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Summary: NeoFreudian Theories

Personality theorists who followed Freud branched out in many different directions. Jung was fascinated by the unconscious and distinguished between the personal unconscious of an individual and the collective unconscious of the species.

To Jung, dreams, myths, fantasies, and even the journals of medieval alchemists were full of symbols from the collective unconscious. Jung believed these patterns were built up over our species history in response to ubiquitous elements of our social environments.

Adler was also interested in social influences on personality, but his emphasis was on early childhood and family influences. Adler thought personality was shaped by feelings of inferiority in childhood and how an individual responded to them.

Adler pointed out that individuals often compensate for things that make them feel bad in childhood. They strive to overcome these "felt inferiorities." The result is a distinctive style of life, a characteristic way of interacting with others, based on what worked in childhood.

Karen Horney emphasized warm and nurturant relations between caregivers and young children. Positive relations fostered basic confidence, she said, and negative ones created basic anxiety. Either could persist into adulthood and affect an individual's ability to cope effectively with life.

Adler and Horney were both ego psychologists because they believed the executive process in personality (the conscious self or ego) had the power to transform itself and energize self-change. Adler referred to the creative self, while Horney advocated self-analysis.

Erik Erikson was another ego psychol­ogist of the mid-20th Century. Writing with his wife Joan as an unacknowledged co-author, he depicted personality development as a series of challenges or crises throughout life. Each crisis, if resolved properly, contributed a virtue or strength to personality.

Modern psychologists tend to avoid the word ego, with its Freudian connotations. They discuss an active, executive process using labels like self-concept or dialogical self.


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