Quick Reminder

Quick Reminder: Now that we have learned about how we grow (developmental psychology) and what can go wrong with us as we grow (psychology disorders) it is time to examine these processes through the different schools/perspectives of psychology

For example, we learned what phobias were in the last unit.  But we never discussed how people get phobias, or more importantly, how do we cure them?  Each perspective/school of psychology looks at our development and abnormalities differently.  Thus, each school/perspective has it’s own type of therapies.  If by the end of this course you can look at a psychological disorder and tell me how each one of the schools would view and deal with the problem, then you understand the central theme of this class.  Now on to the first perspective/school…  

Psychoanalytic Perspective of Psychology

The central them behind the psychoanalytic perspective is that our personality (likes, dislikes, good and bad parts about us) comes from a deep hidden place within us called the unconscious.

Much of our unconscious is formed in our childhood- thus childhood development is central to understanding our behaviors.  These ideas were all started by Sigmund Freud.

As you can clearly see, Freud was a pretty normal dude!!!

Freud was hanging out in Vienna, talking to his children and flirting with the wealthy women of the city, when he came up with his theory of our personality. 

For simplicity sake, lets call it the iceberg theory

Remember that movie with that really cute guy, the Titanic (ever guy has seen this movie, even if you won’t admit it- and you probably cried too).

Why did the Titanic sink? 

An iceberg.  But the iceberg looked so small in the movie, and the titanic was so big, so how did the iceberg kick the bejesus out of the big steel boat?

That’s right: like 90% of the iceberg is below the surface of the water.  According to Freud the same goes for our personality.  The part of the iceberg that you see is your:

  • Conscious level: information about yourself and your environment that you are currently aware of.

The part of the iceberg located just below the surface is your:

  • Preconscious level: information about yourself that you are not currently thinking about (in your conscious level), but could think about.  If I asked you what your favorite food was you would bring the information from your preconscious to your conscious because you know what the food was, but probably was not thinking about it at that time.  My favorite food in moist pumpkin bread with no nuts or a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Most of the iceberg is located deep below the surface and that represents your:

  • Unconscious level: events and feelings that we find unacceptable for our conscious minds.  We do not have access to our unconscious.  these thoughts stay hidden (repressed) but make up most of who we are.  As we will find out, the key to psychoanalytic therapy is to find ways to delve into the unconscious.

Freud also believed that our personality (psyche) was made up of three drives (id, ego and superego).  Each drive is hidden in a part of the iceberg.  I will start with the drive we first develop.

  • Id: When a baby is first born, their whole personality is made up of an Id.  The Id is your animalistic and most basic instinctsThe ID is located in your unconscious so you are largely unaware of it.  A baby wants to eat and feel good and avoid pain- and that is it.  thus the id works on what Freud called the pleasure principle (the notion that your sole objective is to strive for pleasure and avoid pain).  Lets pretend that right now all you have is an id and you see a hot man/woman walking down the street.  What would you do?  Well, if you just have an id, you would just jump them- take them right there (some therapist say people in prison have really powerful ids).  But most of you will not just jump them- that is because you have developed other aspects of your psyche (personality).
  • Ego: the is the boss or executive part of your personality.  The ego is located in our conscious so it is the part of our personality that we are aware of and everyone sees.  When you say that you know your best friend- you really only know their ego.   Its job is to satisfy the id while understanding the limitations of the environment.  It works on what Freud called the reality principle- how can I function in the real world.
  • Superego:  This part of our personality develops last and is located in the preconscious.  The superego is our morals and our sense of right and wrong.  The superego develops around the age of 8 and is learned from out parents, peers and TV.  The ego (the boss) often mediates between the id and superego.  the balancing act between the three forces makes up who you are.
Conscious Part of our personality
Preconscious part of our personality.
Unconscious part of our personality.

Now Freud believed that the id, ego an superego battle during our psychosexual stages of development which we learned in a previous chapter (oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital).  Just remember, in those stages, our libido (sexual energy or drive) is focused on a different erogenous zone.  Oh I don’t trust you to remember; here is the except from the developmental psychology chapter:

Sigmund Freud

Freud (his friends called him Siggy) is probably the most recognizable psychologist of all time.  He is the father of the psychoanalytic school of psychology and we WILL discuss him in MUCH more detail when we discuss the psychoanalytic school.  But Freud did talk about social development and stated that all of us go through what he called five psychosexual stages

Now when you think about sex, you think about using your genitals for stimulation, rated R, late night Cinamax sex.  However to Freud, sex was a concept that explained how we get our pleasure from the world.  For most of you, although your parents would hate to think about it, your sexual pleasure comes from your genitals.  But to younger children they do not.  Freud believed that we all have a libido, or instinctual sexual energy. 

