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Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalytic Theory

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This lesson will define, describe the origin, and delineate the significance of repression and the unconscious in psychoanalytic theory.

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Tutorial


What's Covered

This lesson is going to cover the psychoanalytic theory by looking at:

  1. Freud and the Unconscious
  2. Defense Mechanisms


1. Freud and the Unconscious

One of the major figures in psychoanalytic theory is Sigmund Freud. He was an Austrian doctor who, in the late 1800s, began studying neurology and practicing the treatment of different patients with brain and nervous disorders like hysteria. 

Many of his theories are informed by his practice. This is opposite of most psychological theories, which start with experiments and research and lead to practice; he started with practice to lead to the theories.

Freud's main idea is that mental life is a bit like an iceberg. Only a small fraction of an iceberg sits above water. The majority of it is below the surface. Freud’s theories say the same is true about our minds. The part that's sticking outside of the water is our conscious minds, but the majority of our mental experience is the unconscious. This can affect our conscious mind.

Term to Know

  • Unconscious
  • Beyond awareness; things we aren't always aware of such as irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires, aggressive tendencies.

According to Freud, mostly of the unconscious was very negative or unwanted. Psychoanalytic theory tries to uncover how these unconscious forces and conflicts can affect our conscious mind and lead to any kind of negative or unwanted behaviors.

Example  A Freudian slip is an error in speaking that reveals some kind of unconscious thought or wish.

Another symbol of the unconscious, according to Freud, were our dreams. Dreams are a form of language used by the unconscious. It speaks to us in symbols that we needed to interpret to understand what's going on.


2. Defense Mechanisms

Because a lot of this mental landscape, according to Freud, is very negative or unwanted, theLoading... brain develops certain kinds of protection, or defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are an unconscious way that people protect their minds and deal with the anxiety that's going on as a result of their unconscious mind and the conflict there.

ExampleOne type of defense mechanism is denial. Denial means when you're trying to ignore something bad that happens, or you don't want to think about in any kind of way. Similar to denial is repression.

Repression is a defense mechanism that plays a large part is Freud’s theories. This is when certain kinds of bad memories or unwanted desires are blocked or pushed from our conscious thoughts.

ExampleMemories from traumatic childhood may be something someone represses.

Term to Know

  • Repression
  • Defense mechanism that pushes out thoughts or feelings into the unconscious, making ourselves "unaware".

These kinds of repressed thoughts can affect our conscious thoughts in adverse ways. According to Freud, they can lead to dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors, or mental disorders. He stated that individuals need to bring these repressed thoughts to the surface so they are not festering in the unconscious. Doing this would be a way to effectively treat mental disorders.


Summary

Sigmund Freud is an important figure in the psychoanalytic theory. He described how the unconscious mind could harbor negative thoughts and emotions. He stated that people use defense mechanisms, like repression, to put these negative things there. If left to build up and fester, this can lead to negative thought, behaviors, and mental disorder. Freud believed a person should bring these repressed emotions and memories to the conscious mind to treat mental disorders.

Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Erick Taggart.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Unconscious

    Beyond awareness; things we aren't always aware of such as irrational wishes, unacceptable sexual desires, aggressive tendencies.

  • Repression

    Defense mechanism that pushes out thoughts or feelings into the unconscious, making ourselves "unaware".