Psychological Theories Everyone Should Know

Εvery one of us has surely asked why differences, clashes, and misunderstandings take place among people. We always startle when our beloved ones disagree with us on our values, judgements, and preferences. We always experience an irritating feeling of being extraterrestrial. For we are neither able to communicate our minds, nor are we able to grasp the unfathomable other. So, let’s reflect on our lives and dive into our psychological make-up with these amazing psychological theories.  

Sigmund Freud’s Fixation Theory

The theory was developed during the Victorian era, which was a highly repressive Society as people, namely women, were forced to repress their sexual needs, which resulted in several neurotic illnesses. Freud sought to understand the nature and the variety of these illnesses by retracting the sexual history of his patients. Freud didn’t focus on the investigation of sexual experiences but, rather, on the patient’s desires and feeling of love, hate, shame, guilt, and fear and their ability to handle such emotions. The theory postulate that each stage of development is marked by certain conflicts that the individual needs to overcome or, otherwise, they will be fixated to them. These conflicts can contribute to improving the individual’s personality when they are handled rationally, and vice versa, such conflicts can stifle the person’s development if they remain unresolved. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage. There are 5 psychosexual stages, as follows:

1) The Oral Stage (From Birth to 1 Years Old): The infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through his sense of tastings. The infant is entirely dependent upon caretakers, so he develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation. The primary conflict at the stage is the weaning process so that the child becomes less dependent upon the caretaker; otherwise, the individual would suffer from problems like Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD), or aggression. Oral fixation can result in disorders with drinking, eating, or nail biting.

2) Anal Stage (1 to 3 Years Old): The pleasure zone in this stage is the bowel and bladder control. During the anal stage, the child has to learn to control his bodily needs, which leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence. Parents should reward the child for using the toilet at the appropriate time. If parents adopt an excessively lenient approach, an anal explosive personality could develop in which the individual has a messy, wasteful, or destructive personality. If parents are too strict, and if they begin toilet training too early, an anal-retentive personality develops in which the individual is stringent and obsessive.

3) Phallic Stage (3 to 6 Years Old): The erogenous zone is the genitals. Children begin to discover the differences between males and females. Freud also believed that boys begin to regard their fathers as rivals for their mother’s attention. The Oedipus complex describes these feelings of wanting to possess the mother and replace the father; however, the child also has a fear that he will be punished by the father for these feelings. Freud stated that girls, instead, experience penis envy as they wish they had a penis and were male instead of being female, an issue he called Electra complex. Boys begins to identify with their fathers only to possess the mother. Regarding girls, Freud believed that penis envy is never fully resolved and that all women remain somewhat fixated on this stage. Several psychologists called the theory inaccurate and demeaning to women. 

4) The latent phase (6 years old until puberty): According to Freud, sexual feelings are inactive during this stage. The super-ego – which can be compared to a type of ethical and moral compass – continues to. Children develop social skills and relationships with peers and adults outside of the family. The latent period is a time of exploration in which the sexual energy is repressed and sublimated into other areas, such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions. The stage is important in the development of social and communication skills as well as self-confidence 

5) The Gentle Stage (From puberty until Death): The individual develops a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex which lasts throughout the rest of the person’s life. While in earlier stages, the focus was solely on the individual’s needs, in this stage, interests in the welfare of others emerge. Individuals should establish a balance between the various life areas of the other stages and his sexual interests to develop into a balanced, caring individual. 

Carl Jung’s Theory of Archetypes 

Jung distinguishes the psyche into three different realms: consciousness, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. Consciousness is composed of all the experiences that we are aware of, and the unconscious is specific to each individual encompassing the thoughts we are not aware of, have forgotten, or have been repressed due to their disturbing nature. The collective unconscious is the deepest part of our unconscious which is genetically inherited and not shaped by personal experience. This is where the archetypes are found. Archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious. Jung believed that we inherit these archetypes just as we inherit instinctive patterns of behaviour. The 4 major Jungian Archetypes are: The 1) Self: The sum of the conscious and unconscious is what Jung calls the Self, which makes up the total personality of an individual. To achieve the Self, Jung’s central concept revolved around what he called individuation or self-realisation. A lifelong process of distinguishing the self out of each individual’s conscious and unconscious elements. This he believed to be the main goal of human psychological development.

2) The Persona: If you have certain masks that you put on in various situations, that is a persona. In essence, the persona conceals our real self, presenting ourselves as someone different to who we really are. As we please other people with our persona, it leads to forming the Shadow.

3) The Shadow: The Shadow is the unknown dark side of the personality. To be conscious of the shadow, an individual must exert a considerable moral effort to recognise the dark aspects of one’s personality as real and extant. While some traits of one’s own shadow can be recognised, some offer greater resistance to moral control and prove almost impossible to influence. An individual who does not discern his psychological projection, a defense mechanism in which the individual defends himself against unconscious impulses denying their existence in himself while attributing them to others, will eventually create an illusory environment whereby he changes the world into the replica of his own unknown face. The individual sometimes behaves like a passive victim of his shadow, extremely worried with the opinions of others. People who do not look at their shadows directly project them onto others – the qualities that we often cannot stand in others, we have in ourselves and wish not to see. But, to truly grow as a person, one must integrate their shadow and balance it with their Persona. An encounter with your shadow may appear in dreams. The dissolution of the persona and understanding one’s own shadow is a central part of the process of individuation.

