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Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytical Theory

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    The most noticeable part of our psychological life is our personality. When we speak of personality, it involves a person’s character, behaviour, attitudes, qualities, and traits of an individual. It is, in fact one of the basic foundation of the study of psychology. Many psychologist coined in different theories of Personality and one such person is Sigmund Freud, who coined “Psychoanalytical Theory. ” He is considered the Father of Psychoanalysis and is noted for establishing the field of verbal psychotherapy.

    Originally trained as a neurologist, Freud is best known for his theories about the unconscious mind, dreams, infantile sexuality, libido, repression, and transference all of which continue to influence the field of psychology. Freud’s account of the mind’s structure ( id, ego, and super ego) led to a new understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of psychological disturbance. In this paper we will be studying the four main central part of Freud topics namely; levels on consciousness, the structure of personality, defense mechanisms and psychosexual stages of development in detail.

    BIOGRAPHY Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1885 in the town of Freiburg, Moravia of Jewish parents. His father was wool merchant and his mother was the second wife and 20 years younger slender and attractive. Sigmund Freud was her first son so she was very protective and loving towards him. He felt passionate and sexual attachment toward her which later on set the stage for the development of the “Oedipus stage. ” As a young boy Freud excelled in studies was highly ambitious.

    He received medical degree in the year 1883 and entered into private practice but he wanted to pursue his career in scientific research and so he came under the influence of eminent psychologist Ernst Brucke and worked as an assistant in neurological problems in lower animals. Later he joined French neurologist Jean Charcot a pioneer in the use of hypnosis in Paris and spent a short time as a resident in neurology and director of a children’s ward in Berlin. He came back to Vienna, married his fiancee of many years Martha Bernays, and set up a practice in neuropsychiatry, with the help of Joseph Breuer.

    Freud immigrated to England just before World War II when Vienna became an increasing dangerous place for Jews and not long afterward, he died of mouth and jaw cancer that he had suffered from for the last 20 years of his life. His eldest daughter Anna Freud followed his footsteps and completed his work. THEORY In 1886, Freud after many years of clinical practice and his own sexual conflicts, he was convinced that sexual conflicts were the primary cause of all neurosis or emotional or mental disturbance.

    In saying so Freud concluded that the mental life of human being are divided into three distinctive levels that is conscious, preconscious an unconscious. The conscious covers a small area so it plays a relatively small role in personality development and functioning. It contains all the information that a person is paying attention to at any given time. Working closely with the conscious mind is what Freud called the preconscious, what we might today call “available memory:” it contains all the information outside of a person’s attention but readily available if needed. The unconscious covers relatively a large area.

    The unconscious contains thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories of which people have no awareness but that influence every aspect of their day-to-day lives such as our drives or instincts, and things that are put there because we can’t bear to look at them, such as the memories and emotions associated with trauma. Example: Stan’s unconscious might contain angry feelings toward his mother or a traumatic incident he experienced at age four. Freud believed that information in the unconscious emerges in slips of the tongue, jokes, dreams, illness symptoms, and the associations people make.

    The unconscious is the source of our motivations and the instincts are also rooted in the unconscious. For Freud instincts are the basic elements or driving forces of personality. He grouped it into two categories; life instinct and death instinct. Life instinct is based on the survival of individuals by seeking to satisfy the needs for food, water, air and sex. The psychic energy manifested by the life instinct is the libido. In contrast to the life instinct is the death instinct which is the aggressive drive that compels us to destroy, conquer or kill. It is an unconscious wish to die.

    Freud regarded that aggression as compelling a part of human nature as sex. THE STRUCTURE OF PERSONALITY To understand how the personality influences the behaviour, Freud proposed the three systems of the mind; the id, ego and superego. The id is the original and powerful aspect of the personality, it consist of unconscious sexual desires, bodily needs and aggressive instincts. It is the source of psychic energy and operates according to the pleasure principle to avoid pain and maximise pleasure. It demands immediate and total gratification without considering the cause in seeking the goal.

    The ego is the secondary process thought that controls the id’s impulses in wide variety of situation. The ego delays the satisfying motives and channels behaviour into more socially acceptable outlets. It operates on the reality principle that takes account of what is possible in the real world. The tension between the id and reality helps the ego develop more and more sophisticated thinking skills. The superego corresponds closely to the conscious, it is the moral aspect of personality; the internalization of parental and societal value and standards.

