psychodynamic approach was the dominant perspective during the 1900’s and has
contributed greatly to the field of Psychology. Sigmund Freud, a psychologist
born in 1856 is the founder of the psychodynamic theory, which focuses on one’s
early childhood experiences, the unconscious mind and perhaps his most
controversial aspect of his work, the psychosexual stages of children. This
theory has led and inspired many other psychologists such as Alfred Adler,
Melanie Klein and Carl Jung to develop further, additional theories using
Freud’s original psychodynamic theory as the foundation. The point and focus of
this essay is to discuss the main principles concerning the Psychodynamic
theory, how these principles are applied when examining depression and how
these principles compare and contrast with the biological’ perspective on
Sigmund Freud, founder of the
psychodynamic approach once described the human mind as an iceberg where only
the tip is visible. The tip representing our conscious, observable behavior and
the remaining submerged ice representing our collective subconscious. Freud
believed that our subconscious (unconscious mind) is responsible for the vast
majority of our behavior and that our early childhood experiences coupled with
the unconscious mind so heavily influenced our behaviour that we, as a
consequence, lack free will.
Freud separated the unconscious mind
into three sections, the Id, the ego and the superego. The Id is defined as
“the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary
processes manifest” In other words, the Id is our most basic instinctual part
of us absent morality. As the Id is biologically inherited, it is present from
birth; meaning that children (Typically up to the age of 3-5) consist entirely
of Id. The Id can be further broken down into 2 parts: the ‘Eros’ Life
instinct, which relates to self-preservation and sex and is fuelled by the ‘libido’
and the ‘Thanatos’ death instinct, whose energies are naturally less compelling
than the ‘Eros’ and so are redirected away from ourselves and channeled into
aggression towards others.
The superego is defined as “the
part of a person’s mind that acts as a self-critical conscience, reflecting
social standards learned from parents and teachers” in other words; the superego embodies the
values and morality of society, that are learned from one’s parents and peers.
This system begins to develop around the age of 3-5 and its purpose is to
control the id’s impulses, especially those that oppose society’s values such
as sex and aggression. It also serves a secondary function of influencing the
ego (The medium between the two) to pursue more virtuous objectives rather than
simply pragmatic ones and to strive for perfection. The superego is divided
into two parts, the conscience and the ideal self. The conscience punishes the
ego by triggering feelings of guilt and the ideal self is who you feel you
should strive to be. This represents your behaviour as a member of society and
your career ambitions.
The Id and Superego are naturally in
opposition based on their functions and as a result conflict occurs. The ego
ideally acts as the moderator between the two, allowing both to exist mutually
by making decisions that satisfy both the Id and the superego. This ideally
prevents one overpowering the other. Compared to the Id, the ego is relatively
weak but not unlike the Id, the ego is also pleasure seeking. The ego cannot
factor in the notion of right or wrong, as it lacks the concept. If an action
or idea is advantageous and it accomplishes its goal of gratifying, without
damaging itself or the id, it is deemed good. If the ego is unable to resolve
the conflict between the id and the Superego, we employ defense mechanisms that
allow us to reduce the negative feelings that accompany, consequently causing anxiety
as a result of the failure of the ego. The ego is coherent, pragmatic and
endeavours to resolve complications in a realistic manner and this thought process
is repeated until a viable solution is found; this is known as reality testing.
The psychodynamic theories approaches
depression from a number of different angles, with Freud believing that
excessive super-ego demands and/or anger aimed at oneself is the cause of depression,
whereas a number of different psychologists had different ideas. For now, I’ll
focus on Freud and his ideas surrounding depression.
To preface, Freud did
also believe in the biological approach when concerning many cases of
depression and believed that biological factors were most likely the cause.
However, he also argued that some cases of depression could be linked back to a
traumatic event in that person’s life, such as rejection of a parent, or loss.
Grief is similar to depression, in that it is often a consequence of loss of a
stated that the conscious and the subconscious could find themselves in opposition
and as a result, cause a situation where one’s emotions are repressed.
Repression is defined as “the action or process of suppressing
a thought or desire in oneself so that it remains unconscious.” Despite
remaining unconscious, being in a state of repression can still negatively
impact and affect an individual and their behaviour.
There are various different understandings
that still fall into the psychodynamic category that attempts to explain
depression using their interpretations. Depressed people regard themselves as
worthless and so as a result, the individual identifies with the person whom
they lost, so the anger they repress towards the lost person, is then aimed
redirected towards the self. This redirected angers lessens the individual’s
self-esteem, ultimately making the individual susceptible to depression at a