The approach that concentrated on the unconscious forces that drive our behavior; belief that the inner forces over which individuals have little control motivate behavior.

  • Founded by Sigmund Freud, the most influential figure in the history of psychology.
  • The basis of motivation and behavior lies in inner forces; forces that are predetermined, and forces over which humans have little control, which the person is not aware of i.e., unconscious determinants of behavior
  • It maintained that instincts are the driving force behind individual’s personality; there are life instincts as well as death instincts that play a role in human life.

Significance of Psychodynamic Approach

  • The most influential theory of the 20th century, that affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner
  • Gave an entirely new perspective to the understanding of behavior and mental processes as well as mental illness
  • The first theory to raise the awareness that not all behavior is rational
  • Gave an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach
  • Provided a basis to understand everyday life phenomena e.g. interpersonal relationships, aggression, prejudice
  • Many other, later, approaches built their paradigms on this approach – some by refining it, some by deviating from it
  • One of the main ideas is that there is an inner tension for the fulfillment of instincts, the tension leads to action for fulfillment, the fulfillment leads to reduced tension.

Roots Of Human Action

introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL

introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL

neurological research

  • Spent three years at General Hospital Vienna and worked in nervous diseases, psychiatry, and dermatology
  • 1885: Became professor of neuropathology at Vienna University
  • 1885: Following a government grant went to Paris as a student of French neurologist Jean Charcot, who was treating nervous diseases through hypnotic suggestion
  • Freud’s interest in psychopathology was heightened as a result of his studies of hysteria, under Charcot
  • 1886: Established private practice in Vienna specializing in nervous disease. His interest shifted from physiological to psychological explanation of psychopathology
  • Started collaborative work with Josef Breuer
  • 1895: wrote “Studies on Hysteria”; main emphasis was that uncharged emotional energy associated with forgotten psychic traumas resulted into hysterical symptoms
  • Therapy, at that stage, involved putting the patient in a hypnotic state, where he recalled and reenacted the traumatic experience = Catharsis
  • Hence the formal beginning of Psychoanalysis

Psychic Determinism

All behavior is determined i.e., has a cause that lies in the mind/psyche

Role of Consciousness

A significant part of our behavior is generated by unconscious forces

Continuity of Normal and Abnormal Behavior

Normal and abnormal behavior are different only in terms of degree and not in kind

Emphasis on Clinical Observation

Clinical observation/ case studies were the main source of data

Structure of Consciousness


Contains thoughts and feelings of immediately aware


introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL

Mind level below the level of conscious awareness


Part of the sub conscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice


Part of the sub conscious that cannot be accessed directly although impulses, ideas, and feelings may permeate out through other sources e.g. dreams, slips of tongue etc.


Dreams in Freudian Approach

  • Dreams reflect unconscious needs, desires, and impulses.
  • Dreams have two levels of dream content: manifest and latent.

introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL


Manifest content

The obvious, apparent part: what a dream appears to be to the dreamer.

Latent content

The dream’s true meaning, which is usually disguised or distorted by dream work.


  • The manifest content is in a symbolic form
  • The latent content is converted into this form by the ‘dream censor, a mechanism that ensures that sleep is not disturbed by unconscious desires, and those desires are presented in a socially acceptable form. The manifest content is in the symbolic form of the latent content. Only the psychoanalyst can interpret it.

Sources of motivation

Psychodynamic Model of Personality

Is a three-part structure of the mind; containing id, ego and super ego.

introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL


At birth, the entire mind consists of only id. It consists of pure, unadulterated, instinctual energy and exists entirely on the unconscious level. It is the source of basic drives; operates under the ‘pleasure principle’ i.e., it wants immediate gratification of needs. The id has two means of satisfying bodily needs, reflex action and wish fulfillment.


Reflex action is responding automatically to a source of irritation .e.g. an infant may sneeze in response to an irritant in the nose or reflexively move a confined limb, thereby freeing it. In both cases, reflex action is effective in reducing tension. Coughing and blinking are other examples of reflex action.

