Read this article to learn about Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory of Child Development. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Introduction to Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory of Child Development 2. Basic Concepts of Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory 3. Natural Instincts 4. Defense Mechanisms5. The Establishment of Personality Structures.
- Introduction to Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory of Child Development
- Basic Concepts of Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory
- Natural Instincts in Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory
- Defense Mechanisms by Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory
- The Establishment of Personality Structures by Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory
Introduction to Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory of Child Development:
Development is a characteristic of every living being. The human child develops the most. The study of the process of the development of a child has been very important for psychologists of different schools. Hence, different theories of child development are available. Freud’s psychoanalysis theory is an important one among them.
Freud has traced the development of a child not on the basis of his overt behaviour but his study of the development of the child is based on his psychological functioning. The psychological functioning which is consisted of the child’s feelings, perceptions, thoughts, memories, ideas and so on, provides the raw material for the study to a psychoanalyst.
Freud’s psychoanalysis theory of child development is the result of such a study. Thoughts and feelings could be studied only as they came to consciousness of the patient of Freud’s pathological clinic; because a clinical patient can report of his feelings and thoughts when he is conscious of the same, or as they flow through his consciousness.
Freud assumed that all pathological functioning could be taken as a maladjusted form of normal functioning. Freud’s subjects were the maladjusted pathological patients who would come to him for treatment or relief.
Thus, the raw material for the development of Freudian theory of child development was made available through the report of the clinical patients as feelings and thoughts flowed into their consciousness. Freud found that the motivation which makes one behave is the same both in case of a clinical patient and a normal person.
AC Baldwin writes that the Freudian “theory is more obviously concerned with an individual’s thoughts and feelings than his behaviour.” Freud has traced development, mainly, in respect of thoughts and feelings, how they undergo changes as the child grows biologically as well as in experiences through the three personality structures—ID, Ego and Superego.
To personality structures, we shall come later on; first, let us see what are the basic concepts of his theory.
Basic Concepts of Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory:
In 1951, Freud’s article “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” was published. In it he describes instinctual drives to be the source of all covert and overt activities of the individual.
The instinctual drive has three aspects:
(i) Its source;
(ii) Its external aim; and
(iii) Its object.
Source of a drive, is its basic property. Excitation arises in some region or part of the body; that region or part of the body is the source of the instinctual drive. Such a source has some internal aim.
As in case of hunger as an instinctual drive, satisfying or gratification of the same, is the Internal Aim—in respect of each drive, an internal aim remains constant to it. Likewise, the sexual drive has a strong internal aim as seeking gratification.
(ii) External Aim:
External aim in case of the drive of hunger is eating some such thing, and, in such an amount that the drive of hunger may attain satisfaction, it may be gratified. In case of sex, some sexual activity will be sought to be done.
Now, when the personality of an individual develops, changes occur in case of external aim which is manifested through the overt behaviour of the individual—the internal aim in case of each instinctual drive remains constant.
The third aspect of the instinctual drive is the object. In case of hunger as an instinctual drive, the object is food or what is consumed to satisfy hunger; in case of sex, there must be someone, as an object in respect of which the individual’s sexual activities—exhibiting organs, touching, kissing, sexual intercourse are directed.
Freud has described how in the beginning, all the sexual activities of a child are carried on in respect of oneself as an object; and, how the external aim and object change as the child grows in age, and he goes on earning experiences.
Study of the external aims and objects is possible, but no definite number of sources can be given, nor can we be sure regarding the internal aim of each drive—the sources being purely internal phenomena, and, because of the possibility of the regions of excitation being both conscious and unconscious mind.
The internal phenomena remain constant; what change, are the external aims and objects. The vicissitudes that Freud describes in his article “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” are in reference to external aims and objects.
As the child’s personality develops, vicissitudes occur both in case of external aims and objects. The overt behaviour of the person makes these vicissitudes evident. They are the indicators of development in the personality which is the result of biological maturity and the experiences earned.
Natural Instincts in Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory:
Libido is the sex instinct. It provides the most important instinctual drive. No other drive is so significant in the process of personality development as is the libidinal one.
The satisfaction of the instinctual drive of hunger will not bring about any significant change so far the development of personality is concerned, but, what external aim is there in the pursuit of the gratification of the instinctual drive of sex, and, what object one adopts for its gratification, is very significant.
The overt behaviour of the individual in reference to the external aim and object of sex is a very important indicator of the nature and level of personality development. While the gratifications of all other drives are for the preservation of the self, the gratification of the libidinal urge is for the preservation of the species. It has been labelled as a basic drive in the Freudian theory.
