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Freud's theory of personality development

Discuss about the Theories of Masters in Counselling Psychology.

According to Freud, personality development takes place through a series of stages that is characterized by some psychological conflict inherited internally. Freud argues that behaviour of human is the combined result of various interactions of three mind components: ego, id and superego (De Sousa, 2011). Each of these components adds to the unique personality of an individual; however these three elements interact in ways having powerful influence on an individual. The “structural theory” explains the importance of conflicts that takes place between the parts of mind that shapes personality and behaviour (Lapsley & Stey, 2011). According to him, personality development takes pace during childhood where it is critically shaped via series of psychosocial stages called “psychosexual theory of development”. At every stage of child development, he or she is presented with certain conflict between the biological drivers and social expectations and the successful navigation of the internal conflicts will result in mastery and achievement in each developmental stage leading to a full mature personality. He believed that events that take place during childhood have great influence on adulthood that shapes our personality (Ahmed, 2012). 

The theory puts importance on the role of psychological conflicts that are unconscious in nature and plays an important role in shaping behaviour and personality. This theory provides conceptualization of structuring of personality and how the three elements function in shaping human personality. Therefore, in Freud’s view, good personality results from balance in dynamic interaction of these three elements, however, his theory has been criticized as it focuses on single factor, sexuality being the main driver for personality development in humans (Anand & Singh, 2017).

The Personality theory involves typology of introversion and extroversion. He developed the analytical psychology differentiating personal unconscious from the term collective unconscious reflecting unconscious thoughts among the humans (Adamski, 2011). Earlier, Jung’s general psychology type was general attitude that is predisposition of behaviour. Introversion and extroversion are two different opposing attitudes yet complementary forces in nature. Introverts are aware of their inner conflicts while perceive external world and not pondered as inward flow of psychic energy. Introverts are more concerned with appraisal, dreams and fantasies that is subjective in nature. Extroverts are pondered by outward flow of psychic energy gaining influence from surrounding rather than internal cognitive processes (Chaim, 2017).

According to Jung, there were four function tests that combine with one another in forming eight different types of personality. The first function is feeling where an individual understands the importance of consciousness. Thinking is the second function allowing an individual in understanding meanings of various things relying on mental activity and logic. The terms intuition, sensation may be identical, however have important distinctions in personality functioning (Murie, 2010). Sensation is the mean by which an individual learns about something that exists and learning about something without conscious where he or she is not aware from where the knowledge comes is called intuition. An individual is defined by combination of these different functions that exists in hierarchy where one has superior effect and another secondary effect. In Jung’s view, an individual make appropriate use of these two functions while rest two have minor effects (Roesler, 2013).

Jung's theory of personality development

Carl Jung, a Neo-Freudian theorist whose assumptions in analytical psychology greatly reflect the major differences with Freud’s theory. While Jung theory agreed with Freud theory that an individual’s childhood experiences and past determine future behaviour, he also stated that one’s personality is shaped by aspirations in the future. Jung stated that although childhood experiences matter, however, he also stated that Freud’s ideas did not focus on the importance of cultural and sociological influences along with biological influences (Ewen & Ewen, 2014).  

Freudian psychology lacks supporting evidence and good at explaining, however, it cannot predict behaviour. As a result, this theory is considered unfalsifiable that can neither be refuted or proved true. The unconscious mind is difficult for measuring and testing objectively making the theory unscientific (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). He believed that unconscious mind is the epicentre of repressed traumatic memories, thoughts and fundamental elements that drives aggression and sex. He stated that unconscious mind is the storage for sexual hidden desires that result in neuroses and may progress to mental illness. The case studies of Freud are mostly from Vienna and therefore, these results cannot be generalized to the wider population making it unimportant assuming that it is only qualitative between individuals. His research is bias based on interpretations where he paid attention to data that supported his theory and ignored explanation that did not support him (Kline, 2013).

