Sigmund Freud Term Paper


During the last five years of the 19th century, Sigmund Freud developed most of the core psychodynamic and the developmental insights that became the psychoanalysis. Freud’s articulation and subsequent partial repudiation of a specific etiology theory for the neuroses that represent the transformation of his positivist science into some modern hermeneutics. These changes in Freud’s theoretical stance are complexly involved with his self-analysis and early clinical practice, and they form an important part in the intellectual history of psychodynamic psychology. The pre-psychoanalytic theory of traumatic etiology was a significant advance in epidemiological thinking and remains an important model for studying the effects of early emotional experience on personality development and adult psychopathology.

As a therapy, psychoanalyzes is based on the concept that individuals are unaware of the many factors that cause their behavior and emotions. These unconscious factors have the potential to produce unhappiness, which in turn is expressed through a score of distinguishable symptoms, including disturbing personality traits, difficulty in relating to others, or disturbances in self-esteem or general disposition (American Psychoanalytic Association, 1998).
Psychoanalytic treatment is highly individualized and seeks to show how the unconscious factors affect behavior patterns, relationships, and overall mental health. Treatment traces the unconscious factors to their origins, shows how they have evolved and developed over the course of many years, and subsequently helps individuals to overcome the challenges they face in life (National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, 1998).
In addition to being a therapy, psychoanalysis is a method of understanding mental functioning and the stages of growth and development. Psychoanalysis is a general theory of individual human behavior and experience, and it has both contributed to and been enriched by many other disciplines. Psychoanalysis seeks to explain the complex relationship between the body and the mind and furthers the understanding of the role of emotions in medical illness and health. In addition, psychoanalysis is the basis of many other approaches to therapy. Many insights revealed by psychoanalytic treatment has formed the basis for other treatment programs in child psychiatry, family therapy, and general psychiatric practice (Farrell, 1981).

