Every single person has a personality that is unique to their persona, albeit they may look identical in appearance such as twins. Theories have been developed and fine-tuned throughout the last two centuries, and most notably by some of the more well-known psychologists of the last century. Alfred Alder, Carl Jung, and perhaps the most cited of the three theorizers is Sigmund Freud, compile three of the most noteworthy psychologists. Freud’s, Alder’s, and Jung’s theories may seem similar in several ways, but they are quite distinct from one another.
Freud characterizes the personality into three segments which are the id, ego and superego (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Freud argued that the id, a Latin word or ‘it’, was the very basic instincts and motivations (often called impulses) with which humans, like animals, are born with. The id, acting on the pleasure principle, reduces its inner tension by satisfying its desires. The ego, also known as the ‘I’, acting upon the reality principle, aims to plan, act, and adopt to solve real issues that arise in the reality of this world. The ego tends to consistently place in check the desires and motivations of the id. The superego, also known as the ‘over I’, is the realization of societal structure that has been set in place by the parental units and entities of the social community. The superego has conscious and unconscious moral forces that is similar to the conscience, but the superego follows ethical guidelines unconsciously (2012). Alder’s theory was more complex than that of Freud, whose id was focused on the pleasure principle and sexuality. Instead, Alder theorized that the personality stressed unique motivations of each person and the individual’s apparent role in the social order (Friedman & Schustack, 2012).
Alder went on to develop the foundation for the identification of the superiority complex, inferiority complex, organ inferiority, aggression drive, and masculine protest to name a few. Like the Freudian theory, the Jungian theory is also separates the human psyche into three different parts; the conscious ego, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Jung’s conscious ego is similar to Freud’s ego, however Jung believed that the ego was the conscious personality and represents the sense of one’s self. The personal unconscious is host to the feelings and thoughts that are not part of one’s cognizant awareness. The collective unconscious is a more profound level of unconsciousness that entails emotional symbols known as archetypes.
Jung referred to archetypes as the embodiment of interpersonal emotional reactions of repetitive events (2012). I agree with Alder’s theory that the personality stresses motivations that are unique to each person. I also agree with Freud’s theory that the ego is consistently placing the id in a reality check. However, I do not agree with Freud’s thoughts on humans being born with basic instincts such as those of animals. Furthermore, I do not agree in Jung’s theory of collective unconsciousness.
Stages of Freud’s Theory
The stages of Freud’s personality theory are oral, anal, phallic, latency period, and genital stages (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). According to Freud, the oral stage is driven the need to satisfy hunger and thirst. While some infants quickly move past the weaning and focus their libido into other challenges, others develop an oral fixation that may result in issues with attachment, dependency, and perhaps even substance abuse. The anal stage occurs mainly when the child is two to three years old and learns self-control over their bowel movements (2012). Some children learn this self-control early on leading to a healthy aspect of their personality. However, children fixated on the anal stage tend to overlearn it or fight attempts to manage their bowel movements which may lead to passive-aggressiveness, obstinacy, or stinginess in their adulthood. The phallic stage usually occurs by age six and is when sexual energy is fixated on the genitals (2012).
In analyzing themselves, children explore with gender identity and masturbation. However, a fixation in this stage may lead to an Oedipus Complex, in which the boy conflicts with the father and attaches with the mother, or Penis Envy, in which a girl ponders why she does not have a penis and attaches to the father. According to Freud, the latency period usually occurs between ages six and eleven. This is a period of the childhood that Freud believed was not significant to the child’s personality (2012). Instead, he believed that it was when sexual urges were not directly expressed, but rather channeled into daily activities. Lastly, the genital stage is when the child has reached adolescence, usually after age 12. It is in this stage that a non-fixated adolescent will live a well-adjusted adult life of courtship, marriage, and parenting. However, deviant experiences during childhood potentially produce a variety of personality issues as an adult (2012).
Freudian Defense Mechanisms
Repression is a defense mechanism that thrusts hostile or frightening thoughts into the unconscious (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). One of these types of repression is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many of our military veterans are returning home with this sometimes debilitating condition. During a flight operation over Afghanistan a plane carrying 23 military personnel is shot repeatedly causing integrity issues to the fuselage. Although no one is injured, having to do emergency landing and repair before enemy troops can locate them can have life-lasting issues. Denial is a defense mechanism that causes reality to seem untrue, despite overwhelming facts or evidence (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). A parent comes home to find their young adult child with a syringe in their arm, unconscious, and unresponsive, calls 911. When asked by police, the parents deny any drug use or social issues, and add that their child was always a ‘good’ kid.
Displacement is a defense mechanism that shifts the burden of an individual’s fears and desires upon someone or something else (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). A drunk father comes home, steps on a toy, and uses his belt to beat his 10 year old boy. The boy then goes to school the next day and bullies the smaller kids. In this case, the father and the son both displaced their anger and frustrations on others. Sublimation is a defense mechanism that enables us to act out unacceptable thoughts or impulses through adequate behavior (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). Someone that is angry or frustrated may choose to go to the gym and get a rigorous workout, thereby releasing that anger or frustration.
Freud, Adler, and Jung were psychologists that shared a similar belief and passion in deciphering personality concept. However, they also disagreed on the fundamentals of such personality constructs. Freud believed that the personalities developed through psychosexual development. Whereas, Adler believed in the more complex development through individual psychology. Even so, Jung believed in a deeper level of the psyche that involved emotional archetypes. Each of these theories has provided great progress in modern psychology and understanding of the personalities of each individual. While each of the theories may have flaws, each of the theories has its own merits that are noteworthy.
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.