When one thinks about Freud's theory one has to presume Freud's conscious thoughts or his theory regarding an Oedipus complex represents not his real thoughts but his defensive condensations, displacements, reversals, omissions, and distortions of his real thoughts. If one wishes to look inside his real thoughts regarding an Oedipus complex, one has to analyze and interpret the manifest content of his thought with these defenses in mind. According to Freud, a person must use this method of analysis to overcome such defenses and resistances. The first rule of Freud's technique was to reject the manifest content or the apparent meaning of the dream, symptom, or activity as merely a distorted substitute for one's real thoughts (Freud's Theory Analyzed -- a Report on Research n.d).
Freud thought that one's conscious thoughts would be unconsciously determined and distorted by what one had censored. One's conscious thoughts condensed, displaced, reversed, omitted, covertly alluded to, and disguised, by substitution of analogous symbols, one's true thoughts about an Oedipus complex. He applied this theory not only to dreams and hysterical symptoms, but to everyday things in life, including reading, writing, and speaking (Freud, 1901). Freud generalized his theory so broadly that it included his own conscious thoughts and thus his theory (Freud's Theory Analyzed -- a Report on Research n.d).
Because of the complexity of the interaction of theory and defenses in regards Freud's thought, his entire theories have been questions based on the following. Most people who are familiar with Freud don't know what it is that he was really thinking; Freud's own theory contraindicates accepting its manifest content as his real thoughts; there is no justification in Freud's thought for accepting the content of his writing as his real thoughts and there is no point in teaching Freud, quoting him, researching his theory, or imitating his therapy, since his words and actions, by his own testimony, conceal, distort, and conceal his genuine thoughts (Freud's Theory Analyzed -- a Report on Research n.d).
Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious vs. The unconscious mind, but he most certainly was responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind is what a person is aware of at any particular moment, their present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, and feelings. Working directly with the conscious mind is what Freud called the preconscious. Today this would be referred to as the available memory. It would be anything that can easily be made conscious; the memories you are not at the moment thinking about but can readily bring to mind (Boeree 2009).
The unconscious is thought to include all the things that are not easily available to awareness, including many things that have their origins there, such as our drives or instincts, and things that are put there because we can't bear to deal with them, such as the memories and emotions associated with a trauma. According to Freud, the unconscious is the source of our motivations, whether they are simple desires for food or sex, neurotic compulsions, or the motives of an artist or scientist (Boeree 2009).
Freud considered personality to be like an iceberg where most of personality exists below our level of awareness, just as the massive part of an iceberg is beneath the surface of the water. Freud believed that most of the important personality processes occur below a level of conscious awareness. In examining a person's conscious thoughts about their behaviors, it can be seen that some reflections of the ego and the superego are present. Where the ego and superego are partly conscious and partly unconscious, the primitive id is the unconscious, the totally submerged part of the iceberg (Freud's personality theory 2002).
Freud thought that the ego resolved the conflict among its demands for reality, the wishes of the id, and constraints of the superego through defense mechanisms. This has become the psychoanalytic term for unconscious methods that the ego uses to distort reality, thereby protecting it from anxiety. Conflicting demands of the personality structures will produce anxiety. When the ego obstructs the pleasurable pursuits of the id, inner anxiety is experienced. This distressed state develops when the ego senses that the id is going to cause harm to the individual. The anxiety alerts the ego to resolve the conflict by means of defense mechanisms (Freud's personality theory 2002).
Repression is thought to be the most powerful and pervasive defense mechanism. It works to push any unacceptable id impulses out of awareness and back into the unconscious mind. Repression is the basis from which all other defense mechanisms work. The goal of defense mechanisms is to repress, or push threatening impulses out of conscious awareness. People reduce the anxiety of conflict through the defense mechanism of repression (Freud's personality theory 2002).
A healthy, mature ego translates the demands of both the id and the super-ego into terms which allow admission of them without destruction. Therefore, constructive acceptance and transformation of the demands made by both the id and the super-ego are techniques of the ego and essential elements of mental health. Psychoanalytic therapy consists of reliving repressed fantasies and fears both in feeling and in thought. This process involves transference of the original fears onto the analyst. This is necessary in order to the treatment to be successful. Access to these repressed fears is gained often through dream interpretation, where the manifest content in dreams is understood as a symbolic expression of the hidden or latent content (a Brief Outline of Psychoanalytic Theory nd.).
A good example of the id, ego and superego at work is in the classic movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. First it can be seen that there are conflicts between the three parts of the mind being played out in the character played by Jack Nicholson. This character is striving to keep his ego or his real self intact while in a psychiatric hospital. He is driven by his id and has ended up at the hospital as a result of being unable to control his sexual and aggressive instincts. Nevertheless, his plans to escape are hampered by his desire to make his fellow inmates happy. This desire to help his fellow inmates is a product of his superego. There comes a point when his ego and his superego are both fighting for control. The best thing that he could do for his self-preservation would be to run when the chance presents itself, but he does not. His superego has a momentary victory and then his id erupts and he lashes out. In the end, his ego or his self is completely destroyed by the system (Lisa 2008).
According to Freudian theory, low self-esteem is the Superego's punishment for bad behavior. The Superego symbolizes the moral branch of our functioning and contains ideals for which we strive as well as punishments we expect if we violate ethical codes. It is an inner representation of the moral rules of the external social world. It does not differentiate between thought and action, punishing the individual for merely thinking something without acting on the thought. It drives the individual toward black-white judgments and the pursuit of perfection. The Superego can develop thorough out a person's life to be more flexible and less all-or-none, right-or-wrong (Freudian Approach to Self-Esteem 2009)
Freud did not believe that human life was motivated by innate ties to other people. He saw intrapersonal relationships as a byproduct of the child's growing libidinal or sexual investment in others and use of others and inanimate objects to discharge or relieve instinctual tension. He minimized both the relational aspects and the impact of that child's actual interactions with others on personality development (Goldstein 2001).
Although Freud's basic theory often focused on the individual mind and psychic apparatus, he also tried to develop of a significant part the tripartite model of character organization to outside social influences. Psychoanalytical theory has led the way to current relational theories in which the self is viewed as being constructed and reconstructed out of a relational process. Theories such as interpersonal theory, object relations, and self-psychology have come to view relationships as the primary source of psychological change (Radar and Radar 1999).
Freud's theories of self have led to the development of relational models that propose that the mind or self is developed out of the relational matrix. It is through disturbances in these interpersonal relationships that psychopathology has developed. Because early experiences have an effect on the structure and the relational patters of a person, it is appropriate to assume that such patterns can be changed within a supportive relational field set up between a mental health practitioner and a client (Radar and Radar 1999).
Relational theories provide practitioners with the foundation for clinical work based on curative elements of the relationships in the here and now. Development does not stop during some given time during a person's life span. On the contrary, over a life span, humans remain deeply involved in the complex development of the self.…