What is Personality?

  • In psychological terms, personality is defined as the characteristic ways of responding to individuals and situations.
  •  The literal meaning of personality has been derived from the Latin term Persona which refers to the mask used by the actors in the Roman theatres in order to change their facial make-up. 
  • Personality refers to unique and stable qualities that defines a person’s behaviour across different situations over a period of time.
  • Features of Personality:
  1. It has both physical and psychological components.
  2. Enunciation of personality in terms of behaviour is somewhat unique in an individual.
  3. Its prime features don’t easily change with passage of time.
  4. However, some of its features may change due to internal or external situational demands. Thus, personality is adjustable or adaptive to situations and it is dynamic as well.

Psychodynamic Approach to the study of Personality

  1. This approach was introduced by the famous psychologist and physician, Sigmund Freud. He developed this view in the course of his clinical practice.
  2. Earlier he used hypnosis for the treatment of his patients who were suffering from physical and emotional problems. According to his observations, many of his patients needed to speak about their problems. After opening up, they usually felt better.
  3. Methods used by Freud to understand the functioning of the mind were Dream Analysis, Analysis of Errors and Free Association (wherein the individual is asked to openly share all the thoughts, feelings and ideas that come to his/her mind)

Levels of Consciousness

  1. Conscious: it involves the thoughts, feelings and actions of which people are aware.
  2. Preconscious: it involves mental activities of which people can become aware only if they attend to it closely and in a precise manner.
  3. Unconscious: it involves the mental activities or the thoughts, feelings and desires of which people are unaware.
  4. Freud believed that the unconscious is a reserve of instinctive or animal drives and stores all ideas and wishes that are hidden or concealed from conscious awareness maybe because they may lead to psychological conflicts.
  5. Most of these emerge from sexual desires which cannot be expressed blatantly and are repressed. Unsuccessful resolution of conflicts hence, leads to abnormal behavior.

Structure of Personality

Id, Ego and Superego are the primary structural elements of personality which exist in the unconscious as forces and can be understood from the ways individuals behave.

  • Id:
  1.  It works according to the pleasure principle. It is the source of a person’s instinctual energy and it deals with the immediate gratification of primitive needs, sexual desires and aggressive impulses. 
  2. It assumes that people try to avoid pain and seek pleasure. The id is demandingunrealistic and it doesn’t care for other people, moral values or the society.
  3. According to Freud, id is energized by the life or sexual instinct and the death instinct. The instinctual life force that energizes the id is known as libido.
  • Ego:
  1. It works according to the reality principle. It seeks to satisfy a person’s instinctual needs in accordance to the reality. 
  2. It grows out of id, but it directs the id towards proper way of behaving. The ego is patient, reasonable and practical.
  • Superego:
  1. It works according to the moral principle. It is considered as the moral department of mental functioning. 
  2. It directs the id and ego and tells the id and ego whether gratification of needs in a specific instance is ethical or not.
  3.  Through the process of socialization the superego internalizes the parental authority and helps control the id.

Ego-Defence Mechanisms

Freud observed that, human behavior reflected an attempt to deal with or escape from anxiety. Defence mechanism is a way to reduce anxiety by distorting reality. People using the ego-defence mechanisms are usually unaware of using them.

  1. Repression: In this mechanism, anxiety-provoking behaviors and thoughts are completely removed by the unconscious. Hence people become completely unaware of that repressed wish or feeling.
  2. Projection: In this mechanism, individuals ascribe their own traits to others. For instance, a person with a tendency to suspect others may also assume that other people are suspicious of him/her.
  3. Denial: In this mechanism, an individual completely refuses to accept reality.
  4. Reaction formation: In this mechanism, the individual adopts behaviors that re complete opposite to his/her true feeling in order to escape from anxiety.
  5. Rationalization: In this mechanism, the individual attempts to make unreasonable feelings and behavior seem reasonable and acceptable.

Stages of Personality (or Psychosexual) Development

Oral stage (0-2 years): 

  1. A new-born baby’s primary focus is the mouth which is also the infant’s primary pleasure-seeking centre.
  2. The baby obtains food with the help of the mouth and achieves oral-gratification through feeding, babbling and thumb-sucking
  3. .During these early years, a person’s basic feelings about the world are initiated

Anal stage (2-3 years):

  1. In this stage the child learns to respond to some societal demands the principal demand being that the child learns to control the bodily functions of urination and defecation.
  2. Children experience pleasure in moving their bowels and this stage provides the foundation for conflict between the id and ego.

Phallic stage (4-5 years):

  1. The main focus is on genitals and the children learn the differences between males and females. They come to know of sexuality and of the relationship between their parents.
  2. Boys experience Oedipus Complex wherein the boy child is attracted towards the mother. The child shows intense love for the mother, hostility towards the father and experiences the consequent fear of castration by the father.
  3. Girls experience Electra Complex wherein the girl child attaches her love to her father, attempts to symbolically marry him and raise a family.
  4. Resolution of the Oedipus Complex and the Electra Complex occurs with the development of identification of the same sex parents.
  5. Boys give up sexual feelings for mothers and accept their fathers as role models whereas girls give up sexual feelings for fathers and identify with their mothers.

Latency stage (6-12 years):

  1. The child grows physically but sexual urges remain dormant or inactive.
  2. The child’s energy is channelized into social or achieve-oriented activities.

Genital stage (12-18 years):

  1. Maturity in psychosexual development is achieved. People learn to deal with the members of the opposite sex in a sexually and socially mature manner.
  2. The sexuality, fears and repressed feelings of earlier stages are shown again.

What is Fixation?

When a child fails to pass successfully from one stage to another then it results in fixation to that stage and the child’s development gets hooked at an earlier stage.

What is Regression?

When an individual’s resolution of problems is less than accurate at any stage then it results in regression wherein the person shows behaviours typical of a less mature stage of development.