The basis of motivation and behavior lies in inner forces (forces that are predetermined, forces over which humans have little control, which the person is not aware of) -> unconscious determinants of behavior.

Psychodynamic approach is the most influential theory of the 20th century. Affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner. Gave an entire new perspective to the understanding of behavior and mental processes, as well as mental illness. Is the 1st theory to raise the awareness that not all behavior is relational. Gave an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach. provided a basis to understand everyday life phenomena (interpersonal relationships, aggression, prejudice). Many other approaches built their paradigms on this approach (some by refining, some by deviating).


Roots of human action

diagram 2

diagram 3


  1. Psychic determinism: all behavior is determined (had a cause that lies in the mind/psyche)
  2. Role of consciousness: a significant part of our behavior is generated by unconscious forces.
  3. Continuity of normal and abnormal behavior: normal and  abnormal behavior are different only in terms of degree and not in kind.
  4. Emphasis on clinical observation: clinical observation/case studies were the main sources of data.

Structure of consciousness

diagram 4

  1.  Conscious: contain thoughts and feelings of which one is immediately aware.
  2. Subconscious: mind level below the level of conscious awareness.
  3. Preconscious: part of the subconscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice.
  4. Unconscious: part of the conscious that can’t be accessed directly although impulses, ideas and feeling may permeate out through other sources (dreams, slips of tongue, etc.).

Dreams reflect unconscious needs, desires and impulses. 

How motivation works 

diagram 5

As you see, motivation can be good (EROS) or bad (THANATOS), all depends on how strong we are and what inner force we let to guide us through life. We can let the good forces to motivate as to be kind, loving, be creative, work with passion and search for good things in life, or the bad forces that will bring in our lives hate, revenge, scandal, fights, aggression, destruction. Is our choice.


A 3 part structure:

  1. SUPER EGO: governed by the moral constraints. Opposes the ID and represent the moral demands of the family and society. It is the “moral self” or the “conscience” of the person.
  2. EGO: mediates the link of the self with the outside world, “real world“, as well as between the environment.
  3. ID: the source of basic drives. Operates under the “pleasure principle” (wants immediate gratification of needs).

Development of personality



An emotional state experienced as a result of felt threat to the self. Anxiety arises when EGO can’t cope too much of:

  1. demands of the ID
  2. demands of the EGO
  3. external danger

In order to protect itself against anxiety and threat, EGO uses defense mechanism.

EGO defense system, that may be distorting reality:

  1. Repression: blocking unpleasant/unacceptable thoughts by pushing them into the unconscious (forgetting events of the painful childhood).
  2. Regression: reverting back to a stage that was satisfying (a boss showing temper tantrums like a child, or acting like a baby).
  3. Displacement: redirecting the expression of an unwanted desires or impulses to a substitute rather than the actual target (beating children when a wife can’t express anger toward husband).
  4. Rationalization: in order to justify one’s behavior, one develop a socially acceptable explanation or reasoning (going for a second marriage saying that the first wife was quarrelsome).
  5. Denial: refusing to acknowledge or accept anxiety provoking thoughts or impulses (being a heavy smoker but saying “I am an occasional smoker”).
  6. Projection: attributing one’s unwanted thoughts and impulses to others (a person takes bribe and blames the organization for paying him not enough salary).
  7. Sublimation: converting unwanted impulses into socially approved thoughts, feelings and actions (disliking the in-laws but behaving in a very friendly manner, or becoming a stamp collector to overcome the impulse of steal).

Basic anxiety is a major concept. If the environment is hostile and the child feels lonely and isolated, then this anxiety develops. It can be overcome by proper parental nurturing. 

Basic hostility:

  • children develops such hostility if parents are overly strict, punishing, indifferent or inconsistent.
  • children feel very aggressive and hostile, but can’t express it. Repressed hostility leads to anxiety.

Social interaction and interpersonal styles: the ways in which people interact with each other:

  1. Moving away from others: seeking self sufficiency and independence.
  2. Moving toward others: being compliant and dependent.
  3. Moving against others: trying to gain control,power and independence.

Neurosis arise from emotional conflicts that arise from childhood experiences and disturbances in interpersonal relationships in later life.


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