    It consist of two major components, the conscious and the ego-ideal. Conscience is a part of those behaviour for which the children are punished and ego-ideal is a second part of superego which consists of rewards. the main function of superego is to slow down the urges of id , to convince the ego to substitute moralistic goals for realistic ones and to strive for perfection. The superego is very demanding and interacts dynamically with id and ego. ANXIETY AND DEFENSE MECHANISM Freud believed that the id, the ego, and the superego are in constant conflict.

    He focused mainly on conflicts concerning sexual and aggressive urges because these urges are most likely to violate societal rules. Internal conflicts can make a person feel anxious. In Freud’s view, anxiety arises when the ego cannot adequately balance the demands of the id and the superego. The id demands gratification of its impulses, and the superego demands maintenance of its moral standards.. Ego protects or defends a person from anxiety by unconsciously blocking the impulses or distorting them into a more acceptable, less threatening form. To manage these internal conflicts, people use defense mechanisms.

    Defense mechanisms are behaviors that protect people from anxiety and they are: * Repression: keeping unpleasant thoughts, memories, and feelings shut up in the unconscious. * Suppression: involves active and conscious attempt to stop anxiety-provoking thoughts by simply not thinking about them. * Denial: involves denying the existence of an external threat or traumatic event. * Displacement: transferring feelings about a person or event onto someone or something else. * Sublimation : channeling unacceptable thoughts and feelings into socially acceptable behavior. Regression: reverting to a more immature state of psychological development. Example: When six-year-old Jamie gets less attention from his parents because of a new baby brother, he suddenly starts to wet his bed at night.

    * Projection: attributing one’s own unacceptable thoughts or feelings to someone else. * Rationalization: using incorrect but self-serving explanations to justify unacceptable behavior, thoughts, or feelings. * Undoing: involves gestures or rituals that are meant to cancel out unpleasant thoughts or feelings after they’ve already occurred. Reaction formation: behaving in a way that is opposite to behavior, feelings, or thoughts that are considered unacceptable. THE THEORY OF PSYCHOSEXUAL DEVELOPMENT For Freud, the concept of libido, “is a fundamental pleasure-seeking drive which unconsciously motivates us from the moment of our birth. ” His revolutionary claim was that sexual desires were the primary motivating force not only for adults but for children and even infant. He noticed that each body region assumed greater importance as the center of conflict at a different age.

    From these observations he derived the theory of psychosexual stages of development. These stages are disturbed when libido energy gets blocked or fixated causing adult emotional neuroses. The greater the level of fixation the greater the problem the patient has in achieving a satisfactory adult emotional relationship. Thus, Fixation is an inability to progress normally from one stage into another. When the child becomes an adult, the fixation shows up as a tendency to focus on the needs that were over-gratified or over-frustrated.

    The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months. The focus of pleasure is, of course, the mouth. Sucking, biting are swallowing are some of the favorite activities. The mother becomes the primary object of the child’s libido. Adults fixated at this stage become concerned with excessive eating, drinking, and smoking. And if gratification is excessive their adult oral personality will be predisposed to unusual optimism and dependency. The anal stage lasts from about 18 months to three or four years old. The focus of pleasure is the anus. The parents make ffort to toilet train their children. The process of elimination becomes the primary focus of pleasure. The fixation due to overly harsh toilet training may result in individuals who are very orderly and in case of relaxed toilet training will result in individuals who are undisciplined, impulsive and over generous. The phallic stage lasts from three or four to five, six, or seven years old. The focus of pleasure is the genitalia. Masturbation is common. Children fantasize about sex and opposite sex parents and phenomenon he termed as Oedipus complex.

    It is a crisis of psychosexual development in which children much five up their sexual attraction to their opposite sex parent. The fear of punishment for such desire enters them, in case of boys they fear the punishment of castration and in case of girls they fear loss of love. Freud believed that the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex played a crucial role in the formation of the superego and the personality. However, he did not have a plausible account of how this developmental phase applied to girls.

    Freud believed that because girls do not have a penis, they don’t have the same motivation to develop a strong superego. Instead, they develop penis envy, or a sense of discontent and resentment resulting from their wish for a penis. This gender-biased idea has raised strong criticism from many psychologists, including the psychoanalyst Karen Horney. Horney proposed that it was more likely that men have womb envy because of their inability to bear children The latent stage lasts from five, six, or seven to puberty, that is, somewhere around 12 years old.

    During this stage, Freud believed that the sexual impulse was suppressed in the service of learning. Most children seem to be fairly calm, sexually, during their school years and learn social and technical skills to become effective and responsible citizen in society. The genital stage begins at puberty, and represents the rebirth of the sex drive in adolescence, and the more specific focusing of pleasure in sexual intercourse and lust is blended with affection. THERAPY Freud’s therapy has been more influential than any other and some of his influential therapy are: Free association.

