Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The father of psychoanalysis, sigmund freud and his theories

Wanna talk about it?

The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, and his theories.

IKEEP hearing about Sigmund Freud from my cousin, who seems to think he is the inventor of modern psychoanalysis. I don't even understand the word 'psychoanalysis'. who is freud and why is he so famous?

Sigmund Freud is actually a Czech Austrian Jewish neurologist and a psychiatrist. He lived from 1856 to 1939. He founded the Psychoanalytic school of psychology and is commonly referred to as the 'father or psychoanalysis'.

During his day and even today, he remains an extremely controversial figure with controversial theories on the unconscious mind and why people behave the way they do. A lot of his theories involve sex, which is what makes them so controversial and memorable!

Freud was an atheist.

In 1930, he received the Goethe Prize for his contribution to psychology. But three years later, when the Nazis came to Austria, his books were burned and Freud had to go into exile.

Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic (meaning treatment) method for treatment of mental disorders by investigating the interaction between the conscious and unconsciou~ parts of the patient's mind, and coaxing out repressed fears and conflicts using certain techniques.

It's basically the process that occurs When you visit a psychologist in that clich6d, oftenfilmed sequence of a "shrink" sitting you on a couch and saying, "Tell me about your childhood".

What is 'unconscious' and 'conscious' in my mind? I thought I am fully conscious at all times, except when I'm asleep. I am also fully conscious with all my memories.
Freud's theory is that the majority of what we experience in lift- the underlying emotions, beliefs, feelings and impulses are not always available to us at a conscious level. He believes that what mostly drives us to behave the way we do lies in oar unconscious, out of our awareness.

We bury these feelings and emotions because they often cause us great anxiety.

In Freud's theory, our "conscious" makes up only a very small part of ourselves, Most of what makes our personality is buried and inaccessible.

Take for example a child who has been repeatedly abused by his parents, He grows up, burying the memory because it causes him so much anxiety, in his adult life, he resorts to drinking excessively and being abusive to his wife and children.

One way this can be interpreted is that our example patient is acting the way he does now because he was abused in childhood.

So is Freud saying what goes into our personality is our experiences?
Freud has a lot more complex theories on that. Really, it's a postgraduate course!

But in a nutshell, Freud postu lates that our personality's structural model can be divided into three - id, ego and super-ego.

The "id" is the part of us that we are born with. It's an extremely selfish part that allows us to get our basic needs like food, sex, pleasure. The "id" wants whatever feels good with no consideration whatsoever about the situation or other people.

When you think of this, it is true because as newborns (and babies and even older children), we have no consideration of anyone else.

If we are hungry, we cry for milk. If we soil our nappies, we cry. If we're uncomfortable, we cry with no consideration what soever for OUF mother's rest or time.

Then as we grow up, we begin to interact with the world and realise others have needs too, This part of the personality is called the "ego". The "ego" meets the demands of the "id" while taking into consideration other people and the situation. The older child no longer wakes up his mother at 3am to cry because he wants milk.

Then as we continue to age (by age five or so), the "superego" develops, This is the moral part of our personality, or "conscience". Things that shape this include school, religion, our elders, philosophy etc.

All this is very above board so far. Where does the sex and controversy come in?
Freud has yet anotber theory of personality development focusing on sex, According to him, we move through a series of psychosexual stages:

Oral stage (birth - 15 months): Only the id is present here, and the infant seeks gratification through its mouth by feeding, crying and biting. If this stage is disturbed, in adulthood, you may resort to oral behaviours like smoking, overeating, thumb-sucking, being greedy and impatient.

Anal stage (15 months - three years): the toddler derives pleasure from defecating. Too much parental control at this stage leads to an "anal" character like obsessiveness, rigidity, obstinacy and possessiveness.

Phallic stage (three to five years): now the child focuses pleasure on his genitals, such as showing curiosity. Freud postulates that boys have an "Oedipus complex" by wanting his mother and therefore being jealous of his father. He's afraid his father will find out and expresses this as "fear of castration", but this is finally resolved when the boy identifies with his father.

In girls, there is the "Electra complex", where the girl has "penis envy" and resents her mother for not providing her with a penis. If you have a problem at this stage, says Freud, it may lead to homosexuality, authority problems and rejection of gender roles.

We did say he was controversial!


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