Evaluate the Extent to Which Freud’s Theory

Published: 2021-09-10 14:15:09
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Category: Psychosexual Development

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I shall also define and consider the relationship between the Id, Ego and Superego and the way in which these constructs of our psyche are in many ways representative of earlier experiences and of those early situations and conflicts we had faced. Lastly, I will examine some of the criticisms that have been leveled at Freudian theory in order to evaluate it. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Viennese physician, trained in neurology and the founder of psychoanalytic theory. He created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior, focusing on the unconscious instinct and urges rather than the conscious.
The psychoanalytic view holds that there are inner forces outside of our awareness that are directing our behavior. Freud postulated that human nature was focused mainly on desire rather than reason and that it was ones past experiences that determined ones future behavior and personality development. While his theories were considered shocking at the time and continue to create debate and controversy, his work had a profound influence on a number of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, and art.
The term psychoanalysis is used to refer to many aspects of Freud’s work and research, including Freudian therapy and the research methodology he used to develop his theories. Freud relied heavily upon his observations and case studies of his patients when he formed his theory of personality development. The main themes of Freud’s work were centred on the significance of the first few years of a child’s life, in the subsequent development of personality; psychosexual development.
Freud believed that children experience emotional conflicts, and their future adjustment depends on how well these conflicts are resolved. Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development Freud published ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and other Works’ in 1905, one of those essays was titled’ Infantile Sexuality’; in this essay Freud puts forward his theory of psychosexual development. Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial.
He believed that in order to understand a client’s presenting issue one would need to look into their childhood to find out why the client was suffering neurosis. According to Freud, personality is mostly established by the age of five and early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behavior later in life. According to the theory, personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure seeking energies of the Id become focused in certain erogenous zones.
The five stages are: Oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage, and genital stage. All the stages have two things in common: each one has their own comfort and pleasure source and is involved in particular conflicts that must be resolved before moving on to the next stage of development. This psychosexual energy, or libido, was described as the driving force behind behavior. He asserted that sexuality is more than just genital copulation between adults and his work is the background to his theory on infantile sexuality. Freud believed that babies were polymorphously perverse, i. . any part of the body could be used by the libido. Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality and its psychological affects centres around the concepts of fixation, regression and repression. Repression is the banishment of painful, emotionally charged instinctual thoughts or memories into the unconscious. It is the process of into the unconscious, which may occur at various stages of development, creating a lasting impact on an individual. He asserted that if these psychosexual stages are completed successfully, result is a healthy personality.
However, Freud identified that if the psychosexual stages of development were in any way interrupted at a certain time, then this would cause problems in later life; he believed that it was possible to link the psychosexual stages to adult neurosis. If certain issues are not resolved at the appropriate stage, fixation can occur. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage. Until this conflict is resolved, the individual will remain “stuck” in this stage; the term “psychosexual infantilism,” refers to those who become fixated in this way and fail to mature through the psychosexual stages into heterosexuality.
For example, a person who is fixated at the oral stage may be over-dependent on others and may seek oral stimulation through smoking, drinking, or eating. The Oral Stage – Erogenous Zone: Mouth During the oral stage, which occurs from birth to 1 year, the infant’s primary source of interaction occurs through the mouth, so the rooting and sucking reflex is especially important. The mouth is vital for eating, and the infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through gratifying activities such as tasting and sucking.
Because the infant is entirely dependent upon caretakers (who are responsible for feeding the child), the infant also develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation. This is also the first infant’s first relationship with its mother and it is a nutritive one. The length of this stage depends on the society. In some societies it is common for a child to be nursed by its mother for several years, whereas in others the stage is much shorter. Suckling and eating, however, compose the earliest memories for infants in every society.
This stage holds special importance because some, especially those in tribal societies commonly found in the Southwest Pacific and Africa, consider the stomach to be the seat of emotions. The primary conflict at this stage is the weaning process – the child must become less dependent upon caretakers. If fixation occurs at this stage, Freud believed the individual would have issues with dependency or aggression. Oral fixation can result in problems with drinking, eating, smoking or nail biting. The Anal Stage – Erogenous Zone: Bowel and Bladder Control
During the anal stage, which occurs from 1 to 3 years, Freud believed that the primary focus of the libido was on controlling bladder and bowel movements. The major conflict at this stage is toilet training–the child has to learn to control his or her bodily needs. Developing this control leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence. Success at this stage is dependent upon the way in which parents approach toilet training according to Freud. Parents who use praise and rewards for using the toilet at the appropriate time encourage positive outcomes and help children feel capable and productive.