    The client may talk about anything they wanted irrespective of how embarrassing, unimportant and illogical it was. The theory is that, with relaxation, the unconscious conflicts will inevitably drift to the fore. Dream analysis. In sleep, we are somewhat less resistant to our unconscious and we will allow a few things, in symbolic form, of course, to come to awareness. These wishes from the id provide the therapist and client with more clues. Many forms of therapy make use of the client’s dreams, but Freudian interpretation is distinct in the tendency to find sexual meanings.

    Slip of tongue: In fact, Freud felt that almost everything meant something almost all the time — dialing a wrong number, making a wrong turn, misspelling a word, were serious objects of study for Freud. For example: Jenny calls up her mother on Mother’s Day and says, “You’re the beast, Mom,” when she consciously intended to say, “You’re the best, Mom. ” According to psychoanalytic theory, this slip of the tongue, known as a Freudian slip, reveals her unconscious anger toward her mother. Transference occurs when a client projects feelings toward the therapist that more legitimately belong to others.

    Freud felt that transference was necessary in therapy in order to bring the repressed emotions that have been plaguing the client for so long, to the surface. CRITICISM ORIGINALITY: Critics concerned with the originality of Freudian concepts indicate that many ideas that have been attributed to him were adopted and modified from his teachers and peers, as well as from other sources. He was not the first thinker to put forward the notions of the unconscious and catharsis, or ideas concerning sexual pathology and the interpretation of dreams.

    Indeed, it goes back to the ancient Greeks and beyond. Whether or not one accepts Freudian theory, his creative mastery in the integration of ideas is difficult to deny. UNMEASURABLE- All Freud’s theories are built upon their own internal logic which cannot be proved either way. Internally it is reliable, but externally un-provable and little or no scientific worth. Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality went relatively unchallenged in psychoanalytic circles until the advent of John Bowlby and his emphasis on the reality of the child’s world over fantasy.

    Fisher and Greenberg take the view that it is probably not possible to make an empirical evaluation of Freud’s understanding of psychopathology in general terms, because of the theory’s vague and unquantifiable nature. NO ANALYTICAL VALUE – Even if we know that someone had no father figure against whom to compete for his mother’s affection, what does that tell us about his future behaviour? Fisher and Greenberg found that research evidence contradicted the notion that the function of dreams was primarily to indicate secret and unconscious wishes.

    They did not, however, review research on repression and the other defence mechanisms or evidence for the concept of transference as outlined by Freud. They also reported unclear evidence regarding the efficacy of psychoanalytic therapy. GENERALISATION – Theory not based on a large sample of people, or tested under experimental conditions with control groups, etc. Freud’s patients were largely wealthy hysterical Victorian middle-class women in Vienna in the late 1800s. Therefore, from such a narrow group, the theory is applied universally.

    It is presented as an all-encompassing male-centred theory. UNDERSTANDING the UNCONSCIOUS – Freud deals with the Unconscious mind which he claims can only be understood through dreams, slips of the tongue, etc. But, do we really understand how the Conscious Mind itself works?. Therefore, how can something which does not understand itself, begin to interpret what the Unconscious Mind generates? LIBIDO THEORY- I would agree with Faribairn’s critical evaluation of Freud’s libido theory. For Fairbairn libido was not primarily pleasure seeking but goal of this drive was a human person.

    The person is no longer seen as an instinct driven organism seeking pleasure and satisfaction but rather as a human being seeking meaningful relationships. BIBLICAL IMPLICATION Sigmund Freud quotes, “at the bottom God is nothing more than an exalted father. ” For freud, religion was an illusion and those who followed Freud at first were uniformly hostile to biblical belief. To Freud and his followers the human being was nothing but an animal motivated by the sex drive and other ego needs. Freud’s model agrees with scripture in some respects.

    The Bible describes us as tripartite beings made up of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). In a rough, imperfect way, the spirit corresponds to Freud’s Superego; the soul to the Ego; and the body to the Id. The Bible also unveils a struggle between spirit and body best illustrated by Paul in Romans 7. However, Freud and the Bible part ways in the diagnosis and prescription for humanity’s internal conflict. Where Freud perceives human beings as completely physical in their makeup, the Bible presents man as part physical, part spiritual.

