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Home » Blog » A Guide To Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

Psychoanalytic Theory can claim to be one of the most influential intellectual and practical projects of modern times. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis but aren’t exactly sure what is Psychoanalytic Theory. 

In this blog, we aim to give an overview of Psychoanalytic Theory and try to learn more about this approach to understanding our personalities and behaviours. So, let’s get started by learning about Freud, his (perhaps bizarre) beliefs about human behaviour and personality, and his contribution to the development and acceptance of this theory.

After passing through a narrow defile, I suddenly spring upon a piece of high ground, where the trail divides and the best prospects open up on each and every side, I pause for a moment and consider in which direction I shall first turn my steps. On one side laid the dark mysterious plague of misery and on the other side laid the beautiful land of crimson red flowers, adorned by beautiful unknown creatures who are singing a melody of long-lost life.

How many times have you had such kind of a dream? Not this exactly but some interpretation of this? This is quite usual, all of us in our daily lives are so wedged that we feel it’s just our stress talking to us. But this is indeed not the case. In fact, this is just the first interpretation of my dream, here is the situation with us though, to find ourselves in the open after an unexpected discovery.

Dreams are not to be compared to stress and definitely not to the chaotic sounds that originate from a musical instrument (like in those horror movies); they are not absurd or meaningless, and they do not suggest that some of our mental resources are dormant while others are just starting to awaken.

They are more than what they seem and what we mean. They are the innate desires and our thoughts that lay low in our unconscious and subconscious minds waiting for us to be discovered. The interesting fact is that these unconscious factors are the real hero behind our characters. This is what Sigmund Freud uncovered.  

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, during the same period, that other major social sciences (including psychology and sociology) were coming into being Freud unveiled the idea that people’s behaviour is significantly influenced by “unconscious” impulses that we are only partially aware of and have little control over. It is predicated on a general psychoanalytic understanding of how the unconscious functions that people believe talking about psychological issues might help them deal with them, that our dreams might reveal something about our “deep” desires and conflicts, or that verbal slipups might have significance. 

Now let’s see how.

What is Psychoanalytic Theory?

By now, you may have a slight idea about what Psychoanalytic Theory is but to put it into very simple words, the Psychoanalytic Theory is the personality theory, which is founded on the idea that an individual ends up getting motivated more by unknown forces that are controlled by the conscious and the rational thought. 

The goal of psychoanalysis is to bring consciousness to what is unconscious or subconscious. Talking to someone else like a coach or a therapist about important issues and delving into the nuances that lurk underneath the seemingly straightforward surface (that we mostly assume) will help you achieve this aim.

The psychoanalytic theory is closely associated with Sigmund Freud. He contends that the interaction of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego, three mental faculties, shapes human conduct. Freud closely studied the nature of the unconscious and concluded the following points.

According to Freud, the unconscious is one of three ways in which ideas can be expressed. Thoughts can be: 

  1. Conscious, which means they are in awareness. 
  2. Preconscious, which indicates that they are not conscious but are nevertheless available for thinking, should the person concerned need them (for instance words one knows, or a memory of something such as where one has parked one’s car).  
  3. Unconscious, which means they are repressed and inaccessible. These types of ideas are also contained in different systems, initially called by Freud the ‘systems Cs., Pcs. and Ucs.’

To understand this better, think of consciousness as an iceberg. In Freud’s view, consciousness is a little portion of the entire mind. The larger portion of the mind exists below the surface of awareness, much like the larger portion of an iceberg is below the water’s surface. 

The top of the iceberg, above the water, is the conscious part of our mind. Below, is the unconscious part (the id) which is much larger than the conscious part. It is hidden below the water and demands immediate gratification. 

All experiences, memories, and suppressed information are kept in the unconscious. Inaccessible needs and motivations, or those that are outside human awareness, are likewise beyond the scope of conscious control. The majority of psychological activity takes place outside of awareness. Making unconscious motives conscious is the goal of a psychoanalytic treatment since only then can a person exercise choice. Gaining a fundamental understanding of the psychoanalytic model of behaviour requires an understanding of the unconscious function.

Psychoanalytic Theory By Freud

SIGMUND FREUD (1856–1939) was the eldest child in a Viennese family of three boys and five girls. Like many other fathers in his time and region, he was a fairly authoritative man. Understanding how Freud’s ideas developed requires taking into account his familial history. Despite having little money and being confined to a small apartment, Freud’s parents made every effort to develop his obvious intellectual abilities. Despite having a wide range of interests, Freud’s career options were limited due to his Jewish ethnicity. He chose medicine in the end. 

