Psychodynamic Theories

Psychodynamic Theories C h a p t e r 2 Freud

Psychoanalysis 16

C h a p t e r 3 Adler Individual Psychology 64

C h a p t e r 4 Jung Analytical Psychology 97

C h a p t e r 5 Klein Object Relations Theory 135

C h a p t e r 6 Horney Psychoanalytic Social Theory 162

C h a p t e r 7 Fromm Humanistic Psychoanalysis 186

C h a p t e r 8 Sullivan Interpersonal Theory 212

C h a p t e r 9 Erikson Post-Freudian Theory 242





Freud: Psychoanalysis

B Overview of Psychoanalytic Theory B Biography of Sigmund Freud B Levels of Mental Life




B Provinces of the Mind The Id

The Ego

The Superego

B Dynamics of Personality Drives




B Defense Mechanisms Repression

Reaction Formation







B Stages of Development Infantile Period

Oral Phase

Anal Phase

Phallic Phase

Male Oedipus Complex

Female Oedipus Complex

Latency Period


Genital Period


B Applications of Psychoanalytic Theory Freud’s Early Therapeutic Technique

Freud’s Later Therapeutic Technique

Dream Analysis

Freudian Slips

B Related Research Unconscious Mental Processing

Pleasure and the Id: Inhibition and the Ego

Repression, Inhibition, and Defense Mechanisms

Research on Dreams

B Critique of Freud Did Freud Understand Women?

Was Freud a Scientist?

B Concept of Humanity B Key Terms and Concepts

C H A P T E R 2




From ancient history to the present time, people have searched for some magicpanacea or potion to lessen pain or to enhance performance. One such search was conducted by a young, ambitious physician who came to believe that he had dis- covered a drug that had all sorts of wonderful properties. Hearing that the drug had been used successfully to energize soldiers suffering from near exhaustion, this physician decided to try it on patients, colleagues, and friends. If the drug worked as well as he expected, he might gain the fame to which he aspired.

After learning of the drug’s successful use in heart disease, nervous exhaus- tion, addiction to alcohol and morphine, and several other psychological and physi- ological problems, the doctor decided to try the drug on himself. He was quite pleased with the results. To him, the drug had a pleasant aroma and an unusual ef- fect on the lips and mouth. More importantly, however, was the drug’s therapeutic ef- fect on his serious depression. In a letter to his fiancée whom he had not seen in a year, he reported that during his last severe depression, he had taken small quantities of the drug with marvelous results. He wrote that the next time he saw her he would be like a wild man, feeling the effects of the drug. He also told his fiancée that he would give her small amounts of the drug, ostensibly to make her strong and to help her gain weight.

The young doctor wrote a pamphlet extolling the benefits of the drug, but he had not yet completed the necessary experiments on the drug’s value as an analgesic. Impatient to be near his fiancée, he delayed completion of his experiments and went off to see her. During that visit, a colleague—and not he—completed the experi- ments, published the results, and gained the recognition the young doctor had hoped for himself.

These events took place in 1884; the drug was cocaine; the young doctor was Sigmund Freud.

Overview of Psychoanalytic Theory Freud, of course, was fortunate that his name did not become indelibly tied to co- caine. Instead, his name has become associated with psychoanalysis, the most fa- mous of all personality theories.

What makes Freud’s theory so interesting? First, the twin cornerstones of psy- choanalysis, sex and aggression, are two subjects of continuing popularity. Second, the theory was spread beyond its Viennese origins by an ardent and dedicated group of followers, many of whom romanticized Freud as a nearly mythological and lonely hero. Third, Freud’s brilliant command of language enabled him to present his theo- ries in a stimulating and exciting manner.

Freud’s understanding of human personality was based on his experiences with patients, his analysis of his own dreams, and his vast readings in the various sciences and humanities. These experiences provided the basic data for the evolution of his theories. To him, theory followed observation, and his concept of personality under- went constant revisions during the last 50 years of his life. Evolutionary though it was, Freud insisted that psychoanalysis could not be subjected to eclecticism, and disciples who deviated from his basic ideas soon found themselves personally and professionally ostracized by Freud.

