Sigmund Freud's Psycoanalytic Theory of Personality

Crystal Hall, Lisa Roundy, Christianlly Cena
  • Author
    Crystal Hall

    Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, experience as an Educational Services Editor, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.

  • Instructor
    Lisa Roundy

    Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

  • Expert Contributor
    Christianlly Cena

    Christianlly has taught college Physics, Natural science, Earth science, and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is currently pursuing his doctorate degree.

What is Freud's Theory of Personality? Learn about his contributions to psychoanalytic theory regarding personality, consciousness, development, and instincts. Updated: 07/01/2021

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What Is Psychoanalytic Theory?

Psychoanalytic Theory is part of a collection of psychological theories and therapeutic techniques originating in the works of Sigmund Freud, who developed Psychoanalytic Theory, coining the term ''psychoanalysis'' in 1896. The theory encompasses the idea that all people have unconscious thoughts, memories, emotions, and desires, and that therapy should be used to access the mind's repressed feelings and experiences. Only then will the patient experience cathartic healing of the mind.

In addition to Sigmund Freud, there have been many significant contributors in the field of Psychoanalytic Theory:

  • Hermann Rorschach- developed the Rorschach Test in 1921
  • Anna Freud- Sigmund Freud's daughter, who was an author and a Psychoanalyst primarily in the field of child psychology
  • Carl Jung- former President of the International Psychoanalytic Association, a supporter of some of Freud's theories, and creator of his own Psychoanalytic Theory with some similarities to Freud's but stating that psychic energy and not sexual energy was the motive for certain behaviors
  • Erik Erikson- best known for the development of the Identity Crisis and his lifespan of human development
  • Erich Fromm- a social psychologist and psychoanalyst who was critical of Freud's work and believed that freedom was an inherent part of human nature

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  • 0:05 Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
  • 0:27 Three Levels of Consciousness
  • 0:47 Id, Superego, and Ego
  • 2:48 Instinct and Motivation
  • 3:38 Freud's Psychosexual…
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Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory

Sigmund Freud was the creator of psychoanalysis, a treatment for mental illness, and the developer of human behavior theories. Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory states that human personalities evolve through a series of phases: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. According to Freud, these phases are developed by the unconscious mind's inner struggles; he theorized that there are three levels of consciousness: consciousness, preconsciousness, and unconsciousness. He believed these three levels also influenced the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. Most of his research was based on his observations in the field of hysteria, now called post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality states that there are three separate aspects of human personality that work together to form its substance: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. These Freudian personality types form the basis of human thoughts and emotions, beginning in the mind and emerging through psychoanalytic therapy and drawing on the patient's expression of past experiences that may have been repressed. Freud's process of delving into the minds of his patients included such techniques as inkblots, dream analysis, free association, and parapraxes, also known as Freudian Slips.

Rorschach Test

Rorschach inkblot tests are used in some psychoanalytic evaluations.

The Mind

Freud believed that a person's ego operates in three states of the mind: conscious, presconscious, and unconscious. The conscious consists of the meager amount of mental activity of which humans are aware. The preconscious is made up of things we could be aware of if we made the effort. The unconscious is comprised of things we are not aware of and do not have the capability to become so.

Freud's model of the mind as an iceberg places the conscious at the iceberg's tip; it includes the thoughts and events that are our current focus. The preconscious consists of everything we can recover from our memories; it is the level below the conscious. Below that lies the unconscious, where everything we can never be aware of is stored: memories, instincts, and a variety of fears. At the base of the iceberg, the Id resides, an extension of the unconscious mind that is home to the two types of instincts: Eros (life instinct) and Thanatos (death instinct). These two instincts battle one another in the psyche's battle to survive and to self-destruct, coming into play in Freud's Drive Theory.

The Id

The Id is the part of the human mind that contains all of the human mind's psychic energy, forming the personality's main component and residing in the human mind since birth. The Id is completely unconscious, based on the drive to survive, and encompasses all of a person's behaviors, both primitive and instinctive. An infant and its refusal to quiet until its needs are met, particularly hunger or thirst, is a solid example of the Id, its derivation from the pleasure principle, and its impact on daily life.

