Freud on Personality

Freud’s theory of personality illustrates a psychodynamic and clinical approach to personality.   The behaviour of an individual may be as a result of the interplay among drive/instincts.   A person may be viewed as an energy system, the source of which lies in the life and death drives/instinct and the sexual and aggressive drives/instincts.  
According to Freud’s theory, there are two structural concepts, the first being the levels of consciousness, the conscious – having an awareness of thoughts, feelings and experiences, the preconscious – thoughts, feelings and experiences can be brought into awareness and the unconscious – having no awareness of thoughts feelings and experiences.   Freud believed this lack of awareness was due to repression.   The second structural concept – the id, described by Freud as “a cauldron full of seething excitations” (Freud 1993, p. 73), ego and superego, which correspond to instincts, relates to the different aspects of an individual’s functioning.

During development a person goes through stages.   Changes in the sensitivity of different parts of the body, namely the erogenous zones, are related to the developments of instincts.   These stages are oral, anal and phallic stages.   The Oedipus Complex, which develops during the phallic stage, is particularly important as it is the stage where there is a development of attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex resulting from the sexual excitation experienced during this stage.

“What we describe as “character” is built up to a considerable extent from the material of sexual excitation and is composed of instincts that have been fixed since childhood, of constructions achieved by means of sublimation, and of other constructions, employed for effectively holding in check perverse impulses which have been recognised as being un-utilizable.” (Freud, 1905, p. 238-239).