Psychoanalytic theory of personality


Several scholars have understood personality in their own way and tried to define it based on different criteria. Some have emphasized on the inner thought process resulting in a unique behaviour and some have emphasized the role of the external environment in shaping the behavior of a person.

In this article we will discuss the theory of personality given by Sigmund Frued which is popular as the psychoanalytic theory. Freud also gave three components of the mind which build the personality of an individual. These are – Id, Ego and Superego. 


These are the natural impulses present in human beings like, feeling of thirst, hunger, anger etc. These are present since the time of the birth of an individual and works on pleasure principle as the sole motive of Id impulse is to derive pleasure.


These thoughts and feelings are the result of the moral teachings given to the individual as he/she grows up as part of the socialization process. This works on the morality principle as the sole aim is to prevent a person from exhibiting socially unacceptable behaviours.


It is that part of personality which tries to balance the Id and the superego. It works on the  reality principle, as it  aims to make an individual a normal functional human being. It is also called the rational part of the mind.  

Psychosexual stages

Sigmund Frued associated various body parts and its optimal stimulation at various stages of life. He propounded that libido or sexual energy/drive is expressed through different body parts at different stages. Each of these body parts becomes the centre for expression of libido. He gave the psychosexual stages of development which is elaborated as follows: 

Oral stage (0-1yr)

At this stage a human derives maximum pleasure from the stimulation of the oral area. The individual gets satisfaction by intake of  food from the mouth. Thumb sucking is also a common pattern found during this period as the baby wants to stimulate the oral area. The personality development of the child is affected if there is under or over stimulation of this area.

Anal stage (1-3yrs)

During this stage an individual derives maximum pleasure through the anal area. As per Frued, the libido gets expression from stimulation of this area. As this is the age when the toilet training of a child is done. If the caregiver delays or is harsh  in the process of toilet training then it may distort the pleasure being derived and can have a long term impact on the personality development of the individual. An individual who has undergone strict toilet training shows obsession for cleanliness and tidiness, whereas a person whose toilet training is delayed grows up to be messy and unorganised. 

Phallic stage(3-7yrs):

As per Frued, this is the age when the child develops attraction towards the parent of the opposite sex. This, he seemed as Electra complex in girls and Oedipus complex in boys. The child tries to imitate the habits of the parent (girl imitates her mother and boys imitate their father) to get the attention of the parent of the opposite sex. However, many psychologist disagree with it.

Latency stage(7yrs-puberty)

This phase is quite dormant with no significant part of the body being the centre of libido. This phase lasts till puberty. During this phase the child finds pleasure in playing and learning new skills.

Genital stage (puberty-)

This phase starts at puberty when the adolescent starts having attraction towards the opposite sex. During this stage the individual develops romantic relationship and derives pleasure through the genital area. Conflict or frustration may develop if the expression of pleasure is restricted. 

According to Frued the psychological development is associated with the expression of libido at each stage. If not then fixation occurs at that stage which may show signs at a later stage resulting in abnormal behaviour. Fruedian psychology tries to unearth the stage at which fixation occurs and provide therapy accordingly. 

As per psychoanalytic theory many physical ailment is the result of repressed feelings which can be treated through psychotherapies.


Psychoanalytical theory is one of the most discussed and practiced but at the same time many scholars disagree with it. Though other theories of personality are also followed and practiced, they derive from psychoanalytical approach which is the oldest and classic theory. 

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