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Key Assumptions and one Theory of the Psychodynamic Approach to Psychology

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1) Outline the main assumptions of the psychodynamic approach

The psychodynamic approach to psychology is the study of human behaviour from the point of view of motivation and drives. The original beliefs of this approach were created by Sigmund Freud in the 1800s. Although it is now generally seen negatively in the common view, sometimes comically, it has provided the inspiration for a few of the current leading approaches to psychology.

The first assumption of this approach is of the importance of the unconscious mind and motivation. Freud believed that much of what determines our behaviour is on a mental level that is hidden to us, and that there are three levels of consciousness:

1) The conscious mind - Thoughts we are aware of

2) The preconscious mind - Memories we can invoke

3) The unconscious mind - Hidden thoughts, as well as instincts

Freud used the iceberg analogy to describe our mind, in that the tip of the iceberg (conscious) is much smaller than the underwater part (preconscious and unconscious). The unconscious mind can be revealed through techniques developed by Freud, such as free association and dream analysis, as the unconscious mind tends to use symbolism in the conscious mind. Much of what was once conscious to us has been made unconscious via. repression, a form of ego defence. Freud also believed that when we say something accidentally, we are actually revealing what we unconsciously didn't want to say. These he called Freudian slips. A Freudian slip didn't have to be just said, but could be and action as well. Freud believed that other explanations could sometimes be made, but were generally unconscious in origin.

The second assumption is of the importance of early experience in humans. What happens to us in childhood affects our behaviour when we are older. Freud believed that we progress through certain stages when we grow up, and particular events can lead to a regression to that point later in life, or being permanently stuck in that phase. There are five stages (oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital). Freud reasoned this by saying that we can experience sexual pleasure and seek sexual gratification from the moment we are born.

The third assumption is of the importance of relationships in behaviour, especially ones between a developing infant and it's parents. The quality of the relationship is reflected in how well the child progresses through the five stages of development. As adults, we tend to respond to people regarding to which of our early relationships they remind us of (a process called transference). Freud argued that children copy their parent's behaviour with the Oedipus complex and the Electra complex, which are both about falling in love with a parent, and resenting that parent's partner. The Oedipus complex is where the boy child falls in love with the mother, yet fears the father will castrate him if he falls out of line. The boy emulates the father to try and attract the mother, which eventually leads to the boy loving the father, in a way. The Electra complex is where the girl child loves her mother, but suffers from penis envy when she realises she lacks one, leading her to think that she's been castrated. When she realises she can't have a penis, she hopes to have a baby, and that the father will give her one. Freud used examples such as little Hans to prove these theories. Whilst the symbolism of Hans' fears and dreams can appear

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