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 17



Although Freud regarded himself primarily as a scientist, his definition of sci- ence would be somewhat different from that held by most psychologists today. Freud relied more on deductive reasoning than on rigorous research methods, and he made observations subjectively and on a relatively small sample of patients, most of whom were from the upper-middle and upper classes. He did not quantify his data, nor did he make observations under controlled conditions. He utilized the case study ap- proach almost exclusively, typically formulating hypotheses after the facts of the case were known.

Biography of Sigmund Freud Sigismund (Sigmund) Freud was born either on March 6 or May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, Moravia, which is now part of the Czech Republic. (Scholars disagree on his birth date—the first date was but 8 months after the marriage of his parents.) Freud was the firstborn child of Jacob and Amalie Nathanson Freud, although his fa- ther had two grown sons, Emanuel and Philipp, from a previous marriage. Jacob and Amalie Freud had seven other children within 10 years, but Sigmund remained the favorite of his young, indulgent mother, which may have partially contributed to his lifelong self-confidence (E. Jones, 1953). A scholarly, serious-minded youth, Freud did not have a close friendship with any of his younger siblings. He did, however, enjoy a warm, indulgent relationship with his mother, leading him in later years to observe that the mother/son relationship was the most perfect, the most free from ambivalence of all human relationships (Freud, 1933/1964).

When Sigmund was three, the two Freud families left Freiberg. Emanuel’s family and Philipp moved to England, and the Jacob Freud family moved first to Leipzig and then to Vienna. The Austrian capital remained Sigmund Freud’s home for nearly 80 years, until 1938 when the Nazi invasion forced him to emigrate to London, where he died on September 23, 1939.

When Freud was about a year and a half old, his mother gave birth to a second son, Julius, an event that was to have a significant impact on Freud’s psychic development. Sigmund was filled with hostility toward his younger brother and harbored an unconscious wish for his death. When Julius died at 6 months of age, Sigmund was left with feelings of guilt at having caused his brother’s death. When Freud reached middle age, he began to understand that his wish did not actually cause his brother’s death and that children often have a death wish for a younger sibling. This discovery purged Freud of the guilt he had carried into adulthood and, by his own analysis, contributed to his later psychic development (Freud, 1900/1953).

Freud was drawn into medicine, not because he loved medical practice, but be- cause he was intensely curious about human nature (Ellenberger, 1970). He entered the University of Vienna Medical School with no intention of practicing medicine. Instead, he preferred teaching and doing research in physiology, which he continued even after he graduated from the university’s Physiological Institute.

Freud might have continued this work indefinitely had it not been for two fac- tors. First, he believed (probably with some justification) that, as a Jew, his opportu- nities for academic advancement would be limited. Second, his father, who helped finance his medical school expense, became less able to provide monetary aid. Re-

Part II Psychodynamic Theories18



luctantly, Freud turned from his laboratory to the practice of medicine. He worked for 3 years in the General Hospital of Vienna, becoming familiar with the practice of various branches of medicine, including psychiatry and nervous diseases (Freud, 1925/1959).

In 1885, he received a traveling grant from the University of Vienna and de- cided to study in Paris with the famous French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. He spent 4 months with Charcot, from whom he learned the hypnotic technique for treating hysteria, a disorder typically characterized by paralysis or the improper functioning of certain parts of the body. Through hypnosis, Freud became convinced of a psychogenic and sexual origin of hysterical symptoms.

While still a medical student, Freud developed a close professional association and a personal friendship with Josef Breuer, a well-known Viennese physician 14 years older than Freud and a man of considerable scientific reputation (Ferris, 1997). Breuer taught Freud about catharsis, the process of removing hysterical symptoms through “talking them out.” While using catharsis, Freud gradually and laboriously discovered the free association technique, which soon replaced hypnosis as his prin- cipal therapeutic technique.

From as early as adolescence, Freud literally dreamed of making a monumen- tal discovery and achieving fame (Newton, 1995). On several occasions during the 1880s and 1890s he believed he was on the verge of such a discovery. His first op- portunity to gain recognition came in 1884–1885 and involved his experiments with cocaine, which we discussed in the opening vignette.

