Founded by Sigmund Freud, the Psychodynamic theory is known for ignoring “the trappings of science and instead focus[ing] on trying to get ‘inside the head’ of individuals in order to make sense of their relationships, experiences and how they see the world” (McLeod, S. A. , 2007). By contrast Trait theory is “the measurement of consistent patterns of habit in an individual’s behavior, thoughts, and emotions” (“Trait Theory”, 2013). While they are both methods of understanding human behavior the way that the different theories attempt to understand human behavior differ greatly.
The Psychodynamic theory uses a put yourself in their shoes type of understanding while the Trait theory is pattern based and relies on data gathered by observing patterns. Understanding human behavior is something that is extremely complicated. The Trait theory is “based on the stability of traits over time, how they differ from other individuals, and how the[y] will influence human behavior”. These two theories are essentially a scientific approach versus an approach based on emotions, behaviors, and general, albeit trained, understanding of others emotions and behaviors.
The basic theories developed by Freud and his successors are based on some basic assumptions. Our behavior and feelings are powerfully affected by unconscious motives. Our behavior and feelings as adults (including psychological problems) are rooted in our childhood experiences. All behavior has a cause (usually unconscious), even slips of the tongue. Therefore all behavior is determined. Personality is made up of three parts (i. e. tripartite). The id, ego and super-ego. Behavior is motivated by two instinctual drives: Eros (the sex drive & life instinct) and Thanatos (the aggressive drive & death instinct).
Both these drives come from the “id”. Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego). Personality is shaped as the drives are modified by different conflicts at different times in childhood (during psychosexual development). With an understanding of these assumptions Freud developed his theory of psychoanalysis, which is the basis for all psychiatric analysis, including the Trait and Psychodynamic theories. While they share their basic origin these traits differ significantly in the data that they analyze.