It is a source of a good many significant personality adjustments. Libido is the special name that Freud gave to the sexual excitation. What particular action discharges how much energy can be described in term of libido, this is a quantitative indicator of sexual energy.
Freud has used the term sexual in a wider sense than is customary. Even the sympathizers of the theory could not digest the far—fetched usages of the term. As, for example, in the action of ploughing the land, Freud sees a symbolic rape of the mother.
Freud had to face strong opposition because of such sexual flavour of many psychoanalytic explanations of behaviour. But, when the psychoanalyst explains the child’s anxiety over physical danger, as a fear of castration—psychoanalytic evidence is there, that the child harbours the unconscious fear that his penis will be cut off. The fundamental importance of sexuality cannot be “explained away”.
Though the sexual drive is important for procreation, and, the preservation of the species, yet, none of the partners of sexual intercourse is motivate to it as a biological function but by pleasures of the act. But much more than sexual intercourse, is required for the preservation of the species, and Freud uses the term sexual for all such functions which are directly or indirectly related to the maintenance of the species.
Indeed, a number of other feelings and pleasures have been integrated into the pattern of mating and child rearing, so it is difficult to decide which one has the element of sexuality and which does not. Of course, kissing, embracing, caressing and snuggling close together, have the element of sexuality. But in early childhood, no genital sensations are involved in them.
Freud calls them “organ pleasures”. But as the child grows up, these sensual feelings are integrated into a coherent set of sexual feelings which promotes the biological procreation of the species. Freud has labelled all these pleasures as sexual; and they have been distinguished from genital activities by speaking of them as pre-genital.
Psychosexual maturity involves the integration of these sexual pleasures into a pattern of genital pleasure in sexual activity. One more important characteristic of psychosexual maturity is the material faithfulness between the partners of sexual relationship in all circumstances.
Parental love can result only as a result of psychosexual maturity; it makes the parents provide a warm and secure environment to the child for his wholesome development. Thus, sexuality has been dealt as a genuine cornerstone of psychoanalysis theory.
In some region or organ of the body instinctual drive is excited (as for example. Libido is the term that has been used for the excitation of sexual drive); an “idea” cannot lead to behaviour unless, first, it is carried to consciousness. The force which carries a drive or an idea representing a drive, to consciousness, has been termed as cathexis by Freud.
Excitation is caused because of some feeling, perception or thought or action. Excitation discharges energy, the source of which is some instinctual drive. Personality mechanisms make use of this energy; no overt behaviour is possible without this energy, and, it is disposed of when something is operated. “…….the drive energy operates by cathecting various psychological structures in the personality.”
Freud views cathexis as an electric charge which energises the region or the object which is involved in the process of the behaviour. Cathexis describes how energy is distributed or deployed.
Drive excitation is essential for behaviour. But drive excitation cannot directly express itself in the form of some behaviour. “The intervening mechanism is cathexis.” The cathexis is the force that drives the idea into consciousness.
The idea represents the drive which is then felt as an impulse. All the ideas are not acted out into behaviour though they may have been brought to consciousness; but it is always through cathexis that ideas are brought to consciousness; “objects of a drive are cathected”.
The mother is the best example of an object cathected for the child; she is valued by the child. The ideas of a child that are related to its mother, have a strong cathexis.
In other words, we may describe the fact of this relationship that mother “commands a lot of cathexis in the child’s psychological functioning”—the fact is evident through the behaviour of the child who carries out whatever is asked to be done by his mother. The mother is the object that occupies the child’s mind for most of the time.
The basic psychoanalytic assumption is that all kinds of feelings, thoughts or other psychological processes, or behaviour of an organism, have their genesis in the instinctual drives; but cathexes are the forces which can make their presence felt only by others.
The influence caused by these drives are carried to consciousness, and, eventually to overt behaviours by the force which has been termed as “cathexis” in psychoanalysis explanations. Overt behaviour is essential for the gratification of the drive motivated need.
The nature of cathexes, changes as the child’s personality structure develops from “Id” to “Ego” and from “Ego” to “Superego”. This change is perceived through the behaviour of the subject. What does not change, or remains constant, is the instinctual drive.
Then, what makes a change in the behaviour as the personality develops, psychoanalysts say that it is the cathexis that changes with maturity, with environment; so, here is the importance of environment for psychoanalysts. Defense mechanisms is a result of the sublimation of cathexes.
