Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, is arguably the most influential figure of the twentieth century. Psychoanalytic approaches have been applied to such widely diverse fields as history, political science, literature, music, and the arts. Nonetheless, the basis of psychoanalysis is pseudoscientific. This observation came about very slowly and, unfortunately, very ineffectively.
The entire discipline of psychoanalysis is based on the dogma of the
division of consciousness into three levels. First, there is the conscious level; “below”1 this lies the preconscious. “Below” the preconscious lies the unconscious. According to Freud unconscious contains memories, desires, and feelings that have been repressed by the individual because they would be too traumatic or painful to face directly due mostly to sexual inhibition.
Freud’s theory also deals in great detail with the development of personality and specifically with the development of sexual behavior and sexual identity. He divided personality into three structures:
- The id is thought of as the “seed” of personality. The newborn has only an id and the other structures of the personality develop from it. The id is also the most animalistic part of the personality, seeking only to obtain pleasure and avoid pain.
- The ego develops as the child grows. It is reality-oriented and modifies or controls the desires of the id by taking into account the possible consequences of an action.
- The superego is the conscience of the individual. It judges whether an action is right or wrong, according to whatever set of moral standards the child has been taught.
These three structures of personality interact in complicated ways. For example, the ego may postpone the gratification of the id, and the superego may “battle” with both the id and the ego because behavior often falls short of the moral code it represents. But more often in the normal person, the three work as a team, producing integrated behavior.
- It is not clear whether the word “below” has any real spatial connotation! ↩