Wish- fulfillment is more complicated. It is the conjuring up of an image of an object or event that is capable of satisfying a biological need e.g. a hungry person thinks of food- related objects.


Mediates the link of the self with the outside world, “Real World”, as well as between the id and superego; operates under the demands of the environment. It operates under the reality principle and operates in the services of id. In other words, the ego comes into existence in order to bring the person into contact with experiences that will truly satisfy his/ her needs. When the person is hungry, the ego finds food; when the person is sexually aroused, the persons finds an appropriate sex object; and when the person is thirsty, the ego finds liquid. The ego goes through reality testing to find appropriate objects.

Super Ego

There is a third component of personality that makes things much more complicated, i.e. super ego. It is governed by the moral constraints. It develops from the internalized patterns of reward and punishment that the young child experiences i.e. Depending on the values of the parents, certain things the child does or says are rewarded and encouraged and others not liked are punished or discouraged.

introduction to psychology  THE PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACH/ MODEL

Opposes the id and represents the moral demands of the family and society; it is the ‘ moral self’ or the ‘conscience’ of the person

Development of Personality: A Stage Approach

Psychodynamic approach proposed a stage- theory of the development of personality:

Oral Stage Birth – 1 ½ Years Ego formation begins, weaning begins, delayed gratification is learnt; body image develops
Anal Stage 1 ½ – 3 Years Continuation of ego development; toilet training; formation of super ego
Phallic Stage 3 – 5 Years Bodily and genital awareness
Genital Stage Puberty – end of life Symbolic gratification of drives; secondary process thinking

Oral stage

occurs during the first year of life and the erogenous zone during this stage is the mouth. At this stage, pleasures mainly come from mouth. According to Freud, an adult who is fixated at the early oral stage will engage in abundance of oral activities such as eating, drinking, or smoking. This person also will engage in activities that are symbolically equivalent to those oral activities such as collecting things, being a good listener etc.

Anal stage

starts during the second year of life, and the erogenous zone is the anus- buttocks region. It is the stage when the child has to gain control over his physiological processes so that they function in accordance with the demands of the society.i.e the child must be toilet trained. Fixation at this stage may result in physical problems.

Phallic stage

starts from the third year of life to about fifth year, and the erogenous area are the genital area. This is one of the most complicated and controversial of Freud’s stages. It is the stage of Oedipus and Electra complexes, the resolution of which has profound influence on an adult’s life. The male child experiences the Oedipus complex, which is named after an ancient play by Sophocles, entitled Oedipus Tyrannus, in which King Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. The male child resents the father, because he is regarded as a rival for the mother’s attention and affection. The female counter part of the Oedipus complex is Electra complex, named after another play by Sophocles entitled “ Electra”, in which Electra causes her brother to kill her mother who had killed Electra’s father.

Latency stage

it lasts from about sixth year to about twelfth year. Here the sexual interests are displaced to substitute activities such as learning, athletics, and peer group activities.

Genital stage

it is the final stage of development that occurs following puberty. It is the time at which the person emerges from pre genital stages as the adults as he/ she destined to become. Now the child has become a socialized adult with heterosexual interests leading to marriage and child- rearing. If, however, the experiences during the pregenital stages cause fixation, they will manifests themselves throughout one’s adult life.


  • An emotional state experienced as a result of felt threat to the self
  • Anxiety arises when ego cannot cope too much of:
  • Demands of the id
  • Demands of the ego
  • External danger
  • In order to protect itself against anxiety and threat, ego uses defense mechanism

Defense Mechanisms

Ego defense system, that may be distorting reality

i. Repression: Blocking unpleasant/ unacceptable thoughts by pushing them into the unconscious e.g. forgetting events of the painful childhood.

ii. Regression: Reverting back to a stage that was satisfying e.g. a boss showing temper tantrums like a child; or acting like a baby.

iii. Displacement: Redirecting the expression of unwanted desires or impulses to a substitute rather than the actual target e.g. beating children when a wife cannot express anger toward husband.