Freud’s second opportunity for achieving some measure of fame came in 1886 after he returned from Paris, where he had learned about male hysteria from Char- cot. He assumed that this knowledge would gain him respect and recognition from the Imperial Society of Physicians of Vienna, whom he mistakenly believed would be impressed by the young Dr. Freud’s knowledge of male hysteria. Early physicians

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 19

Sigmund Freud with his daughter, Anna, who was a psychoanalyst in her own right.



had believed that hysteria was strictly a female disorder because the very word had the same origins as uterus and was the result of a “wandering womb,” with the uterus traveling throughout women’s bodies and causing various parts to malfunction. How- ever, by 1886, when Freud presented a paper on male hysteria to the Society, most physicians present were already familiar with the illness and knew that it could also be a male disorder. Because originality was expected and because Freud’s paper was a rehash of what was already known, the Viennese physicians did not respond well to the presentation. Also, Freud’s constant praise of Charcot, a Frenchman, cooled the Viennese physicians to his talk. Unfortunately, in his autobiographical study, Freud (1925/1959) told a very different story, claiming that his lecture was not well received because members of the learned society could not fathom the concept of male hysteria. Freud’s account of this incident, now known to be in error, was nev- ertheless perpetuated for years, and as Sulloway (1992) argued, it is but one of many fictions created by Freud and his followers to mythologize psychoanalysis and to make a lonely hero of its founder.

Disappointed in his attempts to gain fame and afflicted with feelings (both jus- tified and otherwise) of professional opposition due to his defense of cocaine and his belief in the sexual origins of neuroses, Freud felt the need to join with a more re- spected colleague. He turned to Breuer, with whom he had worked while still a med- ical student and with whom he enjoyed a continuing personal and professional rela- tionship. Breuer had discussed in detail with Freud the case of Anna O, a young woman Freud had never met, but whom Breuer had spent many hours treating for hysteria several years earlier. Because of his rebuff by the Imperial Society of Physi- cians and his desire to establish a reputation for himself, Freud urged Breuer to col- laborate with him in publishing an account of Anna O and several other cases of hys- teria. Breuer, however, was not as eager as the younger and more revolutionary Freud to publish a full treatise on hysteria built on only a few case studies. He also could not accept Freud’s notion that childhood sexual experiences were the source of adult hysteria. Finally, and with some reluctance, Breuer agreed to publish with Freud Studies on Hysteria (Breuer & Freud, 1895/1955). In this book, Freud introduced the term “psychical analysis,” and during the following year, he began calling his ap- proach “psycho-analysis.”

At about the time Studies on Hysteria was published, Freud and Breuer had a professional disagreement and became estranged personally. Freud then turned to his friend Wilhelm Fliess, a Berlin physician who served as a sounding board for Freud’s newly developing ideas. Freud’s letters to Fliess (Freud, 1985) constitute a firsthand account of the beginnings of psychoanalysis and reveal the embryonic stage of Freudian theory. Freud and Fliess had become friends in 1887, but their relationship became more intimate following Freud’s break with Breuer.

During the late 1890s, Freud suffered both professional isolation and personal crises. He had begun to analyze his own dreams, and after the death of his father in 1896, he initiated the practice of analyzing himself daily. Although his self-analysis was a lifetime labor, it was especially difficult for him during the late 1890s. During this period, Freud regarded himself as his own best patient. In August of 1897, he wrote to Fliess, “the chief patient I am preoccupied with is myself. . . . The analysis is more difficult than any other. It is, in fact what paralyzes my psychic strength” (Freud, 1985, p. 261).

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A second personal crisis was his realization that he was now middle-aged and had yet to achieve the fame he so passionately desired. During this time he had suf- fered yet another disappointment in his attempt to make a major scientific contribu- tion. Again he believed himself to be on the brink of an important breakthrough with his “discovery” that neuroses have their etiology in a child’s seduction by a parent. Freud likened this finding to the discovery of the source of the Nile. However, in 1897 he abandoned the seduction theory and once again had to postpone the discov- ery that would propel him to greatness.

Why did Freud abandon his once-treasured seduction theory? In a letter dated September 21, 1897, to Wilhelm Fliess, he gave four reasons why he could no longer believe in his seduction theory. First, he said, the seduction theory had not enabled him to successfully treat even a single patient. Second, a great number of fathers, in- cluding his own, would have to be accused of sexual perversion because hysteria was quite common even among Freud’s siblings. Third, Freud believed that the uncon- scious mind could probably not distinguish reality from fiction, a belief that later evolved into the Oedipus complex. And fourth, he found that the unconscious mem- ories of advanced psychotic patients almost never revealed early childhood sexual experiences (Freud, 1985). After abandoning his seduction theory and with no Oedi- pus complex to replace it, Freud sank even more deeply into his midlife crisis.

