In the field of psychology, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung, developed three distinct theories of personality that to this day, continue to be the foundations on which all modern psychological theories are built. All three of these remarkable men knew and worked with each other. When Adler and Jung praised Freud’s book on dream interpretation, they were invited to join Freud’s circle of peers, who met weekly at his home in Vienna, Austria (Engler, 2006). At these meetings they discussed new and groundbreaking aspects of psychopathology (Comer, 2008).
Freud, Adler, and Jung are unequivocally the most influential figures in modern psychology (Comer, 2008). Freud’s concept of the id, the ego, and the superego, are the underlying factors that began all three schools of thought and that provide the foundations of modern psychology (Engler, 2006).
Freud believed that the id had no contact with reality and worked on the pleasure principle and hedonistic wants, with no morality involved. The ego develops as children experience the demands and constraints of reality. It uses reasoning to make decisions. The superego is concerned with right and wrong, it is the moral compass, the conscience in each individual (Comer, 2008). Freud believed that people are unaware of the most important personality processes. Like an iceberg, only the small portion of the conscious mind is accessible and above the water. The preconscious, just out of reach, and the subconscious, deeply repressed, is below the water completely. These are the reason for most problems with behavior and the personality, according to Freud (Nystul, 2006).
Freud also theorized that the personality was formed by early childhood experiences, called psychosexual stages (Engler, 2006). If a child’s basic needs are not being met during one of these stages, the child may become “fixated” or stuck in that stage. For example, if an adult smokes, he or she could be said to be “orally fixated.” According to Freud, infants at the oral stage use their mouths to explore their environment (Engler, 2006).
Freud’s emphasis on sexuality is one of the main reasons why Adler and Jung disagreed with him. They thought that Freud put entirely too much emphasis on the libido and sexual energy in children. Freud and Adler met every Wednesday for eleven years (Comer, 2008). In 1911, Alder, along with eight colleagues, broke away from Freud’s circle to form the school of “Individual Psychology” (Engler, 2006).
Adler’s theory differed from Freud’s in that it focuses on the person as a “whole.” The Adlerian term, individual psychology, refers to the human being as indivisible, as opposed to Freud’s view of an individual being, internally divided (Engler, 2006). For Adler, each aspect of the personality points in the same direction (Nystul, 2006).
Adler saw how humans connect with one another, with family, with friends, with community, and with society as a whole. He believed that this interconnectedness is essential for an individual to develop and to thrive (Comer, 2008).
Each person develops uniquely, according to acquired experiences, both past and present. The process starts at infancy, as children compare themselves to older children and adults, they experience feelings of inferiority (Engler, 2006). This is a normal reaction to the awareness of not being able to do as one pleases. These feelings motivate people to strive towards usefulness and to become contributing members of the family, the group, and the society at large (Nystul, 2006).
Carl Gustav Jung, long an admirer of Freud, met him in Vienna, Austria in 1907, after Jung praised Freud’s book, “The Interpretation of Dreams” (Comer, 2008). At this historical meeting they talked for 13 hours (Nystul, 2006). Freud thought that Jung, twenty years his junior, was to become his heir apparent. In 1910, Jung did become the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (Engler, 2006). However, in 1914, Jung broke away from Freud, primarily because he disagreed with Freud’s view of sexuality (Nystul, 2006).
Using his own theories, he then began the school of “Analytical Psychology.”Jung’s theory of personality divides the psyche into three distinct parts: the ego, consisting of the conscious mind, the personal unconscious, which contains thoughts, memories, and experiences that are not presently conscious, but can be, and the collective unconscious (Nystul, 2006). The collective unconscious could be described as a “psychic inheritance” (Comer, 2008). It could also be a type of reservoir of the human experience as a species. Yet, the individual is never conscious of its presence (Feist, 1985).
Jung’s “Archetypes of the Personality” evolve from the collective unconscious. These are the persona and its shadow, the female anima and male animus, and the self. Jung felt that until balance could be found within these archetypes in each individual, the complete realization of the self could not be achieved (Comer, 2008).
The son of a pastor, Jung had a great interest in spirituality and its effects on the personality. His studies and knowledge of eastern philosophy, yoga, and meditation have certainly had an impact on his theories and have contributed greatly to today’s holistic approach to overall health (Nystul, 2006). Jung’s theories and writings have had a major impact on contemporary thought in many areas such as art, music, and literature (Douglas, 2005).
Jung also coined the term “synchronicity,” which can be defined as “meaningful coincidences” occurring in everyday life (Engler, 2006). Jung claimed that there exists a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception in each individual. For example, thoughts of an old friend fill one’s mind in the evening. The next morning, that particular friend calls, or news about them is received, out of the blue. However, no physical evidence has been found to support this idea (Strogatz, 2004).
Although Freud, Adler, and Jung had their unique theoretical differences, they also shared many commonalities. For instance, they all utilized hypnosis and dream interpretation as therapeutic tools to treat their patients (Comer, 2008). They also all agreed on the importance of early life experiences and the existence of unconscious processes (Nystul, 2006).
In the field of psychology, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung, developed three distinct theories of personality that to this day continue to be the foundations on which all modern psychological theories are built. In their day, these three men were on the cutting edge of the newest science of western civilization. If not for Freud, Alder, and Jung psychology would not have evolved into the field that it is today.
Comer, Ronald, J. (2008). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology. (5th edition). New York, NY. Worth Publishers.
Douglas, C. (2005). Current psychotherapies. (7th Edition). (pgs. 96-129). Itasca, Ill. F.E. Peacock.
Engler, Barbara. (2006). Personality theories. (7th Edition). Boston, MA. Houghton, Mifflin Company.
Feist, J. (1985). Theories of personality. New York, NY. Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Nystul, Michael (2006). Introduction to counseling, an art and science perspective (3rd Edition). Boston, MA. Pearson, Allyn, & Bacon.
Strogatz, Steven, H. (2004). SYNC: How order emerges from chaos in the universe, nature, and daily life. New York, NY. Hyperion.
NOTE FROM AUTHOR: The only comments from my professor were about APA formatting, like margins, and double spacing the bibliography. No points were lost for this.
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