Freud believed that positive experiences during this stage served as the basis for people to become competent, productive and creative adults. However, not all parents provide the support and encouragement that children need during this stage. Some parents’ instead punish, ridicule or shame a child for accidents. According to Freud, inappropriate parental responses can result in negative outcomes. If parents take an approach that is too lenient, Freud suggested that an anal-expulsive personality could develop in which the individual has a messy, wasteful or destructive personality.
If parents are too strict or begin toilet training too early, Freud believed that an anal-retentive personality develops in which the individual is stringent, orderly, rigid and obsessive. The Phallic Stage – Erogenous Zone: Genitals During the phallic stage, which occurs from age 3 to 6 years, the primary focus of the libido is on the genitals. At this age, children also begin to discover the differences between males and females. Freud also believed that boys begin to view their fathers as a rival for the mother’s affections. The Oedipus complex describes these feelings of wanting to possess the mother and the desire to replace the father.
However, the child also fears that he will be punished by the father for these feelings, a fear Freud termed castration anxiety. The term Electra complex has been used to describe a similar set of feelings experienced by young girls. Freud, however, believed that girls instead experience penis envy. Eventually, the child begins to identify with the same-sex parent as a means of vicariously possessing the other parent. For girls, however, Freud believed that penis envy was never fully resolved and that all women remain somewhat fixated on this stage.
The Latent Period – Erogenous Zone: Sexual Feelings Are Inactive During the latent period, which occurs from age 6 to Puberty, the libido interests are suppressed. The development of the ego and superego contribute to this period of calm. The stage begins around the time that children enter into school and become more concerned with peer relationships, hobbies and other interests. The latent period is a time of exploration in which the sexual energy is still present, but it is directed into other areas such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions.
This stage is important in the development of social and communication skills and self-confidence. The Genital Stage – Erogenous Zone: Maturing Sexual Interests During the final stage of psychosexual development, which occurs from Puberty to Death, the individual develops a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex. This stage begins during puberty but last throughout the rest of a person’s life. Where in earlier stages the focus was solely on individual needs, interest in the welfare of others grows during this stage. If the other stages have been completed successfully, the individual should now be well-balanced, warm and caring.
The goal of this stage is to establish a balance between the various life areas. Evaluating Freud’s Psychosexual Stage Theory •The theory is focused almost entirely on male development with little mention of female psychosexual development. •His theories are difficult to test scientifically. Concepts such as the libido are impossible to measure, and therefore cannot be tested. The research that has been conducted tends to discredit Freud’s theory. •Future predictions are too vague. How can we know that a current behavior was caused specifically by a childhood experience?
The length of time between the cause and the effect is too long to assume that there is a relationship between the two variables. •Freud’s theory is based upon case studies and not empirical research. Also, Freud based his theory on the recollections of his adult patients, not on actual observation and study of children. Criticism of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development Freud’s theories were decidedly androcentric, which is why he has received a great deal of criticism from feminists, as well as from gender theory practitioners. Freud had difficulty incorporating female desire into his theories.
Freud attempted to provide a theoretical explanation for feminine psychosexual development only rather late in his career. Freud personally confessed a lack of understanding of female sexuality when he wrote in 1933, “That is all I have to say to you about femininity,”… “ It is certainly incomplete and fragmentary and does not always sound friendly… If you want to know more about femininity, enquire of your own experiences of life, or turn to poets, or wait until science can give you deeper and more coherent information” (p. 362) but he did not hold out hope that psychology would ever explain the phenomenon.
Despite their popularity among psychoanalytical psychologists, Freud’s psychosexual theories are commonly criticized as being sexist. For example, Freud stated that young females develop “penis envy” toward the males during their psychosexual development. Karen Horney, a German Freudian psychoanalyst, disputed this theory, calling it both inaccurate and demeaning to women. She argued that young females develop “power envy” instead of “penis envy” toward the male. Instead, Horney proposed that men experience feelings of inferiority because they cannot give birth to children.
