There are several theories of personality. One of the best known is the psychodynamic theory that was developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that personality is much like an iceberg, in that only the tip of it shows. Further, Freud theorized that one’s personality is characterized by a struggle between their primitive drives, social rules and customs, and moral codes (Nevid & Rathus, 2005). According to Freud, each individual has three psychic structures known as the id, the ego, and the superego, and that defense mechanisms like repression, projection, and denial protect the ego from anxiety (Nevid & Rathus, 2005).
Freud’s theory is controversial in that it asserts that much of one’s personality is shaped by sexual motivation and that childhood experiences or traumas largely shape one’s adult behavior. Freud theorized that everyone progresses through five stages of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital – starting in infancy and progressing through puberty. Inadequate or deficient development during a particular stage could lead to fixation in that stage and manifest into other traits and characteristics later in life (Nevid & Rathus, 2005). Several subsequent psychodynamic theorists like Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney agreed that personality is characterized by internal conflict but felt that Freud overemphasized the role of sexuality on behavior.
On the other end of the spectrum there is the humanistic theory. According to Nevid & Rathus (2005), “Humanistic psychologists focus [their] attention on the meaning of life… [and believe] that people are capable of free choice, self-fulfillment, and ethical behavior.” Humanists theorize that one’s personality is shaped by the choices they make. Whereas the psychodynamic theorists assert that one’s personality is shaped by internal conflicts.
One humanistic theorist, Abraham Maslow, developed the ‘hierarchy of needs’ and believed that only after we...