Go Ahead- work that libido!!!!

Your libido changes throughout your lifetime, focusing on different parts of your body.  Essentially, your libido has 4 stages of metamorphosis.  If some outside force deters our social development in one of the following stages, Freud said we could become fixated in that stage, meaning that we would become preoccupied with that earlier stage later on in our lives.  Lets explain the stages and see if we can get this to make some sense.

1.Oral Stage: About 0-2 years old, an infants libido is focused around their mouth.  You will notice that babies see the world through their mouths.  If I give my 8 month old son some dog vomit, the first thing he will do is taste it.  Freud believe that if you become fixated in the oral stage than you may overeat, smoke, or just have a childhood dependence on things.

2. Anal Stage: About 2-4 years old, the child becomes focused on controlling bowel movements (crapping).  The libido is focused on holding in and releasing defecation (poo poo).  This usually occurs during toilet training. The child meets the conflict between the parent’s demands and the child’s desires and physical capabilities in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight or he simply refuses to go. The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character. This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. Conversely, a child may opt to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character. This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual propensities to possession and attitudes towards authority.

3. Phallic Stage: About 4-6 years old, the child first realizes his or her gender.  In other words, the boy says "look I have an extra finger, Sally where is yours, you freak!!!". The libido is focused on exploring the penis and vagina (playing doctor- I have fond but disturbing memories of a plastic fisher price med kit) but not in the way you now think about playing with your genitals (you pervert). 

During this stage Freud believed that boys can develop an Oedipus Complex, where he begins to have sexual feelings towards his mother (not the "Mom, I want to see you in a pink thong" feeling, but more like I want to be with you on my phallic stage level). 

The girl can develop and Electra Complex, where they want to be with the father.  In particular, they develop what Freud called penis envy, or the idea that every woman wants to have a male penis (why did I say male, is there a female penis?).

During these complexes the children often have hateful feelings toward the same sex parent and the stage ends with a "if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them attitude toward that same sex parent.  Now I believe that penis envy has merit, not because I love my penis and think that of course every person would want to have it, but rather, the penis may represent what men have in society and women do not; power.

4. Latency Stage: About 7-11 year olds develop the need to just hang around peers of their own gender.  You might as well call this the "cootie stage".  Circle circle dot dot now I have my cootie shot.  This is the stage when the libido is hidden in the unconscious (this will be a big topic later) and sexuality is repressed (hidden).  But the libido makes a grand entrance in the next stage.

5. Genital Stage: From about 12 until death, this is the stage you are probably all in now (if not, don’t worry, your time will come).  Here the libido,sexual energy, is focused on your genitals and sex is as you think about it now.  Freud considers fixation in this stage normal- Congrats!!!!

Now we will be going over Freud a lot more later.  Just remember that his theories have some issues.  First, he lived in Vienna, Austria (not Australia dumb ass- it is a whole different continent!!!) and he studies himself, his children and rich white woman in Europe.  Are their thoughts generalizable to the rest of the global population?  Probably not.  Next, his theories cannot be tested, so it is hard to consider them true science.  But they make for cool conversation and many great ideas came from his wacky drugged out mind (yes he did drugs).

Defense Mechanisms

One of the most important contributions of Freud is the idea of defense mechanisms.  Freud believed that our ego hates feeling hurt and will takes steps to defend itself through various strategies called defense mechanisms. 

Just trying to protect our ego!!!!

Before I go through the important ones, realize that we are NEVER consciously aware we are exhibiting a defense mechanism.  Once we become aware of why we exhibit the behavior it ceases to be a defense mechanism (one of the goals of Psychoanalytic therapy is to make you see your own defense mechanisms so you can see where your issues truly are).

Let’s use an example to help explain defense mechanisms.  My wife, Kathy, decides to leave me for Screech (from Saved From the Bell). 

I am devastated and my ego can choose from a variety of ways to protect itself.  

Defense Mechanisms Definition Application
Repression Pushing thoughts out of the conscious awareness.

When asked about how I feel about my wife leaving me, I respond "Who, Kathy, I have not really thought about her."

