YAFCA. org is a Social Services Directory provided by Your Are Finally Cared About Inc. This post is one of many provided to inform, educate, and improve the community we live in.
Many thanks to Guest Writer Brittany Figdore for her contribution to our series, and the time she spent writing this for YAFCA.
Brittany has a degree in Parks & Recreation Management, with a double concentration in Community Programming and Therapeutic Recreation from Frostburg State University. She is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, under NCTRC. She has been a TR Programmer for Therapeutic Recreation Services of the Roanoke Valley since July 2008, working primarily with children and adults with developmental disabilities.
When given the task to write about Sigmund Freud, I cannot lie, immediately my mind went to “Oh God, why me?” While there is no lack of information or debates on this historical figure; that is exactly the problem, there is so much information on Freud and varying opinions on what he did, where would I even begin, and how could I try to make Freud interesting?
What better place to start than at the beginning. We’ve all used the term “Freudian Slip”, but how many of us really know anything else about the man who coined that term? Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) was a founding father of the psychoanalytic school of psychology and is best know for his structural model of the psyche (Id, Ego, Super-Ego), and 5 Stages of Psychosexual Development.
It was hard enough to stay awake in any Psych class a majority of my college career (Sorry Mom & Dad, the truth can be harsh!), let alone recall information and facts that are sitting on a shelf collecting dust in the far recesses of my brain, that were only crammed in there for an exam or two. So, unless you’re well versed in Freud and knew what the above mentioned concepts were, a little refresher may be in order.
Psychoanalytic psychology; other than being a mouth full, what is it? Freud was a proponent of the idea that an individual’s behaviors and actions are influenced by their unconscious thoughts. In order for patients to recognize these thoughts, they would engage in free association; which is when you speak about anything that is on your mind. It is during free association that dreams and slips of the tongue (Freudian slips) are revealed and the relationships between the Id, Ego and Super-Ego explored. Critics of Freud often site that many of his theories and thoughts are too generalized and over emphasize the unconscious mind. Continually, it is also pointed out that concepts of psychoanalytic theorists, like Freud, are difficult to measure and quantify. Despite its flaws, the psychoanalytic school of psychology was the base for Behaviorism, Humanistic, and what we now call Contemporary Psychology.
It is the Id, Ego and Super-Ego working together that shape our behaviors. Together, they are like a system of checks and balances.
The first of the three to develop is the Id, which is present at birth, and according to Freud is the primary component of our personality. The Id is driven by our need for pleasure and immediate satisfaction, needs, and wants. “I’m hungry; I want that sandwich.”
Our Ego is the reality of the situation and keeps us from making unacceptable actions because of the impulses of the Id. “I can’t have that sandwich because it isn’t mine.”
The Super-Ego is the last to develop as it is our sense of right and wrong, and we learn that from our parents and other authority figures. It acts as a balance for the Id and Ego; suppressing the unacceptable urges of the Id and keeping the reality of our ego in check. “I can’t have that sandwich because it isn’t mine and stealing is wrong. But, I can go to the store and buy what is needed to make my own.”
In Freud’s 5 Stages of Development, he generalized that each individual goes through these five phases and failure to conquer or master a stage will result in a fixation on that particular stage in adulthood, and will remain a fixation until dealt with accordingly. On the flip side of the coin, if each stage of development is mastered successfully, the result will be a healthy personality. The five stages, and progression through them are as follows: the Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital stages. It’s here where we run into additional controversy and have to come to our own conclusions on how valid Freud’s theory is today.
Modern psychology argues that, while there may be a correlation between these “stages, and ones personality in adulthood, to generalize that a specific event that early on in life is the cause of a current behavior is just too vague. There are too many variables that could come into play in that vast time span to concretely say “B” is due to “A”. Another argument about the stages of Psychosexual Development is that all of Freud’s conclusions were based on case studies, rather than objective observations. If he were even able to scientifically test his theories, how could he have proven that libido (which according to Freud was the driving factor in all five stages) was the motivating force?
With this all said, trying to look at Freud with an objective mind, one has to take everything with a grain of salt. Not everything someone says has to be tied to a subconscious thought or childhood experience. If someone based everything off how it would be analyzed by a Freudian theorist, they’d wouldn’t be able to say anything without over analyzing it, and try tying it to some fluke event in their past.
Do I think that there is validity in Freud’s stages?
Do I think that just because a person is super organized, obsessive, inflexible and called “anal- retentive” by others that that is all because of something that happened when they were potty training?
We are all products of our environment; nature and nurture are constantly changing who we are and how we react to situations, right up to the day we die. And llet’s face it; Freud wasn’t that far off when he said that our primary motivation is libido. Marketing companies, movie producers, authors, and the music industry all capitalize on this premise every single day. Sex sells.
Seventy-one years later and as a society, we are still talking about Freud. Whether you view his thoughts and concepts as bogus and unfounded, somewhat applicable, or relevant and germane, Freud had a lasting influence on the history and future of psychology and psychotherapy.