Freud’s official biographer, Ernest Jones (1953, 1955, 1957), believed that Freud suffered from a severe psychoneurosis during the late 1890s, although Max Schur (1972), Freud’s personal physician during the final decade of his life, con- tended that his illness was due to a cardiac lesion, aggravated by addiction to nico- tine. Peter Gay (1988) suggested that during the time immediately after his father’s death, Freud “relived his oedipal conflicts with peculiar ferocity” (p. 141). But Henri Ellenberger (1970) described this period in Freud’s life as a time of “creative illness,” a condition characterized by depression, neurosis, psychosomatic ailments, and an intense preoccupation with some form of creative activity. In any event, at midlife, Freud was suffering from self-doubts, depression, and an obsession with his own death.

Despite these difficulties, Freud completed his greatest work, Interpretation of Dreams (1900/1953), during this period. This book, finished in 1899, was an out- growth of his self-analysis, much of which he had revealed to his friend Wilhelm Fliess. The book contained many of Freud’s own dreams, some disguised behind fic- titious names.

Almost immediately after the publication of Interpretation of Dreams, his friendship with Fliess began to cool, eventually to rupture in 1903. This breakup par- alleled Freud’s earlier estrangement from Breuer, which took place almost immedi- ately after they had published Studies on Hysteria together. It was also a harbinger of his breaks with Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and several other close associates. Why did Freud have difficulties with so many former friends? Freud himself answered this question, stating that “it is not the scientific differences that are so important; it is usually some other kind of animosity, jealousy or revenge, that gives the impulse to enmity. The scientific differences come later” (Wortis, 1954, p. 163).

Although Interpretation of Dreams did not create the instant international stir Freud had hoped, it eventually gained for him the fame and recognition he had sought. In the 5-year period following its publication, Freud, now filled with renewed

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 21



self-confidence, wrote several important works that helped solidify the foundation of psychoanalysis, including On Dreams (1901/1953), written because Interpretation of Dreams had failed to capture much interest; Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901/1960), which introduced the world to Freudian slips; Three Essays on the The- ory of Sexuality (1905/1953b), which established sex as the cornerstone of psycho- analysis; and Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905/1960), which pro- posed that jokes, like dreams and Freudian slips, have an unconscious meaning. These publications helped Freud attain some local prominence in scientific and med- ical circles.

In 1902, Freud invited a small group of somewhat younger Viennese physi- cians to meet in his home to discuss psychological issues. Then, in the fall of that year, these five men—Freud, Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, Max Kahane, and Rudolf Reitler—formed the Wednesday Psychological Society, with Freud as discussion leader. In 1908, this organization adopted a more formal name—the Vienna Psycho- analytic Society.

In 1910, Freud and his followers founded the International Psychoanalytic As- sociation with Carl Jung of Zürich as president. Freud was attracted to Jung because of his keen intellect and also because he was neither Jewish nor Viennese. Between 1902 and 1906, all 17 of Freud’s disciples had been Jewish (Kurzweil, 1989), and Freud was interested in giving psychoanalysis a more cosmopolitan flavor. Although Jung was a welcome addition to the Freudian circle and had been designated as the “Crown Prince” and “the man of the future,” he, like Adler and Stekel before him, eventually quarreled bitterly with Freud and left the psychoanalytic movement. The seeds of disagreement between Jung and Freud were probably sown when the two men, along with Sandor Ferenczi, traveled to the United States in 1909 to deliver a series of lectures at Clark University near Boston. To pass the time during their trav- els, Freud and Jung interpreted each other’s dreams, a potentially explosive practice that eventually led to the end of their relationship in 1913 (McGuire, 1974).

The years of World War I were difficult for Freud. He was cut off from com- munication with his faithful followers, his psychoanalytic practice dwindled, his home was sometimes without heat, and he and his family had little food. After the war, despite advancing years and pain suffered from 33 operations for cancer of the mouth, he made important revisions in his theory. The most significant of these were the elevation of aggression to a level equal to that of the sexual drive, the inclusion of repression as one of the defenses of the ego; and his attempt to clarify the female Oedipus complex, which he was never able to completely accomplish.