An idea reaches to consciousness when it is at a critical level of cathexis. Some other factors also contribute in the process when an idea is cathected to some object—the idea must be related to some basic instinct, or to the drive, deriving from it.
The common assumption among the people is that we are inclined to think of things which we want, and which have emotional significance for us. The higher the intensity of motivation, the stronger will be the thoughts intruding upon consciousness.
But if thoughts are painful, the individual would try to exclude its intrusion into consciousness. The defense mechanism used is Repression. A defense mechanism is used only when an individual is developing to a higher structure of personality—from “Id” to “Ego”; or from “Ego” to “Superego”.
Repression is the result of Counter Cathexis. Counter Cathexis subtracts energy from the region energised by some drive cathexis, and, generally, in relation to some object. Counter Cathexis is used to repress an idea which threatens the development of some unpleasant situation, or when the idea itself is painful, and so causing fear.
An individual at the level of “Ego” or “Superego”, has his “Self-image” developed, and if an idea threatens his “Self-image”, or is against his “Self- esteem”, he would attempt to repress such an idea.
If I consider my worth to be as a man of tolerance, I would get afraid if an idea or drive representative seeks intrusion into my consciousness through cathexis, and to lead me to some such overt behaviour which may harm my self-image; and to exclude that idea from intruding upon my mind, I would resort to the defense mechanism called repression.
Sometimes, the thought may be too strong to be excluded fully from consciousness. A repressed idea is most likely to continue its existence in the unconscious mind, and may be playing very important role in a dream, or in a state of hallucination. Ideas thus suppressed in our unconscious mind, do affect our overt behaviour also.
For a person who is keen in maintaining his sexual loyalty to his wife, the very idea of sexuality towards another woman, is immoral; and he would try his utmost to repress this idea through counter-cathexis-leaving little energy for the drive cathexis to be acted out. It is thus that a person avoids an otherwise threatening anxiety-provoking situation.
Likewise, as the child grows older, he would team to resist the instinctual drive of hunger when food is not available, as otherwise the situation would be very painful and derogatory. The use of counter-cathexis is an indication of the development of the child’s personality from the “Id” structure to the “Ego” structure.
An adult or even an adolescent may have developed to the level of “Superego” structure when one tries to avoid the acting out of such a drive cathexis which is not acceptable to the society, or is considered outlandish.
Finally, there is a third type of cathexis which Freud has termed as hyper-cathexis. Hyper-cathexis is for focusing attention to realities or to ideas other than those aroused by the immediate basic drive; these may be the ideas that had come to consciousness in the remote past, or may have been lying repressed in the unconscious mind.
The two important functions of hyper-cathexis are—focusing on an idea, and to integrate it with relevant ideas in a sequence or system with an objective to solve the problem.
While cathexis focuses attention on the object to be achieved, hyper-cathexis leads the subject to think realistically and logistically also about means and modalities which are essential for the achievement of object.
Freud has used this term to describe the fact that we can voluntarily concentrate on any object or can think of an idea before it comes to consciousness of its own. Hyper-cathexis cathects many ideas and thoughts in a system based on logical rules. For chalking out plans, or for searching out a needful information, a proper sequencing of ideas or thoughts is needed. It is hyper-cathexis which enables the subject to do it.
Hyper-cathexis is a stage of development in one’s personality when one’s thoughts are not bound by drive cathexis only. With the development of hyper-cathexis, one can bring to consciousness ideas and thoughts which are not tied to drive cathexis; sequence and organisation of one’s ideas and thoughts may not be determined by drives alone.
Now, “attention can control access to consciousness and change the organisation. Ideas are partly under voluntary control; the sequence of the ideas is governed by realities related to the plan, and by logical rules. The sequencing of ideas and thoughts in accordance with a certain plan, or as per certain rule, is the essence of what Freud has termed as Secondary Process.
In the primary-process thinking, thought of the drive is the only connecting thread. The primary- process thinking may lead to only some single drive satisfaction whereas the secondary-process thinking is to have the satisfaction of achieving something which has social significance also.
As for example, if a hungry person thinks of food, his thoughts may roam to foods of different kinds; to some dinner party enjoyed by him in the remote past; and to his mother who may have been cooking delicious food for him.
But when the same person rises above thoughts related to his own person only, and thinks of a plan to arrange food for the hungry people to the extent that he can, he starts the Secondary Process, and it is the result of Hyper-cathexis.
