Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that behavior and personality derives from the constant and unique interaction of conflicting psychological forces that operate at three different levels of awareness: the preconscious, the conscious, and the unconscious.
What do these terms mean? What exactly happens at each level of awareness?
The Mind According to Freud
Many of us have experienced what is commonly referred to as a .
These misstatements are believed to reveal underlying, unconscious thoughts or feelings. Consider this example:
James has just started a new relationship with a woman he met at school. While talking to her one afternoon, he accidentally calls her by his ex-girlfriend's name.
If you were in this situation, how would you explain this mistake? Many of us might blame the slip on distraction or describe it as a simple accident. However, a psychoanalytic theorist might tell you that this is much more than a random accident.
The psychoanalytic view holds that there are unconscious, inner forces outside of your awareness that are directing your behavior.
For example, a psychoanalyst might say that James misspoke due to unresolved feelings for his ex or perhaps because of misgivings about his new relationship.
The unconscious includes thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, and motivations that lie outside of our awareness, yet continue to exert an influence on our behaviors nevertheless.
Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalytic theory. While his ideas were considered shocking at the time and continue to create debate and controversy even now, his work had a profound influence on a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, and art.
The term psychoanalysis is used to refer to many aspects of Freud’s work and research, including Freudian therapy and the research methodology he used to develop his theories. Freud relied heavily upon his observations and case studies of his patients when he formed his theory of personality development.
Freud's Three Levels of Mind
Before we can understand Freud's theory of personality, we must first understand his view of how the mind is organized.
According to Freud, the mind can be divided into three different levels:
- includes everything that we are aware of. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness. Freud called this the preconscious.