Freud’s Theory of Personality-Major Assumptions
The Theory of Consciousness
Levels of Consciousness
Levels of Consciousness:
The Anatomy of Personality
The Theory of Consciousness
Original theory is based on experience with hypnosis and early treatment of hysteria. Sigmund Freud, a
young Viennese physician, he theorized that individuals are in a perpetual state of conflict motivated by
their unconscious sexual and aggressive urges.
Freud with his active writing and clinical practice developed:
(1) The first comprehensive personality theory
(2) An extensive body of clinical observations based on his therapeutic experience and self-analysis
(3) A compelling method for treating mental or behavioral disorders
(4) A procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way.
Freud's personality theory and its underlying assumptions will be examined.
Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856, at Freiberg, a small Austrian town now part of Czechoslovakia.
When he was four years old, his family suffered financial setbacks and moved to Vienna. He remained a
resident of that city until he migrated to England in 1938. He was the oldest of seven children, although his
father had two sons by a former marriage and was a grandfather when Sigmund was born.
From a very early age, Freud excelled as a student. Despite the limited financial position of his family
which forced all members to live in a crowded apartment, Freud had his own room and even an oil lamp to
study by. The rest of the family made do with candles. Like other young people of his time, he had a
classical education, studying Greek and Latin and reading the classics of various countries. He had a superb
command of the German language and fluency in French, English, Spanish, and Italian.
Freud recalled that he often had childhood dreams of becoming a great Austrian general or minister of
state. He reluctantly decided upon a medical career and entered the Faculty of Medicine of the University
of Vienna in 1873. He received his M.D. degree in 1881. In 1880 he began working with Breuer.
The year 1885 marked an important turning point in Freud's career, for it was then that he went to Paris to
study hypnosis a method of treatment which eliminated hysterical neurotic symptoms. Freud later rejected
hypnosis as a therapeutic technique and developed the method of Free Association, resistance, dream
analysis, transference and counter- transference.
In 1886 he married Martha Bernays he had six children and his daughter Anna Freud is a famous child
psychiatrist. In 1895 he published book called studies in Hysteria and in 1897 he began his self analysis but
the year 1900 is important because his most famous book called interpretation of dreams was published. In
1909 Freud was invited by Stanley Hall to deliver a series of lectures on Psychoanalysis this provided him
an opportunity to familiarize his brand of psychology internationally. He in 1923 discovered he had cancer
of the mouth and went through some 33 operations he died in 1939.
Levels of Consciousness
(How Personality Is Organized?)
For a long time in the theoretical development of psychoanalysis, Freud employed a topographical model
of personality organization. According to this model, psychic life can be represented by three levels of
consciousness-the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious. Freud used this mental "map" of the
mind to describe the degree to which mental events such as thoughts and fantasies vary in accessibility to
The conscious level includes all the sensations and experiences of which we are aware at any given
moment. Freud insisted that only a small part of mental life (thoughts, perceptions, feelings, memories) is
contained in the realm of consciousness. Whatever the content of conscious experience may be for a given
person at a given time, it is the result of a selective screening process largely regulated by external cues.
Moreover, it is actually conscious only for a brief time and can be quickly submerged into preconscious or
unconscious levels as the person's attention shifts to different cues. In short, the conscious represents a
small and limited aspect of personality.
The Anatomy of Personality
The concept of unconscious mental processes was central to Freud's early description of personality
organization. However, during the early 1920s he revised his conceptual model of mental life and
introduced three basic structures in the anatomy of personality: id, ego, and super ego.
The word "id" comes from the Latin word for "it" and refers exclusively to the biological component of
personality. The id is the mental agency containing everything inherited, present at birth, and fixed in the
individual's constitution- especially sexual and aggressive instincts. It is raw, animalistic, and unorganized,
knows no laws, obeys no rules and remains basic to the individual throughout life.
Freud identified two mechanisms the id employs to rid the personality of tension: reflex action and primary
process. In the former, the id responds automatically to sources of irritation, thereby promptly removing the
tension which the irritant elicits. Examples of such inborn reflex mechanisms are sneezing, coughing, and
blinking. Id is the unorganized reservoir of wishes or passions related to our sexual and aggressive drives, it
strives for immediate gratification that bypasses demands of reality, order logic and reason. The Id is like a
child when it wants something it wants it there and then without regard for consequences, so Id operates on
This refers to Greek concept of hedonism meaning pleasure. The energy within the Id is labeled as the
libido. The Id has its own characteristic way of processing information, cognitive style referred as primary
process. The thinking patterns of Id are illogical, irrational, emotional immature and purely selfish.
The ego is that portion of the psychic apparatus that seeks to express and gratify the desires of the id in
accordance with the restrictions of both outer reality and the superego. The ego acquires its structure and
functions from the id, having evolved from it, and proceeds to borrow some of the id's energy for its own
use in response to the demands of the environment. Ego thus assures the safety and self- preservation of
the organism. In its battle for survival against both the external world and the instinctual demands of the id,
ego must continuously differentiate between things m the mind and things in the outer world of reality. The
hungry man in search of food, for example, must distinguish between a mental Image of food and an actual
perception of food if tension reduction is to occur.
The ego operates according to the reality principle and the cognitive operations of the ego are characterized
by logic, reason and are referred as the secondary process. The ego is the master control,
In order for a person to function constructively in society, he or she must acquire a system of values,
norms, ethics, and attitudes which are reasonably compatible with that society. These are acquired through
the process of “socialization,” and in terms of the structural model of psychoanalysis are developed through
the formation of a superego. The superego is the last major system of personality to be developed and
represents an internalized version of society's norms and standards of behavior. In Freud's view, the human
organism is not born with a superego; rather, children must incorporate it through interactions with parents,
teachers, and other 'formative" figures. As the moral-ethical arm of personality, the superego results from
the child’s prolonged dependence upon parents. It makes its formal appearance w en the child is said to
know right from wrong, good from bad, moral from immoral.
Feel free to ask in case of any ambiguity.