AskDefine | Define psychodynamic

Extensive Definition

Psychodynamics, is the systematized study and theory of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, emphasizing the interplay between unconscious and conscious motivation and the functional.
The original concept of "psychodynamics" was developed by Sigmund Freud. Freud suggested that psychological processes are flows of psychological energy in a complex brain, establishing "psychodynamics" on the basis of psychological energy, which he referred to as libido.


In general, psychodynamics, also known as dynamic psychology, is the study of the interrelationship of various parts of the mind, personality, or psyche as they relate to mental, emotional, or motivational forces especially at the unconscious level. The mental forces involved in psychodynamics are often divided into two parts: (a) interaction of emotional forces: the interaction of the emotional and motivational forces that affect behavior and mental states, especially on a subconscious level; (b) inner forces affecting behavior: the study of the emotional and motivational forces that affect behavior and states of mind;.
Freud proposed that psychological energy was constant (hence, emotional changes consisted only in displacements) and that it tended to rest (point attractor) through discharge (catharsis).
In mate selection psychology, psychodynamics is defined as the study of the forces, motives, and energy generated by the deepest of human needs. In general, psychodynamics studies the transformations and exchanges of "psychic energy" within the personality. Psychodynamics, subsequently, attempts to explain or interpret behavior or mental states in terms of innate emotional forces or processes.


Psychodynamics was initially developed by Ernst von Brücke, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Melanie Klein.
In the 1950s, American psychiatrist Eric Berne built on Freud's psychodynamic model, particularly that of the "ego states", to develop a psychology of human interactions called transactional analysis. Transactional analysis, according to physician James R. Allen, is a "cognitive behavioral approach to treatment and that it is a very effective way of dealing with internal models of self and others as well as other psychodynamic issues." In the 1930s, Freud's daughter Anna Freud began to apply Freud's psychodynamic theories of the "ego" to the study of parent-child attachment and especially deprivation and in doing so developed ego psychology.

Jungian psychodynamics

At the turn of the 20th century, during these decisive years, a young Swiss psychiatrist named Carl Jung had been following Freud’s writings and had sent him copies of his articles and his first book, the 1907 Psychology of Dementia Praecox, in which he upheld the Freudian psychodynamic viewpoint, although with some reservations. That year, Freud invited Jung to visit him in Vienna. The two men, it is said, were greatly attracted to each other, and they talked continuously for thirteen hours. This led to a professional relationship in which they corresponded on a weekly basis, for a period of six years.
Carl Jung's major contributions to psychology are:
  1. There is a core tendency toward wholeness and balance within oneself.
  2. The core characteristics of the self are the ego, the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious, and archetypes.

Positive psychology

In positive psychology, the psychodynamic conception of flow is defined as a conscious state of mind in harmonious order. In simple terms, it is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great costs, for the sake of doing it. In other words, in positive psychology, flow is a state of mental activity or operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
The concept of flow in relation to mental contentment was developed by American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who, beginning in the 1970s, interviewed and studied hundreds of successful people, such as musicians, athletes, artists, chess masters, and surgeons. In his studies, he made people wear “flow timers” in which at various randomized times during their workday a timer would go off and they document their flow state on paper. Among his many books on this subject, the pinnacle publication was the 1990 book Flow – the Psychology of Optimal Experience, which introduced the world to the psychological concept of flow and optimal experience. In this book, he states that “our perceptions about our lives are the outcome of many forces that shape our experience, each having an impact on whether we feel good or bad.”


Presently, psychodynamics is an evolving multi-disciplinary field which analyzes and studies human thought process, response patterns, and influences. Research in this field provides insights into a number of areas, including:
  1. Understanding and anticipating the range of specific conscious and unconscious responses to specific sensory inputs, as images, colors, textures, sounds, etc.
  2. Utilizing the communicative nature of movement and primal physiological gestures to affect and study specific mind-body states.
  3. Examining the capacity for the mind and senses to directly affect physiological response and biological change.
  • Cognitive psychodynamics is a blend of traditional psychodynamic concepts with cognitive psychology and neuroscience, resulting in a relatively accessible and sensible theory of mental structure and function.
  • In the 2003 book Mapping the Organizational Psyche – a Jungian Theory of Organizational Dynamics, psychologist John Corlett and author Carol Pearson develop a Jungian-style organizational psychodynamics allowing business leaders, in the midst of self-reflection and corporate restructuring, to “delve deeper into the corporate consciousness” so to better study the unconscious dynamics of organizational behavior in business.


Further reading

  • Brown, Junius Flagg & Menninger, Karl Augustus (1940). The Psychodynamics of Abnormal Behavior, 484 pages, McGraw-Hill Book Company, inc.
  • Weiss, Edoardo (1950). Principles of Psychodynamics, 268 pages, Grune & Stratton
  • Pearson Education (1970). The Psychodynamics of Patient Care Prentice Hall, 422 pgs. Standford Univerity: Higher Education Division.
  • Jean Laplanche et J.B. Pontalis (1974). The Language of Psycho-Analysis, Editeur: W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-01105-4
  • Parent Infant Psychodynamics – Wild Things, Mirrors, and Ghosts
psychodynamic in Georgian: ფსიქოდინამიკა
psychodynamic in Polish: Podejście psychodynamiczne w psychologii
psychodynamic in Serbian: Психодинамика
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