Freudian and Neo-Analytical Personality Theories
Posted on December 13th, 2016

Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge 

The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One understands individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole (American Psychological Association).  Personality is the entire mental organization of a human being at any stage of his development. It embraces every phase of human character: intellect, temperament, skill, morality, and every attitude that has been built up in the course of one’s life (Warren & Carmichael, 1930). According to Krauskopf and Saunders (1994) personality also refers to the pattern of thoughts, feelings, social adjustments, and behaviors consistently exhibited over time that strongly influences one’s expectations, self-perceptions, values, and attitudes. It also predicts human reactions to other people, problems, and stress.

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Sigmund Freud can be considered as the father of modern personality theory.  Sigmund Freud developed psychodynamic theories on personality. In his view personality emerges from the conflict between biological instincts and social forces. According to Freud,   personality is composed of three elements known as the id, the ego, and the superego (Freud, 1923).  Freud’s structural theory of personality describes how conflicts among these elements shape behavior and personality.  Freud stated that the personality develops during childhood and is critically shaped through a series of five psychosexual stages. In each stage the subject experiences internal psychological conflict mostly unconscious. The child is experiencing a conflict between biological drives and social expectations.  At each stage, the libido’s pleasure-seeking energy is focused on a different part of the body Freud believed that sexuality is the main driver of human personality development.

As Freud postulated nature of the conflicts among the id, ego, and superego change over time as a person grows from child to adult forming his personality (Freud, 1923).  Furthermore be believed human personality is complex and has more than a single component. Freud believed that certain aspects of   personality are more primal and acts upon basic instincts (Freud, 1920).   According to Freud, the id which is a psychic energy is the primary component of personality.  The id is the only component of personality that is present from birth.  The ego which functions in both the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind is responsible for dealing with reality. The superego   which begins to emerge at around age five holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that acquire from both parents and society – our sense of right and wrong. The key to a healthy personality is a balance between the id, the ego, and the superego (Freud, 1923).

Freud suggested that mental states are influenced by two competing forces: cathexis and anticathexis.   Cathexis was described as an investment of mental energy in a person, an idea or an object whereas Anticathexis involves the ego blocking the socially unacceptable needs of the id. Freud highlighted the unconscious effects on behavior and believed that unconsciousness was the root of behavior and personality (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Mataruse and Mwatengahama (2001) assert that according to Freud’s theory of personality development, it is during the first five years that a child’s sexual orientation is developed and determined.

However Freud misdeed the impact of environment, sociology, religion or culture that affects personality. He missed the healthy part of human personality. His ideas were more patriarchal and misogynistic. Torrey (1993) indicates that research has reliably failed to substantiate Freudian concepts.

Neo-Freudians used Freud’s original theories to formulate the theories of     personality.  Neo-freudians persuaded that personality was the product of the social environment as well as biology. They de-emphasized infantile sexuality.

Major neoanalytic theories were presented by Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Carl Jung (1875-1961) Karen Horney (1885-1952) Erik Erikson (1902-1994). These theories de-emphasized sexuality, and the importance of the unconscious. Furthermore   neoanalytic theories highlighted the role of the ego.

Although  Freud believed that  the ego’s primary task was to mediate among the id, superego and external reality the Neo Analysts consider  that  ego is present at birth and involved in adaptation. They indicated how ego interacts with    other individuals, society and culture.

The Neo-Analysists such as Adler, Erikson, Hartmann, Loevinger and White presented personality theories. Adler’s individual psychology postulates the striving for superiority. Alfred Adler (1870-1937) one of the four original members of what was to become the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, was the first to accept a humanistic-educational model of man in contrast to Freud’s medical model of man (Ansbacher ,1990).

Adler de-emphasised sexual motivation and believed that a striving for superiority was the motivating force in life.   Adler believed that  one’s life style is formed early in life, and is the product of such factors as birth order, constitutional infirmities, and the degree of pampering and neglect received from the parents and other caretakers.   As described by Stern (1971) Adler’s mentally healthy man is the one who, instead of striving for personal power, develops Gemeinschajtsgejuhf, community feeling.  To Adler, however, the development of community feeling was not only an educational, moral requirement, but a therapeutic necessity.

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was the founder of the analytical psychology. The relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud began in 1906 and Jung rejected some of Freud’s theories. Jung’s journey into personality began with a journey into the inner workings of his own mind (Burger, 2008; Feist & Feist, 2009). Jung created eight distinct personality types. These orientations are the pairing of two attitudes: introversion and extroversion, and four functions. The four functions included feeling, thinking, sensation, and intuition.

Carl Jung believed that people are dominated by attitudes of either introversion or extraversion.   Jung revealed archetypes such as the anima; the animus; the shadow; and the self. Jung used the terms ‘anima’ and ‘animus’ to classify observed phenomena but did not explore the developmental origins of these phenomena in terms of personal history and experience (Colman, 1996). The anima is the feminine side of the male psyche and the animus is the masculine side of the female psyche. According to shadow is considered to be the unconscious part that is essentially negative.  The self – the central archetype; the striving for unity of all parts of personality.

