Does Freud’s Theory Or Trait Approach Best Explain Personality? Coventry Essay

1548 words - 7 pages

Does Freud’s Theory or Trait Approach best explain personality?
Personality is commonly thought to be characteristics that reflects an individual’s attitude and
behaviour. This gives a brief overview of some of the issues that are touched upon regarding
personality from empirical psychological research. One definition of personality is ‘a particular
pattern of behaviour and thinking that prevails across time and situations and differentiates one
person from another.’ Freud, one of the most prominent figures of twentieth century psychology,
was the first to claim that behaviours were irrational and were largely due to the machination of the
unconscious. Psychodynamic was the term coined for the internal conflict within the mind that he
claimed determined the personality. The other approach towards personality is the Trait Approach,
which aims to explain personality by measuring the degree to which individuals express a particular
personality trait. This is unlike Freud’s Theory in that it doesn’t attempt to categorise individuals
according to different personality traits.
Human behaviour, according to Freud, is motivated by instinctual drives which are triggered by
traumatic events in a person’s life. This in turn releases ‘psychic energy’ which is aversive and alters
the body’s state of equilibrium. If this energy drive is not relieved or satisfied psychological
disturbances will occur. He believed that during these traumatic events, individuals try to suppress
what they’ve experienced and it becomes embedded in their unconscious and exerts control over
the conscious emotions and behaviour without their awareness. The example of an iceberg was used
to express how this functions. While the tip of the iceberg (the conscious mind) is above the surface
the larger, more important part (the unconscious mind) is below the surface and unseen. Both of
these determine personality however as the unconscious is perceived to be the larger of two it has a
greater influence. Freud’s claimed the mind was split into three parts: the id, the ego and the
superego. The conflict between this components is due to the id’s pleasure principle which seeks
immediate gratification with no consideration of reality and the conscience of the superego which is
the internalisation of rules and restrictions of the society. Freud’s Theory of personality
development revolves around this idea of pleasure principle and passing through psychosexual
stages of development. This consists of five stages and fixation at one of these stages during
development can indicate later personality characteristics. The first stage is known as the oral stage
which mainly consists of sucking and swallowing by new born babies, which initially is passive but
later becomes more aggressive. Fixation at this stage might the cause the individual to become
sarcastic or develop habits such as smoking. The second year of life sees the child advance into the
anal stage of personality development. The...

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