Repression is to avoid a pain-producing thought; nevertheless, facing realities squarely, may sometime be needed to tackle a problem effectively.
Under such a situation hyper-cathexis brings ideas of relevance to consciousness; had there been no relevance or significance of such ideas to the resolution of the problem, they may have been ignored, and a major part of them may have been relegated to unconsciousness—at least for the time-being.
The idea of being poorly prepared for an examination is definitely anxiety-producing, and hence painful, but one would not attempt for its repression; one would rather have hyper-cathexis to chalk-out a plan sequencing and organising ideas or thoughts in such a way that the motive of success in the examination may be achieved.
Thus, hyper-cathexis indicates an important stage of development in the personality of a person.
Defense Mechanisms by Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory:
A reference has been made above to only one kind of defense mechanism that is repression, when an idea or drive representation is excluded from having accessibility to consciousness.
The defenses are the indicators of the development of the personality structure from the level of Id to Ego or Superego level of Id is the stage when each drive or drive representation seeks immediate and direct gratification of its need, it cannot tolerate any deferment.
Each idea or drive representative is cathected to consciousness, and leads to overt behaviour.
Still, the person is too immature to harbour any other consideration in reference to his self-image or self-esteem; or social or moral propriety to defer or detour or suppress the gratification of the drive representative through some mechanism depending upon counter cathexis or hyper-cathexis so that the two aspects of the instinctual drives, that is, the external aim and the object, are affected.
The defenses that have clearly been identified have been classified as under:
3. Reaction formation
All these defenses distort the consciousness of the individual in a way that the expression of the drive may be prevented. Describing the common feature of these defenses, AL Baldwin writes: “they distort the individual’s consciousness in a way that prevents or alleviates the pain and anxiety that would be caused by a more realistic awareness of his environment or of his own ideas and feelings”.
This shows why a defense mechanism is adopted, and when it is adopted; it is adopted when the situation is painful or anxiety-provoking; for such a situation either the external environment may be responsible for some idea or feelings of the individual himself. The objective behind the adoption of a defense mechanism is always to prevent or alleviate the pain or anxiety.
Such is the importance of these defense mechanisms that an individual’s life-style is indicated because of these. These mechanisms are the corner— stones of one’s personality, and, the behaviour of an individual can be predicted because of the mechanisms that one would adopt under certain circumstances.
Now, let us see how each of the above-mentioned defense mechanisms, has been described by Freud and the psychologists of the school of psychoanalysis.
But before we describe these defenses, their difference from Controls should be made clear: Defenses by one means or the other distort consciousness to prevent the expression of the drive while Controls only inhibit the expression or modify it—they do not really block the drive itself.
Repression is the cornerstone of all the defenses, to a certain degree, repression is exercised in all sorts of defense mechanisms; the motive there being to raise the threshold level of access to consciousness. Repression can occur only when cathexis is subtracted from a drive cathected idea.
The threshold of access to consciousness is raised to prevent the drive cathected idea from reaching to the critical level of intensity when the individual would be consciously aware of its presence.
A drive-cathected idea is repressed for protection from pain or anxiety. But other ideas that have only associative link with the drive-cathected idea, escape repression, and become expressed in the form that is not painful or anxiety-laden.
This psychic function of the escape of the ideas having only associative link with the drive-cathected idea, and of their being expressed through such an overt behaviour which is for the present not likely to be threatened by the censor, has been called Displacement, it is a common accompaniment of repression.
The example given is that of hand-washing so often, and with great care. In some cases, the root for this symptom has been found to be in the idea of masturbation, a result of the libidinal drive. Washing the hand is not considered to be a dirty habit, and hence is not anxiety-laden as masturbation. So, hand-washing has been quoted as an example of displacement, also a sort of defense mechanism.
At the same time, “The tender care of the hands, expresses some of the cathexis of the genitals”. The ideas which are associatively linked with the idea that is repressed, but which themselves are not repressed, are the examples of displacements. The displacement is the mechanism through which the forbidden idea is expressed in disguise, gets its “message through to consciousness”.
Freud describes how the mechanism of repression tends to spread. Once the link between the repressed idea and the associatively linked ideas that have got an expression through displacement, is consciously recognised, such associatively linked ideas also start causing anxiety, with the result that the same are also repressed.
3. Reaction Formation:
Let us begin with an example. Suppose a person has an idea of hatred against his father, but the same makes him feel, or may cause an immediate unconscious reaction that harbouring such an idea is immoral. The energy released because of the drive of hostility is inhibited, tamed or civilized through counter-cathexis, and a counter-drive leads to the impulses of excessive love or respect for the father.
