Freud’s Psychodynamic Theories: Validity and Cultural Utility

Categories: Sigmund Freud

Freud’s area of interest in delving into psychodynamics is to study personalities: Id, Superego & Ego. These three distinctions help school counselors at a high school level to understand the functions, reactions, and desires of their students in a better light, as Banks states, “Psychoanalytic theory and the works of Freud in the first part of the twentieth century coincided with and reinforced, the counseling professions’ emphasis on the individual traits” (Banks 138).

To further prove the validity of this theory, school counselors in Banks essay relate Freud’s theories in practice; they observed individual development of their students over a set period of time and took into account how their various and differentiated experiences attributed to their attitudes and personalities as well as the three personality traits.

The counselors moved to relate Freud’s psychodynamic theory in order to alleviate certain tensions and aggressors that their child subjects were exposed to and exposing others to as well.

The occurrence of Freud’s Oedipal complex being the main element which incited the aggressive behavior in most of the young men greatly supports Freud’s theories.

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Thus, the counselors were able to find that male children were more likely to pick fights with other male children in order to assert dominance (id) over someone who may have resembled their father (a figure of authority in either a gang or in a leadership role) (Banks 139).

This theory of Freud’s however comes under scrutiny as he is so very often accused of culture-specific studies.

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In Vienna perhaps the observations he made about that culture would be applicable to a tribal community in the Congo (other realizations of individualist and cooperative cultures were not considered in Freud’s work in psychodynamics).

Therefore, although the theory may relate to certain instances in specific cultures, it may not always have the veracity with which Freud would have liked, but the theory is contingent (as Bank’s study proves) but workable. Cultural Utility Due to the fact that Freud’s studies were done mainly in Vienna as opposed to the Congo – or that his studies were not far reaching and the conjectures with which he based his assumptive theories are not altogether proven across the board, there remains the issue of psychodynamics’ cultural utility.

Read also: Gang Leader for a Day

This sentiment is based on Bank’s findings, In general, an influential group of anthropologists, while applauding the originality and creativity of Freud’s theories, expressed lingering doubts about their universality because so many of Freud’s assumptions were linked to culture-specific realities (Banks 139). In fact, the reception of Americans to Freud’s psychodynamic theory was met with more an august feeling than in his home in Vienna.

It is not surprising that Americans embraced Freud’s personality divisions, as America is a country of individuals and anything that supports their cultural embedding of the idea of the ‘lone-wolf’ or the capitalist hero is considered to be fact, not theory. It is this relationship of ‘culture and individual personality’ (Banks 140) that begets little cultural utility in Freud’s theory, As early as 1927, anthropologists expressed some reservations about Freud’s major theories of personality development on the grounds that they were formulated through observations of persons in only one culture (Banks 139).

It must also be stated however that certain cultures do adhere to Freud’s psychodynamic theories: Hay gives examples of this in The Windigo Psychosis in South America, Paupau New Guinea and in Australia. He does state that in closed cultures, with the male leader being the ‘dictator’ of laws and upholder of traditions that the personality types must adhere to such a small group setting. Thereby, the norms of the group become the norms of the id (a type of trained behavior in the form of traditions, aggressions, sex, etc. ).

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Freud’s Psychodynamic Theories: Validity and Cultural Utility. (2021, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Freud’s Psychodynamic Theories: Validity and Cultural Utility essay
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