Thursday, September 10, 2009

Freud and Rogers' Techniques compared

“Although based on very different assumptions, both Freud and Rogers believed that many people have a “hidden” personality of which they are not aware. Briefly compare the nature of these “hidden” personalities, and discuss three assumptions from each theory that account for them. ”

Although both Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers believed in the notion that all humans possess a “hidden” personality, they differ greatly in their unique theories concerning the nature of this “hidden personality”, as well as in their assumptions that underpin these theories. Freud experimented with the psychoanalytic approach, inquiring into the psychic energies that operate in the unconscious mind. He proposed that it is these energies that make up a person’s “hidden” personality. Freud focused on the workings of the Id, Ego and Superego, and their task in psychic energy reduction (reduction of psychic tension). His theory of the “hidden” personality was based on the assumptions that; man’s life is predetermined by his biological instincts, that the “hidden” personality exists within man’s unconscious mind, and that man’s purpose is to control tension build-up. Conversely, notions of the organism and “the self” underpinned Roger’s belief in the existence of the “hidden” personality. He viewed an organism’s “self-actualizing tendency” to be the determining factor for healthy psychological development, yet clarified that certain environmental conditions such as conditions of regard and worth, had a potentially damaging effect on the self-actualizing process. The resulting incongruence between what Rogers labeled the “real self” and the “externally conditioned self” was believed to lead a person to a state of anxiety. This theory is supported by three main assumptions; the notion that man holds the freewill to choose his own destiny, that the “hidden” personality exists within man’s conscious mind, and that man’s goal is to fulfill his self- actualizing tendency.

According to Freud’s theory of the “hidden” personality, human behaviour is greatly influenced by unconscious motivation. With regard to this concept, his theory suggests that humans possess an inherent desire to satisfy the pleasure seeking instincts that they are biologically born with. Instincts therefore, are the driving force behind much of human behaviour. Freud believed that these instincts are contained within three systems of psychological functions, known as the “Id”, “Ego” and “Superego”. The Id has been defined by Braun & Darwyn (p408) as, “A pool of instinctual biological drives present in every individual birth”. By supplying psychic energy, these instinctual biological drives are the motivating force to the satisfaction of man’s physical needs. Freud made a distinction between two types of instincts within the Id.

He referred to the first type as “Eros”, (the Greek word for “love”). This is the life instinct that is responsible for survival, self-propagation and creativity, (Braun & Darwyn, p408). The need for sex is one such characteristic of the Eros instinct. Freud believed that the energy of the Eros is produced by the “libido”, “a driving force permeating the entire personality and propelling it through life.” (Braun & Darwyn, p408). Opposing the “Eros” instinct is a second type of instinct known as “Thanatos”, (the Greek word for “death”). Freud maintained that the Thanatos is the instinctive attraction toward death, which gives rise to each individual’s aggressive tendency. This aggressive tendency becomes man’s motivation to fight and kill, directed outward against the world. As stated by Freud (1930: p85), “ A powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as a part of [man’s] instinctual endowment”. The Id seeks the immediate reduction of tension through the satisfaction of the amoral, irrational demands of the Eros and Thanatos, hence devoting itself to the “pleasure principle”.

The second system, the Ego, is responsible for determining which means of tension reduction are safe and which are dangerous to the organism, given the requirements of the real world. As confirmed by Freud (1930), “The Ego serves as the mediator between the id and reality”. The Ego is therefore said to act under the “reality principle”. Like the Ego, the third system of psychological function, known as the Superego, receives its energy from the Id. The role of the Superego is to ensure that the needs of the Ego will be gratified in socially acceptable ways- It’s tasks are commonly associated with “conscience” and “ego ideal”, (Braun & Darwyn, p409). The “conscience” aspect can be described as, “An internalization of punishments and warnings” (`cgboeree/freud.html), whilst the ego ideal derives from rewards and positive models presented to the child. According to Clay (1969), “The conscience and ego ideal communicate their requirements to the ego with feelings like pride, shame, and guilt”. When the demands of reality, the Id, and the Superego are too great, an overwhelming sense of anxiety will arise.

