A Quick Show-&-Tell

My Bullet Journal Experience…

I’ve always had an organizer to help with my perpetual absent-mindedness & tendency to put things off. These organizers represented my commitment to the long term goals I’ve set for myself. On the one hand, this habit is certainly helpful in breaking things down into manageable baby steps.   This system has been nice, but somewhat laborious to set up.  Additionally, I find this focus on the long-term goals, is at the sacrifice of incidental life-events.  Bound and determine to complete my to-do-list, I find I’m complaining endlessly about how life gets in the way.  I need something that can allow me to live more presently with greater gratitude and appreciation…

…Then I found the Happy Planner System

I was enthralled at first by its name.  The idea that one would include happy and planning in one descriptive phrase perplexed me.  I’m not exactly the “Type-A Personality”, and prefer a “fly by the seat of your pants” approach.  I visited a local Michaels and loved how customizable these planners were.  Most importantly, they provided an opportunity to engage my creative juices.  This “Happy Planner” is something quite unique. It isn’t quite a scrapbook & not an organizer.  Its a memory book or gratitude journal of sorts.  You keep track of your days, while remembering the moments.  I was hooked….

My Happy Planner – “A Gratitude Journal/Scrapbook”

So this is my very first “Happy Planner”.I’ve decided to use it simply as a journal and scrapbook.  I find myself printing out incidental photos from my phone and glueing them onto the pages of my planner.  I then record key events of my week.  With everything I have going on, my journaling is more “quick and to the point”, highlighting key events and memorable life lessons.

On these two pages, I describe my intention for this Happy Planner…


Major Life Events & Milestones…

Our 18-year-old Kitty Cat died on August 29th, 2016.  His name was Warfy…

On the 4th, my hubby & I celebrated our 17th Anniversary.

On the 21st, I celebrated my 47th Birthday & ate out with my family…

Lessons Learned….

The Importance of Gratitude

img_0531Last week, I decided to begin a project I’ve been putting off for quite some time.  I began digging through old family photos and placing them in photo albums.  I was surprised at how much my boys have grown up & was sad the time had passed by so quickly.  I was also profoundly grateful for my life & regreted how I had fallen in the trap of allowing “life to get in the way”.  I became immersed in my desire to achieve several long-term goals that I failed to see the bigger picture…

The Power of Resilience….

img_0532A patient I cared for at work, made an impact on my life that will stay with me always.  I was able to meet him when he first arrived in the hospital complaining of a bowel obstruction.  I was able to help wheel him into the operating room for exploratory surgery.  I was there when he received diagnosis of terminal cancer.  I was able to say goodbye as he went home to be with his family.  This man is an immigrant from Africa.  He worked hard to complete his MBA while in the states and just bought his first home.  He showed me pictures of his large family: five kids and a loving wife.  He told me he intended to remain positive and planned on “fighting until the end.  He didn’t want his kids to think he was giving up.  I cried on the way home when I heard this story.  I was grateful that the biggest thing I had to worry about was the messy house & a need for some sleep.

The Perplexing Nature of Self Deception….

I blogged about this one.  It on the nature of self-deception.  I wondered how easily it was for us to lie to ourselves.  How can we be the deceiver & deceived at the same time?  Is part of our mind immersed in creating the lie while still another part is attempting to forget we have done so????

Anyway, this is what happened in September…

Share This:

Karen Horney (Psychoanalysis)

Biographical Overview

“Karen Horney was born Karen Danielsen in a suburb of Hamburg on September 15, 1885.  Her father was a sea captain of Norwegian origin;  her mother was of Dutch-German Extraction (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 2).”  She had an older brother named Bernstein who died at the age of 40, of a lung infection.  Her father was a harsh discplinarian and apparently they were never very close (Boeree, 2006).  However, she had a close attachment to her mother, Sonni, who was 19 years younger than her father, (and his second wife).  They divorced when she was a young adult.

She decided to become a doctor as a young child and was one of the first women in Germany to become a doctor. (Schultz & Schulta, 2016).  While in college, she met her future husband Oskar Horney and married him in 1909.  The had three daughters together.

Karen Horney struggled with mental health problems throughout her life.  After a series of life events including the death of her brother and mom, she was first exposed to psychotherapy.  She eventually decided to enter the field of psychoanalysis and was a co-founder of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute.  In 1932 she moved to the United States, and passed away in 1952.

Horney’s New Psychoanalysis

“Karen Danielsen Horney was another defector from the orthodox Freudian point of view. Although never a disciple or colleague of Freud’s, Horney was trained in the official psychoanalytic doctrine. But she did not remain long in the Freudian camp (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 159).”

Portrayal of Women

Horney criticized early psychoanalysis as focusing “more on men’s development that women’s (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 159).”  Insisting that “anatomy is not destiny” (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 8).”  Additionally, Horney had problem with Freud’s description of women, due to its masculine orientation and in implicit preconception of female inferiority.  In her view, the woman’s psyche was a byproduct of cultural influences and social standards at the time.

The Role of Culture

Like many of Freud’s predecessors, Horney felt his perspective overemphasized the influences of biology on mental health.  This has caused an overestimation of the “universality of the feelings, attitudes and kinds of relationships that were common (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 10), in Freud’s work.  “Horney found that her American patients were so unlike her previous German patients, both in their neuroses and in their normal personalities that she believed only the different social forces to which they had been exposed could account for the variation (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 159).”  On the basis of this, Horney concluded social and cultural factors have a great influence on our overall well-being and prisons, development.

The Cause of Neurosis

Horney felt that neurosis was caused by “disturbances in human relationships (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 11).” In contrast, Freud felt neurosis was caused by something within the subconscious. In response to these varied definitions of neurosis, Horney and Freud utilized divergent approaches.  Freud focused on uncovering infantile origins as a cause for one’s problems.  In contrast, Horney felt it was important to examine defense mechanisms in our relationships.

Focus on the Present

“Perhaps the most significant aspect of Horney’s new version of psychoanalysis was her shift in emphasis…from the past to the present (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 11).” Essentially, Horney rejected Freud’s assertion that the impact of our earliest experiences remain unchanged in adulthood.  Horney felt personal growth is ongoing, and doesn’t end with childhood.  Each successive life experience builds upon previous ones.  In her work, “New Ways of Psychoanalysis”, she differentiated her perspective from Freud’s by labeling his as mechanical-evolutionists  while calling hers evolutionistic, (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).    At the heart of Freud’s neurosis are unconscious fixations.  At the heart of Horney’s neurosis are early experiences that cause us to repeat adaptive responses to certain situational needs.  These defense mechanisms are self-perpetuating until one acknowledges them.

A New Perspective on Neurosis

What is Neurosis?

Horney saw “neurosis as an attempt to make life bearable, as a way of ‘interpersonal control and coping’ (Boeree, 2006, p. 4).” In other words neurosis is a response to basic anxiety [discussed later] caused by “disturbances in human relationships (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 11).”  They are early defense mechanisms in response to interpersonal difficulties that continually evolve as we grow.

Origins of a Neurosis

“Horney agreed with Freud, in principle, about the importance of the early years of childhood in shaping the adult personality. However, they differed on the specifics of how personality is formed. Horney believed that social forces in childhood, not biological forces, influence personality development. There are neither universal developmental stages nor inevitable childhood conflicts. Instead, the social relationship between the child and his or her parents is a key factor in one’s early development (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 162).”

Safety Needs

According to Horney, our earliest childhood experiences are defined by a need for safety and security (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).  Fulfilling these needs requires caregivers to respond in a manner that allows children to be free of for their emotional and physical well-being.   Additionally, Horney felt displays of affection and warmth are especially critical for a sense of security.  In contrast, “If children are kept…excessively dependent…feelings of helplessness will be encouraged (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 163).”  Conversely, They can become fearful of caregiver through excessive intimidation or abuse.  The point is, how caregivers respond to safety needs greatly impacts a child’s early development.

Basic Anxiety

“Pathogenic conditions in the family…make children feel unsafe, unloved, and unvalued” (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 10),  Parental indifference plants the seeds for a neurosis in adulthood and calls this a “basic evil” (Boeree, 2006, p. 5).  Conversely, providing warmth and affection are key in preventing neurosis (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

As a result of early pathological interpersonal experiences, children can be overcome with a sense of fear, anxiety, helplessness, hostility, and guilt.  Over time they develop repetitive coping styles that condition “how we respond to the world (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 12).   Horney claims these emotions and adaptive coping responses are evidence of basic anxiety, which she defines as an “insidiously increasing, all-pervading feeling of being lonely and helpless in a hostile world” (Horney, 1937, p. 89).

In a nutshell, when parents are ineffective in responding to a child’s safety needs, they develop hostile negative emotions towards their parents.  This is basic anxiety.

Early Coping Responses

When a child’s security needs are not met, they develop a suppressed hostility towards their parents alongside a fear of abandonment and helplessness (Boeree, 2006).  Horney, (1937), describes the feeling of basic anxiety as follows:  “small, insignificant, helpless, deserted, endangered, in a world that is out to abuse, cheat, attack, humiliate, betray” (p. 92).  In response to basic anxiety, children can be found to utilize four common coping responses (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).

COPING RESPONSE #1: “Securing affection and love (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164).”  The logic here is that if I’m loved by someone, that means they won’t hurt me.  Affection is a form of reassurance.  Conversely, a rejection is feared.  “If you love me, you will not hurt me ((Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p.  164).”
COPING RESPONSE #2: “Being submissive (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164).”  The logic here for a child is that if I do whatever I’m asked then everyone will be pleased with me.   The goal is not angering or offending someone.  Personal needs are suppressed for the sake of others.  “If I give in I will not be hurt (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164)”
COPING RESPONSE #3: “Attaining power (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164)”   This coping skill involves overcompensating for feelings of helplessness.  Achievement and success in areas one has control over provide feelings of superiority.  “If [I] have power no one will harm [me] (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164)”
COPING RESPONSE #4: “Withdrawing (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164).” Here children withdrawal psychologically and learn to rely on themselves as much as possible. An aloofness can be observed around others as the child no longer seeks other to satisfy any emotional needs.

Goal of Coping Responses

The singular goal of all these coping responses is simply to avoid basic anxiety.  “They motivate the person to seek security and reassurance rather than happiness or pleasure. They are a defense against pain, not a pursuit of well-being (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 164).”

Consequences of Coping Responses

Horney felt that these coping strategies are “doomed to fail because they generate ‘vicious cycles’ in which the means employed to allay anxiety tend to increase it (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).”  Let’s look at the first coping response mentioned above on a desire to secure affection and love:

This desire for love is motivated by a desire to avoid pain of rejection due to a lack of fulfillment of one’s security needs.
As a result it is magnified by unresolved an unresolved basic anxiety and becomes insatiable, needy, demanding, and unrealistic.
Behaviors such as “demandingness and jealousy that follow make it less likely than ever The at the person will receive affection (Boeree, 2006, p. 11).”
In time, “people who have not been loved develop a feeling of being unlovable…[they] discount any evidence to the contrary (Boeree, 2006, p. 11).”
“Being deprived of affection has made them dependent on others, but they are afraid of that dependency because it makes them too vulnerable (Boeree, 2006, p. 11).”

Neurotic Needs – Interpersonal Defenses

“Horney believed that any of these self-protective mechanisms could become so permanent, a part of the personality that it assumes the characteristics of a drive or need in determining the individual’s behavior. (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 165).”

What are Neurotic Needs?

From her early clinical work, Horney observed ten common distorted interpersonal needs in clients (Boeree, 2006).   These “neurotic needs” (Boeree, 2006, p. 4), as she calls them, emerge as a characteristic drive definitive of one’s personality in adulthood (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).  Finally, she notes that intense anxiety appears to fuel the distorted nature of these neurotic needs and its “unrealistic and unreasonable nature (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 4).”  These ten neurotic needs are listed below (Boeree, 2006; Schultz & Schultz, 2016):

NEUROTIC NEED #1:  A desire for affection and approval emerges as an “indiscriminate need to please others and be liked by them (Boeree, 2006, p. 4)”.
NEUROTIC NEED #2:  “Desire for a dominate partner (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 165)” or “someone who will take over one’s life, [based on] the idea that love will solve all of one’s problems” (Boeree, 2006, p. 4).
NEUROTIC NEED #3:  “The neurotic need for power or control over others for a facade of omnipotence (Boeree, 2006, p. 4).”  
NEUROTIC NEED #4:  A need for exploitation, or “get the better of (Boeree, 2006, p 4)” others.  Underling this neurotic need is the belief in manipulation as commonplace in relationships.
NEUROTIC NEED #5:  A need for prestige and social recognition can present as a result of a neurotic desire for appreciation.  “These people are overwhelmingly concerned with appearances and popularity (Boeree, 2006, p, 4).
NEUROTIC NEED #6:  A need for admiration from others appears in many respects similar to the previous one.  However, it presents more as a desperate desire to be valued and recognized by others (Boeree, 2006).
NEUROTIC NEED #7:  A need for personal achievement can cause individuals to excel in all things they do.  “They have to be number one (Boeree, 2006, p. 5).”
NEUROTIC NEED #8: A neurotic desire for self-sufficiency can present as an aversion to commitment in relationships and refusal to seek help from others (Boeree, 2006).
NEUROTIC NEED #9:  A need for perfection can appear similar to the #7, however here individuals have a fear of being flawed and making mistakes (Boeree, 2006).
NEUROTIC NEED #10:  A neurotic need to limit one’s demands and expectations from life can exist in response to a highly stressful life as a desire to “disappear into routine (Boeree, 2006, p 5)”.