What personal qualities did Freud possess? A more complete insight into his personality can be found in Breger (2000), Clark (1980), Ellenberger (1970), Ferris (1997), Gay (1988), Handlbauer (1998), Isbister (1985), E. Jones (1953, 1955, 1957), Newton (1995), Noland (1999), Roazen (1993, 1995, 2001), Silverstein (2003), Sulloway (1992), Vitz (1988), and dozens of other books on Freud’s life. Above all, Freud was a sensitive, passionate person who had the capacity for inti- mate, almost secretive friendships. Most of these deeply emotional relationships came to an unhappy end, and Freud often felt persecuted by his former friends and regarded them as enemies. He seemed to have needed both types of relationship. In Interpretation of Dreams, Freud both explained and predicted this succession of in- terpersonal ruptures: “My emotional life has always insisted that I should have an in-

Part II Psychodynamic Theories22



timate friend and a hated enemy. I have always been able to provide myself afresh with both” (Freud, 1900/1953, p. 483). Until he was well past 50, all these relation- ships were with men. Interestingly, Freud, the man who seemed to be constantly thinking of sex, had a very infrequent sex life himself. After Anna, his youngest child was born in 1895, Freud, not yet 40 years old, had no sexual intercourse for several years. Much of his sparse sexual life stemmed from his belief that use of a condom, coitus interruptus, as well as masturbation were unhealthy sexual practices. Because Freud wanted no more children after Anna was born, sexual abstinence was his only alternative (Breger, 2000; Freud, 1985).

In addition to balancing his emotional life between an intimate friend and a hated enemy, Freud possessed an outstanding talent as a writer, a gift that helped him become a leading contributor to 20th-century thought. He was a master of the Ger- man tongue and knew several other languages. Although he never won the coveted Nobel prize for science, he was awarded the Goethe prize for literature in 1930.

Freud also possessed intense intellectual curiosity; unusual moral courage (demonstrated by his daily self-analysis); extremely ambivalent feelings toward his father and other father figures; a tendency to hold grudges disproportionate to the al- leged offense; a burning ambition, especially during his earlier years; strong feelings of isolation even while surrounded by many followers; and an intense and somewhat irrational dislike of America and Americans, an attitude that became more intense after his trip to the United States in 1909.

Why did Freud have such a disdain for Americans? Perhaps the most impor- tant reason is that he rightly believed Americans would trivialize psychoanalysis by trying to make it popular. In addition, he had several experiences during his trip to the United States that were foreign to a proper bourgeois Viennese gentleman. Even before he embarked on the George Washington, he saw his name misspelled as “Freund” on the passenger list (Ferris, 1997). A number of other events—some of which seem almost humorous—made Freud’s visit more unpleasant than it might have been. First, Freud experienced chronic indigestion and diarrhea throughout his visit, probably because the drinking water did not agree with him. In addition, he found it both peculiar and problematic that American cities did not provide public restrooms on street corners, and with his chronic indigestion he was frequently in search of a public lavatory. Also, several Americans addressed him as Doc or Sigmund while challenging him to defend his theories, and one person tried—unsuccessfully, of course—to prevent him from smoking a cigar in a nonsmoking area. Moreover, when Freud, Ferenczi, and Jung went to a private camp in western Massachusetts, they were greeted by a barrage of flags of Imperial Germany, despite the fact that none of them was German and each had reasons to dislike Germany. Also at camp, Freud, along with the others, sat on the ground while the host grilled steaks over charcoal, a custom Freud deemed to be both savage and uncouth (Roazen, 1993).

Levels of Mental Life Freud’s greatest contribution to personality theory is his exploration of the uncon- scious and his insistence that people are motivated primarily by drives of which they have little or no awareness. To Freud, mental life is divided into two levels, the un- conscious and the conscious. The unconscious, in turn, has two different levels, the

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 23



unconscious proper and the preconscious. In Freudian psychology the three levels of mental life are used to designate both a process and a location. The existence as a specific location, of course, is merely hypothetical and has no real existence within the body. Yet, Freud spoke of the unconscious as well as unconscious processes.

