Originating in the work-related of Sigmund Freud, the psychodynamic perspective emphasizes unconscious psychological procedures (for example, wishes and also fears of i beg your pardon we’re not totally aware), and contends that childhood experience are vital in shaping adult personality. The psychodynamic view has progressed considerably since Freud’s time, and now contains innovative new approaches such as object relations theory and also neuropsychoanalysis. Part psychodynamic concepts have held up well to empirical scrutiny if others have not, and also aspects of the theory stay controversial, but the psychodynamic perspective proceeds to influence plenty of different areas of modern-day psychology.

You are watching: The most notable feature of the psychodynamic perspective is its emphasis on

 Share
Share this URL

Learning Objectives

Describe the major models the personality within the psychodynamic perspective.Define the principle of ego defense, and give instances of frequently used ego defenses.Identify psychodynamic principles that have been supported by empirical research.Discuss present trends in psychodynamic theory.Introduction

Have you ever before done something the didn’t make sense? maybe you waited until the critical minute to begin studying for an exam, even though girlfriend knew the delaying so lengthy would ensure that you obtained a negative grade. Or possibly you spotted a human you liked throughout the room—someone around whom you had actually romantic feelings—but instead of approaching that person you top the other means (and feel ashamed around it afterward). If you’ve ever done something that didn’t it seems to be ~ to make sense—and who amongst us hasn’t—the psychodynamic view on personality might be helpful for you. That can help you know why you chose not to examine for the test, or why you ran the other method when the human of your desires entered the room.

According come psychodynamic theory, a most our behaviors and preferences that adulthood room shaped through the experience in ours childhood.

Psychodynamic theory (sometimes referred to as psychoanalytic theory) defines personality in terms of unconscious psychological processes (for example, wishes and also fears of which we’re not totally aware), and contends that childhood experience are an essential in shaping adult personality. Psychodynamic concept is many closely associated with the job-related of Sigmund Freud, and with psychoanalysis, a type of psychotherapy the attempts to discover the patient’s unconscious thoughts and also emotions so that the person is much better able to understand him- or herself.

Freud’s work has been extremely influential, its influence extending far past psychology (several years earlier Time magazine selected Freud as among the most vital thinkers the the 20th century). Freud’s work has actually been not only influential, however quite controversial as well. Together you could imagine, once Freud argued in 1900 that lot of our habits is determined by psychological pressures of which we’re largely unaware—that we literally don’t understand what’s going on in our own minds—people were (to put it mildly) displeased (Freud, 1900/1953a). As soon as he argued in 1905 that we people have strong sexual feelings native a very early age, and that some of these sex-related feelings room directed towards our parents, world were more than displeased—they to be outraged (Freud, 1905/1953b). Couple of theories in psychology have actually evoked such strong reactions from various other professionals and members the the public.

Controversy notwithstanding, no proficient psychologist, or student of psychology, have the right to ignore psychodynamic theory. The is just too important for emotional science and practice, and also continues to play crucial role in a wide variety of disciplines within and outside psychology (for example, developmental psychology, social psychology, sociology, and also neuroscience; see Bornstein, 2005, 2006; Solms & Turnbull, 2011). This module reviews the psychodynamic view on personality. We start with a brief discussion the the core presumptions of psychodynamic theory, complied with by an introduction of the development of the concept from Freud’s time come today. Us then comment on the ar of psychodynamic concept within modern psychology, and also look towards the future together well.

Core assumptions of the Psychodynamic Perspective

The core assumptions of psychodynamic theory are surprisingly simple. Moreover, these assumptions are distinctive to the psychodynamic framework: No various other theories of personality accept these three ideas in their pure form.

Assumption 1:Primacy that the Unconscious

Psychodynamic theorists compete that the bulk of psychological procedures take location outside aware awareness. In psychoanalytic terms, the activities of the psychic (or psyche) room presumed to be greatly unconscious. Study confirms this simple premise of psychoanalysis: many of our psychological activities—memories, motives, feelings, and also the like—are greatly inaccessible to consciousness (Bargh & Morsella, 2008; Bornstein, 2010; Wilson, 2009).