Categorization of Neurotic Needs.

“In her later writings, [Horney] reformulated these needs…she concluded that the needs could be presented in three groups, each indicating a person’s attitudes towards self and others (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 166).”  Essentially, she categorized these neurotic needs into three overarching attitude that can be observed in one’s  interpersonal relationships.  She called them “neurotic trends” and defined this term as a set of behaviors and attitudes that define one’s overall personality.  These neurotic trends are described below:

“THE COMPLIANT PERSONALITY (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 166).”:  Boeree, (2006), notes that this personality type encompasses neurotic needs #1, #2 & #10 listed above.  The compliant personality reflects a “self-effacing solution…[or] moving-toward strategy (Boeree, 2006, p. 5) in one’s interpersonal relationships.”  For example, these individuals display “an intense and continuous need for affection….they usually have a need for one dominant person…who will take charge of their lives and provide protection and guidance (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 166-167).”
“THE AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 167).”:Boeree, (2006), notes that this personality type encompasses neurotic needs #3 – #7 listed above.  The aggressive personality reflects an “expansive solution…[or] moving-against strategy (Boeree, 2006, p. 5) in one’s interpersonal relationships.”  For example, the aggressive personality perceives the world as a hostile place where “only the fittest and most cunning survive (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 167).”  Consequently, they have a tough demeanor and alleviate basic anxiety by through domination over others.  
“THE DETACHED PERSONALITY (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 168).”: Boeree, (2006), notes that this personality type encompasses neurotic needs #8 – #10 listed above.  The detached personality reflects a “resigning solution…[or] moving-away-from strategy (Boeree, 2006, p. 5) in one’s interpersonal relationships.”   Detached personalities are driven to main an emotional distance from others and are become self-sufficient and independent (Schultz & Schultz, 2016).  

The Self – Intrapersonal Defenses

“In reviewing the evolution of her theory at the end of Neurosis and Human Growth (1950) Horney observed that at first she saw neurosis as essentially a disturbance in human relationships. This disturbance creates basic anxiety against which we defend ourselves by employing the interpersonal strategies of defense….She came to realize, however, that…Neurosis is a disturbance not only in our relationships with others but also in our relationship with ourselves (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p.17-18).”

As the above quote states, Horney notes in her later work, that her description of neurosis is incomplete. Essentially, her later work describes the lasting effects of the neurotic trends listed above.  These neurotic trends affect the development of “the self”.   When viewing neurosis from this perspective, we see a series of fragmented self-images.   These self-images exist in response to the self as”looking-glass images that reflect an internalization of messages from others throughout life.

The Real Self

“According to Horney, people have a real self that requires favorable conditions to be actualized  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 12).”  Our true “self” is a potential innate to our being, that would represent an accurate portrayal of ourselves minus the influence of a lifetime of interpersonal defense strategies (Boeree, 2006).  Horney, believed that a primary goal of therapy is to restore clients to their true selves  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).

The ideal self represents our innate potential.
While not a set of acquired or learned abilities, it requires optimal conditions to develop.  
Realizing our true self requires an atmosphere of warmth from one’s caregivers who are responsive to our safety needs.   

The Idealized Self

As a result of an individual’s early experiences with basic anxiety, messages from others become ingrained about what is needed to receive the affection and acceptance one naturally craves.  The lasting impact of these internalized messages are feelings of “weakness, worthlessness, and inadequacy  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 15).”  These feelings of inadequacy exist as a result of one’s response to a consistent failure of caregivers to respond to our safety needs in the manners described earlier.  To compensate for these feelings we develop an “idealized image of ourselves that we endow with unlimited powers and exalted faculties  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 15).”  Here are a few examples:

“The complaint person believes ‘I should be sweet, self-sacrificing, saintly’ (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).”  Lovable qualities include humility, goodness, selflessness, and saintliness  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).
“The aggressive person says ‘I should be powerful, recognized, a winner’ (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).”  For example narcissistics might see themselves as having unlimited capabilities while arrogant and vindictive people might view themselves as tougher, smarter, and able to outsmart others  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).
“The withdrawn person believes ‘I should be independent, aloof, perfect’ (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).”  Self-sufficiency, freedom from desire, and independence are revered qualities  (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).

The Despised Self

The ideal-self can be understood as a personal goal of who we wish to be.  It is an image we hope to uphold throughout our lives.  Essentially, these ideal-self images represent “should’s” of who we need to be in order to manage unresolved anxiety.  When we succeed in living up to our idealized self-image we feel worthwhile.  However, any personal shortcomings can produce feelings of inadequacy.  Horney utilizes the term “despised self” to represent those denied aspects of ourselves that fail to coincide with who we wish to ideally become.  “People shuttle….between ‘a feeling of arrogant omnipotence and of being scum of the earth’ (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 16).”

The Pride System & Internal Conflicts

So what are the consequences of this divided self, as Horney describes above?

Firstly, as noted above, an idealized self produces a “the tyranny of the should (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 16),”  These idealized images rule every aspect of our lives, and are fueled by an anxiety-riddled emotions that exist as a result of a lifetime of coping with unmet needs.   The problem is, the idealized-self, reflects unresolved traumas stemming from problematic interpersonal experiences and our chosen coping responses to them.  As a result, they are “doomed to fail because they are not based on a realistic appraisal of personal strengths and weaknesses…it is…an illusion, an unattainable ideal of absolute perfection (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 169).”   Horney claims, that the idealized self-image is unhealthy since it is not based on reality and is absolute.  It can cause individuals to either project these standards onto others or “embark on a search for glory (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 16),” as an actualization of the idealized self.

Neurotic pride is a byproduct of the shoulds reflected in our idealized self.

Neurotic pride involves a substitution of pride in who we really are, for pride in who we ideally feel we should be (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).    Threats to neurotic pride are met with “anxiety and hostility…result[ing] in self-contempt and despair (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 16).”  We believe unquestioningly in our idealized self to such a degree that it is a critical determinant of our emotional well being.  When we live up to our shoulds we have neurotic pride, when we fail we have despair.

Neurotic pride causes us to make unrealistic demands on the world.

The shoulds that underlie our idealized self comprise a “bargain with fate (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 16).”  It is our go-to solution to our external reality as a preferred coping mechanism in all interpersonal relationships.  We expect it to work, and demand the world bend to our own version of reality as dictated by the shoulds that comprise our idealized self.  Horney calls this a neurotic claim, in which we expect others to treat us in accordance with the standards defined by our idealized self-image (Fadiman & Frager, 1976).   For example, the compliant personality expects others to accept and love them when they are acting humble and selfless, while the aggressive personality expects a trump-like recognition for his winning attitude.

So what are the consequences of this?

The idealized self systems, and should messages we tell ourselves are intrapsychic strategies of defense, that mirror the interpersonal strategies discussed earlier.  Horney states that self-hatred is a byproduct of this intrapsychic defense mechanism.  Interestingly, while it is intended as solution to our problems, all it does is perpetuate them.  This is because the idealized self is not realistic and we inevitably fail in living up to these should’s.  Overall, Fadiman & Frager, (1976) note that Horney’s conception of the self has a dynamic quality in which the pride system cause a “seesawing between the idealized and despised selves (p. 17).”

Feminist Psychology

“Psychoanalysis is the creation of a male genius and almost all those who have developed his ideas have been men. It is only right and reasonable that they should evolve more easily a masculine psychology and understand more of the development of men than of women” (Horney, 1967, p. 54)”

Horney is a founder of feminine psychology, who “expressed her disagreement with Feud’s views on women (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 170).”   In particular, she rejected Freud’s biological reductionism and asserted that anatomy is not destiny, noting the influence of sociocultural factors on a women’s development.  As noted in the above quote, Horney felt Freud’s psychoanalysis was a byproduct of a male viewpoint reflecting a masculine psychology.  She attempted to expose the lack of scientific evidence underlying the view of women that existed in Freudian psychoanalysis at the time.  She was also critical of Freud’s penis envy notion and provided a description of a male-oriented concept which she called “womb envy” (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 8).  However, in 1935, she abandoned the topic of feminine psychology since “the role of culture in shaping the female psyche makes it impossible to determine what is distinctively feminine (Fadiman & Frager, 1976, p. 10).”

Practical Application

“The object of therapy for Horney is to help people relinquish their defenses – which alientate them from their true likes and dislikes, hopes, fears, and desires, so they can get in touch with what she calls the real self (Boeree, 2006, p. 2).”

Like Freud, Horney utilized free association and dream analysis, however she believed that “Freud played too passive a role and was too distant and intellectual (Schultz & Schultz, 2016, p. 174.”  Additionally, rather than focusing on uncovering repressed aspects of one’s early childhood, Horney believed that clients emotions, attitudes, and behaviors reflected internal conflicts, defense mechanisms, coping tools, and unresolved neuroses from interpersonal issues.  Schultz & Schultz (2016) also mention briefly a few assessments which have been developed based on Horney’s work which I find quite intriguing.  For example, the “HCTI” Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator.  It is a 57-item self-reported assessment that measures for the presence of Horney’s three neurotic trends.


Boeree, G. (2006). Karen Horney.  Retrieved from:  http://www.social-psychology.de/do/pt_horney.pdf
Fadiman, J., & Frager, R. (1976). Personality and personal growth. New York: Harper & Row. Retrieved from:  http://plaza.ufl.edu/bjparis/ikhs/horney/fadiman/fadiman.pdf
Horney, K. (1937). The neurotic personality of our time. New York: Norton.
Horney K (1967). Feminine psychology. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). Theories of personality. Cengage Learning. Retrieved from: http://cengagesites.com/academic/assets/sites/schultz_ch04.pdf

Share This:

Alfred Adler (Adlerian Psychotherapy)

Biographical Overview

Alfred Adler was born in 1870 in Vienna Austria.  He is the third of seven children and decided to become a doctor after a series of medical problems throughout his childhood.  He graduated from the University of Vienna in 1895 with a degree in opthamology.  In 1902, he was invited to work with Sigmund Freud, and together they founded the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.  In 1911 he parted ways with Freud due to a personal disagreement with aspects of his theoretical perspective.

Overview of Theory

Differences between Freud & Adler

“Adler throughout his lifetime credited Freud with primacy in the development of a dynamic psychology.  He consistently gave credit to Freud for explicating the purposefulness of symptoms and for discovering that dreams were meaningful (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 67).”  However several differences can be seen between Freud and Adler.  Firstly, Freud conceived of the psyche in terms of fragmented components Adler perceived the human mind holistically.  Additionally, Freud “emphasized the role of psychosexual development…Adler focused on the effects of children’s perceptions of their-family constellation and on their struggle to find a place of significance within it (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 67).”   Finally, while Freud is provides an objective and causal view of individuals as victims of their biology Adler provides a subjective and social psychology orientation to human nature (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).  Rather than conceiving individuals as victims of biology, Adler believes we are able to choose and shape our internal and social world as a matter of conscious choice (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).

What is Individual Psychology?

“Alfred Adler fashioned an image of human nature that did not depict people as victimized by instincts and conflict and doomed by biological forces and childhood experiences. He called his approach individual psychology because it focused on the uniqueness of each person and denied the universality of biological motives and goals ascribed to us by Sigmund Freud. (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d., p. 130).”

He choose to utilize the term individual to describe his theory, since in German this term literally means “undivided” (Boree, 2006).  As a neurologist, Freud’s theory focused on our biology as an innate explanatory factor for “why we are as we are”.  In contrast Adler believed we were social beings and develop as we are as a result of our interaction with the world around us (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).   Additionally, rather than conceiving humans as sexual beings, Adler focuses on social factors stating that we strive to become members of a group.  What follows is a list of basic assumptions of Adlerian psychotherapy according to my course textbook (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).

  1. “All Behavior occurs in a social context..people cannot be studied in isolation (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 68).”
  2. “Individual psychology is an interpersonal psychology (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 68).”  How we work to transcend social interactions is critical to personal development and growth.
  3. Adler’s perspective focuses on a holistic perspective that favors social psychology in favor of a biological reductionism.  “This renders the polarities of conscious and unconscious, mind and body, approach and avoidance…meaningless (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 68).”
  4. In Adlerian psychotherapy, the conscious and unconscious serve the individual’s personal goals.  In this respect the unconscious is not a separate cognitive structure within the mind but an adjective which describes that which is not understood (Wedding & Corsini, 2010).
  5. Conflict is interpersonal as a result existing as a byproduct of ambivalent action.  “Although people experience themselves in the throws of conflict… they create these antagonistic feelings, ideas, and values because they are unwilling to…solving their problems (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 68).”  
  6. Subjectivity not objectivity is critical when understanding the person.  “Understanding the individual requires understanding… the convictions individuals develop early in life to help them organize experience, to understand it, to predict it and to control it. (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 68)” 
  7. Our behaviors change in accordance with the immediate demands of our life situation as well as our long-range goals (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).
  8. People are not pushed forward in life by an external cause (i.e. hereditary and the environment). Instead, “people move toward self-selected goals….and will preserve their self-esteem (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 69).”  
  9. “The central striving of human beings has been variously described as completion, perfection, superiority, self-realization, self-actualization, and mastery (Corsini & Wedding, 2010,  p. 69).”
  10. We are move through life confronted with alternatives and have the ability to choose based on our own values, beliefs and personal sense of meaning.
  11. Adlerians aren’t very concerned with diagnosis since & all behavior is seen as a “purposeful, psychogenic symptom (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 69).”
  12. Life presents key challenges, or life tasks, socially, vocationally, sexually, and spiritually (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 70).
  13. Courage in addressing these life tasks is essential, defined as: “the willingness to engage in risk-taking behavior” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 70) while weighting options.
  14. “Life has no intrinsic meaning.  We give meaning to life (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 70).”  This meaning determines our behavior, since we assume this meaning is a fact and not perception.  Life then is expected to coincide with this.