Unconscious The unconscious contains all those drives, urges, or instincts that are beyond our awareness but that nevertheless motivate most of our words, feelings, and actions. Although we may be conscious of our overt behaviors, we often are not aware of the mental processes that lie behind them. For example, a man may know that he is at- tracted to a woman but may not fully understand all the reasons for the attraction, some of which may even seem irrational.

Because the unconscious is not available to the conscious mind, how can one know if it really exists? Freud felt that its existence could be proved only indirectly. To him the unconscious is the explanation for the meaning behind dreams, slips of the tongue, and certain kinds of forgetting, called repression. Dreams serve as a par- ticularly rich source of unconscious material. For example, Freud believed that child- hood experiences can appear in adult dreams even though the dreamer has no con- scious recollection of these experiences.

Unconscious processes often enter into consciousness but only after being dis- guised or distorted enough to elude censorship. Freud (1917/1963) used the analogy of a guardian or censor blocking the passage between the unconscious and precon- scious and preventing undesirable anxiety-producing memories from entering awareness. To enter the conscious level of the mind, these unconscious images first must be sufficiently disguised to slip past the primary censor, and then they must elude a final censor that watches the passageway between the preconscious and the conscious. By the time these memories enter our conscious mind, we no longer rec- ognize them for what they are; instead, we see them as relatively pleasant, non- threatening experiences. In most cases, these images have strong sexual or aggres- sive motifs, because childhood sexual and aggressive behaviors are frequently punished or suppressed. Punishment and suppression often create feelings of anxi- ety, and the anxiety in turn stimulates repression, that is, the forcing of unwanted, anxiety-ridden experiences into the unconscious as a defense against the pain of that anxiety.

Not all unconscious processes, however, spring from repression of childhood events. Freud believed that a portion of our unconscious originates from the experi- ences of our early ancestors that have been passed on to us through hundreds of gen- erations of repetition. He called these inherited unconscious images our phyloge- netic endowment (Freud, 1917/1963, 1933/1964). Freud’s notion of phylogenetic endowment is quite similar to Carl Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious (see Chap- ter 4). However, one important difference exists between the two concepts. Whereas Jung placed primary emphasis on the collective unconscious, Freud relied on the no- tion of inherited dispositions only as a last resort. That is, when explanations built on individual experiences were not adequate, Freud would turn to the idea of collec- tively inherited experiences to fill in the gaps left by individual experiences. Later we will see that Freud used the concept of phylogenetic endowment to explain several important concepts, such as the Oedipus complex and castration anxiety.

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Unconscious drives may appear in consciousness, but only after undergoing certain transformations. A person may express either erotic or hostile urges, for ex- ample, by teasing or joking with another person. The original drive (sex or aggres- sion) is thus disguised and hidden from the conscious minds of both persons. The un- conscious of the first person, however, has directly influenced the unconscious of the second. Both people gain some satisfaction of either sexual or aggressive urges, but neither is conscious of the underlying motive behind the teasing or joking. Thus the unconscious mind of one person can communicate with the unconscious of another without either person being aware of the process.

Unconscious, of course, does not mean inactive or dormant. Forces in the un- conscious constantly strive to become conscious, and many of them succeed, al- though they may no longer appear in their original form. Unconscious ideas can and do motivate people. For example, a son’s hostility toward his father may masquerade itself in the form of ostentatious affection. In an undisguised form, the hostility would create too much anxiety for the son. His unconscious mind, therefore, moti- vates him to express hostility indirectly through an exaggerated show of love and flattery. Because the disguise must successfully deceive the person, it often takes an opposite form from the original feelings, but it is almost always overblown and os- tentatious. (This mechanism, called a reaction formation, is discussed later in the section titled Defense Mechanisms.)

Preconscious The preconscious level of the mind contains all those elements that are not conscious but can become conscious either quite readily or with some difficulty (Freud, 1933/1964).

The contents of the preconscious come from two sources, the first of which is conscious perception. What a person perceives is conscious for only a transitory pe- riod; it quickly passes into the preconscious when the focus of attention shifts to an- other idea. These ideas that alternate easily between being conscious and precon- scious are largely free from anxiety and in reality are much more similar to the conscious images than to unconscious urges.