Assumption 2: critical Importance of early Experiences

Psychodynamic theory is not alone in positing that beforehand childhood events play a role in shaping personality, but the concept is unique in the level to which the emphasizes these occasions as components of personality development and dynamics. According to the psychodynamic model, beforehand experiences—including those emerging during the an initial weeks or months of life—set in motion personality processes that influence us years, even decades, later on (Blatt & Levy, 2003; McWilliams, 2009). This is particularly true the experiences that are external the normal range (for example, shedding a parental or sibling at a an extremely early age).

Assumption 3: Psychic Causality

Our every thought and behavior —even something together seemingly random as which chair you select on the bus —results from biological or mental influences.

The 3rd core presumption of psychodynamic concept is the nothing in psychological life happens by chance—that there is no such point as a arbitrarily thought, feeling, motive, or behavior. This has involved be known as the principle of psychic causality, and though couple of psychologists accept the rule of psychic origin precisely together psychoanalysts conceive it, many theorists and researchers agree that thoughts, motives, emotional responses, and expressed behaviors do no arise randomly, but always stem from some combination of identifiable biological and psychological processes (Elliott, 2002; Robinson & Gordon, 2011).

The advancement of Psychodynamic Theory

Given Freud’s background in neurology, it is no surprising the the first incarnation the psychoanalytic theory was primarily biological: Freud set out to explain psychological phenomena in terms that could be attached to neurological functioning together it was understood in his day. Since Freud’s work in this area progressed over much more than 50 years (he began in 1885, and also continued till he died in 1939), there were countless revisions follow me the way. Thus, that is many accurate to think the psychodynamic concept as a collection of interrelated models that complement and also build upon each other. 3 are an especially important: the topographic model, the psychosexual stage model, and the structural model.

The Topographic Model

In his 1900 book, The translate of Dreams, Freud introduced his topographic design of the mind, which competed that the mind could be divided into three regions: conscious, preconscious, and also unconscious. The conscious part of the mind holds info that you’re concentrating on in ~ this moment—what you thinking and feeling right now. The preconscious has material that is capable of becoming mindful but is not aware at the moment since your fist is no being directed toward it. You have the right to move product from the preconscious into consciousness merely by focusing your attention on it. Consider, because that example, what you had for dinner last night. A moment back that info was preconscious; currently it’s conscious, because you “pulled it up” into consciousness. (Not come worry, in a few moments it will certainly be preconscious again, and also you can move on to much more important things.)

Dreams play an important role in psychodynamic theory, together they are often considered the main route v which the unconscious expresses itself to the conscious mind.

The unconscious—the most controversial component of the topographic model—contains anxiety-producing product (for example, sexual impulses, aggressive urges) that are deliberately repressed (held exterior of aware awareness together a kind of self-protection due to the fact that they do you uncomfortable). The state conscious, preconscious, and also unconscious continue to be offered today in psychology, and also research has provided considerable assistance for Freud’s thinking about conscious and also preconscious processing (Erdelyi, 1985, 2004). The presence of the unconscious continues to be controversial, with some researchers arguing that proof for the is compelling and also others competing that “unconscious” processing have the right to be accounted for without positing the visibility of a Freudian repository of repressed wishes and troubling urges and also impulses (Eagle, 2011; Luborsky & Barrett, 2006).

The Psychosexual stage Model

Freud remained dedicated to the topographic model, yet by 1905 he had outlined the crucial elements the his psychosexual stage model, which said that early in life we progress through a sequence of developmental stages, each v its own unique challenge and its own mode of sexual gratification. Freud’s psychosexual stages—oral, anal, Oedipal, latency, and genital—are well-known also to non-analytic psychologists. Frustration or overgratification throughout a particular stage to be hypothesized to an outcome in “fixation” at that stage, and to the development of an oral, anal, or Oedipal personality layout (Bornstein, 2005, 2006).