Key Concepts

What Motivates Us?

“Adler felt that the ‘will to power’  or ‘the striving for superiority’ are the major sources for motivation in humans (Rosenthal, 2005).” Freud conceived human behavior as a byproduct of innate biological instincts and mechanical in nature.   In contrast, “Adler sees motivation as a matter of moving towards the future, rather than being driven, mechanistically, by the past. We are drawn towards our goals, our purposes, our ideals. This is called teleology (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).” This notion is based on Nietzsche’s concept of will-to-power which influenced Adler’s work.  Several other concepts pertaining to Adler’s definition of motivation are worth mentioning:

Inferiority Complex

Adler felt that “dealing with inferiority and striving for perfection are innate qualities (Rosenthal, 2005),” were innate components of human motivation.  Additionally, a feeling of inferiority exists as a motivating force for one’s behavior.   It can result in compensating for our inadequacies or striving to grow beyond them.  An inferiority complex is defined as “a condition that develops when a person is unable to compensate for normal inferiority feelings (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).”

Superiority Complex

When individual’s overcompensate for shortcomings this is a superiority complex.  “This involves an exagger- ated opinion of one’s abilities and accomplishments. Such a person may feel inwardly self-satisfied and superior and show no need to demonstrate his or her superiority with accomplishments. Or the person may feel such a need and work to become extremely successful (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).”

Fictional Finalism

Boeree (2006) also notes that Adler was influenced by the work of Hans Vaihinger, who wrote  a book titled  “The Philosophy of ‘as if'”.  He continues by noting that “we use these fictions in day to day living as well. We behave as if we knew the world would be here tomorrow (Boree, 2006, p. 6).”   Essentially, in order to move towards our goals, we conceive them as actualities in a future perfect sense.  He called this term fictional finalism (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).

Social Interest

In the course of our early childhood development Adler believed that getting along with others and belonging were key tasks.  “He proposed the concept of social interest, which he defined as the individual’s innate potential to cooperate with other people to achieve personal and societal goals (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).”   While biology does provide some motivational influence in our lives, it isn’t considered primary, as in Freud’s theory.  Instead, Adler notes that in order to this social interest is a byproduct of our desire to achieve our developmental life goals.  We need to cooperate with others in order to achieve them.

Birth Order

Adler was the first to note the influence of birth order on one’s development.  He first notes that three early childhood experiences have a profound influence on one’s personality development: (1) health (i.e organ inferiority); (2) neglect, and; (3) pampering (Boeree, 2006).  With this in mind, Adler notes that the birth order of an individual determines which of these experiences predominate their childhood.

  1. First-Born Children receive quite a bit of pampering & attention until this status is “dethrowned” when a younger sibling is born.  Consequently, they can respond by behaving badly, and become rebellious. “Adler found that first-borns are often oriented toward the past, locked in nostalgia and pessimistic about the future…[and] also take an unusual interest in maintaining order and authority. (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).”
  2. Second-Born Children don’t receive a sense of dethrownment.  Instead they can tend to experience a sense of competition with the oldest for a parents attention.  Their parents adopt a more relaxed style and are more likely to develop into competitive and ambitious adults (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).
  3. “The youngest child is likely to be the most pampered in a family with more than one child. After all, he or she is the only one who is never dethroned! And so youngest children are the second most likely source of problem children, just behind first children. On the other hand, the youngest may also feel incredible inferiority, with everyone older and ‘therefore’ superior. (Boeree, 2006, p. 10)”
  4. “Only children never lose the position of primacy and power they hold in the family; they remain the focus and center of attention. Spending more time in the company of adults than a child with siblings, only children often mature early and manifest adult behaviors and attitudes (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.).”

Psychological Types

According to Adler, we are social beings.  Therefore, he conceived personality as something that was shaped by “social environments and the interactions (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d, p. 131).”  Therefore a discussion of psychological personality types for Adler would involve a discussion of how they adapt to their social world as well as their lifestyle.  In contrast Freud’s biological determinism, Adler held the belief that we create our personality.  “…neither heredity nor environment provides a complete explanation for personality development.  Instead the way we interpret these influences forms the basis for the creative construction of our attitude toward life (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology”, n.d., p. 137).” Two aspects of of this attitude toward life are worth noting: (1) our lifestyle (discussed in a later section); (2) and our social style.

As social creatures, “Alfred Adler postulates a ‘single drive’ or motivating force behind all our behavior and experience…the striving for perfection (Boeree, 2006, p. 5).”  Later he termed this striving for superiority. Additionally, we all inevitably end up falling short in one respect or another.  For example. Adler describes poor health as organ inferiority and psychological inferiorities as a personal character trait we interpret negatively.  When individuals encounter an inner conflict between a desire to strive for superiority an an awareness of inferiority, they struggle with neurosis.  This neurosis involves an insufficient level of social interest as the individual becomes ego-driven by a desire to hide their inferiority and compensate for it.  He describes four psychological types, each a unique social style based on a desire to compensate:

Ruling Type

Have a social style originating in childhood that produces a tendency toward aggression and social dominance.  They have low levels of social awareness and behave “without regard for others (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 147).” “The most energetic ones are bullies and sadists; somewhat less energetic ones hurt others by hurting themselves and include alcoholics. Drug addicts, and suicides (Boeree, 2006, p. 9).”

Getting/Leaning Type

This type of social style presents a sensitive and dependent temperament.  Boeree, (2006) states that they: “have developed a shell around themselves which protects them, but they must rely on others to carry them through life’s difficulties (p. 9).”  Additionally, Adler states that this type can suffer from phobia, obsession, compulsion, and anxiety (Boeree, 2006).

Avoiding Type

These low-energy types “makes no attempt to face life’s problems (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 137).” Boeree, (2006), notes they assume an avoidant approach towards people be life in general. Extreme avoidance, Adler’s view produces psychosis.

Socially Useful Type

Is an energetic and socially interested healthy personality.  “The socially useful type cooperates with others and acts in accordance their needs…cope with problems within a well-developed framework of social-interest (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 138).”

Style of Life

“…instead of talking about a person’s personality, with the traditional sense of internal traits, structures, dynamics, conflicts, and so on, he preferred to talk about style of life (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).”  Instead, Adler felt a person’s lifestyle reflected their personality by reflecting how one adapts to the social world.  Additionally, our lifestyle reflects efforts to achieve personal goals, (or  striving for perfection).   In doing so we act “as if” what we wish to be/become is present today.  “Each other f our lifestyles, there sits one of these fictions, an important one about who we are and where we are going (Boeree, 2006, p. 6).”

Overview of Counseling Process

How does change happen?

Alder felt human beings were social creatures and we all strive to achieve an idealized version of ourselves.   In doing so, we tend to perceive our reality in a future perfect tense.   What I believe I am is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is reflected throughout our lives.  In order for change to happen, “the patient must come to understand his or her lifestyle and its root in self-centered fictions (Boeree, 2006, p. 12).”  Since this insight cannot be forced, part of a therapists job is to help the client along the stages of change.  Clientd must want to understand and grow.   They are ultimately responsible for themselves.

Adler’s therapeutic style.

“Adler’s approach was more relaxed and informal than Freud’s (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 143).”   Conversations necessitated a building of rapport through the use for humor and some casual conversation.  Adler preferred to speak with clients face to face and avoided “appearing too authoritarian (Boetee, 2006, p. 12).

Assessment in Adlerian Psychotherapy

In order to help you discover the ‘fictions’ your lifestyle is based upon, Adler would look at a great variety of things (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 11).”  Overall, his methods of assessment are less scientific, involving empathy and intuition.   Key factors that can help uncover our personal fictions are discussed below.

Verbal & Nonverbal Communication

Adler assessed the personalities of his patients by observing everything about them: the way they walked and sat, their manner of shaking hands, even their choice of which chair to sit in. He suggested that the way we use our bodies indicates something of our style of life (Alfred Adler Independent Psychology, n.d., p. 143).”  The point is, how is the client communicating their belief system about who they are.  How does this fictionalizef self-fulfilling prophecy play out in their lives?

Early Childhood Memory

people remember from early childhood (a) only images that confirm and support their current views of themselves in the world . . . and (b) only those memories that support their direction of striving for significance and security. [His] focus on selective memory and lifestyle emphasize what is remembered. In contrast, Freud’s approach to interpret- ing early memories emphasizes what is forgotten through the mechanism of repression. (Kopp & Eckstein, 2004, p. 165)

Adler felt our lifestyle choices and social style develops as a result of our earliest childhood experiences.  In his research, Adler found a correlation between lifestyle choices and early childhood memories. Therefore, he cautioned it was important to use their s as a contextualizing factor when assessing the impact of early events (Alfred Adler Individuals Psychology, n.d.).

Dream Analysis

Like Freud, Adler felt “dreams were important (Boeree , 2096, p 11).”  However, while Freud interpreted dreams as pertaining to the unconscious, Adler felt they represented lifestyle choices.  Additionally, Adler interpreted dreams pragmatically: “dreams involve our feelings about a current problem and what we intend to do about it (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d., p. 144).”  However, he cautioned against interpreting dreams without knowledge of the client’s lifestyle.

Measures of Social Interest

“Psychologists have developed tests to measure Adler’s concept of social interest (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d., p.145).” These tests include include the Social Interest Scale (SIS) and the basic Adlerian Scales for Interpersonal  Succesd (BASIC-A) (Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, n.d.). While Adler had no interest in measuring personalities using an assessment, research has proven they are useful.


Alfred Adler Individual Psychology, (n.d.) Retrieved from: cengagesites.com/academic/assets/sites/schultz_ch03.
Boeree, C. G. (2006). Alfred Adler:  Personality Theories.   Retrieved from: http://www.social-psychology.de/do/pt_adler.pdf
Corsini , R.J. & Wedding, D. (2010). Current psychotherapies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kopp, R., & Eckstein, D. (2004). Using Early Memory Metaphors and Client-Generated Metaphors in Adlerian Therapy. Journal of Individual Psychology, 60(2), pp. 163-275.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.

Share This:

Carl Jung (Analytic Psychology)

Biographical Overview

Carl Jung was born in 1875 and died in 1961.  According to Rosenthal, (2005), he was once considered Freud’s “crown prince” as an early collaborator and apprentice (of sorts).  As an only child he was introverted, lonely and observant of the adults in his life.  His father was a religious clergy man.  His mother suffered from a mental illness spending some time at a psychiatric hospital.  He was trained as a Doctor at the University of Zurich.  “He broke away from Freud because he felt Freud over-emphasized man’s sexual nature (Rosenthal, 2005).  He also disagreed with Freud’s negative interpretation of human nature (Rosenthal, 2005).   Carl Jung coined the term “analytic psychology” after splitting with Freud in order to differentiate his approach from Freud’s psychoanalysis (Rosenthal, 2005).  It can be classified as a form of psychodynamic therapy.

A Definition of Jungian Analytic Psychology

“Analytic psychotherapy offers a map of the human psyche that encompasses conscious and unconscious elements including both a transpersonal (archetypal) and personal layer in the unconscious. The goals of psychotherapy are reintegration, self-knowledge, and individuation (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 113).”

“The cornerstone of Jung’s [analytic psychology] is his concept of the psyche, the inner realm of the personality that balances the outer reality of material objects (Wedding & Corsini, 2010, p. 113).”  An individual’s inner world, exists as a sum of their conscious and unconscious processes.  Most importantly, since all the physical world is only perceivable through “a person’s psychic images…what people perceive is in large part determined by who they are (Corsini, 2010, p. 113).”

Comparing Jung & Freud

So how is Jung’s Analytic Psychology different from Freud?  Firstly, he conceived the libido as more of a general life force (Rosenthal, 2005).  Secondly, as noted earlier his view of human nature is much more positive.  “Rather than seeing the unconscious as something that needs to be cleaned out…Jung felt that individuals grow towards wholeness when both conscious and unconscious parts of the mind work in harmony (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 115).”  Regarding the unconsciousness, Freud believed that people are perpetually driven by inner conflicts…and that compromise is a necessary solution. (Kassim, 2001, p581).  In contrast, Jung felt that the brains conscious and unconscious parts work in harmony and individuals are motivated to grow towards wholeness, (or individuation) (Corsini & Wedding, 2010). Finally, while Freud’s conception of the mind contained the id, ego, and superego, Jung’s unconscious included personal and collective components.

