Psychoanalysis, a theory of personality

Each person has a unique personality, which is reflected in their behavior. There are many theories about the origins of a personality, one of them is that of Sigmund Freud. He called his theory: psychoanalysis. This article takes a closer look at this theory and explains what it entails.

The concept of personality

Every person has a personality, this personality also differs from person to person. A personality is the unique way a person tends to behave. Personality can be defined as follows. The way someone tends to behave.
A person’s personality can change over the years. The temperament, also called character, arises from an interaction with the social and cultural environment. Personality, behavior and identity are closely linked. Personality is expressed in behavior. Behavior and personality together form part of a person’s identity.

The unconscious

Sigmund Freud invented an important theory: psychoanalysis. This man has had a great influence on our actions and thoughts. A central concept that fits this theory is the unconscious. This theory assumes that one is influenced not only by rational forces, but also by irrational forces. This means that the expression of behavior is not always well thought out, but often under the influence of the unconscious. I will subconsciously make this clear using the example below.
Imagine: you are madly in love and see someone else walking with your loved one. You get a feeling about this, a negative feeling. The next time you see this person again, these feelings will arise again. A reaction to this person is therefore negative. The unconscious creates these feelings and therefore influences your reaction.


According to Freud, man is a creature of instinct. Violence and sex in particular are two major human drives. People are confronted with this every day. Fortunately, most people know how to keep this under control.
According to this psychologist, man is also a conflict being. This means that people have to deal with conflicts on a daily basis. For example, one can become lustful when seeing a beautiful man or woman. As mentioned before, humans know how to suppress this (in most cases). The suppression of urges is learned over the years. This man’s theory assumes that the first six years of life are essential for the formation of personality.
According to Freud, personality consists of three entities: the id, ego and the superego.

The id

At birth one only has an ID. This ID means that the person is full of urges. The uncontrolled forces want to be satisfied, and this is often reflected in behavior. According to Freud, many drives are of a sexual nature. This sounds strange, but it becomes clearer with the following explanation. The ID consists of three phases.

  • Oral phase

First one experiences pleasure through the mouth, the oral phase. Just think of a small child who puts everything within reach in his or her mouth. Gradually a new phase will emerge.

  • Anal phase

The child plays with the feces. And, for example, he still poops in his pants. The toilet is a whole new discovery. Toilet training is taught to the child in this phase.

  • Phallic phase

Finally, the child discovers his or her genitals. This phase is called the phallic phase.

The ego

After the ID has evolved as indicated above, a new instance is created. This stage is called the ego. The ego tries (often successfully) to control the urges. A child no longer plays with his or her own feces or puts things in his or her mouth. The child tries to keep himself under control, but often goes wrong. This is because the child does not yet think carefully about possible consequences. That only happens in the next and final phase.

The superego

The superego is based on conscience. People have an ideal image in mind and want to live up to it. One will now certainly ensure that all these urges are under control in order to form his or her own ideal image. Stupid mistakes that children make again and again will therefore occur much less often, because people have a conscience and therefore know the consequences.

Oedipus complex

Another view of Freud was the Oedipus complex, a difficult concept but the definition is less difficult. This view applies again in the phallic phase. The definition of the term: the child develops feelings of love for the parent of the opposite sex and responds with hostility and ambivalence to the parent of the same sex. The definition is not difficult, but perhaps a bit difficult to understand. Below we explain how this complex can arise, form and develop.
The parent of the same sex is large, mighty and powerful. The child perceives this as competition. The child wants to win over the parent of the opposite sex. The same-sex parent is seen as a major competitor in this battle. This can be resolved by the child gradually identifying with the parent of the same sex. The child practices behavior that is appropriate for his gender. Through identification the Oedipus complex can be resolved. The child learns that father and mother belong together and should not interfere. Homosexuality can therefore arise because the child does not learn his role properly. This claim has later been debunked many times.

Electrical complex

This phase, in which the Oedipus complex becomes dominant, is also called the electrical complex. This is a continuation of the phallic phase.

Latent phase

After the electrical complex, a new phase is formed, the latent phase. In this phase the sexual drive still continues, but much less intensely than before. The child has time to focus on important matters for him or her in life, such as school.

Genital phase

The child reaches biological maturity. It now becomes a real man or woman. After a while, he or she will feel more and more attracted to the same or opposite sex. This depends on the orientation of the person. In any case, what is central is that the person is ready for a relationship. Here the phases end and the person has developed according to the theory and has created a personality.