However, feminists do acknowledge the contribution of Freud’s theory in terms of opening the debate about sexuality but criticize him for emphasizing the father/child relationship when the main adult presence in childhood is female. Another theme with Freud’s work concerned the unconscious mind, (the part of our mind we are not aware of) and the theory of personality development. He believed that the unconscious contains unresolved conflicts and has a powerful effect on our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
Psychoanalytic theory of the conscious and unconscious mind is often explained using an iceberg metaphor. (see Fig. 1) Fig. 1 (Image by historicair) Conscious awareness is the tip of the iceberg, while the unconscious is represented by the ice. The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of and is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally. A part of this includes our memory which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness. Freud called this ordinary memory the preconscious.
According to Freud, one’s personality experiences anxiety when it doesn’t get what it wants and Freud described this as a feeling of fear and dread without an obvious cause. He proposed three types of anxiety: Reality anxiety, Neurotic anxiety and Moral Anxiety. He also derived the defense mechanisms which are the strategies the ego uses to defend itself against the anxiety provoked by conflicts of everyday life. He argued that that these conflicts will show themselves in our dreams and fantasies, and that threatening conflicts can appear in disguised forms, in the shapes of symbols.
Unconscious thoughts are not directly accessible to ordinary introspection, but are supposed to be capable of being “tapped” and “interpreted” by special methods and techniques such as random or free association, dream analysis, and verbal slips (commonly known as a Freudian slip), examined and conducted during psychoanalysis. Freud’s theory of the unconscious was substantially transformed by some of his followers, among them the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and Jacques Lacan. Freud’s Theory of Personality Development Sigmund Freud devised a psychoanalytic theory of personality that can be applied to the behavior of both child and adult.
If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension. For example, an increase in hunger or thirst should produce an immediate attempt to eat or drink. The id is very important early in life, because it ensures that an infant’s needs are met. If the infant is hungry or uncomfortable, he or she will cry until the demands of the id are met. However, immediately satisfying these needs is not always realistic or even possible. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings.
This sort of behavior would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable. According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the primary process, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need. The EGO The ego is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality. According to Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The ego functions in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.
The ego operates based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses. In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification – the ego will eventually allow the behavior, but only in the appropriate time and place. The ego also discharges tension created by unmet impulses through the secondary process, in which the ego tries to find an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id’s primary process.
The SUPEREGO The last component of personality to develop is the superego. The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society – our sense of right and wrong. The superego provides guidelines for making judgments. According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five. There are two parts of the superego: 1. The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for good behaviors. These behaviors include those which are approved of by parental and other authority figures.
Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value and accomplishment. 2. The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society. These behaviors are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishments or feelings of guilt and remorse. The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behavior. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious.
The Interaction of the Id, Ego and Superego With so many competing forces, it is easy to see how conflict might arise between the id, ego and superego. Freud used the term ego strength to refer to the ego’s ability to function despite these dueling forces. A person with good ego strength is able to effectively manage these pressures, while those with too much or too little ego strength can become too unyielding or too disrupting. According to Freud, the key to a healthy personality is a balance between the id, the ego, and the superego.
Criticism of Freud’s Personality Theory There is a great controversy over the concept of an unconscious in regard to its scientific or rational validity and whether the unconscious mind exists at all. Among philosophers, Karl Popper was one of Freud’s most notable contemporary opponents. Popper argued that Freud’s theory of the unconscious was not falsifiable, and therefore not scientific. “Falsifiability”, as defined by Popper, defines the inherent testability of any scientific hypothesis.
He objected not so much to the idea that things happened in our minds that we are unconscious of; he objected to investigations of mind that were not falsifiable. If one could connect every imaginable experimental outcome with Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind, then no experiment could refute the theory. However, some argue that the ‘non-falsifiable’ pseudo-problem demonstrates the inherent weakness in attempting to apply modern empirical science to the question of the existence of the unconscious.
Conclusion Freud’s thinking and work was original and revolutionary and has stood the test of time. His concepts such as fixation, repression, and regression have made enormous progress in helping us to understand the process of the psyche. Some of the basic premises of Freud’s theory are now widely accepted i. e. that sexuality does not start at puberty, that present psychological problems often have their roots in childhood experiences and that parent’s behaviours have an enormous impact on psychology.
I would say that the idea of infantile sexuality is itself hugely important. At the time of Freud’s publication of these writing it was generally assumed that sexuality started at puberty and children were asexual. Freud’s theory challenged the accepted thinking of the time. From this and his work with patients he then asserted that neurosis in adults could be traced back to childhood experiences and child rearing practices. These conclusions are still valid today.

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