Personality traits have bewildered man for a long time. While there are many different approaches and schools of thought concerning personality traits, the two approaches this essay will address are the psychoanalytic and trait approaches. Analyzing the psychological issues that emerge in an investigation such as this help to determine if one approach is more reliable than the other, or if they are codependent.
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The psychoanalytic approach was founded in 1900 by Sigmund Freud and was publicized in The Interpretation of Dreams. It argues that humans think, feel and behave as they do based upon previous encounters; especially those encounters as a child. If this is true then we can truthfully state that from the time of conception in the mother’s womb, humans begin to develop paradigms upon which to base the rest of their lives. It is the understanding of the psyche that engenders such attention to this school of thought. Alleydog.com is a web site that offers definitions and explanations on various topics by involving many scholars across the vast divide of the human psyche. Their offering on the psychoanalytic approach is as follows:
The psychoanalytic approach focuses on the importance of the unconscious mind (not the conscious mind). In other words, psychoanalytic perspective dictates that behavior is determined by your past experiences that are left in the unconscious mind (people are unaware of them). This perspective is still based on Freud’s psychoanalytic perspective about early experiences being so influential on current behavior.
Dr. Marsha Lucas, who practices psychology in Washington D.C., states that the psychoanalytical approach offers her patients the opportunity to discover personality characteristics that can be developed or removed in order to make the patient a more productive member of society (About Dr. Lucas, n.d.). It is believed that this approach helps people understand their relationships both with themselves and others. When comparing this approach to the trait approach the discovery made is that they have overlapping schools of thought.
The trait approach is based on similar ideas of the psychoanalytical approach and is a set of personal characteristics (traits) that make an individual who they are. Courage, ambition, humor, and honesty are a few characteristics that are believed to be traits of people. When describing others it is not uncommon to use terms such as these.
You've probably used the term "character traits" before when referring to ways in which people behave, or explained someone’s behavior by saying, "that's just the type of person he/she is". These phrases all refer to a person's enduring characteristics or dispositions which give rise to their behaviors or behavior patterns. For example, you may view yourself as a curious type of person. In this case, curiosity is one of your traits - it is enduring (won't disappear over time) and leads you to act in specific ways like reading a lot to gather new information.
However, the variance in this approach is the fact that a universal set of traits is yet to be discovered. The interesting thing, and one overlapping thought with the psychoanalytical approach, is the idea that these traits, once discovered, can be developed to make an individual’s life better than it currently is.
In conclusion, it can be stated that human nature is prone to change as people mature. For example, traits that are assigned to children can be different than those assigned to the same individual as an adult. Whether or not these traits were there at childhood and were simply under-developed remains a mystery. As with most professions that deal with the human psyche, there is always a margin for variance. This variance can be best understood as the area of personality approaches that overlap in many different theories that are applied to an individual’s personality.
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