The counter drive differs from the primary instinctual drive as:
(i) The former is established against a primary drive, as a reaction to it;
(ii) It is a more tamed, inhibited and a civilized drive than the latter.
But, whenever the subject has a little feeling that his overt behaviour has leaked the original drive of hatred, he would further inhibit his counter drive too through more controls and defenses.
One more characteristic of the counter-drive is that it has a life of its own; whenever its maladaptiveness is realised, it too requires defenses and controls; and it is possible that in respect of each counter-drive, again and again, defenses and controls may be required each time layering the new ones upon those of the previously used ones; and each time the cathexis of these derivative motives becomes more and more inhibited, and less and less demanding and peremptory.
The example is, one, as a reaction formation, indulgences into acts of kindness only to realise that his behaviour has been maladaptive. He may grow pessimistic or disillusioned to find that the object on one account or the other did not deserve that much kindness, or that in a bid to show kindness to the object, he has exceeded the reasonable limit.
In such a situation some sort of defense and control may be established over kindness. In a neurotic form of kindness, one may be giving out, and giving more only to feel hurt and angry that the object is not grateful enough for it. Here, the subject may give acceptable conscious expression to less repressed hostility along with the counter-drive.
Isolation is the mechanism to isolate the feeling associated to an idea, but not the content of the idea itself. This isolation is executed through repression; the more exact word for which here would be “Intellectualization”.
The example is, some people do not respond with anger or hostility when they are insulted or imposed upon; it appears as if they were unconscious of such behaviour of others towards them or were unaware of their intent.
By and by, they grow so habitual or structuralized of responding to such a situation isolating the feeling of anger or hostility that they always appear to be playing cool to such a situation though actually they may be pondering upon the situation to take action more appropriately against those inflicting insult or imposing something upon them.
The close relative of isolation, is intellectualization. Intellectuahsation is a cognitive function; it consists of understanding situation cognitively so that appropriate means may be thought out to accomplish the objectives without being swept off by the affective side of the drive expression.
But one negative impact of such a structualisation is that the person thus structuralized may not have that force in his behaviour which the affective side of the drive may cause to grow because of the energy released by it.
Affect serves as a signal which guides the subject in adapting the behaviour to the purpose to be achieved.
Affect seeks emotional discharge in an explosive manner only until mature ego is developed, and the affect is at the primary process level; but, when personality has developed to the structure of mature Ego level, that is, the affect is at the secondary process level, it serves as a signal indicating the significance of the problem, and, helping in setting a goal for the adaptive behaviour.
So, repressing affect would mean preventing it from functioning as a signal.
Isolation is a psychodynamic process which saves a person the anxiety which may be caused’ by the impinging of two mental events upon each other while occurring simultaneously, and which are of such nature that they cannot co-exist harmoniously.
In such a situation, separation of the one from the other is essential to save the individual the difficulty of reconciling the two or of dealing with the two simultaneously. Such a separation is the defense mechanism of isolation.
Suppose I go to a temple, and there, along with a feeling of devotion, an idea occurs impinging upon the feeling of devotion that the idol that I am bowing to, is nothing but a work in stone or in some metal. The psychological situation causes anxiety, mental trouble; and the only way out is Isolation. For the time-being, at least, I would make a psychological separation of the two mental events which are irreconcilable.
Other example of isolation is that a man having the tender feelings of love, may not have sexual relationship with a woman; and may not be loving tenderly another woman with whom he has sexual relationship.
In such a case, tender love and sexual feelings have to be separated through a device of defense mechanism; though feelings of both types are expressed but on different occasions, and in relation to different persons.
A drive motivation which is undesirable, but which being too strong to be prevented from consciousness, makes one to adopt a defense mechanism of attributing that undesirable characteristic or drive motivation to another person; this mechanism is called Projection—one projects something undesirable into one’s character, into that of another.
A prudish spinster may be complaining against over-sexuality into another person. And, she herself may grow into militantly non-sexual as a reaction formation. Such a complaint expresses both sexuality and hostility that have come to the consciousness of the complainant.
A person who always strives to give the impression of himself being a religious man, would project such feelings of his into the character of other persons, which are incompatible with religion.
It, generally, happens that a person who, because of his own selfish behaviour, is cut off from other members of his family or society, would complain aggressively against unsociability of others, and would himself grow more unsocial.
