Sigmund Freud Psychoanalysis

Learn more about Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis with our article

Approved or denied, Sigmund Freud Psychoanalysis influences the culture with his theoretical formulations. He creates a system of ideas, views, notions, concepts and therapeutic techniques, which is called psychoanalysis or soul analysis. In his psychoanalytic theory, he emphasizes childhood sexuality and unconscious motivations in the formation, construction and development of the personality. Freud overcomes Descartes’s understanding that the psyche consists only of consciousness and proves that most of the psyche is unconscious, and consciousness is part of the psyche. The presence of an unconscious psyche is part of human nature and has attendance in our lives. According to Freud, Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus shows that Earth is not the centre of the universe, and Charles Darwin shows that our ancestors are still staying on the trees and smile at us, they did not come from Adam’s rib and they are part of the living creatures. Freud, in turn, shows that in their own behaviour and thoughts people are guided by motives that are unconscious and they replace this unconscious with reasonable “contraption”. He says we are not what we think we are. According to psychoanalytic theory, in our lives, there are conscious and unconscious processes. The unconscious ones dominate and have a very important impact on our psychic life. From this point of view, nothing is causeless and accidental. Freud claims that random gestures, mistakes, and dreams are not meaningless at all, but are manifestations of our unconscious thoughts and desires. These unconscious processes of everyday life can be the way to reach the contents of the unconscious, to recognize and understand it. But this process is not easy at all. In the broad sense of the word, psychoanalysis is a doctrine and science of the unconscious psyche. Of great importance to him is the repressed unconscious – the content that was in the consciousness, then it was pushed, suppressed, repressed and non-admitted to consciousness, and can not be realized without help. Therefore, in the therapeutic sense of the word, psychoanalysis is an intervention in the unconscious psyche in order to realize the unconscious, and if that happens the symptoms of the disease go away.

What is to realize/become conscious of the unconscious? Which side of the realization/awareness heals?

Awareness of the unconscious heals when a person experiences again not the past images, but the feelings because when he experiences the traumatic the event once again, his negative significance diminishes or disappears. On the other hand, the suppressed experiences turn into a symptom.

Neurotic persons fantasized three repetitive, switching themes:

1.Secret observation of a sexual act;

2.Rape (physical, moral, sexual);


The problem is which are the source and the themes of fantasizing. To answer this question, Freud turns to the genesis of human society, to the metamorphoses of the drive at the primitive horde level. Thanks to this he succeeds to decree that there is traumatic inherited unconscious.

According to Freud, there are three forms of the unconscious:

1.Preconscious – what we do not realize, but we can recall (hidden, latent);

2.Repressed unconscious – what has passed into the unconscious, but without help cannot be realized;

3.Phylogenetic (archaic) unconscious – deepest and it is part of the structure of the drive.

A cornerstone not only of psychoanalytic theory but also of cultural and resonance in the other spheres of life and science is the doctrine of drives. In this area, Sigmund Freud has undergone the most profound development. The term “drive” in psychoanalysis is deeply integrated with the term “energy”. The special feature in Freud is the consideration of drive/instinct as a carrier of energy, and this is called “drive”. The energized instinct is called a drive. The Freudian drive has a source – organic agitation in tissues that accumulates energy. He views the drive as an integration of the bodily (somatic) and psychic. Also, the drive has the goal of bringing energy into inner equilibrium, releasing energy in the context through an object or fantasm, which is experienced as a pleasure. The drive has an object to which it is directed and also possesses a tendency to repeatability. According to Sigmund Freud, psychic life is determined by the drives that are innate and they create a certain inner excitement in us on a biological way. This excitement prompts us to act to reduce it by satisfying our desire.

