Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychiatrist and known as the father of psychoanalysis, developed an entirely new and fascinating approach to understanding the human personality. He is referred to as ‘one of the most influential and controversial minds of the 20th century’. Freud was born on the 6th of May 1856 and died after being diagnosed with cancer on the 23rd of September 1939. During the course of Freud’s life, he developed certain theories that provoked a new understanding of the human mind.
Some of Freud’s theories consist of: the conscious and unconscious mind and the id, ego and superego. Freud’s theories, such as these, were extremely influential, but subject to substantial criticism during his own life and ongoing to this day.
In the early 1990s, Sigmund Freud developed the psychodynamic view of human behaviour. This model relies on the principle that human behaviour is brought about by internal forces over which the individual has little or no control. It is thought that dreams and the occasionally word slip are clues as to what exactly each individual is really thinking.
To look at the role of conscious and unconscious, firstly one has to understand that it forces and guides an individual’s behaviour. During Freud’s study he developed a personality model, this he defined into three elements: the id, the ego and the super ego; also known as the unconscious, pre-conscious and the conscious. These three elements are not physical features found in the brain; they are merely representations of a universal model of a personality that describes the connections of various behaviours that’s motivating each human being. As it appears in Freud’s work, it is almost as if Freud was preoccupied with the exploration of unconscious role in the human mind, he didn’t tend to pay much attention to the person as a whole. The conscious process appears as if it was an afterthought, almost as though he felt he had better add it in to his work, as there is not much research found in this element.
‘The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.’
Sigmund Freud likes to identify the theory of the mind with an image of an iceberg. Freud sees that the unconscious, id part is the bottom part of the iceberg, below the sea hidden away and we are not always aware of it however, it is still there. Sigmund Freud sees that the pre-conscious, super ego part is the bit where the iceberg is just below the water, sometimes can be seen other times can be hidden; again like the mind where we are aware it is there but cannot always bring the thoughts to mind. Freud also describes the conscious, ego part, of the mind as the tip of the iceberg as it is the bit we are most aware of and can be seen.
The id, the ego and the super ego are very complex. Each individual is born with the id. This itself refers to the unorganised and rare part of the personality. Its initiative is to reduce anxiety, which is created by our primeval drives, which are in relation to aggression, hunger, sex and unreasonable impulses. The id operates according to the main pleasure principle, in which its aim is to direct gratification and diminution of tension. Generally speaking, in most human beings, reality prevents the id’s immediate demands from being achieved. For example we cannot always eat when feeling hungry, we are aware the hunger is there, but are able to restrain ourselves until ready or able to eat.
The ego is amongst the id and the world’s realities. The ego focuses on the reality principle, it primarily maintains the safe and well being of each individual and helps amalgamate the person into the society. Each individual develops ego with maturity. The ego can be described as the ‘the one who calls the shots’ of each being’s personality. The ego is the decision maker; it controls actions and can then allow for a higher ability to solve problems. In comparison the id is not as proficient of such high levels of consideration. The ego is accountable for the higher initiative functions, for example intelligence, thoughtfulness, observation and learning.
The super ego, we develop during the course of life. It is the concluding factor of Freud’s models of behaviour. It is comparable to the id in that it is to some extent not likely. The super ego represents the right and wrongs, the good and bad of the society to each individual over their lifetime. The super ego is made up of two contributing parts: the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience stops us commencing morally bad things and on the other hand the ego-ideal motivates us to do what is morally proper. The super ego helps to control the ids urges, which makes them less selfish and much more morally proper.
(Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego – Sigmund Freud)
The id and the superego both together are impractical in that they do not consider taking society into account. The lack of reality within the super ego, if left abandoned, would create perfectionists who would be unable to compromise with what life requires. Similarly an unchecked id would create an attention-seeking thoughtless individual, who would always be seeking to accomplish every command with no setback. It is the ego that compromises amid the demands of the id and the super ego, allowing a person to obtain some satisfaction of the id while maintaining the super ego, which would prevent such gratification. So all in all they all work together to create a well-rounded human being.
Whilst exploring all parts of the mind, we see by research that Sigmund Freud only seemed to be interested in the role of the unconscious in relation to illness. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, urges, thoughts and memorises that tend to be outside of our conscious awareness. The majority of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable, such as feelings of pain, anxiety or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to control our behaviour and experience, even though each individual is unaware of these fundamental influences. Freud did not exactly discover the idea of the unconscious but his research made it hugely popular. Freud’s theory of the unconscious is extremely deterministic. Freud debatably was the first theorist to apply deterministic principles scientifically to the sphere of the psychological. He firmly hypotheses, that the variety of human behaviour is understandable, only in conditions of the mental processes, or states which summarises it. This being the reason for as an alternative for treating the behaviour of the neurotic as being causally mysterious, which had been the existing approach for centuries, Freud insisted on the contrary, treating it as behaviour for which is consequential to find a justification by searching for causes in terms of the psychological states of the human being concerned. (www.webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html)
The unconscious mind includes all the things that are not easily obtainable to awareness, including many things that have their genesis there, like how things are put there although we cannot tolerate to look at them, such as the memories and emotions associated with trauma. (www.iep.utm.edu/freud/)
According to Freud, the unconscious is the foundation of our motivations, whether they be straightforward desires for food or sex or neurotic compulsions, we are often almost obsessed to reject or oppose of becoming conscious of these motives, and they are often accessible to us only in concealed form. (www.webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html)
During Sigmund Freud’s theories he encountered a lot of support of his modules although along the way there were some criticisms too.
The most forceful criticisms of Freudian personality, is that it points out that this theory is developed upon a shortness of scientific data. There are unfortunately no physical parts of an individuals brain that symbolizes these three elements of personality (the id, ego and super ego.) Freud based his theories on wealth individual assessments, but no actual reliable data. An additional criticism is that we can frequently explain behaviour after the fact using Freudian theories, however we can seldom predict behaviour. Also, Freud made his observations and therefore derived his theory from an inadequate population, principally upper-class Austrian women living in a strict period of the 1900s. (www.freudfile.org/theory.html)
Regardless of the criticisms of the theory, Freud’s personality has had a enormous impact on the field of psychology. The idea of the unconscious and the elements of personality have frequently led us to question our own motivations for our behaviour. Freud’s reputation for his research into the unconscious has been supported by some current known psychology research. Such work has uncovered those mental processes about which people are naive have a significant impact on thinking and actions.
The main contribution of Freud’s psychoanalytic theories is perhaps the fact that it ignited additional study of the mind, and the drive behind an individual’s behaviour, as a result, leading to more study and finding of new ideas and theories.
In conclusion, Freud’s work has had a huge impact on myself, as it has made me think about how individual minds operate. I find it extremely interesting how he analysed each profound element and awareness of the mind. Taking the negatively critical remarks into account I feel that Sigmund Freud made great beginnings to work out the human mind and if it wasn’t for Freud being so determined in his quest, the mind would still be a great unknown.