One more form of projection is also witnessed in the behaviour of people in general. Suppose, my son has scored very high marks in an examination; since my praising my own son on this account would be immodest, so I may start speaking of other cases of high scores only to bring to the notice of others the fact of my son having scored so high.
AL Baldwin writes—”Projection is not so much a modification of the actual content of consciousness as a modification of the organisation of consciousness.”
It means, whatever content comes to consciousness, remains there in its entirety; the defense mechanism of projection is to effect a change in its organisation only—whatever content is there in the consciousness of a person, is projected as a characteristic in the personality of someone else, or in others; what originally was in reference to one’s own self, is reorganized in reference to others.
Only such a one adopts this defense who has developed self-image or self-esteem; to protect the same, for example, one would express one’s sex-related drive- cathexis through describing someone else engaged in sexual actions; attributing the motive to another person.
In a given situation, what we imagine the other would behave, actually, in most cases, projects what our instinctual drive might have driven us to behave but for our Ego or Superego.
It is the most primitive of all defenses. It distorts cognition in a more severe way. To deny the existence of a reality is denial. A very young child hallucinates things as still the faculty of perceiving reality is not developed, nor has he developed his Ego. A seriously psychotic person also distorts cognition through denying the facts because he cannot face realities.
A grown-up denies a reality to protect himself from an anxiety- arousing situation or when it is otherwise unpleasant to him. A grown up may deny facts when they are minor or unclear.
We may have seen people denying an impending unpleasant event; for example, when a driver says, “I do not feel sleepy when I so determine,” the probability is that he may be feeling the impact of sleep while he so declares. “Denial is perceiving the world in the way that one wants it to be rather than the way it is.” (AL Baldwin).
Now, we should distinguish hallucination from denial. Denial is the distortion of cognition, but hallucinations do not imply distortion of cognition as the child who hallucinates, has still not fully developed the faculty of perceiving facts; still, he cannot distinguish what he is hallucinating, and what he is perceiving.
He hallucinates things for drive-satisfaction a grown-up denies things to protect himself from pain or anxiety.
As the child grows older, he cannot deny realities, his Ego is also stronger now. Of course, he can deny realities in a play or in a day-dreaming; there, things may be taken to exist as he would like them to be, rather than, as they are. A grown-up also day-dreams. Both playing and day-dreaming may provide respite from burdensome or hard realities only for a while.
A person with a fully developed Ego would adopt other types of defenses than Denial to protect himself in an anxiety-arousing situation. As already told in the beginning that this list of mechanisms does not exhaust all the defenses, there may be a lot of others, too, but Freud has described these six as the most important among them.
Later neo-Freudians viewed these defenses in a broader context as to how they affect the styles of perceiving and thinking besides serving as defensive devices. They have described these mechanisms as cognitive controls and cognitive styles.
In the development of the personality of a child, these controls and styles play an important part. The personality of a person has three aspects- physical, cognitive and conative. It is the cognitive aspect of personality which is mainly represented and affected by the defense mechanisms.
Cognitive controls and cognitive styles:
Though defense mechanisms are mainly concerned with the cognitive aspect of personality, yet, their effect may be perceived upon the over-all functioning of the individual.
How a person controls his cognitive functions, that is, his perceptions and thinking; what is the way of his knowing of things, or of being conscious of things or of facts, and his judgment about the same—all this forms an important part of an individual’s personality. In wider perspective, defenses are cognitive controls and cognitive styles.
These controls and styles are adopted in general forms to protect oneself in an unpleasant or anxiety-arousing situation, none the less, individual differences are there which, besides other characteristics, make personalities distinct. The general cognitive functioning of an individual influences the kinds of defenses one develops.
Using stroop colour—naming test, George Klein and his colleagues investigated one particular cognitive style as Constricted Control as distinct from Flexible Control. Those who have developed constricted controls in their functioning, happen to be very precise and meticulous; and, do not allow intuitive or affective factors to influence their cognitive as those with flexible controls do.
The high interference group shows more vulnerability to interfering stimuli from the periphery. Just to concentrate on the main content, the central content, such a group would adopt the defense of isolating the peripheral objects, and the style of constricted control develops. Of course, the need that is present at the moment, would affect the nature and intensity of control.
Baldwin writes, “The same procedure is even stronger when there is a compelling need present which threatens to impinge upon the perception.”
“If the season is hot, and in a picture the central item is “ice-cream”, the pictures of other items, given on the periphery, would be ignored through the mechanism of isolation, and concentration would be high on “ice-cream” and other related words if the same are given there.
