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Psychoanalytic Personality Theory by Sigmund Freud

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Introduction

Sigmund Freud was father of psychoanalysis who was first person to study unconscious mind shaping one’s personality. Our unconscious mind works like a store house to repressed feelings which is responsible for conflicts e.g., anxiety, neurosis, hysteria etc., during later stages. According to Freud’s perspective human psyche is categorized into three parts i.e., conscious, unconscious and preconscious. Our personality is a result conflicts between id, ego and superego. Id which is our basic biological repressed urges or instincts responsible for impulsive, pleasure-seeking, and irrational behaviour. Superego is rigid morality instinct which tells how we ought to behave in civilised way without the fear of guilt and punishment. Ego is a by-product of id and superego. It is a balancing instinct between id and superego which is responsible for rational, real-world thoughts, memories, judgement, conscious behaviour. Unresolved conflict between ego and superego results into imbalance which is responsible for anxiety. To resolve conflicts or imbalance between id and superego, ego uses defense mechanism as a coping strategy.

Defense mechanism is an instinct in mammals and other animals. Freud explained following types of defense mechanism to cope up with unhealthy situations. Reaction formation is an unconscious defense mechanism in which we use hospitality to oppress negative feelings. Displacement is to put things on others to relief pain or anxiety e.g., hitting your dog after being scolded by parents. Regression is when we move back to libido stage as a coping way to developmental stage crises which is very common in infants ages 2-5 years. Projection is using negative energy on external objects as a defense mechanism. Rationalization is a mature way to handle negative behaviour by giving justification to your own behaviour or situation. Denial is a common seen is painful experiences where we tend to deny the reality and gives us more pain. Freud has used psychosexual development approach to explain the personality theory. He explained that their psychosexual stages which shapes the personality and each stage and has its own crises and conflicts. There are five psychosexual development stages i.e., oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital.

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Thesis

This children’s story book “I’d really like to eat a child” written by Sylvianne Donnnio is story about a little crocodile named Achilles which will be viewed with the perspective of Freud’s personality theory. Little Achilles childhood represents his oral phase which is based on basic pleasure and needy instincts. His behaviour shows his id ego and superego throughout the story. At the end of the story he shows his defense mechanism which will be interpreted in detail in interpretation section.

Introspection

The little Achilles is a baby crocodile who eats bananas in the breakfast on daily basis. His mom calls him handsome and big boy which becomes a repressed feeling for Achilles. His mother’s word “big” creates a thought in his mind of that is big enough to eat a kid which was completely irrational and unreal. When his mother says him “handsome” “big” boy Achilles might have developed a Oedipus complex to become a like his dad (big enough and masculine).

One morning when her mother asked her to eat bananas in the breakfast he showed his needy behaviour and asked for a child for his breakfast. It was his id or unconscious impulses which was irrational as his parents thought that he too small to eat a child and he needs to eat bananas to grew into a big crocodile. It was his id responsible for the pleasure-seeking urge to eat a child. It can be symbolised with oral psychosexual development stage which is involved with only eating, sucking or oral pleasures. When mama crocodile asked him to eat bananas with a rational reason child don’t grow on trees only bananas do, it was his id refused to eat bananas denying the fact that he is too small to eat a child. He yelled at them that he does not care, and he only wants to eat a child shows his needy and impulsive urge that he did not suppress. When papa crocodile bought him a sausage he refused to eat and again asked for child. They baked a cake for Achilles, but he refused piece of cake. When he saw his parents crying but he refused to eat anything and went to river for swimming. This all happened because of id because is our unconscious mind which is our biological instinct of seeking pleasure without caring about facts and reality. We tend to take irrational or unrealistic decisions when we hear our id. We can assume that it acts like a devil side our mind as illustrated in cartoons.

Because he had not had his breakfast which gave him strange feelings, he went to the river for swim where he saw a child sitting at the riverbank. His strange feeling was his anxiety or negative feeling which he wanted to resolve. When he went to the river he saw a child at the riverbank. His repressed thought made him pounce at that child sitting at the riverbank. This happened because according to Freud our unconscious mind covers about 60 percent of mind (illustrated in his ice berg example). It is hard to neglect our unconscious mind because only unconscious mind is responsible for memories, decision making based on experiences and memories. It is hard to neglect our id impulses without ego’s defense mechanism and rational ideas. When he was ready to pounce at that child with a thought he would eat the child, child took him saying that little crocodile is harmless because he was too small. Child tickled him and threw him into water when he was done playing with Achilles. It was a different situation for Achilles which was a threatening for him because reality was completely different from his impulsive thoughts. It was his ego which took Achilles back to his parents. His id (the impulsive urge to eat a child) was suppressed when he decided to go back to his parents asking for bananas. Because our ego works with defense mechanism in different ways, he went straight to his parents asked for bananas. His hunger and strange feelings were negative feeling which had to be resolved by using defense mechanisms. His denial to the fact that he was too small to eat child at first, he tried to satisfy his unrealistic thoughts which was a unhealthy way of coping reality. He ate bananas at the end of the story which was a rational decision or his ego or his conscious mind because either way he had to eat something. By the end, he knew it is impossible to eat a child because he is too little, so he ate bananas. But the twisting plot is when he says he will eat bananas ‘to be big enough to eat a child’ represents his superego. Our superego is rigid moral values which are socially acceptable. We do things and behave in a way that is not punishable and guilt-free. He developed a rigid thought that he could eat child whatever it takes, if he would eat bananas and grew into a big crocodile. He used rationalization as a defense mechanism which is to accept the negative outcomes and try to change the behaviour into positive which is socially acceptable, guilt-free and free of punishment. he accepted a reality that he was not big enough to eat child and ate bananas to change that reality positively.

His story can be symbolized as oral stage because it only shows oral pleasure that is eating, chewing. It went to phallic stage which is doing your things your own. When he went to swimming by himself, we can assume that he took his own responsibility of his meal (eating a child). Later when he used his defense mechanism that is rationalization, it personified his latency stage which is responsible for our defense mechanism. Last stage is genital stage, when we are fully mature and can take our own responsibilities and decisions rationally. The last line of the story, “big enough to eat a child” is his genital stage. It is obvious he would grow into a big crocodile when he would be a ‘adult’ or ‘fully developed’ crocodile.

Conclusion

The little Achilles was a baby crocodile who had id impulses. He acted like a rebellious kid which was his id. It represents his oral phase which is a pleasure-seeking phase. Later he decides to go by himself for a child which represents his phallic and latency phase, the defense mechanism phase. He used rationalization as his defense mechanism. His story is a perfect illustration of id, ego, superego, defense mechanism, and psychosexual development stages with the perspective of Freud’s personality theory.

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