Introduction: There are three well-known influential thinkers who are considered to be pioneers in the field of psychology. It could be argued that without …. , the emergence of psychology as we know it might not have ever happened, at least in its present form. Freud is considered by his modern-day counterparts to be the founding father of analytic psychology, as he is the first to have come up with an albeit rudimentary, but nevertheless valuable model of the human psyche.
Prior to his groundbreaking work, the nature of human consciousness was largely debated and theorized by medical doctors and theologians. Then there is Adler, (who was the first to have suggested the societal impact on emotions and thought processes and vice-versa, arguing that consciousness and culture have what could be termed as a symbiotic relationship. He emphasized, too, the importance of self-esteem and was the first to say that without a healthy self-esteem, an individual would develop an inferiority/superiority complex which would in turn affect many aspects of life.
Last but not least, Carl Jung, who was a respected colleague of Freud in his earlier years, focused on the spiritual aspects of consciousness and saw the value it played on thoughts and emotions. We will explore in this paper the commonalities between these founding fathers of psychology as well as their differences, and explore the strengths in their theories as well as the weaknesses. By understanding the founders of this very subjective field of scientific thought, we can gain a better picture of how psychology has evolved over the years and apply it to our own research and studies.
Sigmund Freud: According to Freudian theory, the consciousness is composed of three opposing forces: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id (Freud used the German term Das es) which consists of our instinct-driven behavior. Governed by what he termed the “Pleasure Principle”, It is largely pleasure-seeking: when we are hungry, we seek to obtain relief from these feelings by eating. Because the id is a self-gratifying drive, it can, according to Freud, cause problems if left unchecked, since the person would have absolutely no self-control and wouldn’t be able to exercise the self-discipline necessary to function in society.
In accordance with what Freud calls “The Reality Principle”, The ego (das ich) copes with the limitations of reality by putting into place coping mechanisms when one’s basest needs cannot be fulfilled. For instance, it is the ego which represses the needs of the id by waking up early for work when the id tells us to sleep in late. The Superego (uber ich) tries to rule over the ego and id with moral principles which are both conscious and unconscious. It can be described as one’s religious convictions and moral principles.
The Superego can override the ego and id when something must be done “for the greater good”, i. . for moral reasons. Another Fundamental element of Freudian theory is his stages of psychosexual development, which categorizes each stage as follows: The oral stage where a child seeks comfort from suckling, the anal stage where the child is toilet-trained, the phallic stage where a child’s awareness of a penis (or lack thereof) plays a crucial role in early development, the latent period, and finally the genital stage. In each of these stages (aside from the latent stage where it is believed no crucial psychosexual development takes place) if there is a disturbance in normal development, a “fixation” can occur.
For instance, if a child is weaned from breastfeeding too early, he or she can have an “oral fixation” which would manifest itself as nail-biting or smoking later in life. Last but not least, Freud was the first to propose that when we face situations we cannot emotionally handle, we have certain defense mechanisms such as repression, suppression, denial, displacement, sublimation, intellectualization, and rationalization, regression, and reaction formation. These mechanisms can be considered normal, especially during grieving periods.
Much later, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross made shock and denial one of the first stages of the grieving process, and it has been well-documented that denial can be very common if not normal as long as it doesn’t become permanent. Defense mechanisms can become very unhealthy if they don’t eventually give way to directly coping with the emotions which are being denied or repressed. These defense mechanisms, in their most extreme forms can be very difficult to understand for those who haven’t shared the same experience.
For example, it is very possible for a woman to be so deep in denial of a pregnancy that she will continue to menstruate up until the time of delivery. She could also attribute the normal symptoms of pregnancy with other possible explanations, i. e. morning sickness being stomach flu and the baby’s kicks being gas. A typical example of displacement can be seen with people who abuse animals or children. If a person feels they cannot express anger or aggression to a parent or significant other for fear of repercussions, they will channel the anger and direct it to the family pet or their child, who cannot fight back.
Regression can be another common defense mechanism, and it usually happens when an individual is overwhelmed with anxiety and feels they cannot directly face the source of their emotions. A very common scenario is for an adult to remain in bed all day and sleep to avoid painful feelings shortly after a loved-one dies. Another example is when a child is afraid to attend school because of a bully, and becomes extremely clingy with the parent when he or she was very independent prior to the problem.
Carl Jung Jung and Freud became friends in 1906, after Freud had read some of Jung’s writings and invited him for a meeting in Zurich. Their first conversation was said to have lasted for 13 hours, with the two men exchanging ideas and elaborating on their theories. Freud saw Jung as somewhat of a protege, referring to Jung as his “crown prince and successor”. Their correspondence and friendship lasted six years, but Jung eventually expressed dissent with Freud over the role the unconscious mind played in human behavior.
While Freud saw the unconscious as somewhat of a repository of repressed memories which could be manifested unbeknownst to the conscious mind, Jung believed that the ability to tap into the unconscious mind was possible and could contribute to emotional well-being. And while he agreed that it was important to understand past trauma and its influence on present behavior, he also believed that the future didn’t necessarily need to be determined by such things. The role spirituality played in his psychoanalytic theories also made him a pioneer in his own rite, though it was never something he and Freud could agree upon.
Alfred Adler Alfred Adler was also a contemporary of Dr. Freud and even joined his analytic society in 1902. By 1911 however, he too expressed dissent with many of Freud’s opinions and left to form his own society, the ‘Society for Free Psychoanalytic Research’. It can be reiterated that while he agreed with Freud that psycho-social development could be affected by influential factors beginning early in life, he came up with theories of his own which contrasted with those of his colleague.
For instance, he believed that a child feels inherently weak around his or her elders, and strives to become superior to them throughout the course of early life. This term, known as “striving for superiority”, states that if the need for personal accomplishment and success is not met, an inferiority complex can develop, causing many other problems later on. He also proposed the theory that birth order plays a crucial role in emotional development. For example, he stated that an oldest child has it the worst, as he or she starts off having both parents’ unlimited attention and time.
Later on after other siblings are born, an oldest child isn’t given the same amount of attention and is left to wonder why. Childhood neglect and abuse also have a profound impact on psychosocial development according to Adler, and numerous case studies continue to arise which prove his theory to be valid even today. Conclusion While many of the theories of Freud, Adler and Jung have been either dispelled or refined by case studies and discoveries in the field of neuroscientific research, there is no doubt they were pioneers in the field of psychology.
Freud’s concepts of defense mechanisms have withstood the test of time even though his theories of psychosexual development have been outmoded, and Jungian psychoanalysis is still relevant today. Adler’s views on self-esteem and childhood development have been verified by clinical research, even if some of the finer points of his research had been discarded. While there is continued debate and new findings which will always create dissent and result in new discoveries related to psychology, it is certain that the work of these three early founders will remain significant for decades to come.