Table 1 illustrates the basic organization of Freud’s (1905/1953b) psychosexual phase model, and also the 3 personality formats that result. Keep in mind that—consistent v the developmental challenges that the child confronts throughout each stage—oral permanent is hypothesized to an outcome in a dependent personality, conversely, anal fixation results in a lifelong preoccupation with control. Oedipal fixation leads to one aggressive, compete personality orientation.

The structure Model

Ultimately, Freud well-known that the topographic design was helpful in understanding exactly how people process and store information, but not every that useful in explaining other vital psychological phenomena (for example, why details people construct psychological disorders and others execute not). To extend his theory, Freud occurred a complementary frame to account for normal and abnormal personality development—the structural model—which posits the visibility of three interacting mental structures called the id, ego, and superego. The id is the seat of drives and also instincts, whereas the ego represents the logical, reality-oriented part of the mind, and also the superego is basically your conscience—the ethical guidelines, rules, and also prohibitions that guide your behavior. (You acquire these with your family and through the society in i m sorry you were raised.)

According to the structure model, ours personality shows the interplay that these 3 psychic structures, which differ throughout individuals in family member power and also influence. As soon as the id predominates and also instincts rule, the an outcome is an impulsive personality style. Once the superego is strongest, ethical prohibitions reign supreme, and also a restrained, overcontrolled personality ensues. When the ego is dominant, a much more balanced set of personality traits build (Eagle, 2011; McWilliams, 2009).

The Ego and also Its Defenses

In addition to being the logical, rational, reality-oriented part of the mind, the ego serves another important function: It helps us regulate anxiety v the use of ego defenses. Ego defenses space basically psychological strategies the we use automatically and also unconsciously once we feel endangered (Cramer, 2000, 2006). They aid us navigate upsetting events, however there’s a expense as well: all ego defenses involve part distortion the reality. Because that example, repression (the most an easy ego defense, according to Freud) entails removing from awareness upsetting thoughts and feelings, and moving those thoughts and also feelings to the unconscious. Once you read around a person who “blocked out” upsetting storage of boy abuse, that’s an example of repression.

Another ego defense is denial. In refusal (unlike repression), we are conscious that a certain event occurred, however we don’t permit ourselves to view the implications of that event. Once you listen a human with a problem abuse trouble say “I’m fine—even though human being complain about my drinking ns never miss a day of work,” that human being is using denial. Table 2 perform some common ego defenses in psychodynamic theory, in addition to a meaning and instance of each.

Psychodynamic Theories: Where are We Now?

The topographic model, psychosexual phase model, and structural model proceed to influence modern-day psychology, but it is important to save in mind that psychodynamic theory is never ever static, ever transforming and evolving in solution to new ideas and also findings. In the adhering to sections we conversation four current trends in the psychodynamic perspective: object relations theory, the empirical testing of psychodynamic concepts, psychoanalysis and also culture, and also the opportunities and challenges the neuroscience.

Object relations Theory and the development of the Psychodynamic Perspective

Object relationships theory holds the the impressions we construct of our parents and how they behave beforehand in our lives serve a script that guide our habits in future relationships.

In recent years a number of brand-new psychodynamic frameworks have emerged to explain personality development and dynamics. The most essential of this is object relations theory. (In psychoanalytic language, the ax “object” refers to a person, therefore object relationships theory is really something much more like “interpersonal connections theory.”)

Object relationships theory contends that personality can be construed as reflecting the mental images of far-reaching figures (especially the parents) that we form early in life in response to interactions ensuing within the household (Kernberg, 2004; Wachtel, 1997). These mental images (sometimes called introjects) serve as templates for later interpersonal relationships—almost favor relationship blueprints or “scripts.” so if girlfriend internalized confident introjects beforehand in life (for example, a mental photo of mother or dad as warm and accepting), it is what you mean to happen in later on relationships together well. If you internalized a mental photo of mommy or dad as harsh and also judgmental, you might instead end up being a self-critical person, and feel the you deserve to never live increase to other people’s criter . . . Or your own (Luyten & Blatt, 2013).