Need => Excitement=> Action => Satisfaction => Attenuation

After 1920, Sigmund Freud came to the idea that human functioning had a motive. This motive he sees in the face of the two main tendencies/drives: The first is the so-called “Life Drive”. It is characterized by the fact that it creates, preserves and proceeds life. It is a constructive and creative drive. Freud calls him “Eros”. The sexual drive has a status that is not discussed in fullness. There is no doubt that it is related to the experience of pleasure. The experience of pleasure gives meaning to life. He discovers that the problem is that the sexual drive is most strongly controlled. Here we have to mention that the realization of the pleasure in social inequality creates chaos. Freud thinks that in the flow of our lives, sexual instinct or the so-called “Life Drive” is stronger and blocks at a significant level the pressure of the aggressive drive, the “Death Drive”. He believes that the sexual drive suppresses the destructive tendencies and we must put hope on it. People have an affection to life and partly controls their aggressive drive. According to him, one has an attachment to life and partly controls his own aggressive drive. Freud discovers the fact that the sexual instinct suffers deformities not for biological reasons but for cultural and historical situations. This instinct indeed maintains the type of homo sapiens. In the sexual act, which is one of the drive’s realizations, two tendencies, two impulses, two needs, two inclinations meet. On one side is the sexuality that has a biological origin, and on the other is the socio-cultural directions, that is the model of the realization of sexuality, the choice of partner, etc. There are cultural norms that are needed, but there are ones that deform sexual drive. Freud thinks that the problem of pleasure is that there is more to one, and to others less, and concludes that human life is flowing into the conflict between the drive and the culture and the culture is initially hostile to the drive and does not always allow it to happen within what we call human love. Here we can notice a meeting of two tendencies, a meeting of the cultural and the biological. The impulse, the desire, the urge to realize the sexual act is natural, but the way of realization is cultural. The problem is that there is no harmony in the meeting of the two tendencies.

The second is the so-called “Death Drive”. It is characterized by its destruction, aggression and mortification. He has a necrophilic tendency. This is where the many disagreements with Sigmund Freud’s theory begin. As a witness of the First World War, Freud asks himself “What is the cause of this destruction?”. These illogical, destructive phenomena in life make him allow such a basic inclination, namely, “Death Drive”. He thinks that mankind cannot overcome its destructive attraction. Freud is a representative of the solid Jewish thought, which means that he is a dialectician. He says that the contradictory in the face of opposites is the fundamental property of being. Every thing has its opposite. There is creation, but there is also destruction. Life is a backward movement to death. He is also a representative of Ernst Haeckel’s old German physicochemical school, which says that individual development of man is an abbreviated repetition of the phylogenetic development of humanity. He declares the drives as the main content of human motivation, he calls them “intrusive motives” or an internal terrorist. You can not reverse them, forbid or avoid them. Freud says that by virtue of this conflict, in this functioning is involved the Ego, that is, the face of our consciousness. Here we have to mention that the interpretation of the majority of the sexual drive as absolutized at Freud is quite naive and even “tavern”, and the inclination to death of which he speaks creates the “bad image of man”.

“Life is a Movement to Death” – Sigmund Freud

The specificity of psychosexual development

Sigmund Freud distinguishes 5 stages of development:

1. Oral

2. Anal

3. Phallic

4. Latent

5. Genital

1. Oral stages – from birth to 18 months of age. During this time the baby is completely dependent on the people who take care of it. This dependence defines the only way to satisfy needs and desires, with pleasures mostly oral. There is also the so-called oral-sadistic stage. When entering this stage, the child is most likely to start biting.

2. Anal stage – from 18 months to 3 years of age. A time when children learn to meet their parents’ requirements, to be clean, to retain certain personal hygiene (the path to the toilet). According to Sigmund Freud, self-control and self-regulation begin here.

3. Phallic stage – from 3 to 6 years of age. The child’s attention is focused on the discovery of gender. This is the period in which we notice gender differences based on learning our own body and comparing ourselves with peers and adults. Children are interested in questions that are related to sexual organs, birth and sexual relations between adults. For this stage is also the clash with one major problem related to solving a significant psychic conflict. Sigmund Freud designates it as “Oedipus complex” for boys and “Electra complex” for girls. They describe in a symbolic way the unconscious desire of the child to possess the parent of the opposite sex and to eliminate that parent from the same sex. Before the two complexes, there is a so-called “Sexual castration” – the understanding of belonging to one sex.