Basic Tenants of Analytic Psychology

View of Human Nature

Jung felt that the purpose of personal development is to grow towards wholeness of all one’s psychic components.  He called this process individuation.  While Freud conceived our developmental process as ending with childhood, Jung described felt it was a lifelong path of personal growth.  “The psyche’s goal throughout life is to create meaning out of our existence through the interpretation of information from our external reality.  “Human nature is rather essentially positive or good but there is always a dark side that needs to become conscious and that necessitates a ‘promethian struggle’, as Jung said to enlighten or make conscious the unconscious operations of one’s psyche (Colombus, n.d., p. 3).”

Definition of Healthy Personality

Jung felt the process of individuation is essential for the development of a healthy personality (Colombus, n.d.).  Individuation is “the process by which an individual becomes an indivisible and integrated whole person responsibly embodying his or her individual strengths and limitations (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 609).”  This process usually occurs at middle age and involves embracing and understanding our true nature.    The process of individuation involves the assimilation of our shadow – aspects of our temperament and personality we deny.

The Unconscious & Its Symbols

“A basic tenet of Jung’s Analytical Theory is that all products of the unconscious are symbolic and can be taken as guiding messages (Daniels, V., 2011, p. 3).”   Jung believed that since the parts of the psyche work together towards wholeness and harmony, byproducts of unconsciousness are messages guiding us along this path.  Jung believed the repressed parts of our psyche, were those things that were most painful.

“By Jung’s definition it also includes everything that: (1) I know but am not now thinking about; (2) I was once conscious of but have forgotten; (3) Is perceived by the sensed but not noticed by my conscious mind; (4) Involuntarily and without noticing it, I feel, think, remember, want and do; (5) Is taking shape in me and will come to consciousness at some point. (Daniels, V., 2010, p. 3)”

Theory of Dysfunction

For Jung, dysfunction was a byproduct of unsuccessful individuation.  “When individuation cannot take place harmoniously and smoothy…there are energy disrepancies…in the dynamics of the persona, the ego, the self, the shadow, and the anima or animus (Colombus, n.d., p. 10).”  Daniels, (2010) notes that Jung’s conception of dysfunction had interpersonal elements.  Since individuals attempt to construct a meaning of their lives in what Jung called a “personal story”, dysfunction can result when it is denied or rejected (by oneself or others) (Daniels, 2010).  For example, Jung believed a neurosis is the byproduct of two conflicting tendencies, one which is expressed and one which is repressed (Daniels, 2010).  Neuroses exist as a result of a one-sided attitude towards life.  In contrast, complexes consists of elements of the mind (thoughts, feelings, etc) that are repressed from the consciousness.  Essentially, complexes contain traumatic and disturbing material.

Key Concepts

Concepts Pertaining to the Self…


The Psyche is the inner world of the personality and is a summative of conscious and unconscious processes.  It influences our perception of reality and and “who we are” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010). I contains our consciousness alongside personal and collective aspects of the unconsciousness.


The consciousness comprises the thoughts, memories, and emotions we are aware Our consciousness streams from the senses and our perception and it is our knowing and realization of our positive traits and problems alike (Colombos, n.d., p. 2).”

Personal Unconsciousness

While the collective side of one’s consciousness comprises the senses, intellect, emotion, and desire, the “personal unconsciousness contains elements of our personal experience we have either forgotten or denied (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 120).”  According to Jung, this aspect of the human psyche is accessible only through dreamwork and analysis.

Collective Unconsciousness

“According  to Jungian theory, our conscious understanding of who we are comes from two sources: the first derives from encounters with social reality, such as the things people tell us about ourselves, the second comes from what we deduce from our observation of others (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 120).” The collective unconsciousness is a social and biological construct that comprises shared experiences, instincts and experiences common to mankind (Daniels, 2011).


The collective unconsciousness consists of instincts and archetypes (Colombos, n.d., p. 3).  Instincts are unconscious and involuntary drives towards certain action they are guided by archetypes (Daniels, 2011).  Archetypes are components of the collective consciousness that appear to describe how information is organized there.  “an archetype is analogous to the circuitry pattern in the brain that orders and structures reality; as a system of readiness, it parallels human instincts (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 114).”  It propels human interaction in a manner that patterns after universal aspects of the collective consciousness. “These primordial images reflect basic patterns or universal themes common to us all which are present in the unconscious. (Daniels, 2011, p. 3).”

The self

“Jung defined the self as archetypal energy that orders and integrates the personality, an encompassing wholeness out of which personality evolves. (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 121)”  It unifies the conscious and unconsciousness aspects of our mind and is an end goal guiding the personal development process (Corsini & Wedding, 2010; Daniels, 2011).

The Ego

The most important aspect of the self is the ego, it emerges early in life and provides children a sense of identity.  “This ego becomes the ‘I’ – an entity comprising everything a person believes himself or herself to be, including thoughts, feelings, wants and bodily sensations. (Corsini & Wedding, 2011 p. 121).”  It acts as a “go between” mediating information between the unconsciousness and the outer world.

The Persona

The persona represents the social mask we present to the world or how we desire the world to see us.  It acts as a shield of our ego, or sense of identity, from aspects of ourselves we desire to hide from the world. The persona allows us to conduct ourselves according to societal demands.  It represents the conscious aspects of our ego and our attempts to adapt with the outer world (Daniels, 2011).

The Shadow

While the persona represents the face we presents to the world, the shadow represents the denied aspects of ourselves.  “The shadow contains everything that could or should be part of the ego but that [it] denies (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 121).”  It involves those aspects of who we are that are not acceptable according to the demands of those around us in our daily lives.

The Jungian Androgynous Mind…

Jung felt that the mind contains both female and male archetypes.  Essentially we are all basically androgynous psychologically (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).  The self contains both female and male archetypes.  “Anima and Animus are Personifications of the feminine nature of a man’s unconscious and the masculine nature of a woman’s (Daniel, 2011, p. 6).”  The anima is the feminine side of the personality in men and the animus is the masculine aspect of the personality in women (Rosenthal, 2005). Societal norms are what cause us to repress these aspects of ourselves (Rosenthal, 2005).

Jung’s Psychological Types

Jung states that individuals vary in the ways they habitually respond to the world (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 122).  In his work on Psychological Types, Carl Jung classified personality types based on several dichotomous personality traits: (1) intuition vs. sensation; (2) thinking vs. feeling; and (4) extroversion and introversion.  For example, while intuition and sensation describe our preferred manner of taking in information from the world around us.  In contrast thinking and feeling describe how how we prefer make sense of this information and make decisions. Finally, introversion & extroversion describe what captures our attention and where we go to “recharge”.  This work is based on the Myer’s Brigg’s personality test, which I disuss in my own blog here.

Our personalities are formed based on how we prefer to interact with the world around us.  In this sense, Jung’s work on psychological types reflects our cognitive preferences.  It doesn’t assess or measure our abilities and weaknesses.  As we rely on our preferred cognitive functions, they tend to predominate while others become underdeveloped.

Overview of Counseling Process

“Jung built his system of psychotherapy on four tenents: (1) the psyche is a self-regulating system, (2) the unconscious has a creative and compensatory component, (3) the doctor relationship plays a major role in facilitating self-awareness and healing, and (4) personality growht takes place at many stages over the life span (Corsini & wedding, 2010, p. 126).”

The Goal of Therapy….

Individuation and self-actualization are goals of therapy in analytical psychology.  This requires an integration of oneself and working towards wholeness.  “Jung’s beliefs that the principal aim of psychotherapy is ultimately neither curing nor alleviating patients’ unhappiness but increasing patients’ self-respect and self-knowledge.  A sense of peace and greater capacity for both suffering and joy can accompany this expanded sense of self (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 127).”

The Process of Therapy

The therapeutic process occurs in two aspects analysis & synthesis.  “The analytic stages begins with confession (Daniels, 2011, p. 13)” and ends with education and transformation.  “Jung delineated four stages in this process: confession, elucidation, education and transformation (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 127).”  Confession involves a cathartic recounting of one’s own life history (Corsini & Wedding, 2011).  During this stage the conscious and unconsciousness aspects of the client revealed.   During the elucidation phase, ” therapist draws attention to the transference relationship (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 128).”  Education involves promoting a learning process and “is concerned with persona and ego tasks (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 128).”  Transformation involves as a gradual integration of unconscious and conscious aspects of the self.  As the person becomes whole they are able “to become a uniquely individual self (Corsini & Wedding, 2011, p. 128).”

When Treatment Ends

According to Daniels, (2011), treatment may come to an end when: “Unwanted symptoms have vanished…there is satisfactory development. from a childish state…new and better adaptation to life have been achieved…[they have] moved beyond feeling stuck (p. 11).”


Colombos, A. (n.d.) Analytical Psychology: The Theory of Carl G. Jung  Retrieved from:  http://hellenicpsyche.blogspot.com/2012/12/analytical-psychology-theory-of-carl-g.html
Daniels, V. (2011).  The Analytical Psychology of Carl Gustav Jung.  Retrieved from:  http://www.matrixmeditations.info/bonusJung.pdf
Corsini , R.J. & Wedding, D. (2010). Current psychotherapies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kassin, Paul. (2001). Psychology. (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle Creek River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.

Share This:

An Emotional “Hot Potato” (more thoughts on self-deception)

This is “part two” of a post on “twisted self-deception”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines self-deception as: “the acquisition and maintenance of a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary motivated by desires or emotions favoring the acquisition and retention of that belief, (Self-Deception, 2006).”  Twisted self-deception on the other hand can be defined as, “instances [in which]…people deceive themselves into believing things they do not want to be true” (Mele, 1999, p. 117).  Two questions have perplexed me greatly about this issue of twisted self-deception:

FIRSTLY, how can someone act as both the deceiver and the deceived? 

SECONDLY, Why does someone believe something they don’t want to be true?  

I feel I managed to address these questions to my own personal satisfaction in the first post.  However, my ultimate goal was in attempting to apply this insight to the issue of addiction.  How does twisted self-deception pertain to instances of recovery from addiction?  While completing a reading assignment for my future internship, I uncovered some useful information worth commenting on here.

Mistaken Beliefs About Recovery…

Gorski & Miller (2013) discuss “Mistaken Belief’s About Recovery” in Chapter 5 of their book “Staying Sober” and make the following comments:

“There are a great many mistaken beliefs that trap relapse-prone people into a state of hopelessness. Many people have these mistaken beliefs and act as if they are true…Mistaken beliefs about relapse create self-fulfilling prophecies. When mistaken beliefs become ‘true’ to you, you act as if those beliefs are true (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 103).”

This insight provides an explanation for how we can deceive ourselves.  By failing to get that beliefs act as self-fulfilling prophecies means, our handling of them is one-sided.  Rather than examining them critically, we utilize life experiences as evidence & support for our belief system, (when in fact they are byproducts of it).   What follows is an overview of common mistaken beliefs about recovery according to Gorski & Miller, (2013).

Role of Substance Use…

Gorski & Miller (2013), state that it is common for many in recovery to believe that recovery means abstinence and relapse simply means using.  Consequently, the primary goal is to not use as a matter of conscious and deliberate choice.  Gorski & Miller, (2013) note that addiction is a biopsychosocial process with many sobriety based-symptoms that linger after a person has quit using.  Managing and understanding these symptoms is essential if one is to succeed in recovery

Relapse Warning Signs….

Gorski & Miller (2013) caution that “a common mistaken belief is that relapse just suddenly and spontaneously occurs without warning signs” (p. 107)…Or, they might believe that warning signs only pertain to usage of alcohol or drugs.  Interestingly, Gorski & Miller (2013) caution the role of denial in blocking one’s awareness of critical relapse symptoms.  As I reflect on my own experiences with twisted self-deception discussed in the previous post, I can appreciate the power of denial in this instance.  I was so caught up in my own emotional survival during “the it years” that I couldn’t see how my life was spiraling out of control.

Relapse & Motivation…

Many people in recovery believe that “if I relapse, I am not motivated to recover…I have not hurt enough to stay sober (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 109-110).”  The fact is, those in recovery may understand that they need to quit and know this is the solution.  Much as I understood during “the it years” that the solution to my situation was leaving, the pain of unresolved traumas was overwhelming.  In a mirror-like sense, Gorski & Miller, (2013), note that “most relapse-prone [addicts] are in terrible pain…the pain is so severe it prevnets them from functioning when sober” (p. 110).  In other words, it isn’t about motivation, (or a lack thereof).  A failure to get this fact can produce feelings of great shame.

Beliefs about Treatment…

“Many people who are recovering from addictive disease work very hard to recover…yet they fail” (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 111).  Consequently, they believe that treatment is either ineffective or 100% effective. and that failure is a byproduct of being “constitutionally incapable of recovery” (Gorski & Milller, 2013, p. 111).  This final insight is also helpful for me in better understanding the nature of addiction.  Individuals struggling with recovery can struggling with feelings of helplessness & hopeless as I did when trying to leave “it”.

What is Your Emotional Hot Potato????