Denial  Not accepting the ego-threatening truth.

I would act like my wife never left me for Screech.  I would sit down and wait for her to come home.

Displacement Redirecting the feelings I cannot deal with to another person or object.  Usually redirecting them to a less threatening target.

I take my feelings of anger for Kathy out on my students by failing all of them

Projection Believing that the feelings one has toward someone else are actually help by the other person and directed at oneself.  In other words, taking the feelings that your ego cannot handle and think that people feel that way toward you.

I tell everyone that Kathy is still in love with me.

Reaction Formation Expressing the opposite of how one really feels.  I see this all the time in class when a boy picks on a girl, because he cannot deal with the fact that he likes her.

I claim that I hate my wife.

Regression Returning to an earlier, more comfortable form of behavior.

I begin to suck my thumb.

Rationalization Coming up with a beneficial result  of an undesirable occurrence.  I see this every December, when rejection letters come from colleges.  People will always say, "I did not want to go there anyway- it was too far away/big/etc…"

I believe that Kathy was not worth it and I will not find a MUCH better wife by dating many woman.

Intellectualization Undertaking an academic, unemotional study of a topic.

I do research on why women leave men for short, skinny, bushy head guys.

Sublimation Channeling one’s frustration towards a different goal.  Maybe the healthiest of the defense mechanisms.

I take the energy from the frustration and anger of the breakup and channel it into working out. This picture really is me!!!! (If you believe that you are gullible enough for me- so I can be reached at [email protected])

Now Freud believed that many of our psychological problems come from our unconscious and our ego’s inability to deal with stress, resulting in the above defense mechanisms. 

Freud also believed that to understand the root of a psychological problem, you much delve into the unconscious.  But how does one delve into the unconscious (that section of the iceberg is hidden to us). 

Exploring the unconscious

Freud had three main ways that he was able to explore people’s unconscious:

  • Dream Interpretation: Freud was a big believer that dreams were a gateway into the unconscious.  He even published a book called "Interpretation of Dreams) devoted solely to understanding the unconscious through dreams.  Freud believed that every dream has both latent and manifest content.  Manifest Content is the storyline of a dream.  Latent Content is the underlying meaning of the dream.  For example, if I dreamt I was making out with Jennifer Lopez but them she turned into a marshmallow coated squirrel, that would be the manifest content.  The latent content would be how the dream is interpreted- maybe the squirrel represented my wife and the marshmallow represented how sweet I think she is, or maybe the marshmallow represented how I feel stuck in a relationship.  By the way, do you see already how dangerous this type of therapy can be.  If my therapist interprets the latent content of my dream, but is wrong, I may really screw up my life.

Manifest Content

Latent Content

  • Hypnosis: Freud used hypnosis to enter the unconscious of his patients.  Hypnosis is simple a state of heightened suggestibility.  People that are more likely to become hypnotized are those with rich fantasy lives (if you like the Lord of the Rings- then you can be hypnotized), it has nothing to do with intelligence. 

Although Freud did not talk about how he practiced hypnosis, let me take a couple of minutes to tell you the basics of hypnotism. 

Hypnotic suggestibility is how easily you can be hypnotized (remember- rich fantasy lives).  After you awake from being hypnotized, you do not remember what it was like under the hypnotic state; this is called posthypnotic amnesia.  There are three theories of hypnosis.  First, role theory states that hypnosis is not an alternate state of consciousness, but rather people just play the part and get into the game.  Second, state theory states that hypnosis is an alternate state of consciousness and we are really NOT aware of our surroundings when under the hypotonic trance.  The last and most important theory is called dissociation theory by Ernest Hilgard.  Hilgard stuck the arms of people under the hypnotic trance in freezing cold water.  The water should have caused pain, but the people did not react.  However, when Hilgard asked them, still under hypnosis, to lift a finger if they feel pain, they lifted the finger.  He showed us that there is what Hilgard called a hidden observer in all of us.  A part of our consciousness feels the pain, even though other parts do not, thus the name dissociation theory.  Finally, hypnosis today is most effective in the field of pain control.

  • Free Association: One of Freud’s most popular techniques to delve into the unconscious, free association is still used today by some therapists.  Do you say everything that pops up in your head?  Probably not- if you did people would either think you were really cool or you would be arrested.  We have these filters that help us to hold back much of what comes into our head and we then choose what to say.  

