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Freud’s System of Psychology- Complete Concept and Criticism

Freud’s System of Psychology- Complete Concept and Criticism

Sigmund Freud gave the concept of Psychoanalysis as a system. He put forward different views involving structuralism, behaviourism, gestaltism etc. to explain the human behaviour. This system was a blend of theory as well as practice for understanding human psyche or mind.

Structure of The Psyche or Mind

Freud explained the structure of human psyche or mind by dividing it broadly into two parts, in which the first parts includes three layers of mind as, the conscious, the unconscious and the subconscious. The second part includes three components that are; ‘id’, ‘ego’, and ‘super ego’.

Freud’s System of Psychology- Complete Concept and Criticism

The Conscious, Subconscious and Unconscious Mind

In a human mind, the conscious mind is present at the top, subconscious covers the middle part and the unconscious part is present at the lower side.

Conscious Mind

The conscious mind occupies 10% of our total psyche. The ideas, thoughts or images of any moment that we are aware of, are the part of our conscious mind and present within this upper layer of mind.

Subconscious Mind

The subconscious mind is present just beneath the conscious layer. This portion stores all types of information but they are suppressed or at dormant stage or untapped which are present just below the surface of awareness and can be easily brought back to the level of consciousness. Therefore this layer contains all the experiences or knowledge which have been gained or learned by an individual.

Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind lies below the subconscious part of mind and it is the most important part of our mind. It occupies 90% of our total mind or psyche. It deals with that part of our mental life which is hidden and usually inaccessible to the conscious. It contains all repressed desires, wishes, drives, motives and feelings, including the feeling of sex and aggression. This hidden part of mental life belonging to our psyche is responsible for most of our behaviour. Freud says that, whatever we do and our behaviour is always determined by the forces residing in our unconscious and not by the choices made by our conscious mind.

The Concept of Id, Ego and Super Ego

The second part as told by Freud includes three concepts which are, the ID, Ego and Super ego for explaining the structure of the psyche.


The Id is present by birth. It represents the pleasure seeking psyche of human and it is seated in the unconscious. It is the source of mental energy and of all instinctive energy of the individual. The Id is quite selfish and unethical. It follows no rules and focuses only on satisfaction of its own needs and drives.

Super Ego

The super ego is just opposite of the Id and represents the ethical and moral aspect of the psyche. It usually develops in a child at the age of five and is referred to as ‘conscience’ or the judgments from within. It is also governed by unconscious part of the mind but is not controlled by man’s instinctive drives. It is idealistic in nature and its goal is perfection, rather than pleasure-seeking or destruction.


It acts as an intermediary between three sets of forces, that is, the instinctive, irrational demand of the Id, realities of the external world and the ethical and moral demands of the Super ego. It creates balance between the Id and the Super ego.

The Concept of Instincts

Freud explained the shaping of individual’s personality and determination of his behaviour through the concept of instincts. It postulated two types of instincts; the life instinct and the death instinct.

Life Instinct

The role of life instinct of any individual aims at survival and the propagation of species. It is exhibited through sex and love. Freud gave the name ‘libido’ to the driving force of the life instinct and related it with the sexual urge and sexuality in humans. The libido works on the pleasure principle. The sexual urge may be regarded as the dynamic force and the centre of all human behaviour at all stages.

Death Instinct

The death instinct is related to the impulse of destruction. It is related with the acts of aggression, cruelty and even suicide. Freud believes that life instinct does not play role in governing one’s behaviour, while death instinct functions in operating one’s behaviour.

Stages of Infantile Sexuality and Psycho-sexual Development

Freud said, sex is the life urge or fundamental motive in life. All physical pleasures or any of the functions are ultimately sexual in nature. Sexuality is not present only in adults but children’s have sexual desires too which is present from the very beginning. He termed this as ‘infantile sexuality’. There are five stages in the psycho-sexual development of any children:

  1. The Oral Stage-

    The mouth represents the first sex organ for providing pleasure to the child. It is begun by pleasure received from the mother’s nipple of the bottle. Therefore, it includes sucking of nipples, toys or thumbs etc.

  2. The Anal Stage-

    This stage usually ranges from 2 to 3 years. At this stage, the interest of child shifts from mouth to the organs of elimination i.e. anus or the urethra as the erogenous zone. He receives pleasure by holding back or letting go of the body’s waste product through anus or urethra.

  3. The Phallic Stage-

    This stage range from 3-6 years of age. The interest of the child shifts from eliminating organs to the genitals. At this stage, children understand the biological differences between the sexes. Pleasure is derived by playing with and manipulating the genital organs. A number of complexes are raised at this stage like deprivation and Electra complexes in girls and castration and Oedipus complexes in boys. Freud says that these complexes in girls and boys are due to the result of sexual attraction that they experience in the company of the parent of their opposite sex.

  4. The Latency Stage-

    It starts from 6 years in case of girls and 7 to 8 years in boys and extends upto the onset of puberty. At this stage, children prefer the company of their own sex and may even neglect the members of the opposite sex.

  5. The Genital Stage-

    This stage is started with the onset of puberty. The adolescent boy and girl feels strong sensation in the genitals and attraction towards the members of opposite sex. They may also seek pleasure by self-stimulation of the genitals. They may fall in self love and even indulge in sexual intercourse with the members of opposite sex.

The flow of Libido

Libido, is called as the life maintaining energy which aims at seeking pleasure through sexual gratification. Its flow determines the type of behaviour or personality of an individual:

  • If the flow is outwards causing satisfactory sexual gratification and pleasurable sensations from external objects, the behaviour tends to be quite normal.
  • If the flow is inwards, it develops the spirit of self-love and it can lead to self-indulgence and narcissism.
  • It its path is blocked then it may become stagnant or fixed. For example if the libido gets fixed at oral stage not the child does not get proper sucking, at the later stages he may be seen excessively interested in eating or stimulating mouth in any manner.
  • In case if the flow of libido is blocked in such a way that it flows backward or repressed then the person may develop in to a repressed personality.
  • If the flow of libido is blocked through authority functioning by the ego in regard to the super ego, it may result into causing anxiety and conflicts in the individual causing neurotic and psychotic behaviour.
  • If the flow of the libido is deflected, the individual may lead to seek sexual gratification through other socially desirable sublimated ways.

Criticism of Freud’s System of Psychoanalysis

This system was criticised mainly on following ground:

  • It treats mankind to be selfish, pleasure seeking and animal like rather that social and humane.
  • If often overgeneralizes on the basis of a single study.
  • It emphasizes too much on the role of sex in human life.
  • It shows too much importance to the role of unconscious as a factor of role determinant.
  • It exaggerates the role of early childhood experienced for setting out the course of one’s life.

Educational Contribution

Freud’s system of psychoanalysis made following contributions to education:

  • It gave good method for the study of behaviour.
  • It provided a therapy for treatment of mental illness and abnormal behaviour.
  • This system highlighted the importance of good education and a healthy environment during early childhood.
  • The concept of unconscious has helped in understanding the cause of maladaptive behaviour.
  • His emphasis on the role of sex in one’s life has brought out the need of providing proper sex education to children.
  • This system has involved the supply of proper extracurricular activities and suitable hobbies etc. in the school programmes for the release of repressed or blocked libidinal energy.

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