Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories have largely contributed to psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis consists of various psychological therapies and theories that help in the treatment of various psychological disorders. The psychoanalysis process involves understanding the unconscious thoughts of the individual and bringing them into the consciousness of the person by using various psychoanalytic techniques; these techniques are discussed in this article. Freud’s psychoanalytic theories are based on his belief that the type of personality that an individual will have in his/her adulthood is determined by his/her childhood experiences, and any disruptions or traumas in childhood may result in negative personality traits in adulthood. His theories involve the topographic model of the mind, structural model of personality, defence mechanisms to deal with anxiety, psychosexual stages of development, and psychoanalytic techniques. We’ll get to know about all these concepts in this article.
Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, who is also known as the father of psychoanalysis, was born on 6 May 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia. His family later shifted to Vienna, where he spent most of his childhood and adulthood. He completed his graduation in medicine in 1881 from the University of Vienna. After his graduation, he worked at the psychiatry clinic of the Vienna general hospital. He developed his interest in the treatment of the ‘hysteria’ (post-traumatic stress) patients during his short placement at the Salpetriere clinic, Paris. After he returned to Vienne, he left the psychiatry clinic and set up his private clinical practice, where he and his colleague Joseph Breuer studied the case histories of hysteria clients and later published their research “studies on hysteria” (1895). This research served as an important tool in the development of Freud’s psychoanalytical theories. In 1901, he published one of his popular books, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” which involves various psychoanalytical techniques such as free association and dream analysis. Freud, along with his followers, established the ‘International Psychoanalytic Association’ in 1910. Hereafter, he went on exploring the various aspects of the unconscious mind and how it influences the behaviour of an individual? In 1923, Freud elaborated on the three parts of the human psyche, i.e., id, ego, and superego, in his publication “The Ego and the Id.” Freud, along with his family, left Austria and shifted to London in 1938 due to the arrival of Nazis. During this time, he suffered from jaw cancer, and he died on 23 September 1939 in London. Although his psychoanalytical theories have been criticized by many, it remains as one of the most influential theories in psychology.
My Life is interesting only if it is related to psychoanalysis” -Sigmund Freud (1884)
Sigmund Freud’s Topographic Model of the Psyche
According to Freud, a large part of our thoughts, feelings, and desires are unconscious, and the knowledge and interpretation of the unconscious of the person play a very crucial role in psychoanalysis as it helps to get a true and deeper insight into an individual’s mind. Freud proposed that there exist three levels of awareness, i.e., consciousness, preconscious, and unconsciousness, these levels are discussed below.
Everything that we are feeling, thinking, wishing, or paying attention to, at any moment comes under the consciousness of our mind. For example, a girl is riding a bike, so the vehicles and road in her field of vision, the horn sounds she is hearing, or anything else she is experiencing at that moment, such as hunger, thirst, or pain, are all in her consciousness.
Everything that the person is not paying attention to at the given moment, but the information is readily available to enters into the conscious of the person whenever it’s required. For example, you may not be thinking about your sibling’s mobile number at the given moment, but you’ll immediately recall the number when needed.
The unconscious consists of all those feelings, thoughts, or desires that the person is not aware of, but it influences almost every aspect of his/her daily life. For example, the hatred towards a particular family member, due to strict parenting, or any childhood traumatic incidents that the person doesn’t remember now but deeply affects his/her current behaviour.
Sigmund Freud’s Structural Model of Personality
The human personality and behaviour are very diverse and complex to explain. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, human behaviour and personality depend on the interactions among the three major components, i.e., the id, ego, and superego. Each component plays a unique and notable contribution to the human personality. This model focuses on the role of the unconscious mind in taking various decisions and shaping personality and behaviour. Let us discuss the three components (id, ego, and superego) of the personality.
This component is present from the time of birth in the people. It involves taking instantaneous decisions without thinking much about the cause and consequences of the decisions. Here, the decisions taken by the person are primarily from his/her unconscious part of the mind. The ‘id’ works on Freud’s pleasure principle, i.e., it focuses on fulfilling biological needs and conscious or unconscious desires such as anger, hunger, thrust, urge to pee, and sex. If these needs or desires are not satisfied, it may lead to tension, stress, or anxiety. As id is the only component that is present from birth, hence the behaviour of the children is mostly controlled by the id, and they always focus on fulfilling their needs as early as possible. For example, children argue to eat their favourite candy again and again without considering that it may cause them cavities problems. Another example is that if the child is thirsty, and there’s a long queue for getting the water bottle, the id part of the child will influence him/her to break the queue and get the water immediately. Sigmund Freud defined id as the:
Source of all the psychic energy”
The children’s behaviour due to the id component may be acceptable by society, but this behaviour may cause a problem when the person grows up. Hence, the development of another component, i.e., ‘ego,’ helps people make decisions based on the reality principle. It involves taking decisions not only based on fulfilling personal needs or desires but also considering the realistic and socially approved behaviour. As in the earlier example, the child broke the queue and simply grabbed the water bottle, but the ego component of the child will help him/her to ask if he can get the water bottle first as he’s very thirsty. Sigmund Freud explained the concept of id and ego by comparing the id and the ego as the horse and the horse rider respectively. The horse provides the motivation and potential, while the horse rider gives the instructions and administration to the horse. The horse will roam anywhere and do anything that it desires without the direction of the horse rider. The rider is responsible for making the horse reach its destination in a controlled and appropriate way. According to Freud, the primary function of the ego is to delay the needs or desires until the appropriate time, or it is realistic and acceptable, and your ability to delay gratification increases as you grow older. Sigmund Freud defined ego as:
Part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world”
It is the last component of personality development, and it begins to develop around the age of five. The superego primarily works based on internalized moral values or principles that we learn from our parents and society. The superego helps us make appropriate judgments by suppressing the id’s urges and forcing the ego to works as per the moral principles rather than the realistic principles. The superego is divided into two parts, i.e., the ego ideal and the conscience. The ego-ideal includes the set of rules for the appropriate behaviour. Here, behaviour is influenced by the authority figures such as parents or teachers. People experience the feeling of accomplishment and pride in fulfilling this set of rules. The ego-ideal is also considered as the ideal image we have in our minds about ourselves. The conscience involves the set of rules for behaviour that is considered as bad. Doing things that are considered as bad as per the conscience leads to a guilty feeling. It is commonly observed that the decision made as per the ego and the superego are the same most of the time, but the superego’s reasons for taking that decision are based on the moral principles or judgments, while the ego’s reasons for taking that decision are based on the other people’s opinion and its impact on oneself.