On a contrary, Jung’s idea of collective unconscious is a form of personal unconscious as given by Freud that holds memory traces or mental patterns that are common to all. He divided human psyche into three parts where unconscious is divided into personal unconscious, ego and collective unconscious (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Ego is conscious, memories explain personal unconscious (both suppressed and recalled) and collective unconscious comprises of one’s experiences as knowledge that one inherits. The term “ancestral memories” as defined by Jung are called archetypes comprising of universal themes expressed in various cultures, art and literature as well in dreams (Beebe, 2012). He proposed that concept “persona” is a kind of mask that is based on both our collective unconscious and conscious experiences. He believed that persona is compromise between our true self and societal expectations where one hide those parts of oneself that does not align with expectations of the society behind the mask (Eidenberg, 2014). Various areas of disagreement between Freud and Jung exist that are discussed in the subsequent section.

Differences between Freud and Jung

Jung assumed that purpose and nature of libido is a generalized source of psychic energy motivating a range of human behaviours while Freud assumed that libido is source of psychic energy specific to gratification of sexual activity. The nature of conscious as defined by Jung is storehouse of repressed memory that is specific to an individual and one’s ancestral past while Freud assumed that unconscious is storehouse of unacceptable repressed memory that are specific to a person (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). According to Jung, the cause of behaviour is the accumulation of past experiences that is added to future aspiration while Freud stated that past experiences during childhood greatly shapes the human behaviour. Jung greatly disagrees with Freud in regards to role of sexuality where he stated that libido is not just sexual energy, but psychic energy in general. Whereas, Jung assumed that psychic energy was to motivate a person in many important ways that includes intellectual, spiritual and creative energies. This is also a person’s motivational source to seek pleasure and reduce conflict.

Freud also believed that interpretation of dreams forms the basis for understanding an individual as he argued that dreams are our deepest and innermost desires that are not achieved or acted upon. These are considerations of one’s reality or ego, mortality or superego. During sleep, the retraining forces become weak and one may experience those wishes through dreams. On a contrary, Jung did not agree that contents of dreams are sexual in nature and disguised the literal meaning of it. He depicted that dreams are interpreted through symbolic energy having different meanings as per dreamer’s associations. Another area of disagreement is sex and sexuality where Freud and Jung greatly differs viewing human motivation. Freud believed that expressed and repressed sexuality is the biggest motivating forces that drive human behaviour and personality (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). While Jung assumed that Freud’s attention is focused on sex having an impact on one’s behaviour. He stated that life force or psychic energy greatly influences and motivates human behaviour where sexuality could be one of the potential manifestations disagreeing with oedipal impulses. 

While comparing Freud and Jung, there are some areas of agreement and disagreement regarding personality development and considering the cultural time era where they lived and worked. In conclusion, modern psychotherapy uses these theories and is a part of many psychotherapeutics approaches that are in use.

Adler, Horney, Jung and Erikson are neo-analytic theorists who agreed with childhood experiences as stated by Freud, however, argued that biological, cultural and sociological influences also drives human personality. Neo-Freudians put less emphasis on sex and sexuality rather takes strict biological approach to personality development whereas Freud focused on individual evolutionary drivers making it the major motivating reason to change Freud’s theory (Petersen & Hyde, 2010). The neo-analysts focused holistically on the interaction between culture and social environment that greatly shapes personality development.

Comparison of dream interpretation

Neo-Freudians disagreed with Freud and stated different reasons and issues that motivated them to incorrect Freud stating that personality is not entirely shaped by childhood experiences. Freud greatly emphasized on sex and sexual urges as the prime motivator in shaping human personality and behaviour. This in result portrays a negative nature of human personality stating that personality and behaviour is entirely a reflection of early childhood experiences (Weiner, Tennen & Suls, 2012). He also lacked to put emphasis on the social and cultural influences on human behaviour and personality. Neo-Freudians may be influenced by Freud; however, they developed their own perspectives and theories on behaviour, human development and personality.

