Psychodynamic theories focus on how a child’s instinctual mind interacts with his or her social environment and the important people in it to produce many characteristics and behaviours. A child’s mind is viewed as a dynamic and active force. It has certain characteristics, many of which are innate, that drive the child to act in certain ways. In addition, components of the mind interact with each other; the results of these interactions influence how a child thinks, feels, and behaves. All humans have instincts; we never lose them; and they influence our behaviors throughout our lives. They are part of what makes us human. These instincts have energy, and they drive our behaviour in predictable ways. This is an essential concept. Our instincts push us to think, feel, and behave in certain ways rather than simply reacting to the world around us. Just as we drive a nail into wood, a car down the highway, or our parents crazy, our instincts drive us. Conflicts develop when our instinctual drives contact the society around us, which is often intolerant of our instincts and demands that we conform our behaviour to societal expectations (Ziegler, 2002). Beginning early in our lives, we realize that we cannot simply follow the impulses of our instinctual drives. Instead we must regularly restrain them so that we do not act in ways that anger those on whom we depend (our parents early in our lives, but also teachers, romantic partners, drill sergeants, employers, and others as we go through life). So there is ongoing tension between the drives of our instincts and the demands of the society around us. Who we are as children and later as adults is largely determined by how we handle this tension. To the extent that our instincts and the expectations of society can coexist, we are content. To the extent that they cannot, we are anxious, frustrated, angry, or unhappy.
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