father becomes they love object.
    • They resolve this by internalising and identifying with their mother.
  • Latency Stage: 7 - puberty. Nothing happens.
  • Genital Stage: Puberty and adolescence. The main focus is on the genitals and gaining independence.
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Theory Of Personality Development

  • Oral Stage:
    • Healthy Development: Leads to the ability to form relationships and accept affection from your partner.
    • Frustration: Orally Aggressive - envious, suspicious, aggressive personality.
    • Overindulgence: Orally Receptive - optimistic, gullible, trusting personality.
  • Anal Stage:
    • Healthy Development: Balance between organised and disorganised, and able to deal with authority.
    • Frustration: Anally Retentive - Neat, stingy, precise.
    • Overindulgence: Anally Expulsive - Generous, messy, careless.
  • Phallic Stage:
    • Health Development: Healthy superego, the development of conscience and mature morals.
    • F&O: Phallic Character - reckless, harsh, with a punitive superego.
    • Fixation can lead to homosexuality.
  • Genital Stage:
    • Genital Character - well adjusted, mature, hardworking.
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Dream Analysis

  • Dreams are the unconscious fulfilment of wishes.
  • Latent Content: The real meaning of a dream.
  • Manifest Content: The content that you experience.
  • Dreamwork: Turning latent content into manifest content.
    • Condensation: Turns rich detail into brief images.
    • Displacement: Emotional significance is separated from its real object and attached to a different one.
    • Representation: Turns thoughts into visual images.
    • Symbolism: A symbol replaces an action, person, or idea.
    • Secondary Elaloration: The unconscious mind collects all the images and ties them together to form a logical story.
  • Dream Analysis: Reversing the processes that created the manifest content, and suggesting various interpretations based on the patient.
  • Solms (2000) used PET scans to highlight the active brain regions whilst sleeping. The results were that the rational part is inactive during sleep, whereas the forebrain (memory and motivation) is active.
  • Hopfield et al (1983) used computer stimulations to mimic brain actions. They found that the neural networks condense memories, which supports Freud.
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Evaluating The Psychodynamic Approach


  • Interactionist:
    • Considers both nature and nurture.
    • It believes that adult personality is the product of innate drives and childhood experiences.
    • Innate drives include the id, ego, superego, and the psychosexual stages.
    • Overindulgence may lead to fixation in a certain stage, so we can predict adult characteristics.
  • Useful:
    • It highlights the fact that childhood is a critical period in development.
    • Freud's ideas have influenced therapies used to treat mental disorders (e.g. psychoanalysis)
    • Which helps us to understand mental health problems.
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Evaluating The Psychodynamic Approach


  • Reductionist:
    • Mechanistic Reductionism: It simplifies complex human behaviour to the mechanics of the mind and early childhood experiences.
    • It ignores other influences, such as genetics.
  • Deterministic:
    • Freud saw infant behaviour as being determined by innate forces (libido) and adult behaviour as being determined by childhood experiences.
    • It suggests that we have no free will in who we become or how we behave.
    • It also implies that we can't be held responsible for our actions.
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    • Can obtain a true insight into behaviour, unlike lab experiments.
    • Qualitative data is obtained, so we can draw more valid conclusions about behaviour.
    • Idiographic research addresses the wholeness and uniqueness of an individual and aims to give an in depth picture.
    • Case studies are specific to one person, so the results can't be generalised.
    • Subjective, as separate researchers could interpret the information differently due to the data being qualitative.
    • The individuals studied by Freud aren't representative, because they largely consisted of neurotic, middle class, Viennese women. This raises issues of gender, culture, and historical bias.
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