Free association is the idea that is you just lay down, not facing the therapist, and ramble on and on- for hours- then weeks and months (with breaks of course) eventually burps of your unconscious would begin to surface. The filter keeps your unconscious repressed.  Freud attempted to remove that filter by having the patient just talk about whatever pops up in their head- he would take notes and they would discuss the highlights later in therapy.


One issue Freud warned therapists about was the issue of transferenceTransference occurs when a patient shifts the feelings that come out in therapy onto the therapist (a la Sopranos).  If the patient is using free association to bring up deep sexual feelings they have for their siblings hidden in their unconscious, they might transfer those sexual feelings on to the therapist.

Criticisms of Freud

Most significantly, there is no way to empirically prove that psychoanalytic therapy works, or even that the id, ego superego and all the other aspects of our personality according to Freud even exist.  Mistakes can easily be made by the therapist when trying to pull out the latent from the manifest content.  Some say Freud overemphasize the importance of both childhood and sex on our development and personalities.  Last, feminists, such as Karen Horney (yes, that is her real name), question Freud’s notion of penis envy.  Horney even stated that men are more envious of women because they can have children, womb envy, than women can ever be of the penis.

The Neo-Freudians

There was a large school of psychologists that took parts of Freud’s ideas and expanded upon them.  they are called Neo-Freudians and the ones you should know are Erik Erickson (we learned about him under developmental psychology), Alfred Adler and Carl Jung.

  • Alfred Adler: Adler downplayed the importance of the unconscious and sex as drives in our development.  Instead he took from Freud the concept of the ego.  Adler was picked on as a child and as he grew older he believed that people are motivated not by sex (as Freud would say) but by their fear of failure; which he termed inferiority.  People are fear of feeling inferior (where we get the term inferiority complex) and instead want to develop a sense of superiority.  He was also one of the first psychologist to emphasize the importance of birth order in shaping personality.
  • Carl Jung:  He loved Freud’s notion of the unconscious.  He went on to argue that the unconscious is actually divided up into two parts, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious.  The personal unconscious is the same thing Freud called the unconscious (personal thoughts that you cannot deal with, so you push them away).  What made Jung unique was his idea of the collective unconscious.  The collective unconscious is passed down through the species and, according to Jung, explain certain similarities we see between all cultures.  The collective unconscious contains archetypes that Jung defined as universal concepts we all share as part of the human species.  For example, the concept of a shadow represents the evil side of the personality regardless of the culture.  In every culture there are heroes and villains in their stories and they all share the same traits.  Maybe these are universal ideas that we share in our collective unconscious.

Psychoanalytic Therapy Today

Although most therapist are eclectic, aspects of psychoanalytic therapy are still very popular today.  The idea of the unconscious is still very prevalent and free association and hypnosis are avenues still used to delve into that dark world.  Over the past few decades a new breed of psychoanalytic tests have sprung up called projective tests. 

Projective tests are any type of test that is used to examine the unconscious.  The two most popular projective tests today are the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and the Rorschach Inkblot Test.

Thematic Apperception Test:

  • More commonly called the TAT test, this projective test gives the subject a series of ambiguous pictures (see below).

  • The subject is then asked what is going on in the picture.  How does the person in the picture feel?  What is the person in the picture thinking? etc..

  • The subject’s answers to the questions are the manifest content.

  • From the answers, the therapist tries to interpret the latent content from the subject’s answers.

  • The therapist is looking for themes in the subject’s answers and hopefully will be able to glimpse at what some of the pressing issues are in the subject’s unconscious.

Rorschach Inkblot Test

  • This projective test involves giving the patient a series of ambiguous inkblots (see some examples below).

  • The therapist is once again listening to the patients manifest content and trying to interpret the latent content from the story.
  • If for example my manifest content from the four pictures is (starting from left to right) two seeing horses rubbing butts, a four armed boxer alien with two penises, two seahorses comparing penises, and an alien looking at a penis; the therapist would look at the theme of my manifest content (figure it out for yourself) and put together the latent content and hoping that it reflects issues in my unconscious.

One last thing concerning psychoanalytic therapies.  The reason that they came up with all these techniques, like free association, projective tests etc.., is that people are not able or do not want to open their true selves up.  Psychoanalytic therapists call this resistance.

So a quick summary- Psychoanalytic perspective= weird sexual thoughts (libido) + childhood = unconscious….want to get better, bring out those hidden screwed up feeling in the unconscious.