Freudian Theory


Theory of Personality

Freud suggested that there are 3 aspects to the personality:

  • The id: is the first part of the personality to develop. The id is demanding, biological (due to being instinctive), and acts on the pleasure principle. It is the primitive part of the personality, often described as the biological component of the mind.
  • The ego: is the second part of the personality to develop. The ego is rational, psychological and seeks to maintain a balance between the demands of the id and the control of the superego. It will try to obtain what the id wants under the reality principle. 
  • The superego: is the final part to develop. The superego is moral and social, bringing the controls of parents/society, which the ego has to take into account. It derives from the morality principle, made up of the conscience and the ego ideal.

For the adult, the personality should be balanced, with the ego successfully managing the needs of both the id and the superego. It is when this balance is lost, such as when the id or the superego is more in control, that neuroses occur and the individual have problems.

Role of the Unconscious

Freud suggested we have:

  • The conscious mind: the part of the mind that we know about and can access easily - holds thoughts, ideas, emotions and other aspects of thinking, of which the individual is aware.
  • The preconscious mind: the part of the mind that is accessible - though not at the moment. It holds thoughts, ideas, and emotions which are readily available to be accessible, but are not actually conscious at the time.
  • The unconscious mind: the area of the mind that we can't access, but guides us strongly. Allegedly, it is where all thoughts originate from, with some being conscious and some being allowed into the preconscious

As well as being filled with instincts and energy and being what could be called the biological aspect of the mind, the unconscious holds material from a person's everyday experiences. Some thoughts and wishes are kept in the unconscious and not made conscious. The means by which people avoid allowing (though not consciously) threatening wishes and thoughts to become conscious is by means of defence mechanisms.

Defence Mechanisms

Often called 'ego defence mechanisms', these are ways of protecting the ego when:

- there is conflict

- when the id itself makes conflicting demands

- when the ego is under threat from some outside force

If a person overuses defence mechanisms they can lose touch with reality.


  • Repression = where a person cannot remember something and cannot access particular memories, because they are in the unconscious. This is not done consciously. It involves keeping thoughts in the unconscious and not allowing them into the conscious, so they are not remembered - motiviated forgetting. E.g. childhood sexual abuse.
  • Denial = when something traumatic occurs, but the individual 'denies' it; protecting them from unhappy or unacceptable thoughts. The individuals acts as though nothing has happened…


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