Defense mechanism is the means by which the Ego attempts to defend itself against internal threats arising from the instinctual drives of the Id, or the demands of the Superego. (Badcock, p32). It does so by unconsciously obstructing the urges or distorting them into a more acceptable, less threatening form. Many different types of defense mechanisms can be used, such as for example ‘Reaction Formation’, “A defense mechanism that replaces an anxiety producing impulse or feeling by its opposite; its function is to make one unaware of the original source of distress.” (Braun & Darwyn, p411). As confirmed by Crutchfield, Krech & Livson (p50), “Our conscious reasons are cover-ups, plausible but false rationalizations that we believe to be true”. Freud referred to the term ‘psychoanalysis’ to explain the procedure by which he endeavored to bring matter from the unconscious into the conscious mind of the patient. (Braun & Darwyn, 1975). This process helps to discover the reasons for use of certain defense mechanisms, and gives insight into the individual’s “hidden” personality. Freud’s approach to the study of the “hidden” personality has not however, been without criticism. His psychoanalytic therapy has been criticized for taking too long, costing too much money, and being suited to a relatively select few individuals with a restricted group of mental diseases. “Questions have also been raised about the lack of scientific support for many of the psychoanalytic assumptions”, ( Krech, Livson & Crutchfield, p394).

The workings of the id, ego and superego, and the need for defense mechanisms, reflect Freud’s previously stated assumptions underpinning his theory of the “hidden” personality. That is, their existence shows that, man’s life is predetermined by his biological instincts, that the main causes of behaviour lie deeply buried in the unconscious mind, and accounts for man’s need to reduce and control tension build up.

Rogers’ theory of the “hidden” personality is markedly different to that of Freud’s.
Challenging Freud’s belief that human behaviour is biologically determined by man’s unconscious motivations (that reside within the Id, Ego and Superego), Rogers asserted that human behaviour is “exquisitely rational”. (Rogers, 1959:p194). By this he implied that humans are social beings who are given the free will to choose their own destiny. As clarified by Rogers (1959),”[Humans are] capable of making constructive choices as to the next steps in life, and acting on those choices.” In light of his belief that humans are social beings, Rogers maintained that, “the core of man’s nature is essentially positive”, and that man is a “trustworthy organism”, (

Whilst Freud focused his attention on the unconscious factors that he believed were highly influential on a person’s personality, Rogers highlighted the individual's self perception, in terms of the immediate conscious feelings and thoughts that individuals have about themselves. ie. He emphasized that the influence which perceptions have on the self-concept are easily brought to awareness rather than being deeply repressed. Ryckman (1993) defines the self-concept as, “The organized set of characteristics that the individual perceives as peculiar to himself/herself”. Also central to Rogers’ theory of the “hidden” personality “ is the notion which he refers to as the “actualizing tendency”. This can be defined as, “The built-in motivation present in every life-form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible”, ( Rogers believed that through the self-actualization process, “the push to experience oneself in a away that is consistent with one’s conscious view of what one is” (Maddi, 1996), normal psychological development of a human could occur. This means that human’s were thought to function in a positive direction through the self-actualizing process. One’s self-actualizing tendency is not however independent of external forces, but influenced by the way in which the individual has been nurtured. For example, society’s “conditions of worth” may cloud man’s ability to discover his greatest potential, through the use of “conditional positive regard”. This refers to the way in which society may show the individual love, affection, or attention, only on a conditional basis. It is believed that this conditioning will lead the individual to develop “conditional positive self-regard” over time. If this should happen, the individual will be inclined to like himself only if he meets up with the standards others have applied to him, rather than if he is truly actualizing his potential. Most often, the individual cannot reach these standards, causing him to develop a low self-esteem.

The need for positive self-regard often leads a person to developing a selective perception of experience in agreement with the conditions of worth, where experiences that are not in accordance with these conditions are distorted or denied into awareness. The resulting gap that forms between the “real self” and the “ideal self”, the “I am” and the “I should be” is known as “incongruity”. The more the incongruity, the more the suffering, ( Rogers finds the human infant to be a model of congruence, as he/she is completely genuine and integrated, and lacking harmful exposure to conditions of worth at their young age. Self-acceptance is therefore the key to self-actualization, where one can grow toward his fullest potential. According to Rogers, this ideal condition is embodied in the “fully functioning person”, who is “open to experience, able to live existentially, is trusting in his/her own organism, expresses feelings freely, acts independently, is creative and lives a richer life: ‘The good life’”. (Rogers, p106). Although Rogers has been praised for his thoughts on the self-actualizing tendency of man, he has been criticized for never specifying what some of the inherent capacities that maintain and enhance life might be.

Whilst both Freud and Rogers theorized about the notion of the “hidden” personality, their assumptions with regard to this notion, were almost perfectly opposing. In contrast to Freud’s psychoanalytic emphasis on biological determinism, unconsciousness and tension reduction, Rogers’ phenomenological, person-centered approach emphasizes freewill, consciousness and man’s task in the process of self-actualization. Whilst Freud thought of the person as an energy system, Rogers thought of people as forward moving, thus explaining the reason for emphasizing self-actualization, and not the tension reducing aspects of Freud. Whilst Freud viewed the essential components of personality as relatively fixed and stable, Rogers’ view of personality emphasized change.

1 comment:

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