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The basic assumption of Freud’s psychoanalytic view of the person is an energy system, in which all mental processes are considered to be energy flows, this can flow freely or can get sidetracked or dammed up. Freud argues that the goal of all behavior is the reduction of tension through the release of energy, which produces pleasure. People function in accordance with hedonistic principles, seeking unbridled gratification of all desires. The endless pursuit of pleasure is, however, in conflict with society and civilization, as the uncontrolled satisfaction of pleasure is not accepted. In Freud’s view, humans are primarily driven by sexual and aggressive instincts. Sexual and aggressive energies prevented from expression in a more direct way are converted too culturally activities such as art and science. Energy used for cultural purposes is, however, no longer available to sexual purposes and Freud concludes that the price of civilization is misery, the forfeit of happiness and a sense of guilt (Pervin & Oliver 1997).
Freud’s theory of personality is based on the idea that much of human behavior is determined by forces outside awareness. The relation between the person and society is controlled by primitive urges buried deep within ourselves, forming the basis of the hidden self. Freud argues that much of our psychic energy is devoted either to finding acceptable expressions of unconscious ideas or to keeping them unconscious. Freud constructed his concept of the unconscious from analysis of slips of the tongue, dreams, neuroses, psychoses, works of art and rituals (Pervin & Oliver 1997). In psychoanalytic theory, mental life is divided into three levels of awareness. The largest portion of the mind is formed by the unconscious system and only a very small part by the conscious.
The preconscious-system stands like a partition screen between the unconscious-system and consciousness. (Extreme, 2004). The conscious mind is like the tip of an iceberg, with its greatest part – the unconscious – submerged. Psychoanalytic theory is fundamentally a motivational theory of human behavior and Freud claimed that “psychoanalysis aims at and achieves nothing more than the discovery of the unconscious in mental life (Pervin & Oliver, 1997).
The most fundamental concept of psychoanalysis is the notion of the unconscious mind as a reservoir for repressed memories of traumatic events which continuously influence conscious thought and behavior. The scientific evidence for this notion of unconscious repression is lacking, though there is sample evidence that conscious thought and behavior are influenced by nonconscious memories and processes ( Extreme, 2004).
A repressed memory is the memory of a traumatic event unconsciously retained in the mind, where it is said to adversely affect conscious thought, desire, and action. It is common to consciously repress unpleasant experiences. Many psychologists believe that unconscious repression of traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse or rape is a defense mechanism which backfires. The unpleasant experience is forgotten but not forgiven. It lurks beneath consciousness and allegedly causes a myriad of psychological and physical problems from bilimbi to insomnia to suicide (Farrell, 1981).
The theory of unconsciously repressing the memory of traumatic experiences is controversial. There is little scientific evidence to support either the notion that traumatic experiences are typically unconsciously repressed or that unconscious memories of traumatic events are significant causal factors in physical or mental illness. Most people do not forget traumatic experiences unless they are rendered unconscious at the time of the experience. No one has identified a single case where a specific traumatic experience in childhood was repressed and the repressed memory of the event, rather than the event itself, caused a specific psychiatric or physical disorder in adulthood (Kodat, 2002).
The id refers to the raw, unorganized, inherited part of the personality. It’s
main goals are to reduce tension created by our primitive drives which are related to hunger, sex, aggression and irrational impulses. The id operates according to the pleasure principle, in which its goal is immediate gratification and reduction of tension. In most people, reality prevents the id’s instant demands from being fulfilled. We cannot always eat when we are hungry, and we can act on sexual drives only in the right place and time. The ego is the buffer between the id and the world’s realities. The ego operates on the reality principle. In this principle, instinctual energy is restrained in order to maintain the safety of the individual and help integrate the person into society. The ego is sometimes called “the executive” of an individual’s personality. The ego makes the decisions, controls actions and allows for a higher capability of problem solving. The id is not capable of such higher level of thinking. The ego is responsible for the higher cognitive functions such as intelligence, thoughtfulness and learning. The superego is the final element of Freud’s model of personality. It is similar to the id in that it is somewhat unrealistic. The superego represents the rights and wrongs of the society as handed down to an individual over their lifetime. The superego has two subpart: the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience prevents us from doing morally bad things. The ego-ideal motivates people to do what is morally proper. The superego helps to control the id’s impulses, making them less selfish and more morally correct. Both the id and the superego are unrealistic in that they do not consider the actualities of society. The lack of reality within the superego, if left unchecked, would create perfectionists who would be unable to make compromises that life requires. Likewise, an unrestrained id would create a pleasure-seeking thoughtless individual, seeking to fulfill every desire without delay. It is the ego that compromises between the demands of the id and superego, permitting a person to obtain some of the gratification of the id while maintaining the superego, which would prevent such gratification. Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centered on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, a single body part is particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation. These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. The child’s libido centers on behavior affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age; he cannot focus on the primary erogenous zone of the next stage without resolving the developmental conflict of the immediate one (Peterson, 1992).
A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; overindulgence stems from such an ample meeting of these needs. The child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. Both frustration and overindulgence lock some mount of the child’s libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation. If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if desire to possess the opposite-sexed parent and to eliminate the same-sexed one. He fixates at a particular stage; the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality. Freud has five developmental stages: oral stage, anal stage, latency period, and genital stages. (1) Oral stages begin at birth, when the oral cavity is the primary focus of libidal energy. The child, of course, preoccupies himself with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth. The stage culminates in the primary conflict of weaning. (2) Anal stage advents of toilet training come when children’s obsession with the erogenous zone of the anus and with the retention or expulsion of the feces. This represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions. (3) Phallic stages are the setting for the greatest, most crucial sexual conflict in Freud’s model of development. In this stage, the child’s erogenous zone is the genital region. As the child becomes more interested in his genitals, and in the genitals of others, conflict arises. The conflict, labeled the Oedipus complex (The Electra complex in women), involves the child’s unconscious (4) Latency period, which is not a psychosexual stage of development, but a period in which the sexual drive lies dormant. Freud saw latency as a period of unparalleled repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses. During the latency period, children pour this repressed libidal energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships. But soon puberty strikes and the genitals once again become a central focus of libidal energy. (5) Genital stages, as the child’s energy once again focuses on his genitals, interest turns to heterosexual relationships. The less energy the child has left invested in unresolved psychosexual developments, the greater his capacity will be to develop normal relationships with the opposite sex. If, however, he remains fixated, particularly on the phallic stage, his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression and defenses (Peterson, 2002).

