Psychoanalysis And Adulthood Psychology (Guide)

A person's development is determined by often forgotten events in early childhood, rather than by inherited traits alone. Human behaviour and cognition are largely determined by irrational drives that are rooted in the unconscious. Psychoanalysis is a treatment based on the theory that our present is shaped by our past. 

We are often unaware of how experiences can affect us. Painful feelings can remain in the unconscious mind and influence our current mood and behaviour and contribute to problems with self-esteem, personality, relationships and work. An attempt to bring those drives into awareness triggers resistance in the form of defense mechanisms, particularly repression. 

Because we are unaware of these forces, common problem-solving techniques – such as seeking the advice of friends and family or reading self-help books– often fail to provide relief. The discipline was established in the early 1890s by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and stemmed partly from the clinical work of Josef Breuer and others. 

Psychoanalysis helps a person take control of these influences by tracing them back to their origins and understanding how they have developed over time.This awareness offers the person the opportunity to deal constructively with the way these influences affect their current life. Other basic tenets of psychoanalysis include:

Conflicts between conscious and unconscious material can result in mental disturbances such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety and depression;
Unconscious material can be found in dreams and unintentional acts, including mannerisms and slips of the tongue;
Liberation from the effects of the unconscious is achieved by bringing this material into the conscious mind through therapeutic intervention.

The "centerpiece of the psychoanalytic process" is the transference, whereby one relive their infantile conflicts by projecting onto the analyst feelings of love, dependence and anger. During psychoanalytic sessions, one expresses his or her thoughts, including free associations, fantasies and dreams, from which the analyst infers the unconscious conflicts causing the patient's symptoms and character problems. 

Through the analysis of these conflicts, which includes interpreting the transference and counter transference the analyst's feelings for the person, the analyst confronts the person's pathological defenses to help him/her to gain insight. According to psychoanalysis, the unconscious mind gives hints of the unacknowledged meaning of experiences in different ways. Such hints may include:
  • Repetitive behaviours;
  • Topics that the person finds difficult to talk about;
  • Dreams;
  • Daydreams.
Manifest symptoms are caused by latent (hidden) disturbances. Typical causes include unresolved issues during development or repressed trauma. Treatment focuses on bringing the repressed conflict to consciousness, where the person can deal with it.

How Can We Understand The Unconscious Mind?

Remember, psychoanalysis is a therapy as well as a theory. Psychoanalysis is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. In psychoanalysis (therapy) Freud would have a patient lie on a couch to relax, and he would sit behind them taking notes while they told him about their dreams and childhood memories.

This approach assumes that the reduction of symptoms alone is relatively inconsequential as if the underlying conflict is not resolved, more neurotic symptoms will simply be substituted. The analyst typically is a 'blank screen,' disclosing very little about themselves in order that one can use the space in the relationship to work on their unconscious without interference from outside.

Unconscious thoughts and feelings can transfer to the conscious mind in the form of parapraxes, popularly known as Freudian slips or slips of the tongue. We reveal what is really on our mind by saying something we didn't mean to. Freud believed that slips of the tongue provided an insight into the unconscious mind and that there were no accidents, every behavior (including slips of the tongue) was significant (i.e., all behavior is determined).


What Is Adulthood Psychology?

When you think of human development, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most likely the first image you have is of a teenager going through the stages of puberty. This is because a great deal of attention is usually placed on this period in regard to physical development. But, what happens when this stage is over? Do adults develop physically as well? What about psychological and emotional changes?

Developmental psychology, also called Life-span Psychology, is the branch of psychology concerned with the changes in cognitive, motivational, psychophysiological, and social functioning that occur throughout the human life span. Adult development encompasses the changes that occur in biological and psychological domains of human life from the end of adolescence until the end of one's life. 

These changes may be gradual or rapid, and can reflect positive, negative, or no change. The study of developmental psychology is essential to understanding how humans learn, mature and adapt. The German psychologist Erik Erikson insisted that there are meaningful stages of adult psychology that have to be considered in addition to child development.

Erik Erikson and Carl Jung proposed stage theories of human development that encompass the entire life span, and emphasized the potential for positive change very late in life. Humans go through various stages of development.