The above video comes from a book by Shel Silverstein titled “The Missing Piece”.  I think it effectively communicates a core issue underlying the notion of self-deception.  The purpose of self-deception is so we can live in our own preferred version of reality.  This version of reality supports our preferred system of beliefs.   It also edits out those things we do not wish to understand & hate to accept.  It is like an emotional “hot potato”.  We would prefer to willfully deny this fact through an array of cognitive mental gymnastics, than accept reality as it exists.

Sometimes the truth can truly hurt & facing it can appear an overwhelming & impossible task…

Image: 1


Gorski, T. T., & Miller, M. (2013). Staying sober : a guide for relapse prevention. Spring Hill, Florida: Herald Publishing.
Mele, A. R. (1999). Twisted self-deception. Philosophical Psychology, 12(2), 117-137.
Self-Deception (2006, October, 17).  Retrieved from:  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-deception/
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception.  Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from:  http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/on_the_psychology_of_self-deception.pdf

Share This:

Twisted Self-Deception

I Have a Desire to Empathize….

I’m reading a book titled “Staying Sober” by Goreski & Miller (2013).

It’s for an upcoming internship at a homeless shelter next quarter.  Since I decided to take a quarter off, my three goals have been as follows:

*Improve my overall level of self-care. (This will require me to re-institute my weight loss regimen, find a spiritual community, & solidify friendships).
*Prepare for the NCE exam. (This will involve listening to a bunch of CD’s, reading through “The Encyclopedia of Counseling”, & creating a series of blog posts for review)
*Prepare for my upcoming internship. (This will involve reading information pertaining to a therapy group I co-facilitate while I also consider my own therapeutic approach, for my first meeting with the supervisor)

img_3184I just finished the first few chapters of “Staying Sober” & was struck by the following comment: “addiction is distinguished from drug use by a lack of freedom of choice (page, 39).”  While the physical effects of addiction explain this lack of freedom to some extent, there’s more to it than that.  Addiction affects every area of one’s life and in time becomes their primary coping tool. It is a disease which includes delusional thinking and self-deception. This inability to see things as they are that can eliminate any motivation to change.  Immersed in a distorted reality, they are unable to overcome the endless cycle of obsession and compulsion.

Since my addiction history is limited, this information was very thought provoking.  I recalled the last three months at my last internship site.  The perspective this resource provided was a useful counterpoint to the confrontational style I witnessed there.   In order to help, I must first understand my clients and appreciate what it is to walk in their shoes.  The following quote from Gorek & Miller, (2013) intrigued me for this reason.

“The middle stage of addiction, is marked by a progressive loss of control…unable to function normally without the dru, family and friends begin to notice problems with the person’s job, health, marriage and legal matters. They are apt to believe, however, that the person is just behaving irresponsibly. They are not aware that the addicted person is not choosing the behavior (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 47).”

This quote seems to describe 2 perspectives of addiction…

*On one hand, there are the addict’s loved one’s who want them to simply “Get their Shit Together”.  From an outsider’s perspective the answer is quite simple: “Just Quit”….
*On the hand, there is the addict’s first-hand experience: “…The person cannot, through willpower, choose to drink or use responsibly” (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 47).  The answer isn’t that simple.  

Developing Empathy (Connecting the Dots)

How Does This insight Relate to My Own Experiences

These divergent perspectives describe two sides of a bigger picture.  Both perspectives are critical to understanding addiction as a biopsychosocial issue.  Without this, everyone is left perplexed, while the addict is left feeling shamed and misunderstood.  In fact this situational overview of addiction is reminiscent of my own experiences in an abusive relationship over 20+ years ago.  For this reason, I think its worth describing these diverge perspectives.  In one post, titled “Collateral Damage” I include excerpts of a letter written by my father after I dropped out of school and moved to New York.  The second, is an excerpt from a post titled “Stages of Change”, in which I describe my own growth process during this relationship.

An Outsider’s Perspective
A First-Hand Account

Getting the Big Picture – A Dialectical Perspective….

The above quote comes from another blog post in which I provide an overview of the theoretical perspective underlying Lineman’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  This therapeutic strategy provides a combination of change, validation, and dialectical strategies.  I find this perspective useful, since it represents my very first introduction with therapy as a client, when I first started seeing my current therapist and joint a DBT Skills Group.  To this day, my therapist asks the question “What is the AND?” as a dialectical exercise, that requires me to address the side of the matter that I might resist acknowledging.  How can this question pertain to my own story?


Its been about 20+ years since I left that abusive relationship.  Today, I can clearly understand my Dad’s logic.  Put simply, nobody was forcing me to stay in the situation.  The solution to my misery is to leave him and move on with my life.  However, as you might expect, there’s a “BUT” coming.  It’s not as easy or simple as that…

From a First-Hand Perspective – “LEAVING IT” 

img_2877So where’s the “BUT”?  Without getting too far “off track”, I’d like to note the importance of “CONTEXT”.  The idea of walking in someone’s shoes is vital.  You can’t truly understand the problem and it’s solution until you know an individual’s lived experience.  While, my parents were puzzled: “We didn’t raise you this way?”…I was angry by their complete ignorance of the inner world of fucked-up-ness.  t was a suicidal, bullied, and ostracized as a kid .  From the time my best friend Ruby left, my life was worse than death, as an unseen pain that knew no end.  I had no friends and supporters.  Nobody was in my corner.  My parents were too busy with their careers.  My sister was self-righteous.  My extended family made me feel like the perpetual outsider as the biracial oddball.  My classmates labeled me the fruit-nut.  The teachers ignored me since I was was so compliant & obedient.  This is the backdrop that enabled me to develop such a shitty self-esteem that made “THE IT YEARS” so very attractive.  I was desperate to numb the unresolved hurts of my childhood with the most convenient band-aid that fell in my lap.  This bandaid: any promise of affection, love and belonging I could find.  Like attracts like…

Twisted Self-Deception…

So with this perspective in my mind, I can begin to construct, in a general way those things that stand in the way of progress.  Unresolved issues from an individual’s life-history exist as monkey-wrenches forestalling forward movement.  However, something still puzzles me.  The fact is I was deceiving myself much as a recovering addict was: I knew the problem and could write a novel detailing it from every possible angle.  I knew the solution, plain and simple.

What is it in the psyche that allows one to ignore facts?

In his book Vital Lies & Simple Truths, Goleman (1996) notes: “there are…vital parts of our lives which are, in a sense, missing – blanks in experiences hidden by holes in the vocabulary.  That we do not experience them is a fact which we know only vaguely, if at all” (p. 15).   Sharpio (1996) notes the perplexing nature of self-deception when he asks: “How can the knowing deceiver also be the unknowing deceived?  How can one intentionally, knowingly, not know?” (p. 786).  Definitely food for thought….

Defining Self-Deception….

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines self-deception as: “the acquisition and maintenance of a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary motivated by desires or emotions favoring the acquisition and retention of that belief, (Self-Deception, 2006).”  This process of willful denial reflects a desire to uphold a preferred version of reality by editing out evidence to the contrary.  Jean-Paul Sarte characterizes this as a matter of bad faith wherein we intentionally lie to ourselves & choose pretty lies over bitter truths.  Whether we do this intentionally or not is a matter of debate.  However, based on this description, it appears self-deception functions as  complex psychological mechanism that allows us to avoid responsibility of anything that causes us anxiety.  Belief systems and personal attitudes can exist as a filtering systems allowing reality to bend according to our preconceived notions, like byproducts of self-fulfilling prophecies.

Our Relationship with Reality…

img_2878In my college literature class, many years ago the “suspension-of-disbelief” concept was discussed.  It refers to a decision on the part of the readers, to suspend any disbelief in the “un-reality” of a story so we can immerse ourselves in it.  In my opinion, self-deception works in very much the same way.  Self-deception allows us to understand our reality in a way that dispels fears and anxieties.   It allows us to develop a sensible version of external reality based on our life experiences and temperament-based attitudes.   For example, the MBTI test makes it clear that we process information & utilize it in ways that are comfortable to us.  Our past experiences are a template for making sense of life events.  In my own case, unresolved traumas from my childhood created a minefield of anxiety.

When Self-Deception is “twisted”

As stated earlier, attitudes & beliefs function as reality filters, allowing us to create an experience that reflects it.  Essentially, self-deception is a process in which our belief systems acts as self-fulfilling prophecies.  We edit out all aspects of our experience that contradict these beliefs.  In light of this, how do you explain self-deception in situations where you prefer to hold onto undesirable beliefs?  Mele, (1999), calls this twisted self-deception, “instances [in which]…people deceive themselves into believing things they do not want to be true” (p. 117).  For example, why is it that I preferred to hold onto what my childhood bullies said about me?  Why did I then subsequently choose to adopt the unwanted belief in that abusive relationship that I was unworthy of love and belonging?

What follows are some thoughts to better understand  twisted self-deception & why we would prefer to believe in negative falsehoods over positive realities

1st: unwelcome false beliefs are desired as true even if they are unwanted (Mele, 1999).

img_2895For example, we might not want to believe the burner is on after we leave the house.  However, the idea that the house burns down scares us.  Therefore, for the sake of vigilance we choose to believe we left it on.  This allows us to avoid losing our home.   When, applying this insight to that abusive relationship, an f’d up logic begins to unfold:

(((FYI – it is worth noting that the example below, constitutes my mindset 20+ years ago after I graduated high school & not how I feel today….))
*RELATIONSHIP GOALS “THEN”: to gain acceptance, love, and belong from others.
*RELATIONSHIP FEARS “THEN: To re-experience rejection, shame, & invalidation.
*THE UNWELCOME BELIEF:  I believe I won’t measure up to others expectations and that somehow all my bullies and tormentors “were right about me”.
*MOTIVATION TO BELIEVE:  Unresolved anxiety & trauma d/t undiagnosed-PTSD and a desire to avoid any “triggers”…
*”PERCEIVED” FUNCTION OF UNWELCOME BELIEF:  Worrying about others’ opinions is a byproduct of unresolved hurt, and reflects a state of perpetual hyper-vigilance, in which I actively avoid anything that might trigger old traumas.
*THE REALITY:  The reality is, we perpetuate what we deny.  My life situation was  a reflection of my mindset at the time…like a walking shit-magnet.

2nd: Unwanted false beliefs are associated with a misinterpretation of evidence….

The interesting thing about belief-systems is that we experience them as logical conclusions from life experience.  “What [we]…end up believing is determined by…the strength of the evidence for and against [a] proposition (Mele, 1999, p. 125).”  When conceiving beliefs as byproducts of experiences, we fail to see that they also define our life experiences, as well.  Failing to get this fact causes life experiences to be misinterpreted as “FACTS”:

We believe something…

We act on belief…

Life reflects these beliefs

We forget that beliefs define experiences…

We use experiences as evidences of beliefs.

Most – if not all – therapeutic approaches include insight pertaining to the notion that beliefs also exist as cause.   They are not just logical conclusion of life experience.  They also define our experience, by acting as self-fulfilling prophecies when unexamined.

3rd: Twisted self-deception reflects a desire to avoid psychological discomfort (Mele, 1999).

It is only logical that those things which occupy the greatest share of our mental energy have the biggest effect on how we perceive things.  In my own case, a blind fear of rejection overwhelmed my thinking at this point in life.  I conducted myself in all relationships according to one implicit goal: avoid rejection.  I still had not resolved the traumas of childhood.  My perpetual hypervigilance, wouldn’t allow me to.  In my own twisted mind, any evidence of rejection or disapproval was a source of great worry and stress.  I would respond by ruminating endlessly over the matter.  By attempting to avoid psychological discomfort of these triggers, I allowed my insecurities to direct the course of my life throughout my 20’s.

4th: The selectivity paradox associated with twisted self-deception reflects underlying motivational biases (Mele, 1999).

I selected unwanted false beliefs over truth due to a blinding motivation to avoid trauma triggers.  I was well-aware of the problem and its solution.  However,  overwhelming panic would result from the mere suggestion that I accept rejection willingly.  This was simply an unthinkable price to trigger pay.   Likewise, Goriski &. Miller, (2013), note that a knowledge of the problem and its solution isn’t enough to “cure addiction”.  Many addicts are brutally aware of this fact, yet feel powerless to stop given addictions powerful biopsychosocial nature.

“Addiction is a condition in which a person develops a biopsychosocial dependence…[it] is accompanied by obsession, compulsion, and loss of control. When not using the person…things about, plans and looks forward to using again…despite long-term painful consequences (Gorski & Miller, 2013, p. 39).”

Twisted Self-Deception & Coercion.

Some parallels can clearly be seen in the twisted self-deception that is prevalent in abusive relationships and addiction.  However, there are also some key differences that are worth noting.  Firstly, addiction has a biological component that explains the self-deceptive nature of one’s thinking.  Secondly, abusive relationships include an interpersonal component tha makes the self-deception much more complex.   In an article titled “On The Psychology of Self-Deception” David Shaprio defines coercion as follows:

“a type of self-deception that is enforced by external threat. This occurs not as a matter of internal submission [or internal anxiety] but as a matter of suspended critical judgment or inability to engage in rational thinking (Shaprio, 1996, p. 794).”

This is especially critical knowledge, when counseling individuals who are in various stages of extricating themselves from an abusive relationship.  What follows are a few key points worth noting on the coercive nature of abusive relationships:

“The objective relation to external reality is suspended (Shaprio, 1996, p 794).”