4. Latent stage – from the age of 6-7 until the beginning of puberty. Child interests are not aimed at sexuality. It has been displaced in the background, which, according to Sigmund Freud, is due to the physiological changes in the body and the appearance of the “Super-ego”

5. Genital stage – entering sexual maturity – puberty.

Psychoanalytic theory of personality. Structural Theory of Personality.

Strictly speaking, this is the first personality theory created by Sigmund Freud in the twenties of the 20th century. On this theory and its possibilities are written thousands of pages of admiration and criticism, but as one says “despite the harsh criticism already 100 so and more years it does not leave the scene of psychological science because it deals with issues which have a stunning burden for our lives, for the reason that this theory has social, moral, ethical, anthropological resonance on the understanding of human nature”. There is no psychological theory that is not based on a certain point of view for a human. Usually, there is a meeting of biological and cultural-historical approaches, and from here unfinished discussions and controversies begin. In Freud’s concept of personality, there is something unique about the fact that this theory is built on the dialectics of conscious and unconscious psyche. Dialectics is a science of the fact that the phenomena are contradictory. When something new appears, it contains something old. Such an understanding and view where the presence of the unconscious psychic in the person’s psyche shocks humanity. Shocking is that Sigmund Freud creates another image of man. He says, “You are not really what you think that you are”, “You are not masters in your own home”. He thinks that human behaviour is guided by motifs we do not realize, but in their place, we put reasonable explanations. Freud was the first to characterize the psyche as a battlefield between the irreconcilable forces of instinct/drive and reason, nature and culture, the biological and social. Until the 20s of the 20th Century, he affirms the view that man is the bearer of a conscious and unconscious psyche. After 1920, he is taking a step forward and building a psyche structure. This structure allows the theory to be called “psychoanalytic” or “depth” or “confrontational”. In a sense, it is “motivational,” and the common name of this theory and the theories that resemble it is “psychoanalytic”. The term “dynamic” replaces the term “change”. This term describes the change of structures and the interaction between them. According to psychoanalysis, the life of a person is accompanied by an inner conflict that is based on unconscious, primary, sexual, and aggressive tendencies.

What is personality?

According to Sigmund Freud, the personality is a psychodynamic structure of processes in a state of conflict which regulates behaviour. Freud creates the idea of the three structural psychic instances (Id, Ego and Super-ego). Psychoanalysis is a doctrine of the interaction between conscious, unconscious, and superconscious. After 1920 , Freud made a step forward by structuring the psyche and personality in three instances (structures) – Id, Ego and Super-ego. In these three psychic instances, he sees the unity of the personality. This unity allows a person to be internally roentgenographied. These structures are in a dynamic relationship and are often in a state of conflict.

“Id” – “Ego” – “Super-ego”

But what is hiding behind them?

Id is the unconscious part of the psyche or the psychic apparatus, this part appears before the consciousness, it exists from birth itself. It is the lower layer of the psyche. Id contains everything inherited and repressed which is unconscious. This psychic instance/structure is not a reflection of the outside world, its core is the instinct or more specifically – the drive. Id does not know the outside world and does not know time. He also thinks that people are born with primary instincts/drives and that there is a hierarchy of these instincts/drives. He also raises the hypothesis that the main tendency of the unconscious is satisfaction, which in turn is accompanied by a pleasant experience, and exactly because of that there is no morality, since experiencing pleasure is a natural
pursuit and cannot be condemned. Morality could be found in the manner in which we get satisfaction and this manner is designed by the culture. Its goals are immediate fulfilment of desires and pleasure seeking. In “Id” reigns the “pleasure principle”. The psychic energy at the beginning of life is contained in “Id,” and later under the influence of the environment, and the accumulation of experience is shared between the “Ego” and the “Super-ego”. “Id” is a carrier of energy and performs functions:

