According to the biography of a famous French architect, he asked a small-town catholic priest what he had learned from 15 years of listening to confessionals. The priest said he learned two things: (1) people are less happy than they seem, and (2) there is no such thing as a grown up human being.
To limit my rambling thoughts of Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory to two pages is really asking a greater task of me than to think in the first place. Indeed what a hot bed of ideas have I been thrown into. I must first point out that I never liked Freud. I viewed his ideas as estranged and too heavy on the sexuality. Indeed the usual presentation of Freud is unfair it seems to me. My view was changed largely in part to Calvin S. Hall’s book A Primer of Freudian Psychology (1978). So absorbed did I become in this book that I read it in a day and a half and my perspective to conversations and television shows was changed somewhat.
Of mention of psychology as a science and the critiques of the major theories I offer the well known problem of variability. Science seeks to “predict” and this is increasingly difficult to do as no two people are ever exactly alike. This is one of the “downfalls” of Psychoanalysis that it does not have a great prediction value. But I would like to merit it for it’s “hindsight” ability. While the saying goes “hindsight is 20/20″, in the dynamics of the mind the vision may be significantly greater or less due to the perspective used. This is the beauty of Psychoanalysis. How can this predict future behavior? Nothing will be able to predict all of the time, hence a flaw. But Psychoanalysis does have a value. That value is it’s hindsight and I will explain in a Freudian manner. Our personality is due to the dynamics of the ID, the Ego, and the Ego-ideal. The ID is the source of all psychic energy. The ID wants two things, to feel gratification of it’s impulses, or to avoid pain. The Ego is born as a reality check. While the ID may say “Hunger” (the hunger instinct) and the primary process of object-cathexis takes place. The child puts a lego into his mouth. The Ego will test reality until it learns that a lego will not satisfy the hunger and learn that a hamburger will (ego-cathexis). The ego-ideal is born, largely in part of the authority of the parents, as the idea of perfection for the ego according to society’s standards and would tell the Ego that stealing a hamburger would not be the right thing to do. The Ego is in the fix of finding a way to make both the ID and the Ego-ideal happy. The Ego is rational, but the ID and the Ego-ideal are not grounded in rationality.
Now suppose that an instinct arises from the ID that causes anxiety in the person. The ego and ego-ideal may build anti-cathexis to stop the release of the psychic energy associated with the impulse. I must note my belief that the ego and the ego-ideal can never keep up with the id in building of cathexis for the simple reason of predicate thinking within the id. That is the treating two objects as though they were the same (such as a tree and a phallus). The id operates on pure fantasy detached from reality, reality which is the purpose and function of the ego. It is my belief that it is this need for oppositional fantasy thinking which gives the spark of life to the ego-ideal instead of mere conscience. So when the id creates a cathexis, the ego creates an anti-cathexis. The id responds by creating another similar one until it is not recognized by the ego. This is the beauty of Psychoanalysis. It allows for more understanding and awareness within the ego of the potential dynamics.
I will not go into the Oedipus complex into any detail. For one, I wish to further look into cases, if there are any, of children who are not exposed to member of the opposite sex as children and cases of children raised in single family households. During the time Freud wrote his theory, single parent families were unheard of. Compare this to the large percentage of today. This is really too complex than to simply say that it consist of sexual attraction and fear of castration. The idea of sexual instincts in a young child do not strike me as strange. Behaviors of a reproductive nature can be seen in the young members of the animal kingdom. It can certainly be of no surprise of the sensual gratification of a child. Why does a child run to be held by mother instead of just standing next to her? Again, the sexual gratification, or as I like to say to stave off the screams and protest… sensual gratification.
I have a criticism of this theory which may entirely be a fault of my own. Where is the divine spark? It is obvious that the environmental effects on a child will create many associations within the psyche, but it really doesn’t seem to far from Behaviorism to me. For after all, if Freud’s theory be taken literally in all of it’s implications… not only does it earn the nickname “the rubberband theory”, but also it does away with free will. I cannot find the defining point of “Free Will”. Take a child who is just born. Now put that child through the stages of development as dictated by psychoanalysis. The people who will act on this child are they way they are due to “their” childhood. The personality that is developed is nothing more than the gratification of ID impulses and the avoidance of pain. If I seek to keep a moral life and contribute to charities, it could be said that I was acting so to tame the sexual urges within myself, or that my charitableness was due to a great deal of praise given when I finally used the potty as a child. “Self” is not defined as I would like as we are constantly acting out behaviors of the three parts of the mind, and we don’t know it. I would say that taken a Freudian view, one could not be held accountable for sins on this earth unless another part of the mind was defined that has of yet remained hidden.