Abusive relationships impair your ability to thinking logically.  Knowing the nature of past insecurities, my “ex” utilized them as a coercive tool.  He dangled promises of love in front of me like carrot on a stick, (while never fully delivering).  He utilized fear of rejection as a powerful motivator that would allow me to put up with whatever he dished out.

“…the bullied and intimidated wife does not dare even to look at her angry husband. Much less can she consider what she is saying and, perhaps more to the point, what he is doing clearly. From her standpoint, merely to consider him, to look at him objectively is an act of brazen defiance (Shaprio, 1996, p. 795).”

Diminished Personal Autonomy (Sharpio, 1996)

The above quote comes from a recent post titled “Stages of Change”, in which I describe my own experiences leaving an abusive relationship.   In this particular instance, every single action I took throughout the day was coercively controlled by my ex.  I was constantly on edge and lived in fear of disappointing him.  A loss of objective interest in reality occurred through his verbal dominance, requirements of secrecy and a gradual process of isolation & imprisonment (Shaprio, 1996).  My ability to engage in a healthy discernment of the situation was inhibited, by a constant state of hyperarousal.  This perpetual state of fear-based complicance existed due to his adept knowledge of my trauma triggers.    Over time, he was able to associate “his leaving” with the realization of my “worst fears”.   My only available response in this situation was a dissociative compliance.

  1. I couldn’t see beyond my desire to avoid rejection.

  2. Rejection was a powerful trauma trigger.

  3. I was well-aware of the problem: He treated me like crap.

  4. I also knew the solution: I should leave.

  5. Knowledge alone wasn’t enough.

  6. My moment-to-moment awareness was focused only on emotional survival.

Self-Deceptions are shared constructs in an Abusive Situation.

“the objective relation to external reality, the normal attitude of judgment, is suspended or disabled, at least within the relevant area, in some cases consciously so…the subject of coercion never does come to believe in the ordinary sense that he did what he did not do. But he can be brought to the point where he is unable to sustain disbelief. To be more exact, he cannot sustain the capacity to consider the matter, to believe or disbelief…a passive, uncritical state of mind is a familiar anxiety-forestalling defense reaction (Shapiro, 1996, p. 797).”

What this quote convey’s is simply the idea that twisted self-deception is a shared by both the abuser and abused.  Both individuals are partaking in a relationship that requires them to create a reality based on self-deceptive untruths.  Additionally, the abuse victim is in an emotional state that makes rational judgment difficult – if not impossible at times.  This brings me to a final point worth noting about the twisted self-deception which occurs in an abusive relationship.

….An UnWritten Relationship Contract

Goleman (1996) suggests even health relationships are based on some degree of agreed-upon self-deception.  In his book, Goleman (1996) refers to the work of family therapists Lilly Pincus & Christopher Dare who note that an unwritten marriage agreement often exists between married partners:

“This agreement…is between the unconscious of each, and has to do with the partners’ mutual obligations to fulfill certain unspoken longings and soothe unmentioned fears. In its most general form it goes something like this: ‘I will attempt to be some of the many important things you want of me, even though they are some of them impossible, contradictory and crazy, if you will be for me some of the important, impossible, contradictory, and crazy things I want of you. We won’t have to let each other know what these things are, but we will be cross, sulk become depressed or difficulty, if we do not keep to the bargain” (Goleman, 1996, p. 157).
  1. I entered into this sort of unspoken agreement slowly.

  2. In the beginning there were promises of love and acceptance.

  3. He became the solution to all my worst fears and insecurities.

  4. Then a “boot camp” period occurred where I was transformed into his willing participant

  5. He assessed my insecurities, and feelings of low self-worth.

  6. He utilized them against me, turning insecurity into certainty.

  7. In this way, he presented me with the embodiment of your worst fears:  “I am worthless & unlovable”.

  8. In a state of constant hyper-vigilance I developed learned helplessness.

  9. Only then, was I able to fully agree to this unwritten contract that “He puts up with me & I comply fully”.

  10. Unable to see beyond my own feelings of hopelessness, I felt stuck, with no solution but to survive moment-to-moment.


In this academic & personal exercise, I’m “thinking out loud”.  I’m attempting to utilize personal experience as a basis for understanding the twisted self-deception that exists as an element of an addictive mindset.  I think I’m several steps closer towards empathy, for my future clients in the recovery classes for the upcoming internship.  However, more study and experiential reflection is required to fully connect the dots.  As time progresses and new insights pop up, I will take up this train of thought up again as it pertains to issue of addiction…


Image: 1


Goleman, D. (1996). Vital lies, simple truths: The psychology of self deception. Simon and Schuster.
Gorski, T. T., & Miller, M. (2013). Staying sober : a guide for relapse prevention. Spring Hill, Florida: Herald Publishing.
Lynch, T.R., Chapman, A.L, Rosenthal, M.Z., Kuo, J.R., & Linehan, M.M. (2006). Mechanism of change in dialectical behavior therapy: Theoretical and empirical observations. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 62(4), 459-480
Mele, A. R. (1999). Twisted self-deception. Philosophical Psychology, 12(2), 117-137.
Self-Deception (2006, October, 17).  Retrieved from:  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self-deception/
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception.  Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from:  http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/on_the_psychology_of_self-deception.pdf

Share This:

What is Psychodynamic Therapy???

Psychodynamic Therapy Defined….

 “Psychodynamic theory (sometimes called psychoanalytic theory) explains personality in terms of unconscious psychological processes (for example, wishes and fears of which we’re not fully aware), and contends that childhood experiences are crucial in shaping adult personality.” (Borstein, 2013).  According to my course textbook, psychodynamics involves the interplay of forces within the mind, (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).  Psychiatric symptoms are interpreted as byproducts of inner conflict between conscious and unconscious parts of the psyche.  Corsini & Wedding (2010) state:  “psychotherapies that follow in a psychoanalytic tradition are referred to as psychodynamic treatments.  They retain the central dynamic principles of psychoanalysis but do not make use of the metapsychology, or formal structures of the mind” (p. 17).

Key Assumptions of Psychodynamic Theory

“Primacy of Unconscious” (Borstein, 2013).

According to psychodynamic therapy, “the majority of psychological processes take place outside conscious awareness.” (Borstein, 2013).   Consequently, this perspective interprets behaviors, thoughts, and feelings as having both manifest and latent meanings (Barth, 2014).   With this in mind, a primary goal of this therapy method is to explore those aspects of ourselves that are unconscious and bring them into awareness (Shedler, 2010).  Interestingly, research on the brain has confirmed the notion that many of the mind’s inner workings remain outside our awareness (Borstein, 2013).

The Role of Childhood Experience

“A third characteristic shared by psychoanalytically oriented clinicians is a belief that childhood experiences influence personality development, current relationships, and emotional vulnerabilities” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 21).  Borstein, (2013) adds that while other approaches also acknowledge the influence of childhood experiences, psychoanalytic approaches state they are determinants of our personality.   Corsini & Wedding, (2010) add that personality is a byproduct of the interaction between biological factors and personal experience.  These lasting personality characteristics are often experienced as defense mechanisms, and basic attitudes towards life (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).

The Principle of Causality.

“The third core assumption of psychodynamic theory is that nothing in mental life happens by chance—that there is no such thing as a random thought, feeling, motive, or behavior. This has come to be known as the principle of psychic causality” (Borstein, 2013).  This assumption stems from the previous assumption regarding the primacy of unconsciousness.  Behaviors, attitudes, and thoughts are not random and meaningless.  They have a meaning that reflects something unrecognized within our minds.

Transference & Countertransference

Corsini & Wedding, (2010), state that “in psychoanalysis, the analysis of transference is fundamental to treatment” (p. 18).  Transference is a term that refers to a Freud’s assertion that clients can be observed to transfer feelings onto their therapist that originate in early relationships.  Countertransference, then refers to the transference of a therapist’s emotions from early relationships onto the client.  By attending to the issue of transference and countertransference in therapy, it is possible to examine the impact of the unconscious and early childhood experiences on a client’s present-day functioning (Corsini & Wedding, 2010).

Tenents and Features…

Tenents of Psychodynamically-Oriented Practitioners

Barth, (2014), describes psychodynamic therapy as a talk therapy that involves recognizing, expressing, and understanding both latent and manifest meanings in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  This requires therapists to listen for defense mechanisms and feelings of resistance.  Examining how this exists as a form of self-protection is useful.  Patterns of interaction & behavior can help understand how relationships & aspects of the inner self reflect repetitive patterns (Barth, 2014). These repetitive patterns tend to reflect early unresolved experiences originating in childhood. Finally, the therapeutic relationship, and any transference issues are made a “subject of inquiry” as symptomatic of unresolved issues in the unconscious.

“Psychodynamically oriented practitioners…agree on certain basic tenents: (1) provide a setting in which the client feels safe; (2) help clients recognize ways to avoid distressing emotions; (3) be aware of the importance of relationships; (4) be aware of a client’s sense of self; (5) pay attention to the therapeutic relationship; (6) look for patterns of behavior that have been repeated over time; (7) think about and explore conscious meaning (Barth, 2014, p. 23).”

Features of Psychodynamic Theory – (Shedler, 2010).

The above list of tenants provide a good overview of the psychodynamic approach.  In his article “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,” Shedler, 2010 describes what makes this approach unique in comparison to other therapy methods.   Psychodynamic therapy is focused on more than simply on present-day symptom reduction.  It is aimed at provide a historical context for an individual’s dysfunction in order to build up their coping skills and self-awareness.  These goals are accomplished in the context of a therapeutic relationship that can empower a client to engage in self-exploration (Shedler, 2010).  What follows is a listing of seven unique features of psychodynamic therapy:

“Seven features reliably distinguished psychodynamic therapy from other therapies…(1) Focus on affect and expression of emotion…(2) Exploring attempts to avoid distressing thoughts and feelings…(3) Identifying recurring themes and patterns…(4) Discussion of past experience (developmental focus)…(5) Focus on interpersonal relations…(6) Focus on the therapy relationship…(7) Exploration of wishes and fantasies (Shedler, 2010, p. 11-12).”

Psychodynamic Theory “In Action”

What Change Looks Like

“Change is seen as a gradual process of (1) opening up to self-discovery, (2) discovering of relating and perceiving that stand in the way of current functioning, (3) finding ways to disentangle the influences of the past from the present and, (4) finding new ways to cope (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 38).”   Messer, (2013) notes thatht he following are key mechanisms of change: (1) an understanding of the role of affect; (2) insight into transference issues; and (3) a therapeutic alliance.  For example, examining one’s way of relating and perceiving can happen by gaining insight into transference issues.  Opening up to the process of self-discovery can happen through a process of free association.

Purpose of Interventions

What exactly is the useful purpose of examining the unconscious?  Is it always necessarily useful to discuss one’s childhood in order to ascertain the pragmatic solutions to present-day problems?  According to my textbook, what follows are the theoretical reasons underlying the psychodynamic approach:

Purpose One: “to uncover inner problems that had been disguised as symptoms (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 39).

According to this approach, it is useless to develop a solution without an understanding of the problem’s source.  As stated earlier understanding the unconscious is a primary element of this method.  Therefore, the first step towards healing and growth occurs as an individual understands the meanings expressed in various symptoms.  While they may appear unrelated and random, this asserts they are likely related to early unresolved experiences in one’s childhood.

Purpose Two: “To become integrated (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 39)”

According to this approach internal conflict is a reflection of the fact that latent and manifest components of the self are at odds with one another.  The solution, therefore, is a full integration of those aspects of oneself that are at odds.  An awareness of those unconscious aspects of the self is just a first step.

Purpose Three: “To uncover the sources of past pain that may be embedded in the present (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 39)”

This approach is useful in addressing unresolved pains of our childhood and examining how they influence our daily lives in the present.  This historical approach is helpful in contextualizing the “how come” and why certain experiences keep repeating in our lives.

Purpose Four: “Discover what stands in the way of appropriate actions for the self (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 39).”

Finally, this approach is useful in addressing an inexplicable stuckness, or why even the “best plans sometimes go nowhere because of other forces within the patient” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 39).   It appears to me that this approach insists upon an understanding the problems at their core.  The problems are, in this respect, not what they might appear on the surface.  Instead they often reflect unresolved aspects of our history and unconscious.

When is this Approach Useful?

This approach is not useful when a “client needs immediate intervention, has no access to feelings, is not able to think abstractly, or confused/psychotic” (Barth, 2014, p. 24).  It is useful when a client is” (1) interested in gaining insight into their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors; (2) can tolerate the feelings and thoughts that emerge; (3) displaying resistance and disengagement; (4) displays transference issues. Barth, 2014).


Barth, F. D. (2014). Contemporary Psychodynamic Models. In Integrative Clinical Social Work Practice (pp. 17-28). Springer New York.
Bornstein, R. (2013). The Psychodynamic Perspective. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI:nobaproject.com.
Corsini , R.J. & Wedding, D. (2010). Current psychotherapies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Messer, S. B. (2013). Three mechanisms of change in psychodynamic therapy: insight, affect, and alliance. Psychotherapy, 50(3), 408.

Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. The American psychologist, 65(2), 9-25.