1. Energy function – activates man, presses the conscious (cathexis);

2. Motivational function – it is the cause of our behaviour (obsessional motif/compulsion);

3. Symptom-making function – especially strong symptoms of disrupted incest connections (parent-child);

4. Creative function – when the wishes of Id are blocked, energy can be sublimated into a socially meaningful activity.

Somewhere higher and later the consciousness appears. This part of the psyche Freud marks by the name “Ego”. In his view, consciousness evolvingly arises as a structure and process. According to Sigmund Freud, the early development of the “Ego” is related to the attitude the child has towards his or her own body. Through the body it is easy to satisfy the desires of “Id”, to “serve” the unconscious, to search for objects to satisfy the drives/needs. The ego knows the outside world. Consciousness works on the “principle of reality,” that is, one knows the outside world, the time, the space, and only in the state of consciousness, one can distinguish the real from the fantasy object. “Ego” acquires a role and a value when it becomes clear that it is capable of internalizing/perceiving cultural rules and norms, exercising control and resistance against catharsis/drives/instinct’s pressure, to work as something more called “Super-ego”). The ego, the healthy ego, balances things between the instances and the outside world, where Id is a representative of the drive, and the Super-ego is a representative of the culture. “Ego” must take into consideration the wishes of “Id” and “Super-ego”. “Ego” is a conscious instance and its functions are:

1. Interaction of the individual with the surrounding, aiming to provide knowledge about the surrounding.

2. Information and control of the body and the drives.

3. Performing cognitive processes.

The Super-ego, in its content, is not a biological structure. This instance occurs between 3 and 5 years of age and develops to the point where it becomes self-control and follows us all our lives. It is content acquired from culture, first through the parents, then through the school and the requirements of the institutions. Sigmund Freud, calls this structure conscience or censorship. In the Super-ego sleeps what we have acquired from parents, teachers, society as a whole. This is the part of the psyche that understands and accepts the rules and norms of culture. Freud says that this is the conscience or censorship, that is the “thing” with which we are controlling ourselves to conform to the others. What does “Super-ego” do? It guides (which behaviour is appropriate and which is not), forbids, allows, controls, and all of this is in the form of our consent. It also denies the changes in the environment, that is, what actually happens. If we manifest behaviour incompatible with the Super-ego, we experience a sense of guilt, but if we do not accept certain requirements, we do not feel guilty. What lies behind the guilt? The answer is clear – the fear of being rejected by others. When there are fantasmic ideas in the Super-ego that eliminate the value of the other, the justice, and when a morality that overlooks others is respected, this Super-ego acts as a pathology. It is not difficult sometimes to find a person with a hypertrophic Super-ego. The Hypertrophic Super-ego always reduces the value of the Ego and can crush it and depersonalize it. The Super-ego functions as a socially unconscious. “Super-ego” represents our consciousness and moral values, that is, our conscience combined with the desire for ourselves – the “Ideal for ourselves.” The “super-ego” helps the “ego” to hold/control the “Id” in his constant quest for satisfying the drives while limiting the liberty of “ego” to enjoy the fulfilment of these desires.

The three structures Id – Ego – Super-ego have a complex internal dynamics, and according to Sigmund Freud, the early years of human life (up to the age of 5-7) and the events that occurred during these years are crucial to the development and formation of the personality. During these years there may be different clashes, traumas and failures in development. Freud believes in the so-called biographical/event factor. It is the idea that the character is formed depending on what happened to the individual. If at a certain stage the instinct/drive doesn’t receive satisfaction, the individual will be afraid to go to a higher stage, and thus a fixation is obtained at that stage, and if he receives a flawless and endless satisfaction, he will not want to move further and he will have a fixation on the stage of the satisfaction. If there is a fixation, then at later stages of development, the individual will want this satisfaction that he had at the earlier stage. If an individual is fixated in the oral stage but is already an adult, he can seek satisfaction in drinking, eating and smoking. Such a late fixation accompanied by a return to that passed, but satisfying stage is called regression. Regression is an individual’s striving to live in a way that is experienced at an earlier stage. Regression occurs when there is a lot of stress in the later stages. The peculiarities arose out of the early stages appeared in the later stages of personality development.

Stages of development as a tool for typology of personality:

Oral personality – Here the main area of excitement is the mouth. Middle-aged people who are fixated at this stage have an orality that occurs in eating, smoking, kissing. There is harmony between sexual and aggressive tendencies. They are primarily interested in themselves. They are a narcissistic type of persons. Other people acquire meaning for them through what they give. Oral persons are receiving types of people. They are “cultural beggars”. They possess disguised aggression. They are demanding, jealous, impatient, vindictive, pessimistic, suppressed, “if they suck, they won’t let go”.

