Why is it that certain people make us feel inexplicably angry, fearful or just plain uncomfortable and that individual hasn’t said a word to us? Some psychologists believe that the self develops a set of unconscious emotional values that, if left unresolved, can go on to direct how we act throughout our social and personal lives. In this essay it is argued that this view of self is rather optimistic when challenged by other perspectives within social psychology, which apply a more autonomous view.
I will open with the research of Baumeisters “four needs” and how the acquisition of values affects people attempting to find meaning in their lives. From the psychodynamic perspective I will draw on Freud’s pioneering work on the metaphorical structure of his tri-partite model, I will then draw comparisons with Klein’s “paranoid-schizoid” position and her developmental work with children; as she views the self as more conflictive and fragmented, than that of Freud.
I will also consider the research of the Fairburn and Winnicott of the British Object Relationists (BOR) and despite their differing opinions will raise some commonalities with the other two. I will then bring in the experiential perspective and consider some of the challenges to this view of determinism, and the contrasting analysis about consciousness. Finally, I will draw material from the biological perspective as evolutionary selection and hormones are seen to have a fundamental role in determining self and social behaviour.
Baumeister (Stevens and Wetherell, 1996) suggests that people need to satisfy “four needs” in order to find meaning in life they are; purpose (goals intrinsic fulfillments such as pleasures or extrinsic aimed at future states), values (justification of what we do sought in a personal sphere), efficacy (by performing particular acts) and self-worth (confidence, self esteem believe in what do or believe). Baumeister argues that values have been eroded and what constitutes a value base is now sought in a personal sphere in the development of self.
He goes onto to say, that value of work is no longer a need for survival but can define the person we are. (Thomas 1996) It is believed that in Euro-American societies, people most of the time, have access to their own mental states, beliefs and thoughts. Baumeister believed that we react to the subjective experience of the interactions with others and the influencing world around us. Most people have their own mental states and beliefs, which are readily accessible, it is assumed. We are supposed as ‘centered egos’ capable of being accountable for our own actions, a product of our intentions.
Furthermore our decision-making is rational, based on truths which are sought after and that we are in sole control of our own behaviour, feelings and thoughts. The psychodynamic perspective undermines this methodology. But what is psychodynamics? (Thomas,K 1996) Compared to other perspectives this theory consistently places more importance on pre-verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. The way language influences people and ‘makes things happen’ may well depend less on the words than the emotional charge they carry, and on the way they are used, ways which tap into more primitive and unconscious processes.
Perhaps the most significant contribution regarding the unconscious, originated from the work of Freud, an instinct theorist. In a century where positivism was a dominant trend, people believed that they could ascertain a non-constructionist view of themselves and the environment they lived in, exercising judicious control over both. (Thomas, 1996) However, such declarations of free will, according to Freud, were delusional and that we are not entirely aware of what we think and often act for reasons that have little to do with our conscious thoughts.
This ground breaking phenomena proposed that conscious awareness was layered and those deep thoughts were harbored under the surface of conscious awareness. His famous tripartite model of the structure of the mind or personality best illustrates Freud’s account of the unconscious, and his psychoanalytic therapy associated with it. From his research, he saw children as pleasure seekers, they manifest into social beings though the repression of instinctive drives and the internalization of parental values usually introjected from the father figure. Freud distinguished three structural elements within the mind, the id, ego, and super-ego. Frosch 1987) The id is the unconscious, that part of the mind in which the instinctual sexual drives are entrenched which require satisfaction; at birth a baby’s mind, is all id “want want want”, the super-ego is that part which contains the conscious, viz. socially-acquired control mechanisms (usually introjected in the first instance by the parents) which have been internalized; while the ego is the conscious self, created by the dynamic tensions and interactions between the id and the super-ego, which has the task of reconciling their conflicting demands with the requirements of external reality.
According to Freud, the defence mechanisms are the method by which the ego can solve the conflicts between the superego and the id such defence mechanisms include:denial,repression and projection. (Eysenck HJ and Wilson, G. D 1973) All objects of consciousness reside in the ego; the contents of the id belong permanently to the unconscious mind, while the super-ego is an unconscious screening-mechanism which seeks to limit the blind pleasure-seeking drives of the id by the imposition of restrictive rules. In what context did Freud intend this model to be taken? He appears to have taken it extremely literally himself), however, what is being offered here is a theoretical model a metaphor, rather than a description of an observable object or theory, which functions as a term of reference to explain the developmental link between early childhood experience and the development into a mature adult (normal or dysfunctional) personality.
Therefore this model represents the human psyche analogous to an iceberg, with substantially more below water than above, and the parts under water representing the unconscious emotions, that underpin our behaviour and experiences. Fig 1. 0 Freuds tri-partite model (Thomas, 1996) Klein another instinct theorist, worked with early infancy understanding the mechanisms of splitting and projection. She placed greater emphasis on maternal not just parental influences. Klein’s schizoid position was conceived of by the state of mind existing in babies of three or four to six months of age, but one that is constantly returned to throughout life to greater or lesser degrees. Her theory dictates that a baby is born with two conflicting impulses love/hate.
The baby creates its own world of internal objects using unconscious phantasy and driven by these polarised impulses. As an Object Relations Theorist, Klein saw emotions as always existing in relation to other people or “objects” of emotions or feelings. Relations at this time are with part objects, such as the breast, babies produce intrapsychic creations and create the bipolar view of good. (Klein,M. 1959) Kleinian internal worlds are densely populated from early in life with emotionally polarized versions of people encountered in the external world.
