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Psychodynamic Personality Theories Analysis Essay

There are a number of diverse scientific personality theories. All theories are a reflection of their author’s personal backgrounds, childhood experiences, philosophy of life, interpersonal relationships, and unique manner of looking at the world (Feist & Feist, 2006). Personality differences among theorists account for fundamental disagreements between those who lean toward the quantitative side of psychology; behaviorists, social learning theorists, and trait theorists; and those inclined toward the clinical and qualitative side of psychology: psychoanalysts, humanists, and existentialists (Feist & Feist, 2006).

Individual Psychological Theory

Individual Psychological theory is defined as, a modified system of psychoanalysis, developed by Alfred Adler, that views maladaptive behavior and personality disorders as resulting from a conflict between the desire to dominate and feelings of inferiority (Agnes, 2004, p. 751). Individual Psychology affects individual personalities in many ways. According to Boeree, (2006), Freud’s defenses provide protection of the Ego against instinctual demands, whereas Adler’s safeguards protect the self esteem from threats by outside demands and problems of life. It is not against instinctual demands that people have to safeguard themselves, it is that their self esteem is suffering, because they have a feeling that they cannot meet the demands of life that come from the outside.

Defenses are used both to provide protection of the Ego against instinctual demands [the Freudian idea is that the Id doesn’t want to feel pain so it motivates the Ego to use defense mechanisms to defend it from anxiety], and as a safeguard to protect the self esteem from threats by outside demands and the many problems of life. Defense mechanisms are ways in which the Ego deals with conflicts within the psyche. Adler believed that feelings of inferiority, mostly subconscious, combined with compensatory defense mechanisms played the largest role in determining behavior, particularly behavior of the pathological sort. Adler’s theory of individual psychology stressed the need to discover the root cause of feelings of inferiority, to assist the development of a strong Ego and thereby help the individual eliminate neurotic defense mechanisms.

Individual Psychological Influence on Interpersonal Relationships

Social problems of adulthood are the realities of friendship, comradeship and social contact; those of one’s occupation or profession; and those of love and marriage. It is failure to face and meet them directly which results in neurosis and perhaps in mental ill-health [which has been defined in simple terms as: madness, badness and sadness]. “It has been well said that the neurotic turns half-away from life, while the insane person turns his back on it; it may be added that those possessed of sufficient social courage face it!” (Boeree, 2006).

There is only one reason for a person to side-step to the useless side: the fear of defeat on the useful side – his flight from the solution of one of the social problems of life. If the person is unprepared for social living he will not continue his path to self-actualization on the socially useful side; instead of confronting his problems he will try to gain distance from them.

Analytical Psychology

Analytical psychology was developed by a colleague of Freud named Carl Gustav Jung. Jung believed that each of us is motivated not only by repressed experiences but also by certain emotionally toned experiences inherited by our ancestors (Feist & Feist, 2006). It was also Jung’s belief that it was those inherited images that made up what he called the collective unconscious. The basic assumption of his theory is that the most important part of the normal human psyche is the personal unconscious. However, for the psyche to be whole there must be consistent communication between the unconscious and conscious parts. The principle that dreams show emotions, ideas, and beliefs is also crucial.

Although individuals may not be aware of these feelings, they should be because they will be expressed through visual metaphors, personalized vocabulary and most exclusively their dreams. Analytical psychology is based on the concept that there is a difference between the personal and collective unconscious. According to Jung, our collective unconscious is made up of archetypes that are common to all people. The most inclusive archetype is the notion of self-realization, which can only be achieved by attaining a balance between various opposing forces of personality (Feist & Feist, 2006).

Objects RelationsMelanie Klein, is known for the modern theories of object relations, which mainly pairs the mother as the principal object. Klein studied children from a very early age and she thought the age between four to six months was critical in the development of object relations. This stage is when the infant’s drives of hunger, sex, and needs are directed to an object. Examples of these objects include; breast, vagina, and penis. If the child receives what they want from the object, they will accept and love the object, but if they are not getting what they want, they will reject the object. Many theorists including Klein agree that failure to develop relationships early in life will result in relationship issues in the future. Object Relations Theory developed by Melanie Klein is an offspring to Freud’s instinct theory, but it differs because it places less emphasis on biologically based drives and more importance on consistent patterns of interpersonal relationships. Object relations theory tends to be more maternal, stressing the intimacy and nurturing of the mother. Object relations theorists generally see human contact and relatedness-not sexual pleasure-as the prime motive of human behavior (Feist & Feist, 2006).

Psychoanalytic Social Theory

Psychoanalytic Social Theory was developed by Karen Horney. This theory affects individual personalities by the culture of the individual. Horney believed that, while genetics were important to personality, cultural experiences were more important. These experiences determined whether someone was normal or neurotic. All individuals required certain needs, such as love and affection. Whether or not these needs were met affected the individual’s relationship with others. This theory influences interpersonal relationships by way of how basic hostility and anxiety change relationships. People either move away from others, towards them, or against them. When the defenses are based on normal reactions, they are spontaneous. When they are based on neuroses, they are compulsive and destructive (Feist and Feist, 2006).

Interpersonal Theory’s Affect on Individual Personalities

The interpersonal theory is the communication between two people that is more than just a spur of the moment conversation. This theory of conversation will set goals for a person that they want to accomplish with their interpersonal relationship. The Interpersonal Theory of conversation achieves messages that “offer to initiate, define, maintain, or further a relationship” (Daintan.qxd). The communication that is included in the Interpersonal Theory can motivate a person’s personality and traits to influence the person’s action to be positive or negative. This could be determined by what kind of outcome they are trying to achieve or the goals they want to reach.

The way that an Interpersonal Theory can affect someone is “a depressed person’s negative interpersonal behavior causes other people to reject them”(Nemade n.d.). This action creates a cycle for the depressed person to have their symptoms get worse because of the rejection that they receive from the other people. The depressed person wants reassurance from these people that have rejected them and without this reassurance will become more depressed. The Interpersonal treatment by a psychologist helps to reverse the cycle for the depressed person with reassurance in interpersonal communication which will included in their treatment plan for most depressed type of personalities in people.


Theories vary from one theorist to another depending on the personal experiences the thinker has created. While each theory has many things in common, each theory also has its own identifiable markings. Freud with his Psychoanalytical Theory, Adler with his Individual Psychology Theory, Jung and his Analytical Psychology Theory, Klein and her Object Relations Theory, Horney with her Psychoanalytic Social Theory and finally Sullivan and his Interpersonal Theory. Each theory is influenced by its creator’s perceptions and understandings of the world around them.


Agnes, Michael (2004). Webster’s New World College Dictionary (4th ed.). Cleveland, Ohio:Wiley Publising.

Boeree, G. C. (2006). Personalities Theory/Alfred Adler. Retrieved July 24, 2009, fromhttp://webspace.ship.eduDainton.qxd (9-16-2004) Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication retrieved July 20, 2009 Website http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/4984_Dainton_Chapter_3.pdfFeist, J. & Feist, G. (2006). Theories of Personality (6th Edition). [University of
PhoenixCustom Edition e-text]. Retrieved July 19, 2009, from University of Phoenix,rEsource, PSY405- Interdisciplinary Capstone Course Web site.

Klee, T. D. (2009). Object Relations Theory. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from Object Relations: http://www.objectrelations.org/orkey.htmNemade, R. (n.d.) Depression: Major Depression and Unipolar Varieties retrieved July 23, 2009 website http://www.sevencounties.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=13003&cn

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