    While both agree that the body’s desires are in and of themselves amoral, the Bible contends that a spiritual being should not be directed by fleshly impulses. In short, Freud sides with the Id over the Superego while the Bible sides with the spirit over the body. Dream interpretation embraces the notion that God speaks to you through dreams. (example; Joseph dreams) The Bible frequently uses dreams as vehicles for God to use to communicate to people. The events in dreams may be used as guidance, instructions or warnings. But for Freud dreams are wishes from the id that provide the therapist and client with more clues.

    Many forms of therapy make use of the client’s dreams, but Freudian interpretation is distinct in the tendency to find sexual meanings. According To Freud, man is not responsible for his action. He is a victim of other people in society whereas according to scripture in Galatians 6:5, Proverba 9:12, Genensis 3:12, man is responsible for his sin, yet he wants to shift his blame to God or others. For Freud, the man struggles between his normal desires (id) and his conscience (superego), which his overly strict (mother/church) has created.

    He represses this deep inner struggle over what he feels and what society says is right. This man is poorly socialized. However in the scripture Man is a sinner by nature and seeks to live selfishly to fulfill the lusts of his flesh and mind. Man is dead spiritually. See: Romans 5:12, Ephesians 2:1-3. The therapy according to Freud is that he must be taken back into his past to relive it through hypnosis, dream analysis and free association. This will allow the counselor to restructure the counselee’s value system and relieve his conscience.

    But in scripture man only needs to be saved to experience this transforming power of God. This redemption is God’s treatment for the root problems of man. See: Titus 2:11-3:5. Man can’t change his past. He must stop looking back, and re-focus his attention on the present. Forgive and reconcile with others today. According to Freud sex in dirty and contaminated but in the scripture sex is holy and something beautiful. Thus, modern psychology contradicts scripture by saying human nature is basically good and people have the answers to their problems inside them and the actions lies somewhere in his past.

    Human problems can be purely psychological in nature—unrelated to any spiritual or physical condition. · Deep-seated problems can be solved only by professional counselors using therapy. · Scripture, prayer, and the Holy Spirit are inadequate and simplistic resources for solving certain types of problems. FREUD’S CONTRIBUTION TO PSYCHOLOGY Freud was one of the first thinkers in the Western tradition to put conscience under such hard, honest scrutiny. He spent much of his life exploring the workings of the unconscious.

    Freud’s work has influenced society for when we speak of Freudian slips or look for hidden causes behind irrational behavior, we are using aspects of Freudian analysis. Many literary critics have also adopted Freud’s various theories and methods. He made us aware that the Mind operates at various levels. Highlighted the importance of infant development and that a child has sexual feelings. Took away many social taboos related to sex. We certainly live in a post-Freudian age. There is no going back to a pre-Freudian period. His controversial theories acted as a viable starting point for much research, especially into childhood psychology.

    His work supported the belief that not all mental illnesses have physiological causes and he also offered evidence that cultural differences have an impact on psychology and behavior. His work and writings contributed to our understanding of personality, clinical psychology, human development, and abnormal psychology. Freud major works are; the Interpretation of Dreams, the Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Totem and taboo, Civilization and Its Discontents, and The Future is an Illusion. Ultimately the significance of Freud’s contribution to psychology can be seen as threefold.

    Firstly, in the creation of a therapeutic, secondly in focusing the attention of clinical psychology on personality and emotion, Finally, he has provided in Psychoanalysis an incredibly ambitious psychological theory.


    Armand, Nicholi, The Question of God: C. S Lewis & Sigmund Freud Debate Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life. NY: Freeepress, 2002. Baron, Robert A. Psychology. (5th Ed). Noida: Pearson, 2001. Blazer, Dan. Freud V God: How Psychiatry Lost its Souls an Christianity Lost its Mind. USA. AMJ Psychiatry, 1999. Fairbairn, Ronald. Psychoanalysis Studies of Personality.

    London: Tavistock, 1952 Hunsinger, Deborah Van Deusen. Theology & Pastoral Counselling: A New Interdisciplinary Approach. Secunderabad: OM Books,1995. Morgan, Clifford T, King, Richard A, Weisz, John R, Schopler, John. Introduction to Psychology. (7th Ed). New Delhi: Tata McGrw Hill, 1993. Rychman, Richard M. Theories of Personality. (9th Ed). CA: Wadsworth, 2008. Schultz, Duane P, Schultz, Sydney Ellen. Theories of Personality. (9th Ed). CA: Wadsworth, 2008. The American Journal of Psychiatry Vol: 156. No. 2. www. jcsm. org/StudyCenter/john_macarthur/rediscoveringbc1. htm www. onetruechurch. net/society/freud-and-the-bible/

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