Anal Personality – Here the satisfaction of needs and drive is related to the anal appeal. Learning to go to the toilet is a socio-psychic process and it reflects the authority of the parent and the way this authority is used. The middle-aged person who is fixated at this stage is a very cold, peculiar type. He is relieving himself from all the inconveniences, from everything bad. When he does it, he is satisfied, not shamed. He is rigid, firm, impermeable. He possesses a sense of power and control over others. He has a strong interest in how he looks and how he behaves. The main fear of this type of personality is the “fear of losing control.” He enjoys the pleasure of acquiring a property. The anxiety of this type of personality is between the two forms of evolutionary reactions “to fight” and “to obey”. The transition from oral to anal personality develops from the “give me” position to “do what I say”. It can be assumed that this personality is an illustration of the contradiction – release from the inside and demands from the outside.

Phallic personality – This stage is characterized and centred on sexual and aggressive feelings associated with sexual organs and erogenous zones. It is assumed that there is a bit of identification with the Oedipus complex. Fixation here is different for men and women. The man rejects the possibility of castration (“I am great in the eyes of others”). At this stage, the woman identifies herself with her mother. The woman is hysterical (romanticizes life and relationship with the man). Castration anxiety pushes the sexual desire towards the mother and enhances the hatred to the father. The Super-ego, in turn, is the heir of the Oedipus complex and blocks / inhibits the movement towards incest and aggression. Rediscovery of childhood and fixation in later ages is a natural content of the psychoanalytic method. The fixations are related to serious work with the Ego and the Super-ego.

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic metapsychology. Taboo and the repressive functions of culture.

“Metapsychology is called the psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious; according to it, each psychic process must be described simultaneously from three points of view – economic (like energy transformation), dynamic (as an opposition of psychic forces) and topographical (as unconscious, preconscious or conscious). “

Taboo and the repressive functions of culture.

The word taboo has two opposite meanings. On the one hand, the word means “sacred,” “sanctified,” and on the other, it has meanings such as “terrible,” “dangerous,” “forbidden,” “impure.” Right here we can find the ambivalence of this word and suppose the ambivalence of the emotional impulses that arise exactly through the taboo. The taboo is expressed in various prohibitions and restrictions. These interdictions are different from religious or moral. These taboo prohibitions are not reasoned in any way; we do not know their origin, they are as though implied for those who obey them. According to Wilhelm Wundt, the taboo precedes all deities and religions and is the oldest unwritten law/code of humanity. From here is presumed the repressive function of culture. Culture is understood as everything created by man. Also, the cult (“cult”-ure) also suggests a certain dose of sacredness. Culture is a mixture of profanity and sacredness, where the cult cannot be directed only to the material.

In a broad sense, it can be distinguished different types of taboos:

1. Natural / Direct – it is defined and is the result of mana (mysterious force) that weighs on man or object

2. Retransmitted / Indirect – it also derives from the mana but has been acquired or transferred by a shaman, chief or another intermediary

3. An intermediate variant of the first two types – when both factors are present

The taboo may have different purposes:

1. Protection of important persons, objects and others from possible misfortunes.

2. Protection and defence of the weak from the powerful mysterious power “Mana.”

3. Protection against the dangers of contact with dead people and corpses, the consumption of certain dishes and others.

4. Ensure the smooth implementation of important life events.

5. Protection of people from gods and demons.

6. Protection of unborn and young children from their particular suggestive dependence on their parents.

Except for these taboo features, we can add that there are permanent and temporary taboos:

1. Permanent taboos are the important persons (shaman, kings, chiefs), the dead, as well as all everything that belonged to them.

2. Temporary taboos are associated with certain conditions such as menstruation, postpartum period, the status of warriors before and after an expedition, with activities such as hunting, fishing and others.

