Psychology Study Material: Psychodynamic Model of Personality

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Psychodynamic Model of Personality

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

Psychodynamic Model of Personality


  • 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 fulfilment.
  • 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- fulfilment 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.


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

Development of Personality: A Stage Approach

Psychodynamic approach proposed a stage- theory of the development of personality:

  • Oral stage occurs during the first year of life and the erogenous zone during this stage is the mouth. At this stage, pleasures mainly come from mouth. According to Freud, an adult who is fixated at the early oral stage will engage in abundance of oral activities such as eating, drinking, or smoking. This person also will engage in activities that are symbolically equivalent to those oral activities such as collecting things, being a good listener etc.
  • Anal stage starts during the second year of life, and the erogenous zone is the anus buttocks region. It is the stage when the child has to gain control over his physiological processes so that they function in accordance with the demands of the society. i.e.. the child must be toilet trained. Fixation at this stage may result in physical problems.
  • Phallic stage starts from the third year of life to about fifth year, and the erogenous area are the genital area. This is one of the most complicated and controversial of Freud՚s stages. It is the stage of Oedipus and Electra complexes, the resolution of which has profound influence on an adult՚s life. The male child experiences the Oedipus complex, which is named after an ancient play by Sophocles, entitled Oedipus Tyrannus, in which King Oedipus killed his father and married his mother. The male child resents the father, because he is regarded as a rival for the mother՚s attention and affection. The female counter part of the Oedipus complex is Electra complex, named after another play by Sophocles entitled “Electra” , in which Electra causes her brother to kill her mother who had killed Electra՚s father.
  • Latency stage lasts from about sixth year to about twelfth year. Here the sexual interests are displaced to substitute activities such as learning, athletics, and peer group activities.
  • Genital stage is the final stage of development that occurs following puberty. It is the time at which the person emerges from pre genital stages as the adults as he/she destined to become. Now the child has become a socialized adult with heterosexual interests leading to marriage and child- rearing. If, however, the experiences during the pregenital stages cause fixation, they will manifests themselves throughout one՚s adult life.


An emotional state experienced as a result of felt threat to the self

Anxiety arises when ego cannot cope too much of:

  • Demands of the id
  • Demands of the ego
  • External danger

In order to protect itself against anxiety and threat, ego uses Defense mechanism.