The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by a breakthrough in psychological research and practice. Sigmund Freud was a founder of psychoanalysis theory, which made a significant impact on generations of psychologists for over a century. Karl Gustav Jung, Alfred Adler and Wilhelm Reich were among those famous scholars, whose ideas were shaped under the influence of Freud’s works. However, at a certain point each of them broke up with Freud and created independent theories, which were recognized and used abundantly. All of them are similar because of their roots in psychoanalysis and focus on the unconscious, but Freud focuses more on suppressed sexual instincts, while Jung deals with archetypes and the collective subconscious, Adler develops individual system psychology based on the social context and Reich develops body psychotherapy.
Sigmund Freud was a pioneer of a totally new field of psychology, which received the name of psychoanalysis. This theory used a three-fold concept of psyche’s constitution, which includes Ego, Id and Superego. Ego is a central part of the self, the mediator between the internal and the external world. Ego coordinates a person’s idea about one’s identity and integrates the ideas about past, present and future. In other words, ego helps a person perceive oneself as a whole being, including all thoughts and experiences. It also helps to deal with Id and Superego, reconciling them between each other by means of creating defense mechanisms. Superego is a part of human psyche that bears a set of moral laws and bans, which work as a filter and limitation for a person’s behavior. Because Superego filters some ideas or feelings that are labeled as immoral or dangerous, a huge amount of them is ousted to the subconscious. In fact, Id is the repressed part of a psyche, which contains ousted subconscious desires, visions, instincts and so on. They can be dark or sexual, or have other forms that can be unbearable for human consciousness, pushed by Superego. “The id is defined as the oldest part of the mind from which the other structures are derived…The id is primitive, unorganized, and emotional: ‘the realm of the illogical”. (Storr, 2001, p. 60)
Sigmund Freud was particularly interested in dreams because they can demonstrate how Id works when it is not controlled by Ego and Superego. When a person sleeps, bans that repress the subconscious are lifted, so all suppressed desires can be realized in a symbolic form. Based on symbols, dreams can be interpreted, so the major problems of a person can be explored and treated. Besides, dreams have a healing function because they help people realize their repressed wishes, which prevent neurosis. Additionally, Freud was sure that dreams to not intrude good sleep but on the contrary, subconsciously motivate one to sleep, being a mechanism of safe realization of desires.
Carl Gustav Jung was greatly affected by Freud’s theory of the subconscious and dreams, so his own theory contains ideas, which are similar to his. Yet, he disagreed with Freud on the idea of sexual wishes to be the only major mechanism that drives human behavior. Neither did he agree that desires were the only content of dreams. Overall, he saw human psyche as a more complex structure, which consist of several parts, which are not hierarchal to each other. Like Freud, he has a concept of ego as the center of human psyche: “ego—Self axis, and it is on this axis that the stability of the personality depends. The ego is itself the centre of consciousness and it is what we refer to when we use the terms ‘I’ or ‘me’. It is responsible for our continuing sense of identity so that we still feel ourselves at 80 to be exactly the same person we were at 8” (Stevens, 2001, p. 62) However, he believes that a psyche has a number of other parts too, which were not mentioned by Freud. Thus, he names Persona, Shadow, Anima and Animus as key elements of personality, which communicate with each other and have certain functions.
Persona is a certain mask that is formed as a result of necessity to deal with the external world and its values. It is the way a person wants, consciously or subconsciously, to be perceived by others, the most socially accepted part of psyche. In contrast, Shadow is the repressed part of personality, which stores those qualities, which are not accepted by a person, a darker side of personality. Like Freud’s concept of the unconscious, it may contain repressed desires and instincts, but Jung’s Shadow is a broader idea that Freud’s Id. It may contain qualities, conflicts, thoughts, etc. that are not necessarily negative but those which are rejected by a human as a result of their personal history. As a consequence, human personality can be disintegrated, so individuation is a process of integration and acceptance of all rejected parts. Animus is an internal pattern of masculinity, while Anima is a pattern of femininity, which is inbuilt in a human psyche irrespective of gender. Jung believed that for a woman it is important to establish contact with her Animus, while for a man Anima is of primary importance for the sake of psyche integration.
Another aspect covered by Jung in his works related to the so-called collective unconscious, which is a set of archetypes that are inborn and are common for all people, no matter of where they are born. The evidence that speaks in favor of the collective unconscious lies in dreams, mythology and fairytales. Research of Jung demonstrates that archetypes are part of human psyche and reveal themselves in the same way when control is lost over the subconscious. Jung also developed a new theory of complexes and used word association methods to discover them.
Alfred Adler is a disciple of Sigmund Freud, one of the founders of Neo-Freudism and initiator of the individual psychology system. Inspired by Freud’s works, he still rejected his theory of sexuality and Oedipus complex, which was the reason for his personal breakup with Freud. Instead, he got interested in philosophy of Kant and Nietzsche, as well as Jung’s theory of complexes. He developed the theory of inferiority complexes as the basic one for understanding the essence of neurosis in contrast to Freud’s domination of sexual motivation. He was the first one to claim, to much of Freud’s dissatisfaction, that human psyche cannot be treated separately from a human’s social role, because in this way every theory is destined to be artificial. He also denounced the elite nature of psychoanalysis, presenting it in a more down-to-earth manner. The name of his individual psychology suggests his attitude to the role of a human, who is not a passive witness of the struggle between Id and Superego, but an active and creative participant.
Like Freud and Jung, Adler studied dreams and their place in human psyche, as well as their functions. He did not reject Freud’s assumption that past negative experiences and childhood traumas influence dreams and are revealed through them. However, he considered the dreams in a broader way and believed that not only past but also present social interactions and conflicts shape dreams as they are. Family relationships and class belonging are among those factors, which he explored. Besides, Adler believed, unlike Freud, that human behavior is determined not so much by the past, as by the future – goals and expectations.
Wilhelm Reich is another follower of Freud who adopted some of his ideas and developed his own theory based on them. He was an Austrian and American psychologist who took Freud’s concept of libido as a basis. He believed a person to be a system of energy, in which libido takes a central part. Unless libido is released in a natural way, it is directed into other channels and causes emergence of different physical and psychological symptoms. In a way, Reich was the founder of vegetotherapy, the type of body psychotherapy, because he was the first one to allow his patients not only to lie on a couch but to move there. He believed that a person’s psychology and physiology are closely related. Reich speaks of the muscular armor that each person’s body has as a result of mental tension and unresolved conflicts. Whenever emotion is suppressed, a new tension of muscular armor appears. However, it works reversely too: when a person works to release muscular tensions, his internal problems related to each particular tension can be released too.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that the four great psychologists have much in common because their theories are based on Freud’s original psychoanalysis. However, each of them partially disagreed with Freud and developed their own approaches: Jung focused on archetypes and the collective subconscious, Adler treated personality in a social context, while Reich was the founder of body psychotherapy. While Jung and Adler rejected the primary role of repressed sexual instincts, Reich agreed with the significant meaning of libido. Additionally, all of them were more or less interested in dream analysis, though had their own approaches.