Most of Freud’s life was spent developing and expanding his theory of psychoanalysis. It’s interesting to note that his greatest creative period came during a time when he was struggling with serious mental issues of his own. Freud distinguished himself as an intellectual powerhouse by founding psychoanalysis. The most complete theory of personality and psychotherapy ever created is a result of his innovations in new methods for comprehending human behaviour.

The psychoanalytic system by Freud is both a method of psychotherapy and a paradigm for personality development. By highlighting psychodynamic variables that influence behaviour, focusing on the unconscious, and establishing the first therapeutic techniques for comprehending and changing one’s fundamental character structure, he gave psychotherapy a new look and new frontiers.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

From a Freudian psychoanalytic viewpoint, the three systems that make up the personality are—Id, Ego, and Superego. These are the names of psychological structures and should not be viewed as manikins that operate the personality individually; rather, the personality operates as a unit rather than as three separate parts. 

The id is roughly comprised of any unrestrained urges or desires that can be compared to the biological component. The ego makes an effort to coordinate and act as a mediator between the id and the hazards that the impulses would actually offer. Establishing a superego, or the internalised social component, which is mostly based on what the person imagines to be the expectations of parental figures, is one approach to safeguard ourselves from the hazards of our own urges.

The dynamics of our personality comprise the ways in which psychic energy is distributed to the id, ego, and superego. One system seizes control of the available energy at the expense of the other two since the amount of energy is restricted. This psychic energy controls our behaviour. Now, let’s understand all the three structures (id, ego and superego) that make up our personality.

The id serves as both the seat of instincts and the main source of psychological energy. It is disorganised and obnoxious, demanding, and persistent. The id, a cauldron of seething excitement, cannot withstand tension and works to release it right away. 

The id is the basic portion of the mind that searches out innate or biological urges that can be satisfied right away. While instinctive needs are the unlearned or natural needs, such as sex, hunger, thirst, etc., biological needs are the fundamental physical requirements. Id is the unconscious portion of the mind; that typically acts without much consideration for what is right and wrong at the moment.

The next part is the Super-Ego which is connected to the moral and/or social ideals that a person develops as he matures. It is the judicial branch of personality. The major consideration is whether an activity is good or bad, right or wrong, and it includes a person’s moral code. It reflects the ideal as opposed to the actual and pursues perfection rather than enjoyment. It serves as an ethical restraint on action and aids in the formation of a person’s conscience. As a person develops in society, he learns the standards and cultural values that enable him to distinguish between good and wrong.

The ego interacts with reality’s outside world. The personality is governed, controlled, and regulated by the “executive.” It acts as a “traffic cop,” bridging the gap between instincts and the external environment. Basically, you can say that the ego stands in between the id and the superego always trying to gratify the id while listening to the superego and going back and forth in the process. The rational, conscious portion of the mind known as the ego is linked to the reality principle. In the context of actual life situations, it thereby strikes a compromise between the demands of the Id and super-ego. Because the ego is cognizant, it may control the id by properly analysing the surrounding environment.

This is how all the three- the id, ego and the superego function together to form the basis of our behaviour and our personality. If this was not so clear then the next section is especially for you, so that you understand all the three structures, how they function and how we act in response. 

Understanding Id, Ego and Super Ego With Examples of Psychoanalytic Theory

Let’s try to understand id, ego and superego with the example of a child playing with a doll. 

So, if your Id passed through a child playing with a doll at the park, the urgent urge to get that doll will end up driving you to snatch it by any means, this is irrational and it may lead to a dispute between the children. This is what id is. It needs immediate gratification and in due course, it forgets what comes in the way. Id is therefore the source of psychic energy and the driving force underlying all mental forces.

Next comes the super-ego. The superego works in such a way that it would not remove the doll from the child if it saw them playing with it since it would understand that doing so is wrong and could cause conflict. As a result, your superego acts as a check on your actions and directs you in the proper direction. You can say that superego works in a logical way and understands the consequences of the action and differentiates between right and wrong and thus takes actions accordingly. However, if your Id is greater than your super-ego, (guess what will happen) superego will lose the battle with id and you will use all methods necessary to take the doll even if it is wrong.

On the contrary part, your ego will resolve the disagreement between the Id and super-ego and opt to purchase a new doll for yourself if you pass by the same child playing with the doll. The point is that the ego always acts in the middle trying to gratify the id and listening to the superego talking at the same time (just like our dad, who always comes in the middle to resolve the dispute between me and my sister). Although it could offend your id, the ego would make this choice in order to satisfy id’s want for the doll without engaging in any unfavourable social conduct, thus achieving a balance between the id and super-ego. So, the ego will let you have the doll without causing any trouble to the kid.