The Ego

According to Freud, the Ego is derived from the Id and bears the responsibility of providing the mind's ability to cope with reality. The Ego's operation is based on the reality principle, which attempts to quench the Id's desires in realistic ways by weighing both the pros and cons of impulses before deciding to either satisfy or discard them. The Ego also contains defense mechanisms, which are ways that it safeguards the mind from anxiety. The Ego might present itself while a person is sick and in the hospital. The patient might want to go home, believing there is nothing wrong, so the Ego would decide that the patient should remain in the hospital to get well instead of leaving and prolonging the illness.

The Superego

Emerging at five years of age, the Superego a person's sense of right and wrong as learned from parents and society. It contains two parts: the conscience and the ego ideal. The conscience contains thoughts of unacceptable behavior, possible punishments, and guilty feelings. The ego ideal is made up of the behavioral standards that the ego aims to exhibit. The ego acts as a suppressant for those behaviors, attempting to civilize human thoughts and actions. If a person is in a hurry and is tempted to drive through a red light, the Superego would work to influence that person to stop by reminding them of the potential for an accident by disobeying the traffic light's command to stop.

Freud's Theory of Development

What is Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Development? Freud believed that there are five stages of psychosexual development:

  • Oral (from birth to one year of age)- the period when the Id asserts itself through oral behaviors driven by the libido and leading to future habits: sucking the thumb, biting the fingernails, and smoking.
  • Anal (ages 1-3)- behavior is centered on the anus through defecation and asserted by the Ego; toilet training techniques may lead to obstinacy, obsessive neatness, swearing, stubbornness, and issues with authority.
  • Phallic (ages 3-6)- due to the Oedipus Complex, the libido revolves around the genitals and may lead to jealousy, fears of rejection, and erotic attractions.
  • Latency (ages 6-puberty)- the Ego and the Superego are active during this passive period, ushering in thoughts and behaviors that channel sexual energy into friends, hobbies, and studies.
  • Genital (puberty-adulthood)- the Superego reigns during this time of sharing sexual pleasure with others, developing sexual perversions, and discovering the right sexual partner.

Sigmund Freud

Freud's Instincts Theory

Freud's Aggression Instinct Theory Freud's view was that all human behavior originated from Eros, the life instinct that assists with reproduction; he later added Thanatos, the death instinct, to his theory. He believed that human aggressive behavior was necessary to human survival and reproduction. He also thought that aggression was biologically inherited and expressed both internally and externally.

Freud's Drive Theory, also called the Theory of Instinctual Drive, was developed by Sigmund Freud to help people understand aggressive behavior. According to Freud, the human body is constantly in search of a homeostatic state and, when that state of being is upset, the body then develops appetites for sexual and aggressive urges and searches for the satisfaction of those urges to return to the homeostatic state. The stages of these drives come into play in those of Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Development.

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Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory Word Scramble Activity

For this activity, study the scrambled letters and try to unscramble or rearrange the letters to form a word or phrase that fits the given clues. To do this, you must right-click and print this page. With a pencil and an eraser, neatly write your answers in the blank space provided.



Scrambled Words

  1. A _______________ refers to a consciousness wherein information isn't actively thought of but can be called to mind easily given the right trigger.
  2. _______________ argues that human behavior is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the id, ego, and superego.
  3. The moral sense of right and wrong, chiefly as it affects one's behavior, is known as __________.
  4. Pleasure principle is the driving force of the id that seeks _______________ gratification of all needs, wants. and urges.
  5. Life instincts are referred to as sexual instincts and assist the purpose of __________.
  6. The id is the primitive and instinctive component of personality that operates in our __________ mind.
  7. __________ is an innate and unconscious tendency expressed through behaviors such as aggression.
  8. As described by Freud, _______________ takes place during five stages that begin in infancy: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.
  9. The _______________ is the ego's control of the pleasure-seeking activity of the id to meet the demands of the external world.
  10. __________ is the part of the mind that acts as a conscience and reflects social standards that have been learned.



What is Freud most famous for?

Sigmund Freud is most famous for coining the term "psychoanalysis" and his many theories concerning the development of the human personality, its levels of consciousness, and the origins of its behaviors.

What does the psychoanalytic theory focus on?

The theory encompasses the idea that all people have unconscious thoughts, memories, emotions, and desires and that therapy should be used to access the mind's repressed feelings and experiences. Only then will the patient experience a cathartic healing of the mind.

What is psychoanalytic theory according to Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory states that human personalities evolve through a series of phases: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. According to Freud, these phases are developed by the unconscious mind's inner struggles; he theorized that there are three levels of consciousness: consciousness, preconsciousness, and unconsciousness.

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