Freud’s Theory of Personality
Sigmund Freud proposed a theory that argues that individual behavior is a product of the interaction of three mechanisms in the human mind which are id, ego, and the superego. Personal behavior is a product of the interaction between the three components which people do not have control over. These interactions that give rise to individual behavior do occur through five separate psychosexual periods of growth. The balance attained after the unknown adverse interactions among the three concepts determine how people behave and how they view the world. The id is the impulse part; the superego always tells an individual what is right or wrong to do and lastly the ego is the part that gives an individual the chance to compromise. Every person has a desire, but it is the balanced attained after the subconscious relations among the id, ego, and superego that determine how people behave (Freud & Freud, 2001).
Freud viewed the id like the most fundamental part of the three components and it is mainly concerned with impulse fulfillment of basic bodily needs and desires. The id operates on an individual’s conscious state. The id explains why people get desires when they see what other people are doing; one good example is you saw someone eating an apple you would also want to have the fruit without having to consider the owner whether a stranger or a someone you know. The id does not care about other people; all it wants is to fulfill its desires even if it means acquiring the physical urge in a rude way. The id, therefore, is responsible for behaviors that are considered rude such as a child snatching another child’s toy so as to meet the physical desire it creates.
The society has aspects that it feels right or wrong, and the part that controls the behaviors related to the good or the bad is the superego (Freud & Freud, 2001). The superego could be viewed as the moral compass that tells people what to do and what not to do. The superego tells a person that it is wrong and rude to take something from someone just because you have had a desire for it. If the id overpowers the superego and makes an individual take something that does not belong to them so as to meet their wishes, that person is likely to have mixed feelings of guilt and shame after doing actions that are perceived wrong by the superego.
Rational and logical behaviors of an individual come from the ego component. The ego happens to be in between the unconscious and the conscious and Freud viewed it as the “self”. The ego brings the demands of the id and superego to an equilibrium hence making the individual realize the reality of their desire. The ego is the part that brings in the aspects of patience because a person has to come to a reality that taking what does not belong to them is wrong just to fulfill an urgent physical need and the only way to fulfill such a desire is acquiring your own. The ego tells an individual it is wrong and rude to take a stranger’s apple, but you can buy your apple even though you have to wait before you can find the apple. Therefore, Freud argued that a person with a powerful ego has a right personality, and any imbalances in the concepts could give rise to harmful behaviors.
As a person grows from childhood to adulthood, Freud argued that the id, superego, and ego vary their conflicts. These five stages of development have altering behaviors depending on the type of interaction among the three concepts. This argument gave rise to the psychosexual theory that has five phases that are: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Each psychosexual period is associated with a varied center of physical desire. According to this theory, children face different conflicts between the id that is responsible for biological desires and the superego that is related to morality; the different desires pay attention to various body parts of the child. How the child finds solutions to these biological needs determines how they behave as adults.
A child of one year and below is in the oral stage that is the first phase of personality growth, and it is concentrated in the mouth. A child fulfills its desires by putting all kinds of things in the mouth and thus meets the urges of the id. Behaviors such as breastfeeding and biting are associated with this phase. Due to stimulation, these related behaviors could be fixated and expressed in adulthood. Habits such as smoking, nail biting and thumb sucking in adulthood are present especially when these individuals are under stress.
The second phase is the anal stage that is viewed in children between one and three years of age who derive their pleasures from defecating. The children see themselves as people with rights depending on the authority placed to them as they defecate. How the child behaves to the instructions determines how they will treat all forms of authorities in adulthood. Children who get harsh training as they defecate tend to be clean, punctual and respect the authority because of the anal-retentive personalities they acquired as kids. Anal-retentive people tend to tight-fisted because Freud assumed that they attained their desires by holding back their waste as they trained to excrete. The opposite is the anal expulsive personality developed by children who did not hold back their waste as they received training on excrement. These individuals are generous, messy and are at times rebellious (Freud, 2001).
The third phase is the phallic stage characterized by children aged between three and six years who have desires centered in private parts and masturbation. Freud came up with the Oedipus complex in males and Electra complex in females where a child will take after the character traits of the parent they share the same sex, that is boys will take after their fathers and girls take after their mothers. According to Freud, a boy will have sexual desires for his mother and wants to occupy his father’s position. Therefore, the male child identifies and takes his father’s traits. In the Electra complex, the girl has urges for the father and she wishes to develop the male genitalia but later suppresses this desire with the urge to have a baby. Therefore, the girl child identifies and takes the traits of her mother. Freud’s argument on the phallic phase is not satisfactory on how behavior develops.
In the latency stage that occurs between six years and puberty, Freud thought that the sexual desires of a child are hidden, and energy is directed towards other things such as making friends. Children in this phase will, therefore, tend to associate with children of the same sex.
The last stage of the psychosexual theory is the genital stage that happens between puberty and adulthood. The genital period is the experimentation stage, and the desires are directed towards other people and the sexual desires are not egocentric. In this stage where sexual distortions are likely to arise, and people will tend to fulfill their urges through oral sex and to kiss rather than having sex (Freud, 2003).
Freud’s theory of personality has various weaknesses, one of which is that it has a narrow focus and only relies on the human mind to make assumptions on how behaviors are developed. Freud highly depended on sexuality that is not the only factor that determines human character. The second weakness is that most of his work does not have any data to support his ideas. The ultimate weakness is that Freud’s assumptions are male dominated hence having little logic to determine behavior development in females.
In my opinion, I agree with part of Freud’s theory of action because I always get cravings when I see other people with things that I love showing the interaction among the three components. I also agree with the oral stage of psychosexual behavior which expresses itself in adulthood, whenever I am stressed, eating the tip of a pen and also anything that I can throw in my mouth is normal. Therefore, I can say that physical urges arise from the id. However, Freud’s theories are not satisfactory because he did not collect any data and my personal behavior does not only depend on the mind but also the environmental factors and my culture.
Freud, S., & Freud, A. (2001). Complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 1). Random House.
Freud, S. (2001). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams (First Part) (Vol. 4). Random House.
Freud, S. (2003). Beyond the pleasure principle. Penguin UK.
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