As described by Jung every person has a persona or a mask which represents a compromise between one’s true self and the expectations of society.  Jung believed in the effects of unconscious and how interpersonal conflicts affect in personality development.

Karen Horney is unique and unparalleled in personality theory (O’Conneil, 1980). She believed that Freud had given too much importance to biology and too little to social factors. As Horney stated personality is significantly affected by the unconscious mind, but she also theorized that both interpersonal relationships and societal factors were key factors contributing to mental development. Karen Horney developed the concept of basic anxiety, which stemmed from the individual’s feelings of isolation and helplessness in a hostile world. For Horney, the fundamental issue for the person is not sexuality but security.

According to Horney, self-realizing people know what they really think, feel, and believe; they are able to take responsibility for themselves and to determine their values and aims in life. Their judgments and decisions are in the best interest both of their own growth and that of other people. They want to have good relations with others and care about their welfare, but they have their center of gravity in themselves and are able to say no if others make irrational demands or attempt to impinge upon their selfhood (Paris, 1999).

Horney further stated that a poor fit between child and environment sets in motion a process of self-alienated development in which an idealized image replaces the real self as the primary source of motivation and sense of identity. People cope with feeling unsafe, unloved, and unvalued by compulsively moving toward, against, and away from others, and by embarking on a “search for glory” in which they try to actualize their idealized image. Compliant people develop an idealized image of themselves as loving, helpful, and forgiving; aggressive people strive to be powerful, ruthless, and triumphant; and detached people pursue freedom, peace, and self-sufficiency. (Paris, 1999).

In Freud’s opinion the roots of the ego, the id, are to be found in body sensations and feelings, but he had to admit that very little was known about these sensations and feelings. Only much later was neuroscience in a position to offer evidence that feelings can be the direct perception of the internal state of the body (Sletvold,     2013). Freud gave less importance to the social inactions.

Harry Stack Sullivan (1892- 1949) developed a theory of personality that emphasized the importance of interpersonal relations.  According to Sullivan personality is shaped almost entirely by the social relationships.Sullivan   viewed that personality cannot be separated from social psychology: the individual’s personality develops in a social context, and expresses itself in social interaction. Sullivan’s interpersonal theory emphasizes tension from two sources: the individual’s needs and social anxiety. Sullivan saw anxiety as existing only as a result of social interactions. He highlighted the importance of current life events to psychopathology. He believed that people acquire certain images of self and other throughout the developmental stages (Sullivan, 1953).

Eric Erikson’s psychosocial theory is viewed as an extension of Freud’s psychosexual theory (Samkange, 2015).  Much like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages. However Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, Erikson’s theory describes the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. Freud held the notion that an individual’s personality is established primarily during the first five years, whereas Erikson says that the development of personality is a continuous process throughout an individual’s life. Developing personality is dependent on achieving a healthy ratio or balance between the two opposing disposition that represent each crisis (Meggitt, 2006).

Erikson continues to receive a great deal of credit for recognizing the influence of culture on development (Hoare, 2002).  Erikson agreed with the other Neo-Freudian that the primary issues in personality are social rather than biological. Furthermore he de-emphasized the role of sexuality. Ericson emphasized   the development of ego identity. Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that   develop through social interaction.

Erikson‟s eight stages of psychosocial theory is a follow up of, and was greatly influenced by Sigmund Freud ‟ s psychosexual theory of human development which attributes human development to fixation of sexual attributes at different stages life (McLeod, 2008). He believed that these 8 psychosocial stages and that there is a crisis / conflict at each stage. How people resolve each of these crises determines the direction of their personality development will take. Each stage is characterized by 2 different ways to resolve the crisis: one maladaptive and one adaptive.

Erikson (1968) summarizes with the following statement:  I shall present human growth from the point of view of the conflicts, inner and outer, which the vital personality weathers, reemerging from each crisis with an increased sense of inner unity, with an increase of good judgment, and an increase in the capacity ‘to do well’ according to his own standards and to the standards of those who are significant to him. 

Melanie Klein (the founder of Object Relations Theory) accepted some of Freud’s basic assumptions while rejecting others. The concept of object relations stems from psychoanalytic instinct theory. The “object” of an instinct is the agent through which the instinctual aim is achieved, and the agent is usually conceived as being another person. It is generally agreed that the infant’s first object is his mother (Ainsworth, 1969). Klein has the view that infants suffer a great deal of anxiety and that this is caused by the death instinct within, by the trauma experienced at birth and by experiences of hunger and frustration. Melanie Klein   said that infants internalize, or swallow whole, into their unconscious psyche, categories or representations of reality. These are known as introjects” or objects”

John Bowlby was influenced by Freud and he formulated an understanding of human development based on the centrality of human relationships in their specific cultural contexts.

Bowlby introduced the Attachment Theory and believed that attachment behaviors are instinctive and will be activated by any conditions that seem to threaten the achievement of proximity, such as separation, insecurity and fear. Bowlby defined attachment as a ‘lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.  Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Bowlby, 1969).