The second source of preconscious images is the unconscious. Freud believed that ideas can slip past the vigilant censor and enter into the preconscious in a dis- guised form. Some of these images never become conscious because if we recog- nized them as derivatives of the unconscious, we would experience increased levels of anxiety, which would activate the final censor to repress these anxiety-loaded im- ages, forcing them back into the unconscious. Other images from the unconscious do gain admission to consciousness, but only because their true nature is cleverly disguised through the dream process, a slip of the tongue, or an elaborate defensive measure.

Conscious Consciousness, which plays a relatively minor role in psychoanalytic theory, can be defined as those mental elements in awareness at any given point in time. It is the only level of mental life directly available to us. Ideas can reach consciousness from two different directions. The first is from the perceptual conscious system, which is

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 25



turned toward the outer world and acts as a medium for the perception of external stimuli. In other words, what we perceive through our sense organs, if not too threat- ening, enters into consciousness (Freud, 1933/1964).

The second source of conscious elements is from within the mental structure and includes nonthreatening ideas from the preconscious as well as menacing but well-disguised images from the unconscious. As we have seen, these latter images escaped into the preconscious by cloaking themselves as harmless elements and evading the primary censor. Once in the preconscious, they avoid a final censor and come under the eye of consciousness. By the time they reach the conscious system, these images are greatly distorted and camouflaged, often taking the form of defen- sive behaviors or dream elements.

In summary, Freud (1917/1963, pp. 295–296) compared the unconscious to a large entrance hall in which many diverse, energetic, and disreputable people are milling about, crowding one another, and striving incessantly to escape to a smaller adjoining reception room. However, a watchful guard protects the threshold between

Part II Psychodynamic Theories26

FIGURE 2.1 Levels of Mental Life.


Reception room



Eye of consciousness

Final censorship







the large entrance hall and the small reception room. This guard has two methods of preventing undesirables from escaping from the entrance hall—either turn them back at the door or throw out those people who earlier had clandestinely slipped into the reception room. The effect in either case is the same; the menacing, disorderly people are prevented from coming into view of an important guest who is seated at the far end of the reception room behind a screen. The meaning of the analogy is ob- vious. The people in the entrance hall represent unconscious images. The small re- ception room is the preconscious and its inhabitants represent preconscious ideas. People in the reception room (preconscious) may or may not come into view of the important guest who, of course, represents the eye of consciousness. The doorkeeper who guards the threshold between the two rooms is the primary censor that prevents unconscious images from becoming preconscious and renders preconscious images unconscious by throwing them back. The screen that guards the important guest is the final censor, and it prevents many, but not all, preconscious elements from reach- ing consciousness. The analogy is presented graphically in Figure 2.1.

Provinces of the Mind For nearly 2 decades, Freud’s only model of the mind was the topographic one we have just outlined, and his only portrayal of psychic strife was the conflict between conscious and unconscious forces. Then, during the 1920s, Freud (1923/1961a) in- troduced a three-part structural model. This division of the mind into three provinces did not supplant the topographic model, but it helped Freud explain mental images according to their functions or purposes.

To Freud, the most primitive part of the mind was das Es, or the “it,” which is almost always translated into English as id; a second division was das Ich, or the “I,” translated as ego; and a final province was das Uber-Ich, or the “over-I,” which is rendered into English as superego. These provinces or regions have no territorial ex- istence, of course, but are merely hypothetical constructs. They interact with the three levels of mental life so that the ego cuts across the various topographic levels and has conscious, preconscious, and unconscious components, whereas the super- ego is both preconscious and unconscious and the id is completely unconscious. Fig- ure 2.2 shows the relationship between the provinces of the mind and the levels of mental life.

The Id At the core of personality and completely unconscious is the psychical region called the id, a term derived from the impersonal pronoun meaning “the it,” or the not-yet- owned component of personality. The id has no contact with reality, yet it strives con- stantly to reduce tension by satisfying basic desires. Because its sole function is to seek pleasure, we say that the id serves the pleasure principle.

