Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)
Sigmund Freud, a neurologist from Vienna, Austria was the first to introduce the Psychological theory of Psychoanalysis. Born in what is now known as Freiberg (Czechoslovakia) in 1856, he became known as the most controversial fore-father of Psychology.
As a small child his family moved to Vienna Austria where he attended Medical School and became an influential Neurologist. During his time Freud spent in France, he became intrigued with hypnosis to treat neurotic disorders and therefore brought hypnosis back to his practice in Vienna where he continued to use this form of therapy to help patients recall past traumatic experiences. He became fascinated with the conscious and the unconscious mind and pondered the theory that the subconscious will repress events from early childhood, causing emotional trauma in adult patients. As time progressed he came to a realization that these various emotional problems frequently led to physical illness such as depression. Greatly intrigued, Freud continued to evaluate his patients until he introduced the theory of Psychoanalysis, and discontinued his treatment of hypnosis.
Psychoanalysis is the theory that focuses on unconscious motives, desires and conflicts and the various ways the mind uses to supress those feelings.
Although this was a time when the rest of the psychology field were determined to prove psychology as a science Freud introduced his controversial psychoanalysis theory to the world.
The Unconscious Mind: Freud developed the theory that the unconscious mind consists of unspeakable conflicts, desires, violence and deviant sexual thoughts, buried deep within this level, unable to be brought to consciousness as it’s realization of such thoughts would drive the individual to insanity.
The Conscious Mind: Freud claims will consist of only thoughts that the mind and awareness can tolerate.
This is the foundation of psychoanalysis, and this theory metaphorically introduces an iceberg to describe the human level of consciousness. The iceberg is symbolized as the structure of personality which explains the levels of consciousness such as the Ego, Id and Superego.
Metaphorically at the base and deepest level of the iceberg, is the level that is well below the surface of consciousness. It is here that Freud claims to be a pleasure seeking, pain avoiding lure to unspeakable sexual pleasures, thoughts and graphics that would be far too disturbing for the conscious mind to handle. The Id consists of two absolute instincts, life and death. The sexual pleasure seeking thoughts are derived from the life instinct and suppressed violence and aggression is derived from the death instinct. Freud strongly believed that each individual’s personality was solely based on latent sexual desires, conflicts and violent aggression.
The next level up from the base of the iceberg, struggles to keep the Id from releasing negative desires and actions. The Ego takes a more conservative approach representing rational thinking, and common sense rather than the hedonistic pleasure seeking Id. The Ego’s struggles are endless as it also keeps a balance between the Id and the Superego.
Resting at the top level of the metaphoric iceberg is highly concerned with morals and even though it is still part of the unconscious, it judges the Id, and will exceedingly be concerned with proper behavior and thought rational. The Superego is the ultimate conscience, and will reward you with feelings of pride when you’ve accomplished moral acts, and guilt if you’ve succumbed to the Id. The Superego however is too moral and focused on society, and the Ego must diligently keep these two forces from taking over.
In doing this, the Ego introduced various defense mechanisms which assist in keeping the unreasonable morality of the Superego and the unspeakable pleasure seeking Id from causing duress to the personality structure and entering into consciousness causing great discomfort or duress.
The 6 Defense Mechanisms.
Freud’s term to define the mechanism used to prevent painful traumatic experiences from childhood such as sexual abuse from entering into consciousness, as well as disturbing, or harmful thoughts from the Id.
Is the term used to define when a person reverts to childhood behaviour if under extreme pressure and feelings of discomfort. For example; a child when they are upset, could revert back to behaviours of when they were smaller such as behaving like a small baby.
This defense mechanism describes the behaviour of strong and irrational negative feelings towards the behaviour or act of another person or group of people. This would be solely due to their own repressed feelings on the subject. A common example of this would be strong homophobic feelings, as a defense mechanism to avoid self-guilt due to their own repressed homosexual desires.
Commonly occurs amongst individuals that are feeling strong anger towards one person, but directing it towards others. An example of this could be misogyny in which a man with repressed anger towards his mother for letting his father abuse him during childhood would learn to mistreat, or have a deep unconscious anger or disrespect towards women.
This mechanism occurs when an individual will form a strong repressed emotion into the opposite emotion towards a particular individual or event. An example of this would be if a woman is fearful that her marriage is falling apart, she will over exemplify her marriage as being perfect, to anyone that will ask. Her positive reactions are overly exaggerated, and almost highly defensive.
A defense mechanism used to protect the individual’s emotions, such as pain or embarrassment by refusing to accept the truth about a certain subject. For example an individual that is suffering from an addiction would deny this to themselves and others to avoid shame and discomfort.
Freud’s Psychosexual Stages:
Freud’s theory suggests that in order for healthy personality development, each person must go through psychosexual stages of development beginning from very early childhood. If these stages were not successfully passed then the individual would be fixated at that stage through forms of subtle unconscious behaviours.
Oral Stage (Birth – first year)
This stage of a newborn child is focused on eating, sucking, and pacifying effects of these oral activities. If this stage did not successfully provide the newborn with what they required then in turn they would develop what Freud termed as the Oral Fixation, describing an older child or adult who will habitually bite their nails, or have strong habits of placing objects into their mouths such as pens or pencils or maintain a habit of sucking their thumb.
Anal Stage (age 1-3)
Freud’s theory on this stage focuses on toilet training. If a child endures difficulty passing this stage, such as high pressure from parents, and too much anxiety placed on the child will result in their growing to become overly obsessed with order and cleanliness.
Phallic Stage (age 3 – 6)
This stage on Freud’s theory is one that focuses on the genital area, and the manipulation and pleasurable feelings associated with this discovery This theory also introduces the Oedipus theory, and the Electra theory.
The Oedipus Complex theory is Freud’s suggestion that during the boy’s fixation on his genitals he develops strong latent sexual desires for his mother, however his fear of his father, and the fear he will take his mother away from him will suppress those feelings even further bringing forth the Superego, as well as a term called castration anxiety.
The Electra Complex theory is the female version in which the little girl has latent sexual desire for her father, but realizes later that she does not have a penis and therefore she develops the term called penis envy. She is subconsciously angry toward her mother during this stage, but then eventually becomes emotionally attached to her mother.
Sigmund Freud’s theories have raised great controversy, yet his theories of Psychoanalysis have continued on to this day. The various manifestations however of sexual repression have been replaced with far more appropriate and less disturbing ideology.