Sigmund Freud's theory of personality was changing as he progressed in his theoretical development. For Freud, the human personality is the product of the struggle between our destructive impulses and the search for pleasure. Without leaving aside the social limits as regulatory entities.

The construction of the personality becomes a product: the result of the way that each person uses to deal with their internal conflicts and the demands of the outside. The personality will thus mark the way in which each one develops in the social and faces their conflicts: internal and external.

Freud , Austrian neurologist and father of psychoanalysis, presented five models to conceptualize personality : topographic, dynamic, economic, genetic and structural. These five models were intended to shape a complete scheme in which the personality of each one of us could be articulated.

Sigmund Freud's Personality Theory Models

Freud's theory of personality is characterized by being structural. The models that we explain below are not to be taken as one of absolute truth. However, they are very useful tools to understand the dynamics of the human psyche . Although they will be explained separately, they are all related to each other.

1. Topographic Model

Freud used the metaphor of the parts of the iceberg to facilitate the understanding of the three regions of the mind . The tip of the iceberg, which is the visible, is equivalent to the conscious region. It would have to do with everything that can be perceived at a particular moment: perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies and feelings.

The part of the iceberg that submerges, but can still be visible, equates to the preconscious region of the mind. It has to do with everything that one is able to remember: moments that are no longer available in the present but that can be brought to consciousness.

The bulk of the iceberg that is hidden under the water, is equivalent to the unconscious region. In this area all memories, feelings and thoughts inaccessible to consciousness would be stored . Save content that can be unacceptable, unpleasant, painful, conflicting and above all distressing for the person.

Topographic model

2. Dynamic Model

This model is possibly one of the most difficult to understand in Sigmund Freud's theory of personality. It has to do with the psychic dynamics that occurs in the subject's mind, between the impulses that seek gratification without measure and the defense mechanisms that try to inhibit them.

Regulatory psychic dynamics is primarily intended to ensure that each person can develop and adapt in the social environment. The defense mechanisms derived from this model are: repression, reactive formation, displacement, fixation, regression, projection, introjection and sublimation; they are an important pillar of Sigmund Freud's theory of personality.

3. Economic Model

It has to do with the way in which what Freud called  "drive" works, which can be understood, roughly , as the energy that drives us to seek a specific end. The drive is the motor and the energy that moves us.  In this sense, Freud considered that all behavior was motivated by drives, which he divided into the life drive (eros) and the death drive (thanatos).

The life drive is related to the individual's capacity for self-preservation, an impulse to create, protect, relate. Instead, the death drive  is related to the destructive tendencies of the human being towards himself or towards the other, relating them to the principle of Nirvana which is nothingness, non-existence, emptiness.

4. Genetic Model

This model follows the five stages of psychosexual development. Characterized by the search for gratification in the erogenous zones of the body, the importance of which depends on age. Freud discovered that not only does the adult find satisfaction in the erogenous zones, but the child does too. Excessive gratification in these stages or sudden frustration from one of them will cause certain personality types to develop. 

The stages or stages of psychosexual development, in Sigmund Freud's theory of personality, are:

  • Oral stage:  0-18 months. The focus of pleasure is the mouth; suck, kiss and bite. Fixation in this phase is related to an oral personality receptive  to continuing to seek pleasure through the mouth (smoking, overeating, etc.). In contrast, sudden frustration is related to an aggressive oral personality : You seek pleasure by being aggressively verbal and hostile to others.
  • Anal stage : 18-4 years of age. The focus of pleasure is the anus; retain and eject. A very strict control of it is related to a retentive, petty personality. Or, on the contrary, lax, wasteful personality .
  • Phallic stage: 4-7 years old. The focus of pleasure is on the genitals. Masturbation at this age is quite common. Identification with the father or mother occurs. This stage resolves the Oedipus complex. This complex structures the personality and serves to accept social norms on the part of the individual.
  • Latency stage:  7-12 years. During this period, Freud assumed that the sexual drive was suppressed in the service of learning to facilitate a cultural integration of the subject into his environment .
  • Genital stage:  12 years and older. It represents the appearance of the sexual drive in adolescence, directed more specifically towards sexual relations. The sexual identity of man or woman is reaffirmed .

Genetic model

5. Structural Model

This model in Sigmund Freud's theory of personality stands out for the separation of the mind into  three instances. These three instances would develop throughout childhood. Each instance has different functions that act on different levels of the mind , but together to form a unique personality structure.

  • The It: it  is the primitive and innate part of the personality, whose sole purpose is to satisfy the impulses of the person. It represents the most elementary needs and desires, the drives.
  • The I:  evolves according to age and acts as an intermediary between the Id and the Superego. It represents the way we face reality.
  • The Superego:  represents the moral and ethical thoughts received from the culture. It represents the law and the norm.

To conclude, note that the models interact with each other. They make of the personality a dynamic set of psychic characteristics that condition the way in which each person acts in the face of the circumstances that arise .

"The price we pay for our advanced civilization is a loss of happiness through the intensification of guilt"

-Sigmund Freud-


Luke is passionate about fostering student involvement and connection. He studied psychology for his major and likes learning about the past. Luke aims to specialize in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. .

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