Freud has been the subject of debate for many years and a source of ridicule for some who choose to remain aghast at his theories. He does consider aspects that many would not like to discuss and may be considered as taboo subject:Girls have sexual feelings for their fathers and boys for their mothers. Children have sexual orientations. The mind is in three parts- the id, ego and superego. Behaviour is strongly linked to past experience. Dreams have meanings. All proposed by Freud (1986). Who was this person and how can we know him and his theories? This article aims to assist students of psychology, age 16plus, to understand Freud and allay anxieties about this challenging subject mater. Many are repulsed by Freud’s theories. Indeed there has much been much academic controversy surrounding his work (Jacobs 1992 ).However, we need to consider the research upon which Freud’s work is based and possible application of the theories. His theories are based upon the many neurotic individuals he treated. However Freud himself announces that they are only hypotheses to stimulate further work (1986 ).Despite the controversy and uncertainty at times about what he is exactly proposing, his theories are often fundamental to many approaches today for example, art therapy(www.vati.bc.ca/art-therapy/fischer.htm), advertising (Held 2009), dream analysis, Freudian slips and psychoanalysis. This article will explore three key aspects of Freud’s work; the id, ego and superego; Oedipus and Electra complex; and dreams. It will be written in a simple style to aid the understanding of 16 year old students and will be assisted by the use of cartoons to illustrate some of Freud’s main points. Id, ego superego The id, ego and superego are often perceived by many to be three parts of the brain. Freud is actually referring to the subconscious(Freud 1964), each part dealing with separate emotions. The id refers to the satisfaction of pleasures and passions. As Freud describes it (1986 p498 ) ,”a cauldron full of seething excitations.” The id is influenced by various instincts such as Eros which is sexual (Freud 1986). Others include self preservation, death or sadism. This means that these factors may determine unconscious desires. The ego is part of the id (Freud 1986). The ego is influenced by the external world, including rules. These may repress the satisfaction of pure pleasure. Therefore the ego is in conflict with the id. The superego defines the standards for conduct of the ego (Freud 1986 ). It is therefore representative of moral standards, otherwise known as the conscience. The origins of the superego are said by Freud to be parental authority, from whom the child learns. There are also societal influences and other people. Oedipus complex Freud believed that there are five stages in the formation of your personality (Nye 1992 ). These include; Oral/dependency. If needs are not satisfied during this stage, one progresses through life trying to meet them. Smoking, eating and drinking are regarded as oral fixations. Dreams of unmet needs are common. Anal/potty training. If this is not handled correctly or if the child is traumatized, one might become retentive, controlling, rigid or develop obsessive compulsive disorders. Dreams of being out of control or trying to keep things in order are common. Phallic stage. This is when personality is fully developed and is said to occur between the ages of 3 and 6 ( Nye 1992 ).At this stage, the Oedipus or Electra complex exists. The Oedipus represents a male child’s love for his mother and the fear or jealousy towards his father. The Electra complex refers to the female child who has anger towards her mother, and love for her father. Latency. This is a calmer phase when sexual desires are less prominent. The child feels more affection towards the parents. It is said to occur age 6-12 (Nye 1992). Genital stage. Freud believed that the motivating force of a dream is wish fulfilment. Dreams may be a way to gratify oral fixations that were not satisfied during the oral stage of Freud’s personality formation. Issues of power, control or struggles with love may also manifest in dreams. Freud believed that images that appeared in dreams, had sexual connotations. The Oedipus complex is based upon analysis of boys by Freud who were considered to suffer from neurosis, especially Little Hans age 5. Hans was at the age of progressing through the phallic stage and demonstrated behaviour that was consistent with the Oedipus complex such as wanting to sleep in his mother’s bed and being resentful of his father. His behaviour changed as he left the phallic stage and resolved the issues associated with it. The data was gathered via Hans’ father who was a strong supporter of Freud and it may have been a biased account of what happened to his son. The Oedipus complex is so named after the Greek God Oedipus who killed his father and