Examples of Psychodynamic Perspective

The term psychodynamic perspective refers to the theories and therapies developed by Sigmund Freud and supported by his followers. In addition to Freud, others who researched and practiced the psychodynamic approach based on Freudian principles include Adler, Erikson and Jung. Get an in-depth definition of the psychodynamic perspective through examples.

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What Is Psychodynamic Perspective?

Have you ever walked away from a person you think is cute? Do you bite your nails when you get nervous? If so, these are all part of the psychodynamic perspective. These are unconscious thoughts and behaviors shaped by your childhood. While the world of psychodynamic perspective was started by Sigmund Freud as part of his personality theory, it has continued to prevail in the world of psychology.

Understanding the Psychodynamic Perspective

The basis of the psychodynamic perspective is to understand what is going on in the mind of a person or "to get in the head" of a patient to see what is going on in the unconscious part of the mind. This provides insight into how the patient views relationships, experiences and the world and how that affects preferences, behaviors, and drives. It was Freud's first major publication, The Interpretation of Dreams, that was the basis and establishment of the movement of psychoanalysis, which later developed into the psychodynamic perspective.

Psychodynamic Perspective Examples

Explore a few different examples of the psychodynamic perspective and their explanations to better understand this point of view.

  • Obsessive hand washing could be linked to a trauma in childhood that now causes this behavior.
  • Nail-biting may be caused by an anxiety-inducing childhood event.
  • A childhood event that caused fear in an open space may trigger agoraphobia in an adult.
  • Hoarding behaviors could be a result of childhood trauma.
  • Number aversion can be an obsessive behavior perhaps initiated by an incident in childhood development.
  • Rituals of nervousness such as completing a task a certain number of times (such as opening and closing a cabinet) could be linked to a childhood situation.
  • Skin picking or hair plucking is a compulsion that would be linked to a developmental trauma.
  • Compulsively counting footsteps could be linked to an incident in childhood.
  • Any irrational behaviors, like decision paralysis, can be blamed on childhood instances of trauma or development.
  • Neurotic behaviors, like chronic anxiety, can be linked to childhood development issues or interruptions.
  • Sexual compulsions or related sexual behavioral issues are linked to the sexual development stage using the psychodynamic perspective.
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Psychodynamic Approach

When you are approaching the psychodynamic perspective, there are a few core assumptions psychologists make. Some examples of these assumptions include:

  • The unconscious is one of the most powerful effects on behavior and emotion.

  • No behavior is without cause and is therefore determined.

  • Childhood experiences greatly affect emotions and behavior as adults.

  • The id, ego and super-ego make up personality.

  • The drives behind behavior are the lift instinct and sex drive and the death instinct and aggressive drive.

  • Various conflicts throughout childhood development shape overall personality.

Psychodynamic Defense Mechanisms

The psychodynamic perspective asserts that in childhood certain incidents may occur that produce behaviors in adulthood. As children, defense mechanisms are utilized, then as adults behaviors manifest as a result. Examples of defense mechanisms that may be used include:

  • repression - suppressing a thought or desire so it stays unconscious

  • denial - coping mechanism that allows you to process distressing situations

  • reaction formation - behaving in the opposite manner of your instincts

  • sublimation - directing your emotions at a safe object or activity

  • projection - misattributing feelings to another person unconsciously

  • displacement - unconsciously directing emotions or frustrations to a safe person

  • regression - moving back in development when you feel threatened or scared

  • fantasy - retreating into your fantasy world

  • compartmentalization - separating life into sections

  • Intellectualization - removing emotions from responses

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Understanding Psychodynamic Perspective

Now you can see how the psychodynamic perspective works and how this theory can be used to explain behaviors and actions. Learn more about psychological theories by checking out the psychoanalytic theory. You might also be interested in checking out the work of Carl Jung.