Psychology Study Material: Significance of Psychodynamic Approach

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Significance of Psychodynamic Approach

It was the most influential theory of the 20th century.

Significance of Psychodynamic Approach
  • It affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner.
  • It gave an entirely new perspective to the understanding of behaviour and mental processes, as well as mental illness.
  • It was the first theory to raise the awareness that not all behaviour is rational, well thought of, and planned.
  • Besides giving an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach, it provided a basis for understanding everyday life phenomena e. g. interpersonal relationships, aggression, and prejudice.
  • Many other approaches built their paradigms on this approach, some by refining it, some by deviating from it.

Foundations of Psychodynamic Approach

Psychic Determinism

All behaviour is determined i.e.. , it has a cause that lies in the mind/psyche.

Role of Unconscious

A significant part of our behaviour is generated by unconscious forces.

Structure of Consciousness

Contains thoughts and feelings which one is immediately aware of


Mind level below the level of conscious awareness


Part of the sub conscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice.


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 or types of content: manifest content and latent content.
  • The manifest content is in a symbolic form, 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.

Psychodynamic Model of Personality

The structure of personality consists of Id. Ego, and super ego.


The source of basic drives; operates under the ‘pleasure principle’ i.e.. , wants immediate gratification of needs.


Mediates the link of the self with the outside world, the ′ real world ′ , as well as between the id and superego; ego operates under the ″ reality principle ′ or the demands of the environment.

Super Ego

  • Governed by the moral constraints
  • Opposes the id and represents the moral
  • Demands of the family and society; it is the ‘moral self’ or the ‘conscience’ of a person.

Oedipal Conflict and Electra Complex

Oedipal Conflict

(Also known as Oedipus complex) . During the phallic stage, the male child begins to develop love and positive feelings for the mother: whereas negative feelings for the father since he is seen as a rival. But as the father is seen as too strong and powerful, the child fears retaliation and ultimately begins to develop ‘identification’ with the father.

Electra Complex

The female child feels the same way toward the father, as the male felt for mother in Oedipal conflict, but ultimately chooses ‘identification’ with the mother.


  • 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.

Developed by: