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In psychoanalysis and other forms of depth psychology, the psyche (pronounced [ˈsaɪki]) refers to the forces in an individual that influence thought, behavior and personality.[1] The word is borrowed from ancient Greek, and refers to the concept of the self, encompassing the modern ideas of soul, self, and mind. The Greeks believed that the soul or "psyche" was responsible for behaviour.[2][3]

Freud's structural theory of the psyche

Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis, believed that the psyche was composed of 3 components:[4]

  • The id, which represents the instinctual drives of an individual and remains largely unconscious.
  • The ego, which is conscious and serves to integrate the drives of the id with the prohibitions of the super-ego. Freud believed this conflict to be at the heart of neurosis.
  • The super-ego, which represents a person's conscience and their internalization of societal norms and morality.

Jung's definitions of “psyche” and "soul"

Carl Jung wrote much of his work in German. Difficulties for translation arise because the German word Seele means both psyche and soul. Jung was careful to define what he meant by psyche and by soul.

I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a "personality". (Jung, 1971: Def. 48 par. 797)

[The translation of the German word Seele presents almost insuperable difficulties on account of the lack of a single English equivalent and because it combines the two words "psyche" and "soul" in a way not altogether familiar to the English reader. For this reason some comment by the Editors will not be out of place.]

[In previous translations, and in this one as well, psyche– for which Jung in the German original uses either Psyche or Seele– has been used with reference to the totality of all psychic processes (cf. Jung, Psychological Types, Def. 48); i.e., it is a comprehensive term. Soul, on the other hand, as used in the technical terminology of analytical psychology, is more restricted in meaning and refers to a "function complex" or partial personality and never to the whole psyche. It is often applied specifically to "anima" and "animus"; e.g., in this connection it is used in the composite word "soul-image" (Seelenbild). This conception of the soul is more primitive than the Christian one with which the reader is likely to be more familiar. In its Christian context it refers to "the transcendental energy in man" and "the spiritual part of man considered in its moral aspect or in relation to God." . . . –Editors.] (Jung, 1968: note 2 par. 9)


  1. Cf. Reed, Edward S., on the narrowing of the study of the psyche into the study of the mind.
  2. Cf. Rohde, Psyche, Chapters I and VII
  3. Also cf. the myth of Eros and Psyche as Psyche was the embodiment of the soul.
  4. Reber, Arthur S.; Reber, Emily S. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Penguin Reference. ISBN 0-140-51451-1.


  • Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works, Volume 12, Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691018316 OCLC 219856.
  • Jung, C.G. (1971). Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8.
  • Reed, Edward S., From Soul to Mind: The Emergence of Psychology, from Erasmus Darwin to William James, Yale University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0300075812
  • Rohde, Erwin, Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality Among the Greeks, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1925; reprinted by Routledge, 2000. ISBN 0415225639
  • Patabendige Malitha(2009)."Psycological aspects in pregnancy",Reseach study,4th year Medical Student,Sri Lanka

Further reading

  • Valsiner, Jaan; Rosa, Alberto, The Cambridge Handbook of Sociocultural Psychology, Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 0521854105. Cf. Chapter 1, p.23, "The Myth and Beyond: Ontology of Psyche and Epistemology of Psychology".
  • Wilson, Robert Andrew; Keil, Frank C., The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, MIT Press, 2001. ISBN 0262731444