Psychodynamic Theory and Psychoanalysis

The word 'psychoanalysis' strictly speaking refers solely to the theories of Freud and the method of psychotherapy and investigation based thereon. The key concepts concern the structure of the personality into the id, ego, and superego; the development of children through psychosexual stages (oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital); the Oedipus Complex; 'ego defence mechanisms' of sublimination, repression, denial, displacement and projection; neurotic symptoms (Freudian slips); and therapy (free association, rich interpretation, transference, dream analysis).

The fundamental psychodynamic model, proposes that mental illness is caused by unresolved, unconscious conflicts originating in childhood. Instinctual drives are satisfied during the stages of childhood (oral, anal and phallic), any disturbance results in a fixation and anxiety. Furthermore in such cases, defence mechanisms, such as the repression of unpleasant memories, serve to protect the ego. Neurotic symptoms were argued to be the result of conflicts between repressed or unfulfilled desires and attempts to control or resolve them. Freud argued that recovery depended on insight and working through past problems.

There has been much literature on Freud, since these theories were revolutionary at that time. Yet today it is recognised that Freud made an important contribution in recognising childhood as a critical period of development, and in identifying sexual (physical) and unconscious influences. As a result this theory has been enormously influential within psychology, and even further beyond - Hall and Lindzey (1970) suggested that Freud's idiographic approach, is presented in a broad but deep manner in a fine literary style.

However psychodynamic theory has not been free from criticisms either. The theory has been criticized as lacking rigorous empirical support, especially regarding normal development. The 'evidence' comes largely from case studies of middle-class European women, many of who were disturbed. The data was retrospectively collected and given subjective interpretation (experimenter bias). Other commentators dislike its reduction of human activity to a basic set of structures - which are reifications, nor its deterministic implications placing too much emphasis on innate biological forces that it argues determine infant behaviour and adult behaviour is determined by childhood experiences.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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