These representations are the result of innate drives and unconscious phantasies rather than the experience of others. As the child matures and as a result of predominantly good experiences being taken in, the baby gradually begins to be able to bring together the good and bad objects into a single object, and moves towards Klein’s Depressive position. This raises all kinds of new anxieties and set-backs, but it is essential to more realistic and satisfying relationships. (Thomas,K 1996) The depressive position is seen as an essential part of a normal infant’s development.
The realisation that ‘part objects’ do in fact belong to the same ‘whole object’ therefore, good-bad introjections come closer together. For a healthy development, the infant needs to give up the wholly part good-object for the more ambivalent object which equals an amalgam of the split part-object. The BOR such as Fairburn and Winnicott don’t agree with Freud or Klein regarding the basic assumption that people are pleasure seekers but people seekers; they believe that relating is a goal within itself.
Being attached to others, confirmed by others, communicating and relating are seen as primary motivations. However, there are also some correlations; Winnicott has suggested that under certain conditions in infancy, the true self has to be hidden permanently, deep in the unconscious and protected by the conscious, compliant version of the self, called the false self. (Thomas, 1996) Winnicot went on to state that the false self takes over when the true self is so impinged upon and intruded by the pre-conceptions and demands of the infant’s principal carer that it cannot be developed.
Fairburn saw the carer as pivotal to a child’s development the child needs to feel loved but also to know that their own love is reciprocated and valued. (Fairburn, 1990) If these two conditions are not met the developing psyche will be harmed which could further split the ego and fragment the self as the child develops. (Thomas 1996) Jung regarded the inaccessible parts of the self may be of more importance and saw a correlation to Winnicots true self he saw the benefit of the older wisdom of the unconscious which is underestimated by the conscious.
I have so far presented the psychodynamic perspective as an account of how a person’s behaviour and experience are determined by unconscious motives. This is not a universally held view and I will now present challenges; although the experientialists see the experiencing individual as embodied, as being influenced by the unconscious and also in the social world. For James (1950) consciousness is always personal and therefore private who makes a science of psychology that attempts to understand human experience which is incredibly difficult since, arguably, consciousness is at the core of what it is to be human.
For Csikszentmihalyi (1988, 1992) consciousness is similar to Baar in that he sees the “flow experience” as being intentionally ordered which takes us a step beyond the notion of some free flowing stream but is consciousness under conscious control and what happens when other thoughts intrude. The issue of coming to any authentic awareness, because of the impact of unconscious motivations is an exaggeration of the role of unconsciousness and the lack of access to repressed unconscious needs.
Popper, K. (1959) The rationale that neuroses is caused by unconscious conflicts buried deep in the unconscious mind in the form of repressed libidinal energy would appear to offer us, at last, an insight in the causal mechanism underlying these abnormal psychological conditions as they are expressed in human behaviour, and further show us how they are related to the psychology of the ‘normal’ person. However, even this is questionable, and is a matter of much dispute.
In general, when it is said that an event X causes another event Y to happen, both X and Y are, and must be, independently identifiable. (Dawkins 1993) believes that it is consciousness not unconscious that monitors past actions and events in order to modify future behaviour and actions. Meanwhile (Humphrey N, 1976) believes that the facilitation of social relations and the anticipation of the states of others minds is invaluable for both co-operation and competition, and thereby for perpetuating genes. (Stevens,R. 996) However the notion of drive is a core feature of the psychodynamic perspective, and in many ways, because the drive is premised on survival and sexuality in many ways yet, although it is couched in terms of a different epistemology, it could be construed as being consistent with a biological position. So why is it that certain people make us feel inexplicably angry, fearful or just plain uncomfortable? We discussed the work of Baumeister and how values may not be something introjected from our parents but more of a construct from our changing worlds.
Freud believes behaviour is a response to unconscious forces battle of the id and its drives v the morality of Superego, which is driven by external forces, Klein saw innate sexual drives and powerful emotional states are what motivate and shape (distort) the early structuring of mind; meaning systems/psychic reality are defensive and the view that the self is more conflictive and fragmented, than that of Freud. The OBRs raised the emphasis on actual relational experiences as the source of internal and psychic reality.
We have also considered the work of Jung who believed that parts of the self that are inaccessible, may be of more value, as is the case of Winnicots true self. (Thomas, 1996) Nevertheless; Klein, Freud and the BOR despite their differing opinions regarding the organization of the mind and what constitutes the self, are all united on the emphasis they place on the avoidance of anxiety through mobilization of psychological defences, some of which are built into the structure of the mind early in development.
The other perspectives draw a valid argument regarding the theory of unconscious and self. Arguing against Determinism; all events, inc. human actions and behaviour are determined by causes regarded as external to the will. Behaviour is determined by external events or stimuli and that people are passive responders and to this extent are not free. Behaviour is determined by external stimuli with the concept of positive/negative and reinforcements.
Even when we are not aware of it, our behaviour is dictated by avoidance of pain and pursuit of `not pain’. The core issue with the psychodynamic perspective is the means to assessing its usefulness or value however these perspectives would argue that in spite of such limitations it is essential to maintain an interpretative approach as we need to determine meaning and value to our social live and the social world we live in.