Object connections theory has actually increased numerous psychologists’ attention in researching psychodynamic ideas and also concepts, in component because it represents a organic bridge in between the psychodynamic perspective and research in other locations of psychology. For example, developmental and also social psychologists additionally believe that mental representations of far-ranging people play vital role in shaping ours behavior. In developmental psychology you might read about this in the context of attachment theory (which says that attachments—or bonds—to far-reaching people are key to understanding person behavior; Fraley, 2002). In social psychology, mental representations of significant figures play critical role in social cognition (thoughts and also feelings regarding other people; Bargh & Morsella, 2008; Robinson & Gordon, 2011).

Empirical research on Psychodynamic Theories

Empirical study assessing psychodynamic ideas has produced mixed results, v some concepts receiving good empirical support, and others no faring as well. For example, the id that we express strong sexual feelings indigenous a very early age, as the psychosexual stage design suggests, has not organized up come empirical scrutiny. Top top the various other hand, the idea the there are dependent, control-oriented, and also competitive personality types—an idea likewise derived from the psychosexual stage model—does seem useful.

Many concepts from the psychodynamic perspective have actually been studied empirically. Luborsky and Barrett (2006) reviewed much of this research; other valuable reviews are provided by Bornstein (2005), Gerber (2007), and also Huprich (2009). For now, stop look at three psychodynamic hypotheses that have received solid empirical support.

Psychoanalysis and also Culture

The culture in which a person has been raised has actually a far-ranging influence on self-conceptions. Because that example, someone raised in north America is likely to explain themselves in an extremely different terms compared to someone increased in India.

One of Freud’s lifelong goals was to use psychoanalytic principles to understand culture and boost intergroup relations (he in reality exchanged number of letters with Albert Einstein prior to people War II, in i beg your pardon they questioned this issue). Throughout the past several decades, as culture has come to be increasingly multicultural, this effort has taken on new importance; psychoanalysts have actually been active in incorporating ideas and also findings regarding social influences right into their research and also clinical work. Because that example, researches have presented that people raised in individualistic, independence-focused societies (for example, the joined States, an excellent Britain) tend to specify themselves mostly in state of an individual attributes (like attitudes and also interests), whereas individuals raised in much more sociocentric, interdependent cultures (for example, Japan, India) are much more likely to explain themselves in terms of interpersonal relations and connections v others (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). Our self-representations are, quite literally, a product that our social milieu (Markus & Kitayama, 2010).

The Opportunities and also Challenges the Neuroscience

Fifteen years ago, Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel (1998) articulated a vision because that an empirically oriented psychodynamic view firmly installed within the principles and also findings the neuroscience. Kandel’s vision at some point led come the development of neuropsychoanalysis, an integration of psychodynamic and neuropsychological ideas that has enhanced researchers’ knowledge of numerous aspects of human behavior and mental to work (Solms & Turnbull, 2011). Several of the first efforts to integrate psychodynamic values with findings from neuroscience connected sleep and also dreams, and contemporary models that dream formation now incorporate principles from both domains (Levin & Nielsen, 2007). Neuroimaging approaches such as practical magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) have started to play an increasingly main role in this recurring psychoanalysis–neuroscience integration too (Gerber, 2007; Slipp, 2000).

Looking Ahead: Psychodynamic theory in the 21st Century (and Beyond)

Despite being surrounded by controversy, the psychodynamic perspective on personality has actually survived for more than a century, reinventing itself in solution to brand-new empirical findings, theoretical shifts, and transforming social forces. The psychodynamic view evolved considerably during the 20th century and will continue to evolve throughout the 21st century together well. Psychodynamic theory might be the closest point we have to an overarching, all-encompassing concept in psychology. It faces a broad variety of issues—normal and pathological functioning, an inspiration and emotion, childhood and also adulthood, individual and culture—and the psychodynamic perspective proceeds to have tremendous potential for integrating ideas and also findings across the countless domains of contemporary psychology.