Starting post-adolescence, this period of time is often grouped into categories by age, from young adulthood, which is generally considered to be between the ages of 19 and 45, to middle adulthood from 45 to 60, and the later years thereafter. Adulthood is a period of optimum mental functioning when the individual’s intellectual, emotional, and social capabilities are at their peak to meet the demands of career, marriage, and children. 

Some psychologists delineate various periods and transitions in early to middle adulthood that involve crises or reassessments of one’s life and result in decisions regarding new commitments or goals. During the middle 30s people develop a sense of time limitation, and previous behaviour patterns or beliefs may be given up in favour of new ones.

In early adulthood, an individual is concerned with developing the ability to share intimacy, seeking to form relationships and find intimate love. Long‐term relationships are formed, and often marriage and children result. The young adult is also faced with career decisions. Choices concerning marriage and family are often made during this period. 

Work/career choice affects not only socioeconomic status but also friends, political values, residence location, child care, job stress, and many other aspects of life. And while income is important in both career selection and career longevity, so are achievement, recognition, satisfaction, security, and challenge. Middle age is a period of adjustment between the potentialities of the past and the limitations of the future.

An emotional rebellion has been observed in some persons, sometimes referred to as a mid-life crisis, engendered by the recognition that less time remains to be lived than has been lived already. In women, dramatic shifts in hormone production lead to the onset of menopause. Often women whose children have grown or have left home experience the “empty-nest syndrome”—feeling unwanted or unneeded. 

During late middle age individuals become more aware of ill health and thus may consciously or unconsciously alter the patterns of their lives. Individuals accept the limits of their accomplishments and either take satisfaction in them or despair and become anxious over unattained objectives. 

During old age sensory and perceptual skills, muscular strength, and memory tend to diminish, though intelligence does not. These changes, together with retirement from active employment, tend to make the elderly more dependent on their children or other younger people, both emotionally and physically.

In middle adulthood, an important challenge is to develop a genuine concern for the welfare of future generations and to contribute to the world through family and work. Erik Erikson refers to the problem posed at this stage as generativity vs. self‐absorption.

Major Tasks In The Middle Years

  • Accepting and adjusting to physiological changes, such as menopause;
  • Reaching and maintaining satisfaction in one's occupation;
  • Adjusting to and possibly caring for aging parents;
  • Helping teenage children to become responsible adults;
  • Achieving adult social and civic responsibility;
  • Relating to one's spouse as a person;
  • Developing leisure‐time activities.

While a midlife crisis is not regarded as a universal phenomenon, during one's 40s and 50s comes the recognition that more than half of one's life is gone. That recognition may prompt some to feel that the clock is ticking and that they must make sudden, drastic changes in order to achieve their goals, while others focus on finding satisfaction with the present course of their lives.

Adult psychological development, therefore, is often a result of individual intention and effort. Other factors affecting it are change, which introduces new influences, needs, pressures and adaptations, the desire for fulfilment, which urges the individual to find means of self-expression and achievement that meet his or her particular desires, and the influence of others, such as one’s group, friends, social groups etc. each of which has its own expectations, ways of doing things and attitudes that will influence the individual’s development.

Schlossberg (1984) believes that it not only age that determines how we develop, but life events and our experience of them. He identified the following issues as critical issues at any stage of our lives:
  • Belonging
  • Feeling Valued
  • Autonomy
  • Competence
  • Identity
  • Intimacy
  • Commitment
  • Renewal (Personal Energy).

As these issues arise in our lives, we may be motivated to develop new skills, knowledge, attitudes, and to develop new behaviours in order to resolve them. Although they say “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, the fact is, the old dog can learn new tricks when motivated to do so. Human beings can develop psychologically at any stage of life, even on their death beds.

However, Erik Erikson insisted that there are meaningful stages of adult psychology that have to be considered.This stage generally covers 18 to around 30 years of age and can see the following occurring:

Psycho-Social Crisis occurs where intimacy versus isolation.

Significant Social Relationship(s) develops such as partners in friendship and sexual relationships.

Favourable Outcomes involve an ability to form close and lasting relationships, to co-operate and share resources, also to make career commitments.

Unfavourable Outcomes are social and personal isolation, fear of intimacy and sharing.

The stages in the adult stage are more fuzzy than the children’s stages and people may differ from each other more dramatically.The task is to achieve intimacy, rather than isolation. Intimacy is the ability to be close to others as a friend, lover and participant in society. You know who you are and do not need to fear “losing” yourself as adolescents may. 

Fear of commitment at this stage is a sign of immaturity. The young adult does not need to “prove” themselves so much anymore. Younger adults may not feel the need to be in a couple, whilst others may try to establish an identity though being a couple e.g. “I’m her boyfriend”. So two independent egos are forming something that is larger than themselves.

For younger adults, there is often an emphasis on careers, urban living, splitting relationships due to mobility and the nature of modern life can make it hard for people to develop intimate relationships. This can mean that people move often throughout their lives and do not develop a sense of community. Erikson calls the maladaptive form promiscuity. 

This is the tendency to become intimate too freely and easily and without any depth of intimacy. This does not just mean the physical intimacy. This may be friendships/relationships with neighbours and friends as well as with lovers. The malignancy is called exclusion which is the tendency to isolate yourself from friendships, community and love, and also to develop a “hatefulness” to compensate for your loneliness. 

 If you are able to negotiate this stage successful, you will develop the virtue that Erikson calls love. Love means being able to put aside differences and antagonisms through “mutuality of devotion.” This means loving friends, neighbours, lovers, co-workers and so on. As an adult you establish a unique identity, reach the proverbial midlife crisis, and eventually succumb to old age.

Let’s look at the physical changes that take place during adulthood. Because of the dramatic physical developments that take place earlier, it may seem that less attention is placed on physical development in the adult years. Let's find out if this assumption is true as we look at three main stages to physical development in adulthood: early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood.

Early adulthood takes place roughly between the ages of 19 to 45. In early adulthood, a person may continue to add a bit of height and weight. Hormonal changes also continue to occur, but the effects are less pronounced than they were during adolescence. In terms of physical development, this period is the least dramatic.

For example, the lens of the eye starts to stiffen and thicken, resulting in changes in vision (usually affecting the ability to focus on close objects). Sensitivity to sound decreases; this happens twice as quickly for men as for women. Hair can start to thin and become gray around the age of 35, although this may happen earlier for some individuals and later for others. 

The skin becomes drier and wrinkles start to appear by the end of early adulthood. The immune system becomes less adept at fighting off illness, and reproductive capacity starts to decline. Middle adulthood takes place roughly between the ages of 40 and 65. In middle adulthood, we may start to see more noticeable changes again. 

Because we start to see and feel the physical changes in our bodies, we may begin to think about our physical development once more. One of the most noticeable changes is the loss of skin elasticity. A person will also start to lose strength and flexibility. Thinning of the hair can also occur, and the hair that hasn't thinned may start to turn gray. In middle adulthood, women do not only go through menopause but also lose the ability to reproduce.

At some time around the age of 65, one enters the world of late adulthood. More profound negative effects of aging will begin to take its toll on the body. This is the final stage of physical change. Wrinkles will become more noticeable and you may start to develop age spots on your skin.

Age spots and blood vessels become more apparent as the skin continues to dry and get thinner. Your reaction time begins to slow, and even if you have not needed glasses in the past, your deteriorating eyesight will most likely cause you to need them now.

There are two main physical concerns associated with adult physical development that may become evident in late adulthood. First is the loss of bone mass and second is loss of cognitive function. Because of the shifting hormone levels, women going through menopause often experience a range of other symptoms, such as anxiety, poor memory, inability to concentrate, depressive mood, irritability, mood swings, and less interest in sexual activity.

While age related changes cannot entirely be stopped, the symptoms can often be managed with proper diet, exercise, and self-care.

Two forms of intelligence —crystallized and fluid—are the main focus of middle adulthood. While crystallized intelligence grows steadily, fluid intelligence starts to decline even prior to mid-adulthood.

Unlike our physical abilities, which peak in our mid-20s and then begin a slow decline, our cognitive abilities remain relatively steady throughout early and middle adulthood. Research has found that adults who engage in mentally and physically stimulating activities experience less cognitive decline in later adult years and have a reduced incidence of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

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