iv.Rationalization: In order to justify one’s behavior, one develops a socially acceptable explanation or reasoning e.g. going for a second marriage saying that the first wife was quarrelsome.

v.Denial: Refusing to acknowledge or accept anxiety provoking thoughts or impulses e.g. being a heavy smoker but saying ‘I am an occasional smoker’.

vi. Projection: Attributing unwanted thoughts and impulses to others e.g. a person takes bribe and blames the organization for paying him not enough salary.

vii. Sublimation: Converting unwanted impulses into socially approved thoughts, feelings and actions e.g. disliking the in-laws but behaving in a very friendly manner, or becoming a stamp collector to overcome the impulse to steal

Psychotherapy: Psychoanalysis

  • An intensive, long-term psychotherapeutic procedure.
  • Requires long sessions over extended periods—– may be years.
  • Better suited to intelligent individuals.
  • Involves a special relationship between the therapist and the patient.
  • Target: To explore unconscious motivation, conflicts, desires.
  • Goal: Establishing intra psychic harmony by developing awareness of the role of the id, reducing over compliance with super ego, and by strengthening the ego.
  • Understanding of ‘repression’: The therapy gives central importance to the understanding of the manner in which the person uses repression for handling conflict.

Interventions used in Psychotherapy

1. Free association

  • Kept in a comfortable position, the patient is asked to talk aloud and say whatever comes to his mind without considering whether or not it is relevant, rational, or sensible.
  • The patient is asked to reveal even the most undesirable and strong thoughts that have been repressed. This leads to emotional release, called ‘catharsis’.

2. Analysis of Resistance

At times patient feels inhibitions, and is unable or unwilling to express some thought or feeling i.e., barriers between conscious and unconscious. The psychoanalyst aims to break down such resistances so that the patient is enabled to face the unpleasant thoughts, impulses, events.

3. Dream Analysis

The therapist tries to uncover the latent content of dreams and decipher the symbolism involved.

4. Analysis of Transference & Counter Transference

  • Transference: The patient’s emotional response toward the therapist is often an indication of the patient’s relationship with a person who had been the center of the conflict. It may be negative or positive.
  • Counter Transference: The therapists’ emotional reaction toward the patient is also important. He may also start having positive or negative feelings for the patient.
  • Transference is analyzed and understood as part of the therapeutic process.

Criticism against Freudian Psychodynamic Theory

  • There is no scientific proof that many psychodynamic constructs, e.g. unconscious, exist
  • Psychic Determinism: Freudian approach is deterministic and leaves not much room for conscious, rational, decision making or personal will to act
  • It ignores the external variables and the environment
  • It emphasizes the early childhood experiences too much
  • Mostly criticized for its interpretation of the relationship between the genders
  • The therapy is too time consuming and therefore expensive

The Psychoanalytic Approach after Freud

The Neo Freudian

  • The theorists who belonged to the Freudian school and supported it, but later digressed on some issues and differed from Freud
  • They emphasized, more than Freud, the following:
  • Current social environment play an important role in one’s life.

ii. Life experiences have a continuing influence and childhood alone should not be of prime importance.

iii. Positive interpersonal relations of love and social motivation have a significant role.

iv.Ego functioning is significant rather than id.

v.Development of self-concept is important.

vi. Self-esteem is important.

1. Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

His theory is known as “individual psychology” which in many ways is the opposite of Freud’s theory. For Freud, individuals are constantly in conflict with one another and with society; Adler saw them seeking relationships and harmony, he looked upon mind as an integrated whole working to help to attain the future goals.

  • Initially he was Freud’s closest friend.
  • 1911: Diverted and launched his version of psychoanalytic approach.
  • Differed from Freud in:
  • Freud’s negativity (e.g. Thanatos instincts)

ii. Freud’s idea that libido is the prime impulse

Adler’s Approach

Main concepts: Esteem, inferiority complex, birth order, will to power and style of life

i. We are a product of the social influences on our personality

ii. Goals and incentives drive us more than drives and instincts

iii. Our goal in life is to achieve success and superiority Inferiority complex: the feeling of being less able than others. It affects one’s relationship with others and his achievement in many ways.

