Sigmund Freud Theory of Self and Defence Mechanisms

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Sigmund Freud was an Austrian man who studied medicine because he was intrigued by the behaviour of humans. He contributed quite significantly to the field of psychology. Freud created the psychoanalytic theory which focuses on the experiences in a person’s early childhood life, conflicts and motives of the unconscious mind and the coping methods people use to resolve these conflicts. Freud created a structural model to explain the different levels of consciousness. He also described different defence mechanisms used by people when the three parts of the psyche (the ID, Ego and Superego) are in conflict.

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Sigmund Freud created a structural model that he used to explain and describe the behaviour of people and the complex way in which the mind works. This model included three main aspects, namely, the Id, Ego and Superego which he described as making up a person’s psyche. Each of these parts play a vital role in the behaviour of a person. In accordance to Freud’s model the Id is a part of a person’s personality and it resides solely in the unconscious mind. The Id is created when a person is born. It is responsible for ensuring that a person’s needs are met, and therefore Freud has classified it as the primary structure of this behavioural model. The Id is the reasons babies cry when the are hungry or need a diaper change, it is also why the baby will not stop crying until its needs, desires or wants have been fulfilled. This is because the Id makes a person seek instant satisfaction or gratification. As a person grows older, they develop their Ego and their Superego and these 2 parts of the model responsible for controlling urges made by the Id. When the Ego develops it forms a part of all three parts of the conscious mind (the conscious, preconscious and unconscious). The Ego is realistic and ensures that the impulses of the Id are met in a socially acceptable and appropriate way. The Ego does not stop a person from finding satisfaction or from achieving gratification it simply delays the person from fulfilling their need, want or desire immediately. Freud stated that the Superego only starts to develop at round the age of 5. The Superego is essentially a learned portion of the behavioural model. It outlines a person’s morals and it will provide a guide of what is socially acceptable and what isn’t, which is all learnt from parents and/or the environment in which a person is raised. The Superego is made of two, the first being the rules and behaviours that the Ego strives to fulfil and the second being the set of actions deemed unacceptable by either society or by parents or by both (Cherry, 2019). Conflicts between the ID, Ego and Superego results in anxiety which results in different reactions from different people.

These reactions are called defence mechanisms and each person uses their own mechanism to cope with different situations. A defence mechanism is used by a person when they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or guilty or a combination of the three. Defence mechanisms are mostly a reaction that takes place unconsciously, although some people do consciously make use of these mechanisms when they are placed in a situation they don’t like or become aware of emotions that they find negative. Patients may use different defence mechanisms in different environments and/or with different people. An example of why a patient would use defence mechanisms is when they feel overwhelmed by treatments or overwhelmed because of what happened to them which now means they need to have treatment, this can lead to them making use of defence mechanisms because they don’t know how to approach nor cope with their current situation. Freud identified, named and explained seven main defence mechanisms used by people.

One example of a defence mechanism as described by Freud is sublimation (Weiten, 2015). This is when a person displaces their emotions in a way that would be deemed socially acceptable by society. It is done by transferring those emotions into an activity, such as going for a run when feeling stressed or boxing to control feelings of aggression or anger. This is seen as more socially acceptable as people are using these activities as an outlet for the emotions they are experiencing. Although it is seen to be socially acceptable it is often not an effective method to resolve their inner conflict.

Another defence mechanism is called projection. This is action of removing any negative or unwanted characteristics by projecting or attributing them onto another person (Weiten, 2015). Projection does not mean that a person talks about what is troubling them and expressing those feelings to another person. It means that a person does not know how to properly communicate their internal turmoil and so they place blame onto other people. Projection can sometimes result in people believing what they are currently feeling is what another person is going through and not them. An example of projection is believing that someone doesn’t like you because you don’t actually like them, but wont admit it because you don’t believe society will accept you after revealing a negative mindset of not accepting or liking a person (Weiten, 2015).

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