The definition of Primary Process:


Primary Process is a concept in psychology that refers to the irrational and unconscious mental processes that operate at the subconscious level, according to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. It involves the satisfaction of basic biological and instinctual drives, such as sexual desires, hunger, and aggression, while disregarding the constraints of reality, logic, and morality.


  • Unconscious: The primary process operates at an unconscious level, meaning individuals are not aware of these mental processes.
  • Irrational: It is driven by irrational and instinctual urges that are not governed by logic or reason.
  • Wish Fulfillment: The primary process aims to fulfill immediate gratification of desires, regardless of their practicality or consequences.
  • Symbolic Representation: It often relies on symbolic representation, where unconscious thoughts and desires are expressed through dreams, fantasies, or symbols.
  • Timeless: The primary process is not bound by the constraints of time, allowing past experiences and repressed memories to resurface in the present.

Relationship with Secondary Process:

The primary process is counterbalanced by the secondary process, which represents conscious and rational thoughts. The secondary process functions to navigate the demands of reality and employs logical thinking and moral considerations. These two processes work together to maintain a balance between instinctual desires and the constraints of the external world.

Role in Psychoanalysis:

Primary process thinking plays a significant role in psychoanalytic therapy, as therapists aim to bring unconscious desires and conflicts to a conscious level through techniques like dream analysis, free association, and interpretation of symbolic material. By uncovering and understanding the primary process, individuals can gain insight into their unconscious motivations and work towards resolving conflicts for psychological growth and healing.