Motivating Forces of Human Life

i. Feeling of inferiority

ii. People are primarily motivated to overcome inherent feelings of inferiority

Birth Order: has effect on personality. The first- born is different from the last one, and so is the middle- born different from others.

Sibling Rivalry: Siblings feel a kind of rivalry toward each other.

Psychopathology: Compensation: i.e., Compensatory defense mechanism combined with conscious or unconscious feelings of inferiority is the main cause of psychopathological behavior.

Function of the Psychoanalyst: To discover and rationalize such feelings and break down the compensatory, neurotic will for power.

2. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

A Swiss psychiatrist, founder of the analytical school of psychology, Jung presented a complex theory of personality.

  • 1913: left the inner circle of Freud’s students and colleagues, although he had chosen Jung as his successor.
  • Was mystical in his understanding and description of personality.
  • Had a positive approach toward one’s ability to control one’s destiny.
  • His view of human nature is among the most complex ever portrayed. The human psyche is embedded in past, present, and future; it consists of conscious and unconscious elements, rational and irrational impulses, masculine and feminine tendencies, and a tendency to bring all these contradictory tendencies into harmony with each other. Self- actualization is achieved when such harmony exists, but self- actualization must be sought; it does not occur automatically.
  • Believed that the spiritual side must be satisfied, which usually happens in middle age when many of the components of psyche have been discovered.
  • Religion to him is the major vehicle in the journey towards self- actualization.

Jung’s disagreements with Freud

  • The understanding and description of the genders.
  • The nature of unconscious.

The main Jungian concepts

Major goal of life: Unification of all aspect of our personality:

  • Conscious And Unconscious
  • Introversion (Inner Directed), Extroverted (Outer Directed)
  • Energy for personal growth and development


Types of Unconscious

  • Personal unconscious: Similar to Freudian view
  • Collective unconscious: ideas beyond personal experience, inherited from ancestors’ all generations, and common to all of humanity.


Part of collected unconscious, universal forms and patterns of thought: These include themes that can be seen in myths e.g. masculinity, femininity, good, evil opposites, motherhood.

3. Karen Horney (1885-1952)

  • German- American psychologist.
  • Trained as a psychoanalyst in Germany who later shifted to the US.
  • She agreed with Freud on the levels of unconscious, anxiety, and repression.
  • She emphasized childhood experiences, social interaction and personal growth.

Disagreement with Freud

  • Differed from Freud on primary impulses; impulses are not the main motivating force.
  • Disagreed on Freudian position regarding the biological basis of differences between genders.

Main Concepts in Horney’s Theory:

Basic Anxiety

A Major Concept: If The Environment Is Hostile And The Child Feels Lonely And Isolated, Then This Anxiety Develops. It Can Be Overcome By Proper Parental Nurturing

Basic Hostility

  • Children develop such hostility if parents are over strict, punishing, indifferent, or inconsistent.
  • Children feel very aggressive and hostile but cannot express it. Repressed hostility leads to anxiety.

Social Interaction and Interpersonal Styles

She talked about the ways in which people interact with each other, and these were thought to have an impact upon the personality of an n individual:

  • Moving away from others: seeking self sufficiency and independence
  • Moving toward others: being compliant and dependant
  • Moving against others: trying to gain control, power, and independence


Arise from emotional conflicts that arise from childhood experiences, and disturbances in interpersonal relationships in later life

Relationship with the real self and the ideal self

Horney maintained that the real self includes those things that are true about us at any particular time. The ideal self reflects what we would like to become. For normal people, the ideal self is the goal that they would like to reach in the future; it is something around which they can organize their lives and to which they can aspire. For the neurotic person, according to her, the relationship between the real and the ideal self is a problem. In the first place, the neurotic’s impression of the real self is distorted. For him, the ideal self is a wish instead of reality and idealized self is an unrealistic, immutable dream

Goal of the therapy

For her, the goal is to create a realistic relationship between the real self and the ideal self. Horney was optimistic about human nature and the ability to change. Human interactions caused problem and human interactions solved problems also.

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