Psychoanalysis is a school of psychology that originated in the theory and research of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Psychoanalysis presents a comprehensive theory of human nature, drives, behaviors, experiences, and development. Among other things, the theory emphasizes the uniqueness of each individual and holds that each person develops along a distinct psychological path throughout the life span. Psychoanalysis also emphasizes the significance of forces beyond a person’s awareness—unconscious impulses, feelings, and thoughts—that shape behavior and development. Freud believed that these forces existed within the id, a potentially vast, unconscious repository of evolutionary and sexual instincts and urges. Psychoanalytic theory holds that, although these instincts and urges press for gratification, they are blocked from the conscious mind by the repressive efforts of the superego. The superego internalizes the ethical rules and restrictive norms of a given society and suppresses socially unacceptable thoughts or drives originating in the id.
The third major dynamic force of the human psyche is the ego, the conscious mind that works constantly to mediate the clashing demands of superego and id. Psychoanalysts maintain that, although the ego manages to tentatively accommodate, repress, or sublimate (express in a more socially acceptable manner) the drives of the id in line with the restrictions of the superego, the conscious mind exists in a state of perpetual conflict. Only through intensive therapeutic psychoanalysis might the inner conflicts be brought to light and at least partially resolved.