Share This:

Freud’s Ego Defense Mechanisms (Psychoanalysis)

In his article titled “On The Psychology of Self-Deception”,  Shapiro, (1996) asks: “Self-deception can easily seem paradoxical. How can the knowing deceiver also be the unknowing deceived? How can one intentionally, knowingly, not know?”   While many of Freud’s concepts have long been dismissed, several aspects of his work have made a lasting impact on the field of psychology.  One of these concepts pertains to the notion of repression within the mind’s subconscious.  So why is it we lie to ourselves and hold outside our awareness a critical component of reality from our understanding??  Baumeister, et al, (1998) state the following:

“Nearly all adults hold preferred views of themselves. In most cases, these are favorable views of self—indeed, somewhat more favorable than the objective facts would entirely warrant, as nearly all writers on the self have observed. A recurrent problem of human functioning, therefore, is how to sustain these favorable views of self. Patterns of self-deception can help create these inflated self-perceptions (p. 110).”

According to Freud, upholding a preferred view of ourselves and the world we live requires some mental gymnastics of sorts.  “Defense Mechanisms are, in essence, attentional tricks we play on ourselves to avoid pain….the ostrich policy” (Goleman, 1996, p. 118).  Rosenthal, (2005) describes defense mechanisms as the mind’s ability to conceal from our awareness anything that causes us pain or anxiety. What follows is a list of common defense mechanisms.


Repression is a simple defense mechanism that involves “keeping a thought, impulse or memory from awareness” (Goleman, 1996, p. 119).  Shameful and dreadful memories or impulses that run counter to our values or idealized self-perception are “forgotten” and blocked from memory.  Freud notes that ordinary individual efforts are generally unsuccessful in recalling this information. Psychoanalysis is required (Rosenthal, 2005).  It occurs unconsciously.


Sublimation occurs when we channel an unacceptable and unconscious urge into something socially acceptable.  For example, a person with violence and aggressive urges can take up a job as a professional boxer (Rosenthal, 2005).   Goleman, (1996) notes that this defense mechanisms “satisfies the unacceptable impulse indirectly by taking on an approved object…[it] is the great civilizer, the force which keeps mankind manageable” (p. 121).

Reaction Formation

“Denial is a refusal to accept things as they are…[a] common first reaction to devastating loss” (Goleman, 1996, p. 120).  On other occasions, denial can pertain to an unwanted or shame-inducing impulse and/or desire.  With reaction formation we start by denying this fact or impulse and then transforming it denied into its polar opposite.   Reaction formation replaces  anxiety by producing impulses and unconsciously rejects them by producing an instinct to do the exact opposite in our mind (Rosenthal, 2005).  In doing so, it seems that we are able to prove ourselves we aren’t we what we loathe.  I’m definitely guilty of doing this as an INFP with OCDish tendencies who loathes her own absentmindedness.


Suppression is a deliberate choice to not think about something (Rosenthal, 2005).  In other words, this defense mechanism involves a willful denial of reality.  In contrast, repression is an unconscious process that occurs out of our arenas.  It generates traumatic anxiety and pertains to those things that are way too painful to directly address.  A convenient example of this can be found here and here on my blog.


“Occurs when a person revers to a behavior that he/she has outgrown” (Rosenthal, 2005).  In this instance, individuals hope to refer to a time when they feel happy and secure.  The most convenient example I know if, includes my teenage boy’s behaviors shorty after his last heart surgery.  Normally your typically independent teenage male, in a hurry to grow up, the pain after his surgery was overwhelming.  Suddenly he had reverted to that kid who always needed me around.  Click on this link to read more about my experiences as a parent raising an ill child.  


Rationalization involves attempting to defend behavior and/or life outcome by utilizing a socially acceptable explanation (Rosenthal, 2005). “Rationalization allows the denial of one’s true motives by covering over unpleasant impulses with a cloak of reasonableness” (p. 121).  In other words, these are slick lies we tell others and ourselves in order to avoid revealing our true motives.  The best example I have of this comes from my youngest son, during dinner.  He looks at me with his best innocent smile and states: “I want to save some of this for you”, and then grabs dessert.


Projection involves attributing a character trait to other people that you despise in yourself (Rosenthal, 2005).  Goleman (1996) describes this as a distancing of one’s own emotions.  This occurs in a two-step process.  First, we deny a certain aspect of ourselves that we dislike.  Then, once blocked out of consciousness, we “displace those feelings outward onto someone else…Once cast out onto someone else, the projected part of the self is encountered as though it were a complete stranger” (Goleman, 1996, p. 121).  For a convenient example of projection, click here.


Displacement is a defense mechanism that refers to how we handle pent up negative feelings.  It involves expressing hidden and unconscious feelings or instincts onto a convenient target.  The first step in this process involves a denial of some hidden emotion or instinct.  The second step involves a purging of negative emotions associated with this denied aspect of ourselves.  For example, lets say you’re mad at your husband and frustrated at work.  So you go home and scream at your wife and kick the dog.  This is displacement.


Baumeister, R. F., Dale, K., & Sommer, K. L. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation, and denial. Journal of Personality66(6), 1081-1124.
Goleman, D. (1996). Vital lies, simple truths: The psychology of self deception. Simon and Schuster.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.
Shapiro, D. (1996). On the Psychology of Self-Deception.  Social Research, 63(3). Retrieved from:  http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/on_the_psychology_of_self-deception.pdf

Share This:

NCE Study – Multicultural Competency

“Every man is in certain respects; (a) like all other men, (b) like some other men, and (c) like no other men” (Leong, F.T.L., 2011, p. 150).

We are inextricably connected to culture, defining it while simultaneously existing as a byproduct of it.  (Leong, F.T.L., 2011).  It is clear that counseling can’t occur in isolation of society at large (Sue & McDavis, 1992), and that counseling interventions are never culturally neutral (Framboise, et al., 1993).  Consequently multicultural competence must be an integral component of  ethical therapeutic practice .   A multimodal approach will be needed to consider varied factors from multiple viewpoints. A quick review of literature reflects the complexity of the issue, with a complexity of approaches encompassing an array of factors to consider from multiple perspectives.   For example, the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies, includes an awareness of one’s own cultural perspective, the clients, as well as knowledge of appropriate interventions based on these factors. (Arredondo, et al., 1996).  Assessing one’s beliefs, knowledge base, and skill set, within these three areas is essential for multicultural competence (Arredondo, et al., 1996).  Adding to this perspective, is insight from an article which says our personal development can be understood from a universal, group oriented and finally individual one (Leong, F.T.L, 2011).   In keeping with the idea that the individual and society at large are mutually definitive and interrelated in a complexity of ways, this perspective can be useful from a variety of theoretical perspectives.  Additionally, it could provide useful insight when utilized alongside the ADDRESSING Model discussed in our textbook (Hays, P, 2008).

A Tentative Plan

With multicultural competence such a complex issue, a plan is essential as a general guide to the development of this skill.  In this section, I provide a tentative outline of how I plan to develop multicultural competence.  In doing so, I will utilize the Bellevue University MCC Graduate Student Disposition Rubric to organize my thoughts (Bellevue University, 2014).  Additionally, in the spirit of this assignment, I believe a more informal and honestly self-reflective discussion is essential to make the most of this exercise.

Professionalism: Maturity & Responsibility.  

“Seeks solutions independently and/or identifies faculty who can assist…uses discretion by discussing the problem with only the appropriate person(s); focuses on solutions rather than blame….is respective to constructive comments….maintains confidentiality….always displays a thorough preparation…always demonstrates behaviors that exemplify honesty, and integrity…” (Bellevue University, 2014).

Strengths.  When reflecting upon the above, I feel my work as a C.N.A./Psych Tech has prepared me fairly well overall.  Confidentiality and discretion are very familiar concepts, (Catholic Health Initiative, 2014).   Additionally, maintaining a sense of integrity is what keeps me going during even the most difficult shifts.  This concept of integrity has meant thinking of the well being of clients first, and doing right by them first and foremost.  In doing so, this has meant letting go of any ego-based need to blame someone else.  Regardless of who is to blame, I have had to learn to understand the perspective of those whom I provide care for.  Adding to this, work-oriented skill development are my personal experiences as a biracial individual.  I’ve developed an understanding of the concept of cultural relativity and feel a heightened self-awareness has been an adaptive response to this experience.  The result is a greater willingness and open-mindedness to idea of understand cultural perspectives other than my own.

Area of Growth.  Being thoroughly prepared from the standpoint of multicultural competency, will have to be an ongoing commitment.   On the one hand, I’m a very self-aware individual, in terms of my own cultural values and biases (Arredondo, et al, 1996)  Additionally, I am very willing to learn about other cultures (Arredondo, et al, 1996).  At the same time, I do need to gain greater knowledge and skills when through interpersonal work within those communities I hope to serve (Arredondo, et al, 1996; Hays, 2008).

Solutions.  Direct interaction with individuals in communities I hope to serve within will need to be a priority.  Finding volunteer work, and opportunities for exposure to other cultures will be important.

Professionalism & Valuing Others.   

“Interactions…respectful of differing opinions.  Treats others with courtesy, respect, and open-mindedness.  Listens to and shows interest in the ideas and opinions of others.  Seeks opportunities to include or show appreciation for those who may be excluded.  Demonstrates concern….” (Bellevue University, 2014).

Strengths.  When considering how this applies to multicultural competence, valuing others will start with a self awareness of my own cultural background (Arredondo, et al, 1996) Being open-minded and willing to respect other cultural perspectives will be vital (Arredondo, et al, 1996)   In these respects, I do believe I’m well on my way to expressing my desire to show I value others.  Nonetheless, a knowledge base and set of interpersonal skills is again essential to add to this attitudinal perspective.  Without it, I can have the best of intentions, but fail to meet my desired mark.

Areas of Growth.  According to an article on biculturalism by Theresa LaFramboise, a culturally competent individuals hold a strong identity, possesses a knowledge of cultural beliefs and values, is able to display sensitivity to the affective, behavioral and language components in a cultural, while negotiating their way through social relationships and institutions in that culture.  (LaFramboise, et al, 1993).  Its clear without these components, serious errors in communication can occur.   Culture can be seen as a paradigmatic foundation in a person’s life, defining not just values and beliefs, but how we feel, think, and relates to others(Hays, P., 2008).  As I’m well aware, within the familial cultural gaps existing in my own extended family, failing to understand this can relate to terrible misunderstandings.

Solutions.  As stated before, developing this skill and knowledge will mean: (1) developing a knowledge base of therapeutic interventions, (2) gaining opportunities to be exposed to other cultures.  While doing so, our Hays (2008) textbook mentions the importance of humility as a critical element to professional growth which I believe will be important throughout the learning process:

“When people are humble, they recognize that other viewpoints, beliefs, and traditions, may be just as valid as their own….people with genie humility are effective helpers, because they are realistic about what they have to offer….critical thinking skills are essential, because they involve the abilities to identify and challenge assumptions….examine contextual influences…and imagine and explore alternatives. (Hays, P., 2008, p29).

Professionalism & Networking.

“Counselor is highly active in professional organizations and views professional organizations as a valuable medium through which ideas and information can be freely and consistently shared.”  (Bellevue University, 2014).

Areas of Growth:  When reviewing the above criterion, it is clear this is an area in which much growth is needed.   I don’t honestly have a lot of opportunity for networking on the job.  I work the weekend night shift in a nursing float pool throughout the  Alegent Creighton Health System.  I also go to school, and have a family, while jet lagged from my night shift hours.

The crucial importance of networking from the perspective of multicultural competence is it provides an opportunity for others to challenge your views offering valuable counterpoints you may not consider on your own.  Without this, I’m leaving a critical opportunity for learning out of the mix, in my educational and career pursuits.

Solutions:  I intend to focus on developing strong supervisory relationships within any  internship and volunteer opportunities while earning my degree.   Getting involved in organizations opportunities as a student therapist is another goal.  Finally, taking time to talk with those in the field, has been an ongoing priority, so I can plan my career path accordingly based on any shared insights.

Professionalism: Appearance & Self Care.

“Reflects upon and revises counseling practices and expertly applies revised practices…consistently seeks out self-care and prevention of burnout…participates in various ongoing educational and staff development activities….Is a role model of professionalism through personal appearance, attire, and cleanliness.” (Bellevue University, 2014).

Areas of Growth:  As is often said amongst caretakers in the field, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Making time to engage in adequate self care, is a critical priority in my overall life path.  As someone who spends much time caring for others, I’m at a high risk of burnout.  “Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual depletion characterized by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, (Corey, et al, 2011, p69).  The critical problem with burnout and heightened stress, are their ability to rob your ability to care for others with any degree of competence.  You can’t give to others any more than you’re willing or able to give yourself (Corey, et al, 2011).   It goes without saying, that no headway will be made in attaining multicultural effectiveness, if I can’t make this criterion a priority.

Solutions.  First and foremost in my self care regimen, is the need for adequate sleep.  After having switched to a different work schedule, and paying of some lingering debt, I find I’m  able to cut down on my work hours.  As a result, I’m making time to take care of myself, and am currently exercising and eating healthier with the goal to lose weight.  Additionally, I’ve saved up some money, for a more professional wardrobe, since nursing scrubs will no longer be appropriate.


