Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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38 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

aggressive tendency is present in everyone and is the explanation for wars, atroc-
ities, and religious persecution.
The aggressive drive also explains the need for the barriers that people have
erected to check aggression. For example, commandments such as “Love thy
neighbor as thyself” are necessary, Freud believed, to inhibit the strong, though
usually unconscious, drive to inflict injury on others. These precepts are actually
reaction formations. They involve the repression of strong hostile impulses and the
overt and obvious expression of the opposite tendency.
Throughout our lifetime, life and death impulses constantly struggle against
one another for ascendancy, but at the same time, both must bow to the reality
principle, which represents the claims of the outer world. These demands of the
real world prevent a direct, covert, and unopposed fulfillment of either sex or
aggression. They frequently create anxiety, which relegates many sexual and
aggressive desires to the realm of the unconscious.


Sex and aggression share the center of Freudian dynamic theory with the concept
of anxiety. In defining anxiety, Freud (1933/1964) emphasized that it is a felt,
affective, unpleasant state accompanied by a physical sensation that warns the
person against impending danger. The unpleasantness is often vague and hard to
pinpoint, but the anxiety itself is always felt.
Only the ego can produce or feel anxiety, but the id, superego, and external
world each are involved in one of three kinds of anxiety—neurotic, moral, and
realistic. The ego’s dependence on the id results in neurotic anxiety; its dependence
on the superego produces moral anxiety; and its dependence on the outer world
leads to realistic anxiety.
Neurotic anxiety is defined as apprehension about an unknown danger. The
feeling itself exists in the ego, but it originates from id impulses. People may
experience neurotic anxiety in the presence of a teacher, employer, or some other
authority figure because they previously experienced unconscious feelings of
destruction against one or both parents. During childhood, these feelings of hostil-
ity are often accompanied by fear of punishment, and this fear becomes generalized
into unconscious neurotic anxiety.
A second type of anxiety, moral anxiety, stems from the conflict between
the ego and the superego. After children establish a superego—usually by the age
of 5 or 6—they may experience anxiety as an outgrowth of the conflict between
realistic needs and the dictates of their superego. Moral anxiety, for example,
would result from sexual temptations if a child believes that yielding to the temp-
tation would be morally wrong. It may also result from the failure to behave
consistently with what they regard as morally right, for example, failing to care
for aging parents.
A third category of anxiety, realistic anxiety, is closely related to fear. It is
defined as an unpleasant, nonspecific feeling involving a possible danger. For
example, we may experience realistic anxiety while driving in heavy, fast-moving
traffic in an unfamiliar city, a situation fraught with real, objective danger. How-
ever, realistic anxiety is different from fear in that it does not involve a specific
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