The psychodynamic approach to the study of personality has many historical advantages but also many recently-discovered limitations.
Paraphrase the strengths and limitations Freud's psychoanalytic theories of personality.
Psychodynamictheory states that human personality is the result of largely unconscious, internal conflicts among the structures of the human mind. The dynamics of this conflict through early stages of development can determine an individual's personality in adulthood.
Freud was the father of this particular psychoanalytic theory of personality. Many of his assumptions and methods have been brought into question since the advent of his work.
Freud's contentious theories and methods include his assumed universality, his focus on human sexuality, his treatment practices, his emphasis on adults, and his lack of empirical evidence.
Feminists have been highly critical of many of Freud's concepts, arguing that the assumptions and approaches of psychoanalytic theory are profoundly patriarchal, anti-feminist, and misogynistic.
Psychodynamic theory approaches human personality by focusing on psychological forces that underlie human behavior, feeling, and emotion. This approach is particularly interesting in the relationship between conscious and unconscious motivation and how this dynamic might be influenced by experiences in early life. The theory of psychodynamics is often used to refer specifically to the psychoanalytic theory proposed by Sigmund Freud and his followers. While Freud's theories of the structure and dynamics of human personality strongly predict human action, they are not without limitation. Over the years, much of the new research into personality psychology has brought many of Freud's original propositions into question. These objections raise issues with many of Freud's theories and methods including his singular focus on the structure of the human mind, his myopic view of human sexuality, his treatment using free association and transference, his reluctance to study children, and his utter lack of empirical evidence.
Freud's theory rested on the existence of a particular structure of the human mind. The mind was thought to consist of the id, ego, and superego, the interactions of which determined human personality and behavior. Freud believed that psychic energy functioned much like any other (as in thermodynamics) and thus, personality could be predicted and manipulated using transformations and exchanges of energy among the various structures of the mind. The id is present at birth, completely unconscious, and seeks after pleasure, or human drives, desires, and impulses. The superego operates in both the conscious and the unconscious. The superego is the internalization of societal rules and expectations. The ego also operates both consciously and unconsciously. The ego seeks balance between the id and the superego, mediating between the impulses of the id and the rigid rules imposed by the super-ego.
In psychoanalytic theory, humans are described as having sexual and aggressive tendencies and drives. These tendencies are governed by unconscious and irrational forces that react using instinctual and biological drives. Thus, in psychoanalytical theory, human behavior is deterministic and human beings are reduced to animals merely attempting to control primal drives that might go against social order and conduct. For example, Freud's concept of the Oedipus conflict, in which a son sees his father as competition for the affections of his mother, was thought to produce significant neurosis if not addressed in childhood. Freud believed that these drives were universal to humankind. While sexuality and psychosexual development is found among human beings, scientists disagree about its supremacy in determining human personality.
The psychodynamic model states that psychological disorders stemmed from maladaptive defenses against unconscious, internal conflicts. Thus, treatment for psychoses using psychoanalytic methods seeks to determine and uncover these suppressed or repressed memories in order for the individual to confront and move past them. Freud believed that all disorders present in adults could be traced back to instances in their childhood at which point the transference of ill will from one person to another prevented the individual from mastering a certain stage of psychosexual development. While this often resulted in ‘eureka-moments' for many of his early patients, current research does not believe this theory to be broad enough to explain the entirety of human psychological disorder. Traumatic events can occur later in life and cause serious distress, such as with PTSD, and Freud's focus on childhood events did not account for phenomenon such as this.
Freud completed the entirety of his research using case studies of pathology in human adults. Based on patients' feedback, including stories from their childhood and interpretation of their dreams, Freud developed his psychodynamic theory of psychology and his psychoanalytic theory of personality. He did an entirely qualitative study of the human mind, resulting in theories that were not falsifiable, but rather, open for interpretation. Scientists have brought two of these methods into question: his lack of research on children and his lack of empirical study of adults. Scientific research using data-based studies, meta-analysis, and child psychology continue to bring many of Freud's qualitative assumptions into question.
A significant number of feminists have been highly critical of many of Freud's concepts, arguing that the assumptions and approaches of psychoanalytic theory are profoundly patriarchal (male-dominated), anti-feminist, and misogynistic (anti-woman). Karen Horney, a psychologist who followed Freud, saw "masculine narcissism" as underlying the mainstream Freudian view. Feminist Betty Friedan referred to Freud's concept of penis envy as a purely social bias typical of the Victorian era, and showed how the concept played a key role in discrediting alternative notions of femininity in the early to mid twentieth century.
While Freud is still considered to be the father of psychodynamics and psychoanalytic theory, many of his assumptions and methods have come into question after further study in the field of personality psychology.