psychodynamic theory

psychodynamic theory

A psychodynamic theory is a view that tends to explain personality regarding conscious and unconscious drivers, such as unconscious beliefs or desires. Various approaches have been put forward by some theorists who are still relevant to date in the field of psychology. These theories were developed by Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Melanie Klein and Alfred Adler. Freud is considered a prominent theorist since his work laid the foundation for the others (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Theories that came later were referred to as Neo-Freudian theories or neo-psychoanalytic or neo-psychodynamic theories. Psychodynamic theories state that childhood experiences shape personality (Feist, Feist & Roberts, 2013). They are related to a type of therapy referred to as psychoanalysis that attempts to expose unconscious feelings and desires. Not all theories are accepted by psychologists. Critics claim some of the models lack supportive scientific evidence.

The theories put forward by Freud still linger in the field of psychology and has extended to other disciplines too (Mitchell & Black, 2016). The words he introduced via his theories are still used every day by different people.  He believed that explanation of our behavior to others rarely gives a factual account of our inspiration. He also proposed there is at least three level of the mind (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Though many people refute these claims, they have an element of truth considering some behaviors that human beings exhibit. His works laid the foundation for various forms of therapy being used today. His work has a lot of loopholes, yet many psychologists and neurologist are adopting it hence popularizing it. This also makes it harder to criticize Freud’s theory.

Freud suggested that we are not the ones in control of our minds and that there occurs a cycle of consciousness and control in our minds (Mitchell & Black, 2016). He went further and stated that the day to day actions and thoughts are not dependent on our consciousness but are attributed to irrational drivers outside the control and awareness of our consciousness (Mitchell & Black, 2016). This theory has been popularized by psychologists who claim that there exists an unconscious mind which houses uncharted concepts and ideas which may rise to the conscious periphery especially under certain circumstances (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Freud stated that most of our dreams are derived from the subconscious mind which is influenced by everyday events in our lives. For instance, this theory would explain why one would wake up sweating after a dream that they had missed a crucial test on the morning of the said test. His work has been subject to a lot of criticism since it lacks scientific backing hence to refute his theory this has led to more studies on the same thus popularizing it.

Sigmund Freud and Erikson ad several differences in their theories. Both had unique perspectives on the factors that drive an individual’s development. Freud’s theory emphasized more on psychosexual elements and significance of biological forces and fundamental needs (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). On the other hand, Erik’s approach was more of psychosocial based on environmental and social aspects. Both analysts acknowledged the significance of the unconscious mind on human development but Erikson’s stages extended into adulthood (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). In his theory, stages of life were belief vs. mistrust, shame vs. distrust, ingenuity vs. guilt, autonomy vs. shame and integrity vs. despair among others (Feist et al., 2013). He also believed there was more potential for growth in these stages.



Alfred proposed that personality is self-consistent and cohesive (Feist et al., 2013). He presented the concept of endeavoring for superiority to justify most of the personal inspiration. He stated that we are motivated mostly to overcome feelings of weakness that start while we are infants. People are always driven by goals or purposes in life. He refuted Freud’s claims of sex as a motivation in development (Mitchell & Black, 2016). People sourced motivation in their life from social factors and influences. He also suggested that compassion and social interest influence motivation. He also proposed that psychologically healthy individuals have a genuine interest in the well-being of others and go beyond striving for personal gain. He identified parental influence such as pampering or neglect are sources of personality problems later in life (Mitchell & Black, 2016).

Carl’s theory led to the development of analytical psychology which compared to Freud’s theory. His was not based on the Oedipus complex (Mitchell & Black, 2016). This focused more on the growth of inner self rather than of social relations. Jung’s theory held that there are two levels of the unconscious mind yet Freud’s theory stated there were three levels, conscious, unconscious and the psyche. He also viewed libido only as a part of sex. Horney’s theory stated that neurotic trends are used to cope with emotional challenges. People usually deal with anxiety using various styles and strategies namely; moving towards people, moving against people and always from people (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). All these lead to conflicts within a person’s personality. Sullivan, on the other hand, focused on both aspects of society and cognitive symbols (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). This differentiated him away from Freud as he moved away from psychosexual development to a more diverse approach. He stated that anxiety was attributed to social relations rather than Freud where it came from internal conflict between the ego, superego and the id (Mitchell & Black, 2016).

Erickson had his lifespan stages of development and Freud had the anal, oral, genital, latency and phallic stages (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Sigmund’s theory stated that personality was determined by age, but he did not establish the events following that period of development. They also had the common idea that was focused on explaining what causes the diverse elements constituting personality and emotional development. They all came up with theories that were aimed at explaining human mind and the various mechanisms that influence the development through life. The work started with Freud was passed on to others such as Erikson where it then branched and diversified leading to the development of many ideas and therapies that are used today in psychology (Feist et al., 2013).

Trauma causes emotional wounds that are difficult to resolve. Psychic trauma continues to linger in case of potent stimulus (Mitchell & Black, 2016). This leads to the psyche not being able to sufficiently respond via the regular emotional conduits such as rage or mourning (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Lack of measures to mitigate this condition fosters re-visiting of the trauma through dreams and memories or even an instinct to place oneself in other shocking states (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Psychoanalysis can be used as a tool to aid the victim to develop behavioral and emotional tactics to handle the trauma. Even though medications have been designed to combat this condition, there should always be psychological intervention to the treatment.

This concept was initiated by Sigmund Freud, and it plays a crucial role in the culture of humans. The case of blocking one’s memories from reaching the conscious mind refers to resistance (Mitchell & Black, 2016). This relates to the modern human culture in the development of patient’s feelings and thoughts to make them more comfortable with the environment which aids in self-exploration. This concept is relevant today since people can resist these painful emotions and can experience a happier life by resisting these feelings and feelings altogether (Mitchell & Black, 2016). The defense mechanisms that people use include changing a topic while conversing or diverting the conversation, going silent or even refusing further treatment (Mitchell & Black, 2016). The patient tries to avoid the feelings, thoughts, and emotions linked to the experience. Through therapy, the patient is assisted in overcoming the emotions and feelings.



The theory was coined by John Bolby who was a therapist. He developed four features in theory (Feist et al., 2013). The four features include separation anxiety, secure base, proximity maintenance and safe haven. Attachment quality evolves over time as the infant interacts with the caregiver such as the parents or siblings. The caregiver’s state of mind towards the child also comes into play in determining the quality of attachment (Mitchell & Black, 2016). Attachment is usually mutual. Both the caregiver and the baby typically affect each other. Establishing a bond with the caregiver helps in child development in the later years of puberty and adulthood and can relate to other people in life. As the brain develops due to the bond created through the years, this can be used to determine one’s outcome in life via relationships, coping with challenges and stresses in life among other life aspects.

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