married his mother (Freud 2003). In the book Totem and Taboo (Freud 2003 ), we have further historical evidence from the analysis of “savages”. Is it purely a sexual relationship to which Freud refers? Indeed children age 5, are unaware of the implications of sexual feelings or relationships. Consider for example, the boy who announces he is going to marry his mother, as I have often heard. Or the boy who constantly kisses and cuddles his mother. Such actions may all be said to have Freudian orientations, yet could be the result of the boy’s reaction to an overbearing and unaffectionate father, with him seeking solace in his relationship with his mother. The Electra complex is not a term favoured by Freud. This is a term proposed by Jung (Jacobs 1992). However the term is used here to avoid causing any confusion, and it is now a commonly used term. The Electra complex is the female equivalent of the Oedipus complex, referring to relationships of the girl to her father. It is named after the Greek Goddess Electra. Much of Freud’s work was based on the analysis of his patients many of whom were described as being neurotic. Freud argued that it was repressed sexual fantasies that led to such symptoms. Even chastising a child for wetting the bed at night or for masturbating, may result in neurotic symptoms (Nye 1992). Dreams Freud argues that dreams are expressions of unconscious wishes or experiences (Nye 1992) . They may be manifest which is at the conscious level; what is remembered or latent which is the unconscious level (Nye 1992). His work regarding dreams, has been extended by others including his daughter Anna and is the basis for psychoanalysis which he proposed. By analysing dreams, we may discover repressed thoughts and feelings of the individual. Freud for example, refers to slips of the tongue (Jacobs 1992).
Critique: Freud based his theories upon the treatment of some of his patients such as Little Hans, The Rat Man, The Wolf Man and Anna O(Freud 1976). He also explored his owns dreams in addition to those of others. Many of his comments were also based upon memory ( Nye 1992 ) .The subjectivity of his conclusions may be questionable as they may be biased due to his own involvement or the involvement of people who he knew, as in the case of Little Hans. Attempts have been made to experimentally test Freud’s theories , some of which have confirmed them (Holland 2004).
Conclusion: There is evidence of the relevance of Freud’s theories within today’s societies and they apply far more than is recognised. Freud’s theories ought not to be instantly dismissed due to individuals’ repulsion but used to further explore the fundamentals of what he is saying. His work may be used to stimulate further discussion and research which is what Freud hoped. By tutors, Freud’s work can also be used to further explore the creation of theories and the research process assisting students to analyse and apply theories to everyday practice. To achieve this aim, tutor’s need to be aware of their own biases against Freud which may be assisted by greater understanding of his work. There are a number of methods to encourage students to learn about Freud with excitement. Cartoons assist the understanding of Freud and promote recognition of the relevance to everyday situations. Students could develop their own cartoons addressing situations of the application of Freud’s theories. The Film “Forbidden Plant” is particularly relevant. This film explores the meaning of the Id, ego and superego in relation to an outer space situation. A card game could be created with different situations highlighted on each. Students then need to discuss which aspect is being addressed. There is a website which students enjoy. This is a quiz in which students guess which theorist is Freud (www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/mythgeory/Freud). There are a lot of other quizzes and games online regarding Freud specifically.
c Carol Dimon 2013
Images by Keiren Robertshaw graphic designer c
References Freud S (1964) On Metapsychology The Theory of Psychoanalysis Middlesex Penguin
Freud S (1976) The standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud volxv1 (1916-1917) Introductory lectures On Psycho-Analysis (Part 111) Translated by J Strachey London. Hogarth Press.
Freud S (1986) The Essentials of Psychoanalysis London. Hogarth Press
Freud S (2003)(First published 1913) Totem and Taboo London. Routledge
Held L (2009) Psychoanalysis Shapes Consumer Culture Dec v40n11 http://www.apa.org accessed 5.5.12,3pm
Holland N (2004) (Aug 9) Psychoanalysis as Science http://www.butterflies and wheels.org/2004/psychoanalysis-as-science accessed 7.6.12, 11am
Jacobs MN (1992) Sigmund Feud London. Sage Nye RD (1992) The Psychologies Perspectives From Freud, Skinner and Rogers California. Brooks/Cole http://www.vati.bc.ca/art-therapy/fiscvher.htom accessed 5.5.12,3pm