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Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian born neurologist who founded the field of psychoanalysis (a therapy and a theory that investigates and addresses the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind).
Though psychoanalysis is no longer a focus of much work in psychology, Freud made important contributions to the field and remains very influential.
The metaphysics Freud assumes is essentially that of modern science. He rejected all speculative metaphysical claims and assumed that every event, including human activity, could be explained by reference to natural laws.
Materialism: Freud rejected all dualistic interpretations of mental phenomenon, insisting that there was a physiological basis for all mental states.
Determinism: Freud insisted that even the most casual and apparently meaningless behaviors have antecedent causes.
Unconscious: Perhaps Freud's most important contribution to our thinking is the insistence that aspects of our mentality are in principle incapable of being brought to consciousness. Freud offers a tri-partite division of consciousness: Consciousness, Pre-consciousness and the Unconscious. According to this model, the mind is like an iceberg (the surface (consciousness) is only a small part of the whole).
Drives: The drives are instinctual forces. They are the active principle of Freud's theory. He typically described them in essentially hydraulic terms.
Developmental: Expanding on the common recognition that the human personality develops over time, Freud argues that the first years of a child's life determine the type of personality that they will have as adults.
Initially, nothing inhibits the expression of these instincts. The child acts to satisfy its instinctual drives. At this stage the mind operates according to the pleasure principle.
Very quickly, however, the child learns that he needs to balance his instincts against the demands of the world. This is the introduction of the mind to the reality principle.
With the introduction of the reality principle, we see the development of the initial structure of the personality: the differentiation of the mind into the id (the instincts) and the ego (which mediates between the id and the world).
The story of the development of the personality has revealed the presence of three parts or structures of the mind: the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego.
Id: the Id just does what it does. The instincts function automatically.
Ego: The ego functions by counteracting the instinctual impulses of the id. In effect, the ego exerts a counter energy in the form of repression or regression, what Freud calls Mechanisms of Defense. These mechanisms function by inhibiting the transmission of information from the unconscious to the preconscious. However, this inhibition is not perfect, quite a bit slips through.
Super-Ego: The super-ego too functions by counteracting the id, but in this case, the inhibition is conscious. As a result, the inhibition sometimes assists and sometimes conflicts with the operation of the ego.
In the ‘non-normal’ members of the population ego development has been compromised.
Typically, by some early developmental trauma that required the ego to direct the bulk of its energies to ‘primal repression.’
This primal repression limits the ego energy available to address current crises. In the face of an overwhelming psychic demand, the Ego can’t handle the forces emerging from the Id. At best it can displace them into phenomenon/behaviors that aren’t so threatening to the personality of the individual.