The subject would be vulnerable to the intrusion of words related to hot-relieving things; such a situation would make not only the visual movement of the subject constricted, but also his association to other objects. The mechanism is both a defense and a result, “the entire pattern of interaction with the environment is coloured”.
The Establishment of Personality Structures by Freud’s Psychoanalysis Theory:
Freud describes the development of personality through three structures- Id, Ego and Superego. Each of the three structures has distinct patterns of reactional behaviour that is caused by the arousal of some motive. Each structure determines how drive representations would appear in consciousness and lead to drive discharge.
We can know what is the development structure of personality, looking at the dispositional properties of the subject. It means, each structure is characterised by its own dispositional properties.
Id, Ego and Superego—each has its own distinct dispositional properties which indicate the type of structure that one is having; it gives the idea how a person functions, what are the various properties that are evidenced during the period of drive discharge; and how the various properties are related to one another.
Id is the structure of personality when a primitive instinctual force reigns supreme, it is highly impulsive and rash, and, can tolerate no delay in the gratification of a drive. It is the primitive source of energy which is blindly utilised to serve the urges of the wild “Self” only.
It is uncultured and thoughtless. A child, in the beginning, happens to be at the Id stage when has no thought of right or wrong but immediately rushes into an action being prompted by some instinctual impulse. It is only gradually that the personality develops towards the structure of Ego.
Even when the Ego structure has been developed, it is not the case that one gets totally above, and beyond the properties which characterize the structure of Id—a constant struggle goes on between the urges of the Id, and the directions given by the Ego.
Id is related to primary process only when no defense mechanisms have developed. Rappaport has described the models of the functioning of primary process, separately in reference to action, cognition and affect. In each case, the primary process is consisted of three stages.
Here, we are giving each of the three models as given by Rappaport:
The primary model of action:
The infant grows restless as drive accumulates and it demands immediate gratification. The child starts yelling and would not be affected by any means that may have to be tried at, to make it tolerate even, a little delay in the fulfillment of the motive. The drive is satisfied when the child gets to breast sucking. With it the motive is achieved and the final stage of quiescence is reached to when no drive happens to exist there.
Drive determines the experience; it determines what the organism is to be conscious of; but for the drive to become conscious, memory of the previous gratification serves as a vehicle. In case of previous cognition, drive discharge is not as effective as it happens when the object is present, hence cognitions cannot be taken as effective substitutes for the behaviour.
The child is very young but he has learned what it is he wants, and he thinks about it. Still, he is not mature enough to have sensing and thinking as separate functioning—sensing and thinking, generally, go simultaneously; and, his thoughts are hallucinatory, they being not based on the realities of the situation but are related to the object he wants to achieve, and, the object is not present.
“Cognition, or conscious experiencing of the drives representation, occurs where the aim of the drive is not achieved”. But as the child matures, he perceives the present situation also besides remembering the past gratifying experience; with the result that gratification occurs in reality and not in hallucination only.
The third of the primary models, as described by Rappaport is the model of affect:
Drive—Absence of drive object—Affect discharge.
Again, drive is there but no object is there for its gratification, and the result is that the drive discharge does not happen to be so effective as it would have been in case of the presence of the drive object; whatever discharge is there, is only an emergency discharge of the drive cathexis— here again, the gratification is hallucinatory.
So long as Id is the only system present, the process happens to be consisted of three stages—restlessness of the organism, his experiencing the affect, and his experiencing a hallucinatory gratification followed by a state of quiescence when there is no action, no cognition, and no affect.
Ego is the second structure which personality attains in due course of development. Ego is realistic and makes the person appreciate the realities of the situation and makes him behave in the wider interests of his self. “It represents the role of enlightened self-interest in the personality.”
Though Ego is not unaware of the drive, and of the impulses which the drive may give rise to, yet, its role is to restrain the person from behaving on the spur of an instinctive drive in a reckless manner. It may prepare the person for a detoured or delayed gratification of the drive, if an attempt for an immediate gratification of the same may harm the self-esteem of the person.
Ego would not permit such a step of behaviour which the people would not approve of. It is in the interest of the person, living in a society, that it (Ego) controls the drives by way of delaying, inhibiting or restraining them so that their aims may be achieved realistically and with no harm to the self of the person.
The Ego may arrange for the maximum gratification of the drives for which it may have to inhibit drives for a certain period of time; may have to detour the gratification, and reconcile incompatible impulses arising out of instinctual drives.