See more: Essentrics Forever Painless With Miranda Esmonde-White Forever Painless Dvd S)

Table 1: The Psychosexual phase Model
Table 2: Some common Ego Defenses
Table 3: Conceptions of Personality in ~ Psychodynamic Theory

Outside Resources

Institution: Institute because that Psychoanalytic Training and also Research (IPTAR) - A branch of the worldwide Psychoanalytic Association, IPTAR theatre an active role in sustaining empirical research on psychoanalytic theory and therapy.http://www.iptar.org/Institution: The American Psychoanalytic combination - The American Psychoanalytic Association support psychodynamic training and research, and sponsors a number of workshops (as well as two yearly meetings) every year.http://www.apsa.org/Institution: The American mental Association division of Psychoanalysis - division 39 of the American emotional Association is the “psychological home” of psychodynamic theory and also research.http://www.apadivisions.org/division-39/Web: Library of congress Exhibit – Freud: Conflict and Culture. This is a an excellent website complete of photos, initial manuscripts, and links to miscellaneous Freud artifacts. Towards the finish of section Three (From the separation, personal, instance to Society) there is a attach to Freud’s 1938 BBC radio address; play it and you’ll acquire to hear Freud’s voice.http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/freud/

Discussion Questions

What is psychic causality?What room the key differences between the preconscious and the unconscious in Freud’s topographic model?What room the three vital structures in the structural version of the mind—and what does each framework do?Which ego defense execute you think is an ext adaptive: reaction development or sublimation? Why?How do world raised in individualistic cultures differ native those raised in an ext sociocentric cultures with respect to your self-concept—how carry out they perceive and describe themselves?According to object relationships theory, exactly how do early on relationships through our parents and other far-reaching figures affect later friendships and also romantic relationships?Which ar has the potential to benefit an ext from the emerging brand-new discipline of neuropsychoanalysis: neuroscience, or psychoanalysis? Why?


Ego defensesMental strategies, rooted in the ego, the we use to regulate anxiety as soon as we feel threatened (some examples incorporate repression, denial, sublimation, and also reaction formation).NeuropsychoanalysisAn integrative, interdisciplinary domain of inspection seeking to combine psychoanalytic and also neuropsychological ideas and findings to improve both areas of inquiry (you have the right to learn an ext by visiting the webpage that the international Neuropsychoanalysis culture at http://www.neuropsa.org.uk/).Object relations theoryA modern offshoot of the psychodynamic perspective, this concept contends the personality have the right to be understood as mirroring mental pictures of far-ranging figures (especially the parents) the we type early in life in response to interactions ensuing within the family; these mental photos serve as templates (or “scripts”) for later interpersonal relationships.Primacy of the UnconsciousThe hypothesis—supported by contemporary empirical research—that the vast bulk of mental task takes location outside conscious awareness.Psychic causalityThe assumption that nothing in mental life wake up by chance—that over there is no such point as a “random” assumed or feeling.Psychosexual stage modelProbably the many controversial facet of psychodynamic theory, the psychosexual stage model contends that early on in life we development through a succession of developmental stages (oral, anal, Oedipal, latency, and genital), each through its own distinctive mode of sexual gratification.Structural modelDeveloped to complement and also extend the topographic model, the structural design of the mental posits the existence of three communicating mental structures called the id, ego, and also superego.Topographic modelFreud’s an initial model that the mind, which competed that the mind could be split into 3 regions: conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. (The “topographic” originates from the reality that topography is the research of maps.)