Bowlby stated that a child has an innate or inborn need to attach to one main attachment figure. A child should receive continuous care from this main attachment figure for approximately the first two years of life. He highlighted the long term consequences of maternal deprivation on personality. Bowlby (1969) stated that attachment does not have to be reciprocal.  One person may have an attachment to an individual which is not shared.  Attachment is characterized by specific behaviors in children, such as seeking proximity with the attachment figure when upset or threatened.

The Great Russian Psychologist L. S. Vygotsky (1896-1934) has long been recognized as a pioneer in developmental psychology. Although Vygotsky was not a neo Freudian he was familiar with Freud’s writings. Vygotsky introduced the sociocultural approach that was disregarded by Sigmund Freud. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of human learning describes learning as a social process and the origination of human intelligence in society or culture.  Vygotsky indicated that the children learn behavior and cognitive skills by dealing with more experienced people, such as teachers or older siblings.  According to Vygotsky, learning has its basis in interacting with other people. Once this has occurred, the information is then integrated on the individual level. Vygotsky focused on several different domains of development: human evolution (phylogenesis), development of human cultures (sociocultural history), individual development (ontogenesis) and development which occurs during the course of a learning session or activity or very rapid change in one psychological function (microgenesis) (Wertsch, 1991).

For Vygotsky, the human being is characterized by a ‘primary sociability’. The same idea is expressed more categorically by Henri Wallon: ‘The individual is genetically social’ (Wallon, 1959).    Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals. (Vygotsky, 1930).

Jean Piaget and Freud shared some similar ideas. Both were interest in development and both were stage theorists. Freud underlined the concept of the Id” but Piaget highlighted the concept of egocentrism. Unlike Freud Paget gathered his data by directly observing children.

Piaget proposed that cognitive development from infant to young adult occurs in four universal and consecutive stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations (Woolfolk, A., 2004). Piaget (1955) identified four universal stages of cognitive development theorizing what children comprehend at different ages and deduced that intelligence matures through personally constructed assimilation and accommodation.  He posits that child development is a progressive construction of logically embedded structures and that each stage follows after successful cognitive attainment of the previous stage, always in the same order, and builds upon the child’s ability to learn (Piaget 1955).

In Piaget’s system, the development of children’s cognitive structures is seen as progressing through a universal sequence from sensorimotor, to concrete, to formal logical thought. The data that have been obtained on his measures are problematic in their support for this view, however, because they indicate that adults in traditional societies often fail his formal tasks Okamoto et al., 1996).  Piaget   that children learned best by experimenting for themselves and social interactions among children helped them to overcome their egocentric tendencies (Fleming, 2004).   Critics of Piaget’s work argue that his proposed theory does not offer a complete description of cognitive development (Eggen & Kauchak, 2000).

Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) was influenced by Freud and Horney. Freud and Fromm were contemporaries and shared some common views. Fromm accepted the importance of unconscious, biological drives, repression and defense mechanisms, but rejected Freud’s theory of id, ego and superego. Freud ignored the effect of religion shaping personality and once stated; “Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.”(Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1933).  Erich Fromm profoundly studied the effects of religion. Fromm (1950) stated that humanistic religious experience has no dimension for a transcending divine being. Thus, the sense of being overwhelmed, absolute dependence,” or obedience are unfamiliar to this type of religious experience. Humanistic religious experience can accept the concept of God or gods, but only in the sense that ideas of God or gods are no more than another way of expressing a higher part of human being. Fromm (1950) concluded: authoritarian type of religion presupposes the existence of a higher power which takes control over a human being.

Fromm’s humanistic psychoanalysis looks at people from the perspective of psychology, history, and anthropology.  Fromm developed a more culturally oriented theory than Freud’s theory.   Erich Fromm was of the view that Freud underestimated the role of socio-economic culture on development. Fromm extrapolated upon the characteristics of the highest levels of personality development. Moreover he emphasized the significance of society’s norms, customs, and values impacting personality development.

Fromm identified several character orientations found in Western society. The receptive character can only take and not give; the hoarding character, threatened by the outside world, cannot share; the exploitative character satisfies desires through force and deviousness; and the marketing character—created by the impersonal nature of modern society—sees itself as a cog in a machine, or as a commodity to be bought or sold. Contrasting with these negative orientations is the productive character, capable of loving and realizing its full potential, and devoted to the common good of humanity. Fromm later described two additional character types: the necrophilouscharacter, attracted to death, and the biophilous character, drawn to life (Rinner 1989).  Eric Fromm stated that people attempt to relieve their anxiety by escaping from freedom. Therefore he identifies love as the ultimate aim of personality development.

Concluding Thoughts

The development of human personality encompasses physical (biological) development, intellectual development, social development, and emotional development, moral and spiritual development. Nonetheless Sigmund Freud missed important aspects of human personality and personality development. Freud believed in the savage part of the human personality. Whereas Psychologists like Carl Rogers emphasized the positive aspects of human personality. Freud misdeed the impact of environment, sociology, religion or culture that affects personality.  Freud was not interested in individual differences. Conversely the Neo-Freudians used Freud’s original theories to formulate the theories of   personality.  Neo-freudians persuaded that personality was the product of the social environment as well as biology. They de-emphasized infantile sexuality. All these theories specified that human personality is complex and has more than a single component.

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