Psychoanalytic And Phenomenological Explanations Of Persistent Antisocial Criminal Behavior

2209 words - 9 pages

Individuals' personalities and overall quality of living are significantly influenced by several interrelated sources ranging from one's upbringing and quality of relationships to their own feelings of self-esteem and worth. Though this may seem relatively easy and un-complex, countless people today are engaged in persistent antisocial, criminal behavior, and seem unable to find an alternative, legal, means of living. While many have tried to explain such behavior through various theories, the causes of criminal activity remain to be satisfactorily clarified. Essentially, antisocial criminal activity has two aspects to it. Antisocial behavior is that in which one shuns society and others, while criminal activity is the act of performing a deed that violates an established law of the community. Obviously, such actions have serious consequences, which can range from community service and a fine to prison time. Even though there are several reasons that one may become an antisocial criminal, two theories of personality that provide reasonable explanations of this phenomenon, each in their own way, are the psychoanalytic and phenomenological theories.

Sigmund Freud is credited with the establishment of the psychoanalytic theory. At the foundation of Freud's personality theory is that people are basically an energy system through which energy is directed and released through a means of expression that faces the lease resistance. Another aspect of Freud's theory is that the majority of one's development occurs in the early years of life, up until the age of five. There are three main stages: oral, anal and phallic. These may eventually become exemplified as types of adult personalities. Additionally, people's actions are controlled by instincts that they are unconsciously aware of. According to Freud, there are different levels of consciousness in which the human mind exists. First there is the conscious, which consists of the things people are constantly aware of. Next is the preconscious, which stores information that can be triggered into consciousness. Then exists the unconscious, where the instincts and information that people are unaware of exist. The majority of one's actions are controlled by the unconscious with little influence by the conscious. Problems arise when the conscious and unconscious mind are in conflict. As a result, anxiety occurs, and, as Freud said, people focus on releasing this tension through the use of defense mechanisms (Pervin, Cervone, & John, 2005). All of the above mentioned facets of the psychoanalytic theory will help provide an explanation as to why people engage in antisocial criminal behavior.

Clearly, according to the psychoanalytic theory, most of one's behavior is motivated by unconscious influences and one of the key goals in life is to avoid pain and anxiety. In order to accomplish this, humans employ the use of defense mechanisms. The main defense mechanism in psychoanalytic...

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