Taboo – these are a number of limitations to the primitive peoples. They do not understand why and they have never asked the question “Why?”. But they are convinced that non-observance and violation of any of these rules/laws will be definitely strictly punished. These bans are most often related to some pleasures, freedom of movement and communication. At the root of all prohibitions lies a “theory” that “proves” the necessity of these bans, because of certain persons and places is inherent a dangerous power, transmitted by contact and spreading like some kind of infection. Of course, the intensity of this force is also taken into account because it is not evenly distributed between persons and places. The strange thing is that we can notice that the one who broke a taboo has become a taboo himself. That one exactly has become a taboo because he carries in himself the dangerous ability to tempt others with his example. He provokes envy because he is allowed what is forbidden to others. And in this sense, he is indeed “infected,” because he is infected by his example, inciting to imitation, and therefore he must be avoided. It is interesting to note that the taboo refers to everything that is the bearer or source of this mystical feature, but it also denotes the prohibition itself, which derives from this feature. For Wundt, the taboo includes “all customs in which manifest the fear of certain objects associated with cult ideas or actions relating to these objects.” According to Wundt, “there is no nation or cultural stage that have escaped the damage caused by the taboo.” With the appearance of the taboo, a conscience arises in relation to the taboo itself and the feeling of guilt arises after his violation.

Freud also finds a similarity between the taboo and the symptoms of the obsessional neurosis:

1. The lack of motive for the prohibitions.

2. Their affirmation through internal compulsion.

3. Their ability to shift and to indicate the danger of contagion in contact with the forbidden.

4. The provocation of performance of ceremonial actions, eventuating by the prohibitions.

But it is worth trying to solve the taboo and not only for these reasons. As Freud himself says, “I think every psychological problem deserves an effort to be resolved not only because of itself but also for other reasons. My assumption is that the taboo of the primitive Polynesians is still not as remoted from us as we had assumed in the beginning that the moral and ethical prohibitions to which we obey ourselves are likely to have a fundamental relationship with this primitive taboo and that the elucidation of the taboo could shed light on the vague origin of our own “categorical imperative”.

The oldest and most important taboo prohibitions are related to the two basic laws of totemism:

1. Do not kill the totem animal.

2. Do not engage in sexual relations with the worshipers of the same totem.

Proceeding from the fact that there are prohibitions where there are also strong temptations (if there is no strong desire of performing the concrete action, there would be no need for a ban), then we can assume that these two acts are the oldest and strongest temptations of people. But the establishing of the taboo leads to something – the initial desire to perform the forbidden action still exists. It follows from this the appearance of an ambiguous attitude towards the prohibition. On one hand, in the unconscious, people want only to break the prohibitions, but on the other, they are afraid of them and are worried precisely because they want to break them, but fear is stronger than desire. Here, Freud makes a parallel with the neurotic person and says: “But in every particular individual, the desire for this is unconscious, as in the neurotic person.” It is important to pay attention to how to “correct the sin” and what this means about the taboo itself. Freud says, “If the violation of a taboo can be corrected by redemption or remorse, which in fact is a denial of some welfare or a right, it proves that observance of the taboo prescripts is nothing more than a denial of something highly desirable. Failure to fulfil one denial is replaced by another denial. As for the ceremonial activities associated with the taboo, we can conclude that remorse precedes purification. “

From what has been said so far, we understand that:

1. The taboo is a long-standing ban imposed on the outside, by some authority, and directed against the strongest human strivings/desires.

2. The desire to transgress the ban continues to exist in the unconscious and it follows from this that the people who obey the taboo have an ambivalent attitude towards the concrete taboo.

3. The magic magnitude attributed to the taboo is derived from the ability to draw people in temptation. It is like an infection because
the example is contagious.

4. The redemption of the violated taboo by some refusal shows that in the base of the taboo lies the refusal of something.

As a finale, we will say that the building of psychoanalysis is not built only from clinical cases but from a forest of reliable observations, which, according to Sigmund Freud, are stronger than any experiment. Freud accepts the stories of his patients for scientific data. Everyone can imagine what a great method is the introspection of the couch, free from all limitations and inhibitions. The analytical séance is a scientific method more valuable than the experiment because it is unique by necessity, it is a natural experiment. There are no artefacts, no experience of something that is not in life. Psychoanalysis is defended as a science by the success it achieves.

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