I cannot readily compare this theory as I would like to. For one reason, we have yet to go over other theories. Another reason is that the other theory I am somewhat self taught on is the very complex idea of Jung’s Analytical Psychology. I will not compare it to this. Instead I will give an opposite idea to the above criticism borrowed from an earlier reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. One of the central ideas of Buddhism is that of reincarnation. It is believed by some that the life force or soul of the person decides on the first years of life on earth. That is the soul “sets up” the initial conditions by which his/life will begin. The importance of the childhood years cannot be stressed enough in Freudian psychology. The soul will “choose” the parents which will bring it into life. The ultimate goal of a soul is Nirvana and there must be some lessons learned in life to move the soul in that direction. This would somewhat satisfy my earlier question.
I do not like this theory in the sense of conducting my life. I do not think it useful in parenting in so much as the depth and amount of knowledge as I have now. But I do see a great use for it, one in fact that has helped me personally… and that is what I eluded to at the beginning of this paper. In a therapeutic sense I think it is a great theory. For when feeling anxiety and given the go ahead that anything could be causing that anxiety (as this theory does), then it allows for the mind to look down different avenues for a solution. The mind will perform great miracles on it’s own if only pointed in the right direction. In facing a difficult question, I came to see how in the recent past I was exposed to forces that allowed for my own ego to rid itself of some anti-cathexis. These were inhibiting cathexis of the id which were having to find other outlets. These other outlets themselves became a source of anxiety. Here my depth of understanding stops as I wonder why didn’t I just build more anti-cathexeses. To this I can only guess at the time being of the idea of a fixed amount of psychic energy. This would also account for the reason why I have been unusually tired in the past three weeks even though my schedule has been light and I get adequate sleep every night. So while I do not see it as of any use in my future actions, after all… I could be in denial and not know it, but it does have it’s uses in looking back. To this I must add something I wrote to my companion in a letter…
For in thinking we can describe the nature of the divine, but it is in feeling that we can understand it’s nature.
1 I am not fully satisfied due to the lack of “free will” in this theory. What of the idea of a soul?
2 What of the death instinct? If it is believed to be due to the archaic impulses of the ID after generations of dying (and the link of when life began and just “was”) of this idea of returning to the earth. Wouldn’t it be more prone to be a creation of the ego-ideal instead? Similar to how an ego-ideal can drive a person to commit suicide from guilt.
3 Why do women have penis envy, when it is the characteristics of the female that all babies resemble in the first weeks of pregnancy?
4 What of a child who was raised in a single parent home? What does this do to the Oedipus Complex?
5 What of a child who is raised by a homosexual couple? Suppose it is a boy raised by two homosexual men. The egos of the two men will go into formation of the ego-ideal of the child. Will the child identify with the two men? Will the child have sexual impulses for the parent who touches the child in a loving way more often?
6 I raised a question of birth trauma in child development class. I was told that the cognitive ability does not exist to store memories at that early of an age. Doesn’t the ID store memory? If the age memory begins to develop is, lets say, four years old, how does the child remember not to touch a fire until then? I make the connection between the brain stem and hypothalamus and the functions of the ID. If the ID can undergo the primary process of object cathexes, why doesn’t everyday memory work as well at this early age?
7 How do we know that the amount of psychic energy is “fixed”? After all, the unconscious itself is theoretical. Why cannot we gain, or lose, our sum potential for psychic energy. Can we feed off of other peoples energy? (Or would this fall under identification?)
8 I wonder as to the life of Christ in a Freudian manner? Why did he do what he did? If one were to believe that he “sacrificed” himself (instead of merely being caught) why then did he do this? If one would believe the idea that Christ was a god, then he did so willingly and not under the influence of the actions of cathexis/anti-cathexis. This then would seem to point to another aspect of the mind that we have yet to define (see page three) and which would radially change psychoanalysis. What is it??????
9 Will we spend more than one day on Jung ?