4) The Anima/Animus: Within the shadow, there exists two contrasexual figures – the anima and the animus. In every man’s psyche, there is an unconscious feminine aspect called the anima, which is a personification of all feminine psychological tendencies, and in every woman’s psyche, there’s an unconscious masculine aspect called the animus. The anima and animus are much further away from consciousness and are seldom realised. Man’s anima is characterised by the feminine Eros. It is passive like a child seeking the protecting and nourishing charmed circle of the mother. While woman’s animus corresponds to the paternal Logos, the principal of rationality. When man acknowledges his anima, this gives way to a more caring figure, and when a woman acknowledges her animus, she gains a capacity for assertiveness and deliberation. The anima appears in dreams, visions, and fantasies taking on a personified form. A balance between the anima and the animus leads to developing a much more solid foundation of the psyche.

Myers-Briggs’ Type Indicator (MBTI)

Myers leaned on the theories of the famed Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung to write her book milestone book Gifts Differing, which crystalizes her MBTI theory in full. Myers’ book is distinguished by its easy language that is totally devoid of jargon, which is why the book is read by a wide spectrum of unsophisticated people. Carl Jung has focused on a clinical approach that helps psychiatrists deal with the various disorders based on personality divergences. That’s why, Jung’s approach is denser and more psychiatrist centered. Conversely, Myers’ contribution lies in bringing people to the forefront as she wanted to make people know themselves by themselves. 

1) 2 Ways of Evaluation & 2 Ways of Perception

Carl Jung indicates that there are two main approaches, according to which, people judge everything they come across. These two approaches are Feeling and Thinking. This fact might seem well-known to most of us since a great number of people admit they are governed by their feels while a myriad of others admit they abide by reason. People who prefer feelings tend to be skillful in dealing with human relations, whereas those who rely on thinking are more adept in handling factual information. Moving, humans also tend to perceive the world, based on two methods: The first method is called Sensing while the second is called Intuition. When you perceive through your senses, you are focusing on what is happing here and now. Conversely, when you perceive through your Intuition, you are delving into what’s more abstract, or into the realm of ideas. Intuitive people love to entertain possibilities and read what’s between the lies, yet they don’t pay ample attention to the actual world, unlike their sensual counterparts.

Myers further elaborates that by combing the TF module (Thinking vs Feeling) with the SN module (Sensing vs Intuition), our understanding of human preferences will be finely tuned. Myers introduced four combinations: ST   Sensing plus thinking, SF   Sensing plus feeling, NF Intuition plus feeling, & NT Intuition plus thinking. According to Myers, ST people mainly lean on sensing the actuality around them for purposes of perception and on thinking logically for the purpose of making decisions. They use their five senses — seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling— to have an idea of their world and use their minds to judge it. A patent example of an ST would be Britain’s famed detective, Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, those people are practical and matter-of-fact. The SF (sensing plus feeling) people, too, depend on sensing for perception, but they rely on feeling for judgment. Their decisions are approached from the perspective of sentiment not logic. They love to save away interesting facts about people, society, and history. They tend to have an amicable personality as they love to talk and engage in activities with other people. 

NFs rely on intuition rather than sensing. Their attention is not centered around actual existence, as contrasted with what they intend, expect, or believe. NFs tend to think about future goals and new truths. They yearn for inspiration. They love creative jobs and crave humane ventures. That’s why, their cutting edge usually lies in catering to a human need. They excel in writing, teaching, psychological analysis, and public speaking. Regarding NT (Intuition Plus Thinking), these people combine Intuition with thinking; they love ideas and theoretical knowledge, yet they approach it with an objective analysis. NT people excel in scientific research, electronic computing, mathematics, and finance. Myers sums the four categories up, saying: “Everyone has probably met all four kinds of people: ST people, who are practical and matter-of-fact; the sympathetic and friendly SF people; NF people, who are characterized by their enthusiasm and insight; and NT people, who are logical and ingenious.”

2) The EI & The JP Orientation

Another crucial category of preference is The EI orientation— Extraversion vs Introversion. Such a module defines which world are people interested in the most —the outer world or the inner world. On the one hand, introverts, according to Jung, are engrossed in their inner world, meditating and formulating ideas. On the other hand, extroverts are primarily interested in the outer environment. They love engaging with people and are known being sociable. Usually when introverts voice their opinions, they focus on ideas while extroverts somehow tend to judge their sensual world. Besides, Myers elaborates on another binary of preference, which is The JP preference— Judgment vs Perception. This binary mode depicts a way of living. It describes whether a person reorders his life (judgment) or acceded to it (perception). Everyone surely navigates between the two, but what Myers is talking about is a more preferred way of living.

So, it’s time to discover what type of person you are. Take a moment to reflect on your character in terms of what you have read and form the four letters that define you. For example, are you INTJ or ESTJ or something else? Myers has used these four letters to form the most known 16 types of personality in psychology. Another dichotomy that Myers presented is A vs T (Assertive vs Turbulent). It is an easy dichotomy, which is about the two main different mentalities people adopt. Assertive people don’t care much about achieving self-perfectionism, and often are even tempered. Conversely, turbulent people are sensitive, self-conscious, perfectionists, and easily agitated. So, after you pick your four letters, add an A or a T to them. For instance, if you are an INFP, you can be either an INFP-A or an INFP-T. Briggs summed it up as follows:

“EI Extraversion or Introversion: To focus the dominant (favorite) process on the outer world or on the world of ideas  

SN Sensing or Intuition: To use one kind of perception instead of the other when either could be used  

TF Thinking or Feeling:  To use one kind of judgment instead of the other when either could be used  

JP Judgment or Perception: To use the judging or the perceptive attitude for dealing with the outer world.”