Perspective Model Approach: Psychodynamic Approach and Symbolism for Competitive Exams

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The Psychodynamic Approach/Model

The approach that concentrated on the unconscious forces that drive our behavior; belief that the inner forces over which individuals have little control motivate behavior.

  • Founded by Sigmund Freud, the most influential figure in the history of psychology.
  • The basis of motivation and behavior lies in inner forces; forces that are predetermined, and forces over which humans have little control, which the person is not aware of i.e.. , unconscious determinants of behavior.
  • It maintained that instincts are the driving force behind individual՚s personality; there are life instincts as well as death instincts that play a role in human life.

Significance of Psychodynamic Approach

  • The most influential theory of the 20th century, which affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner.
  • Gave an entirely new perspective to the understanding of behavior and mental processes as well as mental illness.
  • The first theory to raise the awareness that not all behavior is rational.
  • Gave an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach.
  • Provided a basis to understand everyday life phenomena e. g. interpersonal relationships, aggression, prejudice.
  • Many other, later, approaches built their paradigms on this approach - some by refining it, some by deviating from it.
  • One of the main ideas is that there is an inner tension for the fulfillment of instincts, the tension leads to action for fulfillment, the fulfillment leads to reduced tension.

Sigmund Freud: 1856 - 1939

  • Founder of psychoanalysis
  • Austrian physician, neurologist, psychologist
  • Born in Moravia (Czech Republic) in a middle class family
  • Studied at Vienna University where he became interested in neurological research
  • Spent three years at General Hospital Vienna and worked in nervous diseases, psychiatry, and dermatology
  • 1885: Became professor of neuropathology at Vienna University
  • 1885: Following a government grant went to Paris as a student of French neurologist Jean Charcot, who was treating nervous diseases through hypnotic suggestion
  • Freud՚s interest in psychopathology was heightened as a result of his studies of hysteria, under Charcot
  • 1886: Established private practice in Vienna specializing in nervous disease. His interest shifted from physiological to psychological explanation of psychopathology
  • Started collaborative work with Josef Breuer
  • 1895: wrote “Studies on Hysteria” ; main emphasis was that uncharged emotional energy associated with forgotten psychic traumas resulted into hysterical symptoms
  • Therapy, at that stage, involved putting the patient in a hypnotic state, where he recalled and reenacted the traumatic experience = Catharsis
  • Hence the formal beginning of Psychoanalysis

Foundations of Psychodynamic Approach

  • Psychic Determinism
  • All behavior is determined i.e.. , has a cause that lies in the mind/psyche
  • Role of Consciousness
    • A significant part of our behavior is generated by unconscious forces
    • Continuity of Normal and Abnormal Behavior
    • Normal and abnormal behavior are different only in terms of degree and not in kind
    • Emphasis on Clinical Observation
    • Clinical observation/case studies were the main source of data
  • Structure of Consciousness
    • Conscious
    • Contains thoughts and feelings of which one is immediately aware
  • Subconscious
    • Mind level below the level of conscious awareness
  • Preconscious
    • Part of the sub conscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice
  • Unconscious
    • Part of the sub conscious that cannot be accessed directly although impulses, ideas, and feelings may permeate out through other sources e. g. dreams, slips of tongue etc.

Dreams in Freudian Approach

  • Dreams reflect unconscious needs, desires, and impulses.
  • Dreams have two levels of dream content: manifest and latent.
    • Manifest content
      • The obvious, apparent part: what a dream appears to be to the dreamer.
    • Latent content
      • The dream՚s true meaning, which is usually disguised or distorted by dream work.


  • The manifest content is in a symbolic form
  • The latent content is converted into this form by the ′ dream censor, a mechanism that ensures that sleep is not disturbed by unconscious desires, and those desires are presented in a socially acceptable form.
  • The manifest content is in the symbolic form of the latent content. Only the psychoanalyst can interpret it.

Psychodynamic Model of Personality

Is a three-part structure of the mind; containing id, ego and super ego.

  • Id
    • At birth, the entire mind consists of only id. It consists of pure, unadulterated,
    • Instinctual energy and exists entirely on the unconscious level. It is the source of
    • Basic drives; operates under the ‘pleasure principle’ i.e.. . , it wants immediate
    • Gratification of needs. The id has two means of satisfying bodily needs, reflex
    • Action and wish fulfillment.
    • Reflex action is responding automatically to a source of irritation . e. g. an infant
    • May sneeze in response to an irritant in the nose or reflexively move a confined limb, thereby freeing it. In both cases, reflex action is effective in reducing tension. Coughing and blinking are other examples of reflex action.
    • Wish- fulfillment is more complicated. It is the conjuring up of an image of an object or event that is capable of satisfying a biological need e. g. a hungry person thinks of food- related objects.
  • Ego
    • Mediates the link of the self with the outside world, “Real World” , as well as between the id and superego; operates under the demands of the environment. It operates under the reality principle and operates in the services of id.
    • In other words, the ego comes into existence in order to bring the person into contact with experiences that will truly satisfy his/her needs. When the person is hungry, the ego finds food; when the person is sexually aroused, the persons finds an appropriate sex object; and when the person is thirsty, the ego finds liquid. The ego goes through reality testing to find appropriate objects.
  • Super Ego
    • There is a third component of personality that makes things much more complicated, i.e.. . super ego. It is governed by the moral constraints.
    • It develops from the internalized patterns of reward and punishment that the young child experiences i.e.. . Depending on the values of the parents, certain things the child does or says are rewarded and encouraged and others not liked are punished or discouraged.

Opposes the id and represents the moral demands of the family and society; it is the ‘moral self’ or the ‘conscience’ of the person