Jung also split off from Freud and focused on analytical psychology that works on balance between opposing forces of unconscious and conscious thought and their experiences in shaping an individual’s personality. He considered it as a continual learning process that occurs in second life phase where individuals become aware of unconscious factors and integrate them into one’s consciousness. Two major areas of disagreement that motivated Jung to disagree with Freud are: acceptance of fact that sex and sexual activity is the primary motivator in an individual’s mental life and concept of collective unconscious added to personal unconscious as viewed by Freud (Jung, 2014). His theory can be linked to learning in a way where introverted and extroverted types of attitude forms the foundation for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that measures an individual’s degree of four aspects: extroversion versus introversion, feeling versus thinking, sensation versus intuition, and perceiving versus judging (Furnham, 2017).  

Alfred Adler was the first theorist who explored and developed comprehensive social theory of psychodynamic personality. He proposed the concept of “inferiority complex” that describes the feelings of an individual that one lack worth and does not meet up to the standards of the society. Adler believed that social connections are important where childhood development emerges as a result of it rather than sexual stages as stated by Freud. He identified three social tasks that an individual must experience in his or her life: careers (occupational tasks), friendship (societal tasks) and long-term relationship (love tasks). He focused on conscious rather unconscious motivation and social motives where he believed that these three social tasks are acknowledged and pursued (Sutton-Smith, 2014). This implies that he believed in unconscious processes, however gave more importance to conscious processes. His biggest contribution to personality psychology that deviated from Freud is the idea that one’s birth order greatly shapes personality proposing that older siblings who are attended by parents compensate to become overachievers. On a contrary, youngest child may be spoiled and middle children with minimized opportunities and dynamics of oldest and youngest children (Eckstein & Kaufman, 2012). Therefore, his contribution can be linked to learning stating that birth order shapes personality and not only childhood events.

Role of sexuality in personality development

Erikson also proposed psychosocial theory of development proposing that personality of an individual is developed throughout lifespan that are based on social relationships which is a major deviation from Freud’s sex-oriented view. He suggested that personality of an individual is developed throughout life at every stage and not fixed in early childhood life as outlined by Freud’s theory. Erik emphasized on social relationships at every personality development stage representing developmental task or conflict. Considering this fact, he identified eight stages called Psychosocial Stages of Development that represent conflicts or developmental tasks. The development of competence and personality depend on accomplishment of task (McLeod, 2013).

Karen Horney was the first woman, Freudian psychoanalyst who focused on “unconscious anxiety” that arose from experiences of unmet needs during early childhood, isolation or loneliness. She was also famous for her concept of “feminism” development within psychodynamics psychology. Freud was criticized for focusing on men and what they have perceived as condescension towards feminism. Like Jung, she also believed that every person has the capability for self-realization where psychoanalysis moves towards healthy self instead of exploration of early childhood dysfunction patterns (Horney, 2013). Horney disagreed with him where he suggested that females are jealous of men’s biological features and on a contrary; she stated that men envy women as they do not possess the ability to give birth. Concisely, any sort of jealousy in both genders and greater privileges is the cumulative differences of dynamics of culture instead of biology shaping personalities of both men and women (Ryckman, 2012).

Horney theory emphasized on unconscious anxiety role where natural growth can be hindered by anxiety that stems from unmet needs of childhood experiences where they learn to handle such anxious situations through coping mechanism. Moving towards people where children receive affection and attention that relieves anxiety like from parents and caregivers. Moving against people relying on aggression where children fight and deal with their feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The last coping style is moving away from people that describe detachment withdrawing one from the world to handle anxiety. Therefore, these coping styles are used by individuals to deal with daily life problems becoming neurotic strategies to make them alienated from others (Horney, 2013).

Therefore, it is evident that Neo-Freudians, who followed Freud agreeing to childhood experiences. However they put less focus on sex and sexuality and more on social environment, culture shaping human behaviour and personality. In addition, neo-Freudians theory  is actually better and fit in population making it effective in explaining personality as it takes culture and social influences into consideration and not only childhood experiences.


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