From the outset, choosing to enter the field of therapy, has been more than a career move.  It is a new life path, and a logical extension, from my past personal life progression of personal growth.   Much of what I’ve learned through this education process, has taken on a very personally reflective quality.  My most critical steps from this point forward will involve taking action, through direct interpersonal experience, as well as consistency in effort and commitment over time.   With my greatest challenges being self care and the need for networking opportunities, these have been my biggest focuses, in moving forward.


Arredondo, P., Toporek, M.S., Brown S., Jones, J., Locke, D.C., J. and Stadler, H. (1996) Operationalization of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies. AMCD: Alexandria VA.
Bellevue University. (2014). MCC Graduate Student Disposition Rubric. [Class Handout]
Catholic Health Initiative. (2014). HIPPA & Privacy Rule.  http://www.chihealth.com/hipaaprivacyrule
Corey, G. ,Corey, M.S., & Callanan, P. (2011).  Issues and ethics in the helping professions.  (8th ed.) Belmont: CA:  Brooks & Cole.
Hays, P. & Iwamasa, G. (2010) Culturally responsive cognitive-behavioral therapy. (3rd ed.) Washington, D.C. American Psychological Association.
Hays, P. (2008).  Addressing cultural complexities in practice.  (2nd ed.)  Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
LaFramboise, T., Coleman, H.L.K. & Gerton, J. (1993) Psychological impact of biculturalism:  Evidence and theory.  Psychological Bulletin.  114, 395-412.
Leahy, R.L. (2008) The therapeutic relationship in cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 36, 769-777.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.
Sue, D.W., Arredondo, R. & McDavis, R.J. (1992).  Multicultural counseling competencies and standards:  A call to the profession.  Journal of Counseling & Development.  70, 477-486.


Share This:

Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalysis)

This post is an attempt (on my part) to make the most of a very “UN-FUN” goal – to study for the NCE exam. Since I loathe the idea of rote memorization, I’ve decided to use this blog, to make the study process less boring. I begin this studying by listening to a series of CD’s by Howard Rosenthal (2005). He starts of reviewing Sigmund Freud’s works…

Biographical Overview

Freud lived from 1856 – 1939 and is considered the father of psychoanalysis.  “Originally, Freud has intended to pursue a career as a biological research scientist” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 22).  Therefore, Freud was trained formally as a doctor and did neuropsychological research in Vienna, Austria (Corsini & Wedding, 2010; Rosenthal, 2005).  Prior to Freud, “psychology was dominated by phrenology and mesmerism” (Rosenthal, 2005).  Phrenology pertains to an assessment of mental faculties by examining bumps on the skull.  Mesmerism is based on the idea that “special magnetic fluids could be liberated via a technique of animal magnetism” (Rosenthal, 2005).  As you can see, these Freudian precursors are far from scientific.  While many of his concepts have since been proven to hold water, his impact cannot be ignored.  He brought into the field of psychology a scientific spirit while asserting that the stuff occurring behind the ears was worth of analysis and understanding.

It is also worth noting the historical context within which Freud’s entry to the psychology field occurred.  “During his formative years great strides were being made in neurophysiology…psychology separated from philosophy as an independence science” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 22).   During this point in psychology’s history, Freud became interested in studying emotional disorders after participating in neuropsychological research as a doctor in Vienna (Rosenthal, 2005).   Through his career, Freud had revised his theories continually & his many writings reflect this evolution…

Freud’s Psychoanalysis

Psychodynamic Theories

Freud’s psychoanalysis falls under the umbrella of “psychodynamic theories” which refers to the work of Freud as well as his followers: (Jung, Adler, etc).  Psychodynamics is the…interplay of forces in the mind…symptoms in psychodynamic theory are seen as an expression of inner conflict” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 17).    Additionally, since all behaviors, emotions, and thoughts pertain to unconscious and our mind is structured accommodate both conscious and unconscious elements.

Psychoanalysis Defined.

According to Rosenthal (2005) Freud called his psychoanalytic theory “dynamic” in nature.  This term was inspired by developments in physics at the time.  “In physics dynamic is the study of motion and forces impacting movement.  In therapy dynamic refers to the energy or mental forces of the mind, (Rosenthal, 2005).”  

Freud’s Psychoanalysis is based on the idea that individual’s aren’t aware of many factors affecting their feelings thoughts and behaviors.  The goal of Psychoanalysis is to “seek to understand human behavior through an investigation of inner experience” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 16).  This allows the client to release any repressed information within the unconscious.

According to Rosenthal, (2005), Freud’s approach is a long and expensive process that requires sessions 3-5 times weekly for several years.   In Freud’s psychoanalysis, a couch is utilized and the client is facing away from the therapist.   In contrast, psychodynamic therapy is performed face-to-face and requires fewer sessions.  Rosenthal, (2005) states that it works best on clients who are highly motivated and not facing crisis situations.

Early Career – “Studies in Hysteria”

Early in his career, Freud worked with hypnotist Josef Breuer (Corsini & Wedding, 2010; Rosenthal, 2005).  Breuer was an Austrian doctor that utilized hypnosis in order to understand oppressed traumatic and emotionally impactful events within the client’s minds.  Corsini & Wedding (2010) state the following about how Breuer’s work left an impression on Freud:

“While awake, the patient was completely aware of the ‘traumatic’ event or its connection with her disability, but after relating it under diagnosis, the patient was cured of her disability.  The report made a deep impression on Freud” (p. 23).

After learning about this, Freud was inspired to learn more about hypnosis, however discovered later he was “not very good at it” (Rosenthal, 2005).  He eventually hooked up with Breuer at some point again to further verify his research findings.  The result of this collaboration was a work titled “Studies in Hysteria”.    It is interesting to note that “hysteria” is an ancient Green root word that means “womb or uterus”.  At the time that this work was published, “hysteria” was a general term referring to “mental illness”.  In other words, one might infer from this f’d up term that mental illness was – at this time in history – likened to “acting like a woman”.  ((However, I’m getting off track aren’t I 🙂 )) …

untitledAt any rate, Freud came to several conclusions as a result of this collaborative work, while working with the famous “Anna O / Bertha Pappenheim” (See pic).  These conclusions were to be key elements of his psychoanalytic theory:

FIRSTLY, knowledge of a traumatic event isn’t enough (Rosenthal, 2005).

“The discharge of the appropriate amount of emotion was also necessary” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 23).  This insight led Freud to eventually utilize catharsis (talking cure) and free association (saying whatever comes to mind) in is psychoanalytic therapy (Rosenthal, 2005).

SECONDLY, Freud noticed that “traumatic events were forgotten or excluded from consciousness” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010, p. 23).

This insight led Freud to conclude that client’s desired to defend (consciously or unconsciously) their psyche from traumatic memories.  The result was a series of ego defense mechanisms and a repressed memory that would complicate their lives until the traumatic memories could be resolved.  Essentially, he felt the mind desired to maximize pleasure (pleasure principle), minimize pain, and is structured accordingly.

THIRDLY, Freud noted these cases of hysteria were related early traumatic childhood sexual experiences.

These early “clinical experiences laid a foundation for the theory he later developed. He was convinced that the traumas and conflicts of early childhood can have lasting effects, that we are ruled by unconscious forces.” (Kassim, 2001, p580).  As a result, in Freud’s psychoanalysis he desired to examine key events in a person’s childhood and the lasting effect it had on the remainder of their lives (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010).   Additionally, he felt a cases of “hysteria” were generally related to early childhood sexual experiences and included these concepts in his developmental theory.  Rosenthal (2005 ) notes that while these concepts have been debunked, it is worth reviewing as a foundational element in psychology’s history.

2nd Phase of Career – Interpretation of Dreams.

In 1900 Sigmund Freud published a book titled “Interpretation of Dreams”, considered the “bible of psychoanalysis” (Rosenthal, 2005).  by those who study his work.  Freud was interested in learning how dreams and how might be utilized to interpret symptoms within the unconscious.  According to Howard Rosenthal, (2005), “Freud called the dream the royal road to the unconscious mind.”   Freud felt that dreams reflected the mind’s structure and were products of “conflicting forces in the mind – between unconscious wishes and the repressive activity.” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010 p. 24).  Dreams can be thought of distorted versions of the repressed desires and memories, residing in our unconscious.  Dream interpretation became a key element of Freud’s psychoanalysis and involved deciphering between manifest and latent content.  While manifest content refers to the dream’s actual subject matter, the latent content referred to its hidden meaning (Rosenthal, 2005).  In this work he includes the concept of “self-analysis”, and provides the following commentary:

“Freud remained ambivalent of the possibility of usefulness of self-analysis.   My self-analysis is the most essential thing I have at present [however] remains interrupted.   I can analyze myself only with the help of knowledge obtained objectively…True self analysis is impossible.” (Erwin, 2002, p. 570).

The Topographical Hypothesis

dscf9020Rosenthal (2005) notes that while Freud’s structural theory (id, ego, & superego), has received widespread attention, his topographical notion has also made a huge impact on the behavioral sciences.  Essentially he states that we are like iceberg’s since much of makes us “who we are”,  resides below the surface.  This is known as “Depth Psychology” (Rosenthal, 2005).  According to the Freud, the mind contains both conscious, preconscious and unconscious elements (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2010).   The conscious mind is that portion of our mind we are aware of in the moment (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2010). It is the portion of the iceberg popping out of the water for all to see.  The preconscious is information that can be recalled with some effort. Our unconscious mind, on the other hand, exists outside our own awareness and is comprised of drive and instinct (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2010).  It is the largest part of the iceberg and exists below the matter, outside our awareness (Rosenthal, 2005).

Structural Theory

Freud believed that people are perpetually driven by inner conflicts…and that compromise is a necessary solution. (Kassim, 2001, p581).  As a result, Freud conceived the human mind as a “psychic apparatus containing of three parts, the Id, ego and superego…psychological constructs and not physical entities” (Rosenthal, 2005).  The balance of these three entities is essential to minimize intrapsychic energy conflict (Rosenthal, 2005).

img_2900The id the most basic part of the psych and the first to develop (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2001). It is driven by the pleasure principle.  Its primary goal is need fulfillment.   It predominates in the first few years of life, and focuses around an infant’s immediate needs (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2001).  It is best described as a reflection of our basic instinctually driven needs.  On its on, the id is chaotic, unconscious, and is driven by the satisfaction of needs.  It has no sense of time or morals.  We experience it as neurotic symptoms, in dreams, and during cathartic free association utilized during Freud’s psychoanalysis.
img_2902The second component of the mind to develop is the EGO.  It comprises as an emerging understanding of the consequences of behavior.  As the ego develops, children display a greater sense of rationale is exercised in interaction with others (Broderick, 2010; Kassim, 2001). While the id represents our instinctual drive, the ego runs on the basis of a “reality principle” and operates as the executive administrator of the mind (Rosenthal, 2005).  Our ego-based defense mechanisms reside here as a result of the mind’s efforts to separate repressed memories from the superego’s conscious self.  In this respect, it is the face we present to the world, and represents our moment-to-moment conscious awareness. It is logical and reasonable.  It uses judgment to reign in the id’s desires.  it is a mediator between the person and their reality (Rosenthal, 2005).
img_2903Finally is a psychic construct that reflects our moral conscience.  In this respect, it represents an internalization of cultural and social values we learn from others growing up.  It contains our ego-ideal, or our idealized self and represents a set of moral standard s.  According to Freud’s theory “it is a byproduct of the child’s successfully passing through the Oedipus complex (Rosenthal, 2005).”  Providing an individual of a strong moral code of right and wrong, it represents the internalization and internalization of our parental figures (Rosenthal, 2005).

Eros & Thanatos

According to Freud, two major instincts motivate all human behavior, the first are collectively referred to as life instincts, which include the need for food, water, air and sex….a second darker side of human nature….is a death instinct, a need to reduce all tensions. (Kassim, 2001, p581).  The life energy created by these instincts is defined as the libido (Rosenthal, 2005).   Freud called the life instinct “eros” and it signified for him our instinct for self-preservation.  Thanatos, in contrast, is our self-destructive death wish, however he stated that this instinct was unconscious (Kassim, 2001).


“Freud was the first to recognize the therapeutic value of transference phenomena, in which the patient comes to experience others, the analyst in particular, in ways that are colored by…early experiences with [others]” (Corsini & Wedding, 2010 p. 20).   Rosenthal, (2005) defines transference as reacting to the therapist as if they were a significant other from the past.  Transference feelings can be positive, negative or ambivalent in nature (Rosenthal, 2005).  Finally, countertransference is a therapist’s transference issues upon the client as if they were somebody from the past (Corsini & Wedding, 2010; Rosenthal, 2005).  Therapists are all susceptible to countertransference with their clients, and need to be aware of them and address these issues honestly.  There’s definitely more than a grain of truth to the fact that “every therapist needs their own therapist”.

Concluding comments..

This overview is by no means comprehensive.  In future posts, I intend to review his ego defenses and four stages of psychosexual development….


Erwin, E. (2002). The Freud encyclopedia: Theory, therapy, and culture. Taylor & Francis.
Broderick, P.C. & Blewitt, P. (2010). Life Span Development: Human Development for Helping Professionals. (3rd. Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Corsini , R.J. & Wedding, D. (2010). Current psychotherapies. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kassin, Paul. (2001). Psychology. (3rd Ed.). Upper Saddle Creek River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.

Share This: