Psychodynamics and Coaching

It’s important always to use the most appropriate coaching approach.

When a psychodynamic method is suitable, it can be immensely useful and powerful.

Psychodynamics is based on the work of Freud, and rests on the understanding that the personality is made up of three parts:

  • The Id
  • The Ego
  • The Superego

Overall, the Psyche can be thought of as the totality of our thoughts, feelings and spirit. Freud suggested that we rarely actually deal with external reality, but rather as our own internal representation of it.

The Id operates on the Pleasure Principle – it wants what it wants, and it wants it now. The Id wants every impulse ad desire to be fulfilled just when and how it wants. “Go on, you know you want to!”

The Ego [remember that this is the specific meaning of the term, and not the commonly-held view many have] develops to mediate and restrain the often unrealistic desires and demands of the Id. The Ego operates using the Reality Principle. When the Id demands “Let’s do this now!”, the normal, well-adjusted Ego replies “Ah, but if you do have you thought of the consequences/time it will take/etc?”. The Ego functions to satisfy in appropriate ways, and in appropriate measure, the demands of the Id.

The Superego is our conscience. It doesn’t work on the reality principle, as the Ego does, but on the Morality Principle. When the Id demands, the Ego says “Ah, but if you do it will cost £50/ it will spoil your new shirt/ you will give up your fishing trip”, but the Superego says “This is wrong! What will people think of you? You mustn’t do that!”

These three parts of our personality are formed in childhood, mainly on the basis of our relationships [and therefore the quality of these] with our mother and father figures.

The Id and the Superego operate in the unconscious mind, hence we are often unaware of them, or find it difficult to identify or access them.

Tensions between the Id and the Superego [“I want to do this, now!” – “You mustn’t do that sort of thing!”] are felt consciously by the Ego. [And we all develop many strategies to explain these to ourselves or to blame them on others].

So in coaching with the psychodynamic approach we are making our clients aware of the competing demands of the Id and the Superego, and the moderating influence of the Ego.

When we explain the model to our clients, they usually ask “So, if a person has an over-developed Id and an underdeveloped Superego, would that mean that person would be likely to live a somewhat desire-driven existence, unmoderated by conscience?”

To which we answer “Very probably, yes”.




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