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Freud, Objects and People – Why this elevator never reached the top floor

Freuds ( tipo andy warhol )

Freuds ( tipo andy warhol ) by Paulo Marquez via Flickr

For Sigmund Freud, the object is something a subject directs energy toward in an attempt to gratify instinctual desires.

Just how a person relates to the object depends on their psychological maturity.

In Freudian theory the object usually refers to another person, aspects of a person, or a full or partial symbolic representation of a person.

When an object refers to another complete person, replete with human rights and dignity, the object is called a whole object.

By calling other people “objects” it may seem that Freud’s theory objectifies people and is unduly self-absorbed. But that would be a flawed interpretation. Freud also says the psyche’s main job is to balance internal and external forces acting on it. In his own lingo, the ego mediates the often competing demands of the id (instincts) and the superego (internalized social norms and morals).

Freud does fall short, in my opinion, with his view of morality—or rather, the source of morality. Some people do seem to feel neurotic guilt and shame based on faulty upbringing or authoritarian social norms.

And this would fit with Freud’s thinking. But other, more genuine, feelings of contrition may arise from a sense of something higher, something truly spiritual which guides our understanding of morality.

Freud doesn’t put much stock in this kind of religious or spiritual thinking.

The founder of psychoanalysis was an atheist who generally mocked those experiencing – what they understood as – spiritual insights and graces.

One can’t help but wonder how many materialistic psychiatrists do the same sort of thing today, especially when it comes to personal spirituality, which has a rather sketchy status within contemporary psychiatry.¹

¹ In contrast to organized religion which psychiatry is compelled to accept, just as social and political pressures impelled it to accept gays and lesbians only after many years of stigmatization and harmful “treatments.”

Related » Cathexis, Fixation, Projection, Repression, Splitting, Stages of Psychosexual Development

References:

  • Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 100.
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Stages of Psychosexual Development

Freud, explícame tú esto: tnarik / Eduardo

Freud, explícame tú esto: tnarik / Eduardo via Flickr

The Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud outlines five early stages of psycho-sexual development in which the ego and libido are developed. Sam McLeod does an admirable job in explaining this often baffling theory:

These are called psychosexual stages because each stage represents the fixation of libido (roughly translated as sexual drives or instincts) on a different area of the body. As a person grows physically certain areas of their body become important as sources of potential frustration (erogenous zones), pleasure or both.¹

The five early stages are:

  1. The oral stage of 0-1 years where infant gratification is achieved through sucking the primary object of the mother’s breast (or substitute objects)²
  2. The anal stage of 1-3, in which sexual gratification is achieved through the child’s control over and actual production of feces. From his or her toilet training the child first learns the reality of restrictions from the external world
  3. The phallic stage of 3-6, where the body and especially genitalia become important. The child learns sexual and gender differences, and may explore with self and others by playing “doctor” and other childhood activities
  4. The latency period – occurring between the phallic stage and adolescence – in which the child pays less attention to the body and more to the acquisition of essential life skills
  5. The genital stage at which time the adolescent’s attention is oriented toward developing mature, loving human relationships with others

English: Shakira during the Oral Fixation Tour...

Shakira during the Oral Fixation Tour 2006, La Coruña-Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Freud’s theory, so-called normal individuals proceed through these stages without major difficulties while some become fixated at a given stage. Fixation in this sense refers to an unconscious attachment to a particular object of libidinal gratification.

Again, the actual body areas involved in the psycho-sexual stages can be symbolized.  So the the adult alcoholic fixated at the oral stage substitutes liquor and the bottle for the mother’s nipple. Whereas those disregarding or, perhaps, obsessed with cleanliness, order and regularity would be fixated at the anal stage.

In general, fixation manifests in excessive behaviors like excessive housecleaning; it may involve extreme emotional states of depression, fear, anxiety and forced elation.

For Freud, normal human development pretty much ends at the genital phase. Behaviors like celibacy, fasting and prolonged solitude may be viewed as pathological by Freudians. However, more holistic thinkers see this as a reductive and potentially dangerous approach, one suggesting spiritual ignorance, immaturity and perhaps sin.

The International Institute for the Advanced Studies of Psychotherapy and Applied Mental Health sums up Freud’s theory as follows:

Although Freud’s theory of psychosexual development was extremely influential and continues to be taught in professional psychology programs today, empirical research has failed to generate significant support for these ideas and it is generally not an accepted model among practicing psychologists. Additionally, this theory has drawn criticism for being constructed on sexist ideas. Regardless, terminology associated with the stages of psychosexual development has found wide popular usage in a variety of registers and fields of activity.³

¹ http://www.simplypsychology.org/psychosexual.html

² Freud’s usage of the word ‘object’ includes other people.

³ http://www.psychotherapy.ro/resources/constructs/psychosexual-development/ (since the time of this entry’s last update, the link has been generalized to http://albertellis.org/the-international-institute-for-the-advanced-studies-of-psychotherapy-and-applied-mental-health/ )


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Cupid

Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cupid ((Latin Cupido, “desire”) comes under many guises. As the Roman god of Love, he’s the son of Venus.

The 2nd century Latin writer Apuleus portrays him in The Golden Ass as the lover of Psyche. But the timeless tale of Cupid and Pscyhe goes back at least to the 4th century BCE, where its depicted in Greek art.

Depth psychologists have much to say about the relationship between Cupid and Psyche. In Jungian archetypal psychology Psyche is taken as the cold, somewhat icy soul in need of a “shattering” or “melting” from the warm, sensitive Cupid. Cupid, on the other hand, risks utter destruction unless Psyche’s gaze is tempered with love.

In the language of symbols, the successful union of Cupid and Psyche represents a fruitful togetherness, not unlike the Yin and the Yang, love and knowledge or affection and wisdom.

In art Cupid is usually depicted naked. He’s often winged with bow and arrow, wearing a boyish or cherub-like countenance.

In folklore, Cupid, like the Indian kama, afflicts human beings with a proverbial “dart to the heart.” His marks invariably fall in love or become filled with desire for another person. His chief mythic parallel is the Greek god Eros.

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