Bargh, J. A., & Morsella, E. (2008). The unconscious mind. Perspectives on mental Science, 3, 73-79.Blatt, S. J., & Levy, K. N. (2003). Attachments theory, psychoanalysis, personality development, and psychopathology. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 23, 104-152.Bond, M. (2004). Empirical research studies of defense style: Relationships v psychopathology and change. Harvard review of Psychiatry, 12, 263-278.Bornstein, R. F. (2010). Psychoanalytic concept as a unifying framework for 21st century personality assessment. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 27, 133-152.Bornstein, R. F. (2009). Heisenberg, Kandinsky, and also the heteromethod convergence problem: Lessons native within and beyond psychology. Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 1-8.Bornstein, R. F. (2006). A Freudian build lost and reclaimed: The psychodynamics that personality pathology. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23, 339-353.Bornstein, R. F. (2005). Reonnecting psychoanalysis to mainstream psychology: Challenges and opportunities. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 22, 323-340.Cramer, P. (2006). Protecting the self: Defense mechanisms in action. Brand-new York, NY: Guilford Press.Cramer, P. (2000). Defense instrument in psychology today: further processes for adaptation. American Psychologist, 55, 637–646.Eagle, M. N. (2011). From classical to contemporary psychoanalysis: A critique and integration. Brand-new York, NY: Taylor & Francis.Elliott, A. (2002). Psychoanalytic theory: one introduction. Durham, NC: duke University Press.Erdelyi, M. H. (2004). Subliminal perception and its cognates: Theory, indeterminacy, and time. Consciousness and also Cognition, 13, 73-91.Erdelyi, M. H. (1985). Psychoanalysis: Freud’s cognitive psychology. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.Fraley, R. C. (2002). Attachment security from infancy to adulthood: Meta-analysis and also dynamic modeling of developmental mechanisms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 6, 123-151.Freud, S. (1953a). The translate of dreams. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The conventional edition that the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vols. 4-5). London, England: Hogarth. (Original occupational published 1900)Freud, S. (1953b). Three essays top top the concept of sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The conventional edition the the finish psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 7, pp. 125–245). London, England: Hogarth. (Original job-related published 1905)Gerber, A. (2007). Who unconscious is the anyway? The American Psychoanalyst, 41, 11, 28.Huprich, S. K. (2009). Psychodynamic therapy: conceptual and empirical foundations. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.Kandel, E. R. (1998). A brand-new intellectual frame for psychiatry. American journal of Psychiatry, 155, 457–469.Kernberg, O. F. (2004). Contemporary controversies in psychoanalytic theory, techniques, and also their applications. Brand-new Haven, CT: Yale college Press.Levin, R., & Nielsen, T. A. (2007). Disturbed dreaming, posttraumatic stress disorder, and impact distress: A review and also neurocognitive model. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 482–528.Luborsky, L., & Barrett, M. S. (2006). The history and empirical standing of key psychoanalytic concepts. Annual testimonial of Clinical Psychology, 2, 1–19.Luyten, P., & Blatt, S. J. (2013). Interpersonal relatedness and self-definition in normal and also disrupted personality development. American Psychologist, 68, 172–183.Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (2010). Culture and selves: A bicycle of shared constitution. Perspectives on mental Science, 5, 420–430.McWilliams, N. (2009). Psychoanalytic diagnosis (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and also collectivism: evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 3–72.Robinson, M. D., & Gordon, K. H. (2011). Personality dynamics: Insights native the personality society cognitive literature. Journal the Personality Assessment, 93, 161–176.Silverstein, M. L. (2007). Disorders that the self: A personality-guided approach. Washington, DC: APA Books.Slipp, S. (Ed.) (2000). Neuroscience and also psychoanalysis . Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 28, 191–395.Solms, M., & Turnbull, O. H. (2011). What is neuropsychoanalysis? Neuropsychoanalysis, 13, 133–145.Wachtel, P. L. (1997). Psychoanalysis, habits therapy, and the relational world. Washington, DC: APA Books.Wilson, T. D. (2009). Recognize thyself. Current direction in mental Science, 4, 384–389.