A newborn infant is the personification of an id unencumbered by restrictions of ego and superego. The infant seeks gratification of needs without regard for what is possible (that is, demands of the ego) or what is proper (that is, restraints of the superego). Instead, it sucks when the nipple is either present or absent and gains pleasure in either situation. Although the infant receives life-sustaining food only by

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 27



sucking a nurturing nipple, it continues to suck because its id is not in contact with reality. The infant fails to realize that thumb-sucking behavior cannot sustain life. Because the id has no direct contact with reality, it is not altered by the passage of time or by the experiences of the person. Childhood wish impulses remain un- changed in the id for decades (Freud, 1933/1964).

Besides being unrealistic and pleasure seeking, the id is illogical and can si- multaneously entertain incompatible ideas. For example, a woman may show con- scious love for her mother while unconsciously wishing to destroy her. These op- posing desires are possible because the id has no morality; that is, it cannot make value judgments or distinguish between good and evil. However, the id is not im- moral, merely amoral. All of the id’s energy is spent for one purpose—to seek plea- sure without regard for what is proper or just (Freud, 1923/1961a, 1933/1964).

In review, the id is primitive, chaotic, inaccessible to consciousness, un- changeable, amoral, illogical, unorganized, and filled with energy received from basic drives and discharged for the satisfaction of the pleasure principle.

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FIGURE 2.2 Levels of Mental Life and Provinces of the Mind.

Eye of consciousness

Final censorship






Superego Open to

somatic influences



As the region that houses basic drives (primary motivates), the id operates through the primary process. Because it blindly seeks to satisfy the pleasure prin- ciple, its survival is dependent on the development of a secondary process to bring it into contact with the external world. This secondary process functions through the ego.

The Ego The ego, or I, is the only region of the mind in contact with reality. It grows out of the id during infancy and becomes a person’s sole source of communication with the external world. It is governed by the reality principle, which it tries to substitute for the pleasure principle of the id. As the sole region of the mind in contact with the ex- ternal world, the ego becomes the decision-making or executive branch of personal- ity. However, because it is partly conscious, partly preconscious, and partly uncon- scious, the ego can make decisions on each of these three levels. For instance, a woman’s ego may consciously motivate her to choose excessively neat, well-tailored clothes because she feels comfortable when well dressed. At the same time, she may be only dimly (i.e., preconsciously) aware of previous experiences of being rewarded for choosing nice clothes. In addition, she may be unconsciously motivated to be ex- cessively neat and orderly due to early childhood experiences of toilet training. Thus, her decision to wear neat clothes can take place in all three levels of mental life.

When performing its cognitive and intellectual functions, the ego must take into consideration the incompatible but equally unrealistic demands of the id and the superego. In addition to these two tyrants, the ego must serve a third master—the ex- ternal world. Thus, the ego constantly tries to reconcile the blind, irrational claims of the id and the superego with the realistic demands of the external world. Finding it- self surrounded on three sides by divergent and hostile forces, the ego reacts in a pre- dictable manner—it becomes anxious. It then uses repression and other defense mechanisms to defend itself against this anxiety (Freud, 1926/1959a).

According to Freud (1933/1964), the ego becomes differentiated from the id when infants learn to distinguish themselves from the outer world. While the id re- mains unchanged, the ego continues to develop strategies for handling the id’s unre- alistic and unrelenting demands for pleasure. At times the ego can control the pow- erful, pleasure-seeking id, but at other times it loses control. In comparing the ego to the id, Freud used the analogy of a person on horseback. The rider checks and in- hibits the greater strength of the horse but is ultimately at the mercy of the animal. Similarly, the ego must check and inhibit id impulses, but it is more or less constantly at the mercy of the stronger but more poorly organized id. The ego has no strength of its own but borrows energy from the id. In spite of this dependence on the id, the ego sometimes comes close to gaining complete control, for instance, during the prime of life of a psychologically mature person.

As children begin to experience parental rewards and punishments, they learn what to do in order to gain pleasure and avoid pain. At this young age, pleasure and pain are ego functions because children have not yet developed a conscience and ego-ideal: that is, a superego. As children reach the age of 5 or 6 years, they identify with their parents and begin to learn what they should and should not do. This is the origin of the superego.

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 29



The Superego In Freudian psychology, the superego, or above-I, represents the moral and ideal as- pects of personality and is guided by the moralistic and idealistic principles as op- posed to the pleasure principle of the id and the realistic principle of the ego. The superego grows out of the ego, and like the ego, it has no energy of its own. How- ev

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