The Ego performs the following five functions:
1. It raises the threshold for drive discharge. The drive object may be present even then it controls the subject from behaving impulsively to achieve that object. Though such a control may result in the frustration of the subject, yet it develops tolerance in the subject for such a frustration, and it prepares the subject for better adaptation; of course, in extreme cases, such a control may make one neurotic.
2. It controls the access of ideas to consciousness. For a behaviour the access of an impulse to consciousness is essential, but the same is prevented by the Ego, and thus it distorts consciousness.
3. The Ego directs the behaviour towards the acceptable goals. Acceptability can be judged only through a cognitive function. The Ego selects an effective means to the goal. If necessary, the Ego may make the individual take detours; and balance “one value against another”. Thus, the Ego may make an individual plan an action well in advance before he actually indulges into it.
4.Logical thinking is the fourth function of the Ego. The individual thinks in a logical sequence because of the Ego. He thinks according to some set of rules in contrast to what he does at the structural level of Id—there, the sequence of thoughts going “from one drive representative to another regardless of logical rules or realistic factors”.
5. The Ego directs the individual what goal to select. The Ego makes use of the affect as a signal to be guided in the selection of a goal which should be such that it may relieve of a feeling of frustration— may it be despondency, anger or some other unpleasant feeling, as well as it should be important, too.
Again, the functioning is at the secondary process level, and affect accompanies the drive frustration as a signal to help the person select the right goal.
The Ego-cathexes are basically derived from the instinctual drives, but here the effect that accompanies the frustration of instinctual drives is controlled, indicating thereby that the situation demands some sort of adaptive behaviour. To the Id, Freud attributes “dynamically unconscious content, primary process functioning, the pleasure principle and drive cathexes.
In contrast, the Ego is partly conscious and partly not so. It operates following the secondary process. Nevertheless, no distinguishing line can be drawn between the Id and the Ego. There is a continuum from one structure to the other; the higher level controlling the lower one, and evolving out of the lower.
Superego marks the difference in the aims that comes about when an individual has further developed to the third structured system of the personality. To describe the development of personality theoretically, Freud has used these three terms—Id, Ego and Superego. He has distinguished the first two on the basis of means adopted.
When an individual is very young, it happens to be very impulsive and labile, and cannot tolerate any delay in the gratification of a drive; Freud calls his first structural system of the personality by the name Id.
And, to the second structural system as Ego, when one grows more realistic, and, would work for the maximal drive satisfaction. Sometimes, Ego may inhibit the expression of an instinctual drive when such an expression is considered not to be helpful in the attainment of maximal drive satisfaction.
But in case of both the structural systems, that is, Id and Ego, there is no difference in aims. These are the means adopted that distinguish one from the other. In case of Superego, the aims are also different from the ones that activate the young child who is still at the structural level of Id.
Superego is the guide that enables a mature individual not to adopt such an aim which is irreconcilable with the social order. An individual at the structural level of Id or Ego is not mature enough to allow only such a drive discharge which may serve for the satisfaction of the person without disrupting the social order. It is possible to do so when the structural system of Superego has developed.
The social system can remain constant over the generations only when social rules become incorporated into the individual personality; for it, conflict between the egocentric satisfaction of the individual and the maintenance of social order must be resolved. The Superego is the result of the resolution of this conflict as well as it is system of the personality which enables an individual to resolve such a conflict.
There is a dynamic relationship among these three systems of personality—Id, Ego and Superego. For all these systems. Id is the basic source of motivation. It represents the forces which lead to direct, immediate expression of the instinctual drives.
The Superego represents the cultural restrictions on the expression of instinctual drives. The Ego seeks maximal satisfaction within the restrictions imposed by superego and the realities of the world. Superego begins to be acquired even during the period of childhood.
As for example, the child would try to acquire the parental interpretation of sexual prohibitions. Later on, as an individual grows in age, his capacity to feel the restricting nature of the societal rules, increases; and the realities of the world also exert a restricting impact—all this represents the development of the system of Superego in the personality of the individual.
In some cases, the restrictions and fears that stem from the Superego may be unrealistic and rigid. In such cases, the Ego plays the arbitrary role by way of bringing some compromise between the Superego and the Id.
Now, reconciliation has to be found between the impulsive nature of the Id, seeking direct expression of the instinctual drives, and, the restrictive nature of the Superego demanding strict observance of the societal rules. The psychoanalysts have described the mechanisms of Ego—Id relations in greater details than they have done in case of ego-superego.