Freudian theories and trait approaches illustrate the connection between personality theories and clinical psychology, Hampson discusses personality from a social psychological perspective. She views personality as a social construction involving the actor, observer, and self-observer. This view draws on socially psychologically theories of symbolic interactions and impression management, as well as sociological theories. The constructivist view of personality provides a framework for integrating a number of related fields. Hampson discusses biological and trait approaches to the study of the actor. The observer of personality has most often been studied as part of social psychology, through research into person perception, and more recently in social cognition. By including the self-observer as part of constructed personality, the study of the self and impression management is also integrated into personality (Gale & Eysenck, 1991).
The constructivist view provides more than an integrative framework for personality psychology, however. Unlike other approaches to personality, it addresses the relation between the lay perspective — the “ordinary language of personality description — and the scientific perspective. By defining personality in terms of both the actor and the observer, Hampson argues that the meaning and social significance of the actor’s behaviors, as understood by both observers and self-observers are integral parts of personality. Observers and self-observers understand personality in lay terms, and therefore psychologists need to study these lay understandings and relate them to theirs more scientific investigations. Observers infer personality from behavior and use personality language to describe their inferences, just as scientist does. Consistent with the legacies of reudian theories, the study of personality involves the study of the meaning of behavior (Sternberg & Ruzgis, 1994). Freud’s theory and the successor general theories — psychoanalysis — have surely done more for psychology and psychiatry than the specific theory could have. While we are still in doubt over whether the products of Freud’s mature genius belong with Science or with Art, the subtle reading of psychodynamics begun with The Interpretation of Dreams continues to provide the hermeneutic ground for modern thought. Societal is focused on the psychological consequences of traumatic histories, however, and on the recurrence of the child’s abuse a generation later in the adult’s parenting; and form past traumatic stress disorder recovered memories a new preoccupation with “actual” neurosis. An intense debate continues over the prevalence and the pathogenic import of parent-child incest and one commentator have recently suggested that the discussion “has come full circle: from incest as social fact to incest as unconscious fantasy to incest as social fact” (Diamond, 1989). We are involved as our own century to a close pained reassessment of the violence and the seductiveness with which adult society treats the young (Miller, 1981&1984), and once again it becomes problematic to know how to distinguish a memory of an actual emotional event from an emotion transferred to a constructed image of such an event. Despite Freud’s dissatisfaction with the seduction theory, and despite the superficiality of some recent discussion of his reasons for replacing it with the less deterministic but far more subtle propositions of psychoanalysis proper, this early theory deserves close reexamination. It reveals much about the concerns that motivated Freud during the most productive period of his life as a psychological theorist (Diamond, 1989). Furthermore, Freud’s careful examination of the requirements for an adequate theory of specific etiology for the neuroses remain some milestones in the literature on the effects of traumatic events on later psychological health. The interrelationship and relative importance of fantasy and reality, of whether psychoanalytic data should aspire to narrative or too historical truth (Spence, 1982) has become one of the most fertile grounds for interdisciplinary discussion of psychoanalytic ideas. This proto-psychoanalytic theory of Freud’s merits studies not only because it forms an essential but a history of psychoanalysis, but also it presents in a rigorous manner components of any adequate theory of traumatic etiology. Etiology remains a core problem for psychiatry (Meehl, 1973).
Freud’s highly original work, on this subject should be part of the burgeoning discussion of the specific effects of early experience on adult personality. The real work, of building a psychology of persons in which both contemporary psychodynamics and etiological constructs play a role, in today’s society.


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