Psychodynamic Theory-Role Of Conscious And Unconscious

Psychodynamic theory, also called psychoanalytic theory, was introduced by Sigmund Feud. It explains the role of conscious and unconscious thoughts and beliefs that shape our personality. According to Freud, many childhood events and feelings tend to make us what we are as adults and shape our personality.

Psychodynamic theory comes under psychoanalysis through which Freud wanted the people to gain insights among themselves in order to understand and control one’s unconscious thoughts and behaviors.

Levels Of Mind

The mind has three levels; conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious. it is easier to think of the mind like an iceberg. The visible part, above the sea is the conscious part of the brain. The part below the sea but near the surface is the sub-conscious part of the brain. Lastly, the very deep part, one that cannot be seen at all is the unconscious part of the brain.

Consciousness – it contains all the current thoughts, feelings one has at any given time. Everything contained in here is what we are aware of and are thinking about them.

Sub-Consciousness – also called pre-consciousness, is like a temporary storage point for any recent memories that may require recalling, like an address, a phone number etc. it also holds all the information like behaviors, thoughts and feelings ones uses  on a daily basis.

Unconsciousness – all the past experience; feelings, desires, wishes etc. are stores in the unconscious part of the mind. All of these memories are basically what forms our personality. Since some of these are also traumatic experiences we tend to consciously forget about them and repress such feelings.

Similar to this: Memory

Structure Of Mind/ Personality Structure

The human mind is so much more complex than we think of it to be. Freud believed that the personality is formed from three elements of the mind; id, ego and superego. This theory places a great importance on one’s unconscious mind which plays a big role in developing the personality and behaviors.  Let us look at these components in detail.


Id is based upon pleasure principle and operates within the unconscious part of the mind. A new born child, for example, is all id; it isn’t effected by reality, requires immediate gratification and is illogical, blind and demanding. Since id isn’t in touch with the external world, since it is deep within, its acts instantly without much thoughts to what is right or wrong.

For example when we are hungry or thirsty, we immediately find something to eat or drink.


Ego is based upon the reality principle and starts to develop in infancy. It makes sure to keep id in check by mediating between id and the real world. Freud compared id and ego to a horse and its rider. With the help of rider’s (Ego) direction, the horse (Id) knows where to go and what to do. Without the rider, the horse would just wander off without having any specific destination. Ego is found in the conscious part of the mind and also creates a balance among id’s and super ego’s demands during any given situation.

For example you get hungry in a meeting, but instead of immediately getting up to eat something (Id), you wait patiently for the meeting to end (Ego).


Superego is based upon the morality principle and develops around the ages of 3 to 5. It holds all the moral standards we have learned from our parents and the society, basically, it develops our own sense of right and wrong. Superego is found in all three levels of the mind. It suppresses all the desires and urges and tries to make our behaviors morally correct and perfect.

For example, if you do get hungry while being in a meeting, superego will not force you to get up as it knows it’s morally incorrect and rude.

Now, it can be seen that the three are although very different from each other, they need to be in balance and interact with one another to complete daily tasks. In any given situation, the id reaches for instant gratification while the superego reaches for moral standards, but the ego maintains the balance by creating a decision that would satisfy the two. This shows how easily a conflict can occur among them.  

Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that none of the three can create dominance as it ruin the balance and the personality. For example someone whose id is dominant can be seen as a reactive, impulsive, uncontrollable individual since they would only be reacting upon their urges solely. Whereas, someone whose superego is dominant might become judgmental or always morally right that he/she will not accept anything that is “bad” or “immoral” in their point of view.

If you want to read more about mind see the 8 stages of development