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Psychoanalysis in Art and Literature

Dr. Breuer found that her symptoms abated when he helped her recover memories of traumatic experiences that she had repressed, or hidden from her conscious mind.

This case sparked Freud’s interest in the unconscious mind and spurred the development of some of his most influential ideas.

Models of the Mind

Perhaps the most impactful idea put forth by Freud was his model of the human mind. His model divides the mind into three layers, or regions:

  1. Conscious: This is where our current thoughts, feelings, and focus live;
  2. Preconscious (sometimes called the subconscious): This is the home of everything we can recall or retrieve from our memory;
  3. Unconscious: At the deepest level of our minds resides a repository of the processes that drive our behavior, including primitive and instinctual desires (McLeod, 2013).

Later, Freud posited a more structured model of the mind, one that can coexist with his original ideas about consciousness and unconsciousness.

Freud's Iceberg Model of the Mind.

In this model, there are three metaphorical parts to the mind:

  1. Id: The id operates at an unconscious level and focuses solely on instinctual drives and desires. Two biological instincts make up the id, according to Freud: eros, or the instinct to survive that drives us to engage in life-sustaining activities, and thanatos, or the death instinct that drives destructive, aggressive, and violent behavior.
  2. Ego: The ego acts as both a conduit for and a check on the id, working to meet the id’s needs in a socially appropriate way. It is the most tied to reality and begins to develop in infancy;
  3. Superego: The superego is the portion of the mind in which morality and higher principles reside, encouraging us to act in socially and morally acceptable ways (McLeod, 2013).