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Theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung

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The psychoanalytic theories place emphasis on the role that the unconscious plays in personality development. In other words, these theories suggest that much of what motivates our behavior lies outside of our awareness. While the role of the unconscious is central to all of the theories within the psychoanalytic perspective, the exact role of the unconscious differs among the various theories within this perspective. Another similarity shared among the theories of the psychoanalytic perspective is the importance placed on one’s experience with regard to the development of his or her personality. In this paper, I will present the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. I will discuss the main points of their theories and I will address what distinguishes one particular theory from the other theories within this perspective. Finally, I will use the theories to analyze the character, Tyrion Lannister, from the television series, Game of Thrones.

Like the other theories within the psychoanalytic perspective, the theory of Sigmund Freud places emphasis on the role of the unconscious. To Freud, the unconscious primarily consists of unacceptable sexual and aggressive impulses that are present at birth. Freud suggested that early childhood experiences play a crucial role in the development of one’s personality. In Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, he theorized that during childhood, the resolution or lack of resolution of conflicts created by unacceptable sexual impulses strongly influences personality development. He proposed that unconscious psychological conflicts must be resolved in order for someone to achieve healthy adaptation.

In his theory, the personality is divided into the id, superego, and ego. The id is present at birth and is where sexual desire arises. It is constantly seeking immediate and unrestrained satisfaction. The superego is the conscious that is learned through the morals placed upon us through family and society. It functions to restrict satisfying unacceptable sexual impulses and creates the feeling of guilt for disobeying. The ego develops along with the superego and finds acceptable ways of satisfying sexual desires that will still reside within the constraints of the superego. Within all of this lies the unconscious, which according to Freud, is the result of the superego repressing unacceptable impulses and thoughts.

The development of personality is broken down into three important stages spanning the years between birth and 5 years of age. Within each stage is a series of conflicts that arise from the struggle of resisting unacceptable sexual impulses. If a conflict is not healthily resolved then the impulse can turn into a fixation or become repressed. Fixation and repression result in the development of defense mechanisms, which are strategies utilized to cope with unconscious conflicts. There are a variety of defense mechanisms such as reaction formation, intellectualization, and humor, all of which could be used by Tyrion Lannister.

Little is known of Tyrion’s childhood experiences, but certain behaviors that he exhibits suggest what may have happened when he was a child. For instance, the first year of a child’s life is the oral stage during which fixations on oral stimulation can occur. Tyrion, known for his copious drinking, could be expressing an oral stage fixation through overindulgence of alcohol. Personality types can arise from these stages and sometimes the opposite of those types manifest through the defense mechanism called reaction formation. Tyrion’s tendency for independence and sarcasm are examples of contradicting personality traits of the typical dependent and gullible traits arising from the oral stage. His obstinacy towards the decisions he makes for himself suggests a need for control that may have arisen during the anal stage, the second stage of development. This stage is when the child discovers the pleasures of releasing and withholding bowels, and a conflict during this stage might express itself in adulthood through stubbornness and the need for control. Two qualities Tryion uses most are his intellect and humor. There are instances when they are used in accordance with Freud’s definition of a defense mechanism. For example, in a moment of giving advice to another regarding unchangeable downfalls, Tryion advises using the downfall as armor so that it can never be used to cause a personal upset. This suggests he does not emotionally deal with his own unchangeable downfalls, dwarfism, and unattractiveness. Although he is acknowledging the issue he explains it away with reason, a form of the defense mechanism intellectualization. When a conversation topic touches upon one of Tyrion’s downfalls he uses humor to deflect or bring attention to the downfall itself. Doing this, functions as a way to endure the pain of an aspect out of one’s control.

Like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung emphasized the role of the unconscious in personality development. Likewise, both theorists argued that life experiences play a central role in the development of personality and that our behavior is motivated by the energy within our unconscious. The way in which the theories differ lies within the details. Freud argued that unconscious conflict leads to maladaptive behavior; whereas, Jung viewed the unconscious more positively and believed that a balance between the conscious and unconscious leads to adaptive behavior. Where Freud posited that early life experiences are especially important, Jung was more interested in adult experiences than childhood experiences. The motivating energy within Freud’s theory was sexual in nature; whereas, Jung suggested that it was broad psychic energy. Following is a summary of the highlights of Carl Jung’s theory.

Carl Jung believed that life experiences, the unconscious, and the conscious have a circular effect, and all play significant roles in behavior and personality development. Life experiences influence what parts of ourselves we present to the world and the expression and/or repression of those parts have an effect on our unconscious and conscious. Maintaining a balance between the two is important for avoiding psychological issues. An imbalance is created through suppression of rejected personality aspects and/or a lack of awareness of either the conscious or unconscious. His theory for achieving psychological health involves reestablishing balance between the two.

In Jung’s theory, the personality is called the psyche, which is separated into the ego, persona, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious. The ego is the most conscious part of the psyche that contains our will and allows us to make conscious decisions. The persona is our self-image that is tailored through adapting to reactions received from people. The persona transforms as changes take place throughout life such as interests, relationships, and jobs. The third part of the psyche is the personal unconscious, which is made up of the shadow and the anima or animus. The shadow contains rejected aspects of the persona, such as aggressiveness or unacceptable sexual impulses. The anima is the femininity denied in a man’s psyche, and the animus is the masculinity that is denied in a woman’s psyche. The collective unconscious contains psychic energy that is that is inherited and shared by everyone. He explained that it influences how we universally experience the world and presents itself to us in different ways such as through dreams, myths, symbols, art, and religion.

In Jung’s theory, psychological issues arise from an imbalance, or disconnect, between the conscious and unconscious. He explained that the two are not in conflict with each other as Freud’s theory states and should be utilized together. For instance, the stress in a person’s life can easily go unnoticed and the unconscious might bring attention to this through dreams containing stressful scenarios. If attention is paid to the messages the unconscious is sending then action can be taken to remedy issues. If attention is not paid, then an imbalance will arise from suppressing the aspects of the psyche, which then leads to complexes, harmful behaviors expressing the personal unconscious. Maintaining awareness of the unconscious while keeping a balance between it and the conscious is the best way for establishing a healthy psyche.

Jung believed in personality types that fall into one of two fundamental attitudes, extroverted or introverted. These two attitudes are expressed through one of four psychological functions involving thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. The result of this breakdown is eight psyche types that describe how decisions are made and how a person interprets and interacts with the world. Tyrion’s behavior indicates an extroverted thinking personality psyche type. These psyche types are outwardly focused, intellectual, and repress their emotions. He is a known fact-driven person who states his mind is his greatest weapon. He has few, if any, close relationships. He is candidly sociable and confident with his attention oriented towards others. He constantly observes and brings attention to what others are doing and uses humor to deflect attention from himself and his negative traits.

Although Freud and Jung have significant differences in their breakdown of personality it is apparent that similar observations can be reached. The source of personality traits and complexes may differ in one theory to the other, but Tyrion Lannister can still be found to be a man who uses his intelligence and outward-focused attention to avoid dealing with the emotions and complexes that lie beneath the surface.

References

  1. Benioff, D., Weiss, D. B., Strauss, C., Doelger, F., Caulfield, B.,

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