After Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud (1836 – 1939) probably revolutionized Western thought more than any other thinker in the past century. His psychodynamic approach to psychology and the forces behind human motivations is best known for its focus on childhood sexuality and his picture of the mind. His research focused on case studies of individuals and their motivations first through hypnosis and later through a technique that he called “psychoanalysis” where he allowed the patient to talk freely and experience a cathartic release of emotions.
Freud was greatly influenced by the science of the time, especially the Darwinian revolution and advances in physics. The Darwinian idea that people are merely refined animals allowed Freud to delve into the human psyche and break it down into tangible parts, rather than attributing the human mind to God’s divinity. But rather than observing man as the sum total of his ancestors, Freud made a person the sum total of his experiences. In physics he especially drew upon the newly discovered principle of the “conservation of energy” when he created his “psychodynamic” approach to personality. (Thornton)
The psychodynamic approach concerns the “dynamics” of psychological forces which act against each other. He assumed that people each had a fixed amount of “psychic energy,” which is expressed in emotion (Seligman). This energy must be distributed between the different personality processes of “id,” “ego,” and “superego”, which are present at either the “conscious” or “unconscious” levels.
The Psychological Processes on the Mind
Freud divides the mind into three levels of consciousness, the conscious, the preconscious, and the ...
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“Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development.” AllPsych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom. March 21, 2004. http://allpsych.com/psychology101/sexual_development.html
Gazzaniga, Michael S. and Todd F. Heatherton. Psychological Science. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2003.
Seligman, Martin, et al. Abnormal Psychology, Fourth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.
“Sigmund Freud.” <http://oldsci.eiu.edu/psychology/Spencer/Freud.html>
Thornton, Stephen P. “Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2001. http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/freud.htm.
Wittenberg, Judith Bryant. “Teaching The Sound and the Fury with Freud.” Approaches to Teaching Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Stephen Hahn and Arthur F. Kinney, eds. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1996.
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