Assignment 2: Discussion—Freudian Theory
Sigmund Freud, although one of the best-known personality theorists, is probably also one of the most controversial in the field of psychology. When starting to consider theories of personality, one must begin with a look at Sigmund Freud, as he was one of the first theorists to develop a psychoanalytical theory that was based on real-life patients and not studies conducted in a lab. Even if you do not agree with his theories, he is the starting point from which many other theorists have begun. Specifically, he was concerned with the development of the personality and how it created the neuroses he saw in many of his patients.
Research Freud’s theories using your textbook, the Internet, and the Argosy University online library resources. Based on your research, respond to the following:
Unfortunately, the bad press surrounding Freud and his ideas has led many people to ignore the good points he made; and there are plenty of those. Without Freud for example we would never have the concept of the unconscious mind, of Freudian slips or of dream interpretation. Of course some parts of his theories are a little off, but then considering their age that is surely to be expected? The key is not to ignore Freud then, but to read his ideas so that you can see how they can be used to help you understand yourself, but to take them with a pinch of salt and an analytical mind. If you are thinking of seeing a therapist then different approaches will work for different people, after reading this you can decide if psychoanalysis is for you.
I don’t believe it is necessary to shun Freud. He plays a vital role in one on one therapy. Yes, I use him in the present tense because in America it seems with time it becomes okay to copy someone else’s theories or work. We dissect and use what fits in our own theories without giving credit to the source. I feel Freud at least if not anything, has opened the door for a more expressive therapy. He gives psychologists today the opportunity to be open in their approach, stance and tactics.
One of the key concepts of Sigmund Freud’s approach to psychology (or the ‘psychodynamic approach’) is that the psyche is split into three separate entities. These entities are the ‘id’, the ‘ego’ and the ‘superego’, with the first and last being largely unconscious. The id is the childlike, animalistic side of our personality that’s driven by its sex drive and desire for gratification, food and warmth. This is then kept in check by the ego and the superego, with the superego being the opposite of the id – a highly controlling and anxious entity that seeks to act in a socially acceptable manner, almost like a conscience. The ego is then trapped somewhere in the middle.
Most famously though, Sigmund Freud described our unconscious desires as coming out in our dreams which he described as the ‘royal road to the unconscious’. This lead to the development of many pop-psychology books claiming to be able to interpret the meaning of your dreams. However this is actually an incorrect interpretation of Freud, who described the symbols in our dreams as being unique to us. For example, a pen might represent a penis for one person (Freud believed many of the images in our dreams to be phallic), creativity and expression for another, or just a pen depending on what the patient associates with it. It is then up to the patient and the analyst to together discover the meaning of the dream.
Dream interpretation is often then used in combination with ‘free association’. The idea behind free associate is to get the patient to react to a word by quickly saying the first thing it brings to mind. By going through this process you can then get closer and closer to what’s going on in the patient’s unconscious.
Another method used by psychotherapists to learn what’s going on in a patient’s unconscious is known as ‘projection’. Like the defense mechanism of the same name, here the patient is shown an ambiguous image such as an ink blot, then asked to say what they see. As the ink blot can be interpreted in a variety of ways, their answer it is hoped will provide clues into their unconscious processes and any issues on their mind.
Even art can be interpreted by a psychoanalyst as an expression of the unconscious whether deliberate or not on the part of the artist and arguably all art is a form of catharsis, or expressing things you can’t normally. Freud believed for instance that it was no coincidence that the Eiffel Tower resembled a giant phallus and believed for this reason that it was a ‘typically French’ monument…
Therapists can also aim cause the patient to project onto them, or to sublimate them for another person. This is the reason that the psychotherapist remains mostly faceless, sitting behind the patient out of sight and speaking minimally without reacting to what the patient’s saying. The other purpose for the couch set up is that Freud hoped it would recall for the patient memories of being in the cot. It is then hoped unresolved issues with the subjects’ parents might affect the relationship between them and the therapist giving some insight into childhood traumas or parental issues.
This is significant as issues that affect us in adult life are said to have developed in childhood specifically through our complex interactions with parents. These developmental points are also said to be what forms our personalities, with our personalities supposedly fully formed by adulthood.
As Sigmund Freud saw it, as we develop there are several ‘psychosexual’ stages that we go through. These are the ‘oral’, ‘anal’, ‘latency’ and ‘genital’ stages, where the child seeks stimulation from of these areas. For example, Freud believed that during the anal stage children derive enjoyment from excretion. It is then said that should if the child should experience serious trauma at this age they will become ‘fixated’, retaining the characteristics they had at that age. For example, an ‘anal’ personality might develop if the parents are too strict with their potty training, resulting in a personality that is strict with tidiness and gets anxious if something is out of place. Again ‘anal personality’ is a term that’s found its way into our every day vocabulary.
The most famous and controversial of these stages however is the ‘oedipal stage’. Here the child is said to begin to have sexual feelings for their opposite sex parent. Boys want to replace the Farther as head of the family and as husband to their mother. However, at the same time they supposedly fear and respect the father and believe they will castrated if they continue. Through this process they identify with the Father and this is how the superego is created.
While these concepts seem a bit far removed from reality, if we were to replace the word ‘sexual’ with something less extreme then there may be some value in the ideas still. Children do for example feel jealous of parents, just perhaps not because of sexual desire. Similarly while children do like to experiment at a young age, its probably not for sexual gratification. Perhaps then Sigmund Freud simply needs reinterpretation, as he has a lot of useful ideas as well as not so useful ones.
Not so useful ideas can be researched and it is good for business. It keeps people in wonder and may spark a “what-if?” Now, I am not saying to mislead patients, nevertheless, sometimes, we have to take a stand on our hypothesis and I believe this is what Freud did as crazy as this may sound. I feel he was fixated or obsessed with his work, or, figured dreams, childhood and parenting has a lot to do with who we become.
I have heard some of my friends say as we age our features resemble us as we were when we were babies. I began looking at senior citizen’s and saying to myself, “wow, I can see the resemblance” or picture this person as a baby. We have many theories and Freud just added debate. Debate is great for mental exercise. Plus, Freud stamped his name to psychology till the end of time. That is amazing! I believe we have a good percentage of people who would love to have made a difference in their general field and be remembered forever!
Jaquetta Stevens PhD.