Use of Psychoanalytic Theory In Coaching

Even though Psychoanalytic Theory is a part of therapy, it is used in coaching too and indeed is a very powerful aspect for the coaches. Through the use of psychodynamics, the past is carefully examined, traumas are uncovered, and problems that have long caused restricting or dysfunctional behaviour are addressed. 

Coaching as a disciple also aims to achieve the same things. In many instances, when the decisions of the clients are fogged by past traumas or some problems, coaches use the concept of Psychoanalytic Theory to help the coachees achieve the solution they want to achieve for themselves.

The principles of psychodynamics can be applied in a variety of ways, including helping the client comprehend some of their own complexities. The client could be advised to see a therapist for more thorough treatment if the symptoms are severe. Now coming to how does Psychoanalytic Theory is actually helpful in coaching? 

Here are a few points to support my point.

  • Psychoanalytic Theory helps examine defence mechanisms; why do clients respond in a certain way and what are they trying to defend themselves against?
  • Psychoanalytic Theory helps coaches to deeply comprehend their clients, including the feelings and thoughts that are “beyond the surface.”
  • Psychoanalytic Theory establishes trusting working connections with their clients so they can quickly involve them in the coaching process.
  • Psychoanalytic Theory encourages clients to make a meaningful, observable improvement in their behaviour and performance at work. Assist clients in remaining competent and productive under pressure.
  • Psychoanalytic Theory identifies transference relationships; why certain customers repeatedly use the same relationship structures; recognising behavioural patterns.
  • Psychoanalytic Theory examines unconscious driving forces; guiding clients’ decisions.
  • Psychoanalytic Theory examines the things the client consciously or unconsciously avoids.

Beyond plans and goals, psychoanalytic coaching focuses on intangibles that can have a significant impact on the person. Instead of attempting to fulfil goals (desires), coaching challenges the fundamental assumptions that underlie them. 

The leader who takes on this difficult job (and some do not) starts to recognise patterns in how they pursue “false” ego aspirations and the desires of others. They also get glimpses of “the real,” the aspect of themselves they are unable to describe but which drives them forward. They are able to find new paths and new energy as they (re)discover the true features of their desire and of themselves as they work through these problems.

Take an example of a client who is a terrible listener. With the help of a friendly coaching conversation, the coach explores how long this has been going on and how a lonely childhood appears to have been a big factor. The coach holds up a mirror to show them how others see them as being self-focused. They then lay out a plan of study, practice, and feedback that aids the client in developing both their deeper perceptions and listening skills.

Take another example of Psychoanalytic Theory, a board member who is exhibiting significant narcissistic characteristics is giving another executive member trouble. The coach assists the executive in comprehending and creating coping mechanisms for this person.

For people who experience traumatic events, every time a similar event happens people usually panic. Everything that had happened in the past starts replaying in their mind and fear starts crawling up. They think that this is because of the same accident that they had once experienced, and in each new situation, the fear of another accident crashes over her like a wave. 

A coach helps you in such situations to help you understand the past and the conditions that led you to such instances. Through the use of coaching elements like coaching conversation, creating a safe space and listening the coach can actually take you out of such events.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Psychoanalytic Theory?

The personality theory known as psychoanalytic theory is predicated on the notion that an individual ultimately becomes increasingly motivated by unexplained forces that are under the control of the conscious and logical intellect. Psychoanalysis aims to make unconscious or subconscious material conscious.

Describe the Psychoanalytic Theory By Freud.

Freud’s psychoanalytic framework serves as a paradigm for personality development as well as a psychotherapy technique. He provided psychotherapy a fresh face and opened up new horizons by emphasising psychodynamic factors that affect behaviour, concentrating on the unconscious, and developing the first therapeutic procedures for understanding and altering one’s basic character structure.

What are the components of the Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality?

Id, Ego, and Superego are the three systems that comprise the personality from a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective. These are the names of psychological structures and shouldn’t be thought of as puppets that control each unique personality; rather, the personality functions as a whole rather than as three distinct components.

Give some examples of Psychoanalytic Theory.

Take an example of Psychoanalytic Theory, a board member who is exhibiting significant narcissistic characteristics is giving another executive member trouble. The coach assists the executive in comprehending and creating coping mechanisms for this person.

What is the use of Psychoanalytic Theory In Coaching?

The same goals are pursued by coaching as a disciple. In many cases, coaches apply the idea of psychoanalytic theory to help the coachees arrive at the answer they want to arrive at for themselves when the decisions of the clients are clouded by past traumas or certain challenges.