Introduction to Psychodynamic perspective

In the more modern psychodynamic perspective, the focus still includes the unconscious mind, and its influence over conscious behavior and on early childhood experiences.

But with less of an emphasis on sex and sexual motivations, and more emphasis on the development of a sense of self, social and interpersonal relationships, and discovery of other motivations behind a person’s behavior. Many professionals still use Freud’s theory in therapy situations. However, it is far less common today than it was a few decades ago.

Psychodynamic Perspective.

Personality is the unique way in which each individual thinks, acts, and feels throughout life. Do not confuse Personality with character, which refers to value judgments made about a person’s morals or ethical behavior; nor  with temperament, the biologically innate and enduring characteristics with which each person is born, such as irritability or adaptability.

Both character and temperament are vital parts of personality, however. Every adult personality is a combination of temperaments and personal history of family, culture, and the time during which they grew up. (Kagan, 2010).

Personality is an area of psychology in which there are several ways to explain the characteristic behavior of human beings. Some perspectives are influenced by early schools of thought in psychology, such as structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt, learning, or the cognitive perspective. Theories or perspectives may also be influenced by newer ideas from evolution, social adaptation, motivation, and information processing.

Freud’s Conception of Personality

Freud was born and raised in Europe during the Victorian Age, a time of sexual repression. People growing up in this period were told by their church that sex should take place only in the context of marriage and then only to make babies.

They considered that enjoying sexual intercourse was a sin. It was okay if men were unable to control their “animal” desires at times, and a good Victorian husband would father several children with his wife and then turn to a mistress for sexual comfort, leaving his virtuous* wife untouched.

Due to these enforced ideas, Freud came to believe that there were layers of consciousness in the mind.

The Structure of the Mind

Freud believed that the mind was divided into three parts: the preconscious, conscious, and unconscious (Freud, 1900). While no one really disagreed with the idea of a conscious mind in which one’s current awareness exists or even of a preconscious mind containing memories, information, and events of which one can easily become aware, the unconscious mind (also called “the unconscious”).

Freud theorized that there is a part of the mind that remains hidden at all times, surfacing only in symbolic form in dreams and in some of the behavior people engage in without knowing why they have done so. Even when a person makes a determined effort to bring a memory out of the unconscious mind, it will not appear directly, according to Freud.

Freud believed that the unconscious mind was the most important determining factor in human behavior and personality.


Theories of Personality, Tenth Edition Duane P. Schultz and Sydney Ellen Schultz 2013, 2009 Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Psychology Global edition, Saundra K. Ciccarelli, J. Noland White © Pearson Education Limited 2018.

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