Sigmund Freud explained his model of the psyche and personality by comparing it to an iceberg. According to him, the conscious thoughts of the person are represented by the tip of the iceberg as we are aware of our conscious thoughts, and the tip of the iceberg is clearly visible from the outside. The preconscious mind is represented by the area just below the waterline. As the majority of the individual’s thoughts are hidden, hence the larger and the deeper submerged part of the iceberg represents the unconscious mind. As we are not consciously aware of the effect of the id energy (natural desires, thoughts, or feelings) on our behaviour, hence the id is represented under the unconscious part. The ego is the part of each three types of awareness, but it majorly contributes to the conscious and the preconscious part than the unconscious part. The superego consists of all three levels of awareness and hence comprises the entire iceberg.
Interaction among Id, Ego, and the Superego
All the three components, i.e., id, ego, and the superego are not separate entities, they interact with each other and are equally important to decide the overall behaviour and personality of the person. Sometimes your decisions are based on fulfilling your own needs (id), i.e., what is best for you, and sometimes they are based on the moral principles (superego), i.e., what is best for others, or sometimes based on the reality principle (ego), i.e., what is best for you and the others. The interaction of these three components varies at the different stages of people’s lives. The id plays an important role in taking actions to fulfil personal needs and the ego helps in taking action in a realistic and socially acceptable way, and the superego helps to take morally appropriate decisions. It is difficult to make a balance in all these components, hence the conflict is often seen. According to Freud, a person has a well-balanced personality if he/she can effectively use their ego to make a balance between the id and the superego. A person with an extreme id nature may have an uncontrollable or impulsive personality and will fulfil his/her needs and desires at any cost even it may be unethical, and the person with the dominant superego may have an extreme judgemental and moralistic personality, and they will face difficulty in accepting things or opinions that they themselves perceive as morally bad or unethical. Freud proposed the term ‘ego-strength,’ and said that those who have high ego strength can easily make a balance between the id and the superego, and can tackle the various conflicting situation, while those with the low ego-strength finds it difficult to balance these components. The ego of the person tries to find the compromise between the id and the superego. Let us understand it with an example, Diana has a dieting plan for several months as she wants to lose weight. One day she has cravings for eating junk food, instead of working out & eating salad. In this situation, the superego of Diana will influence her to not eat the junk food and rather go for the 60 minutes daily treadmill routines, however, her id will influence her to eat her favourite pizza and skips the working session for one day. Here, Diana’s ego helps her in making the compromise between her superego and id, and do the 30 minutes of treadmill walk, and then eating the pizza and the salad.
According to the Freud:
People are simply actors in the drama of their own minds, pushed by desires, pulled by coincidence. Underneath the surface, our personality represents the power struggle going on deep within us.”
As we have discussed above, trying to make a balance between the id, ego, and the superego leads to conflict and these internal conflicts increase the level of anxiety of an individual. Freud proposed that anxiety arises due to the inability of the ego to balance between instant gratification (id) and maintaining moral values and norms (superego). To manage conflicts and anxiety, we use the defence mechanism; defence mechanics are the particular behaviour of the individual to get rid of the anxiety in a particular situation. People usually are not aware of the moment that they consciously using defence mechanics to deal with their negative feelings. These mechanisms could either be positive or negative according to the behaviour of the person. Here are some commonly used defence mechanisms.
Refusing to accept very obvious and real events because they are uncomfortable or displeasing. For example, Sam is addicted to alcohol, and it is affecting almost every area of his life, whether it’s his academics, professional life, or personal life. However, he refuses to admit it and argues that he seldom drinks only to lowers the stress level.
Trying to reduce the anxiety by behaving differently or believing in certain factors, or views that are opposite to your real thoughts or feelings. For example, Tom has a crush on Tia, but she is married. Hence, he tries to reduce his anxiety by saying or trying to believe himself that tia is a bad girl.
Attempting to justify the unacceptable or inappropriate behaviour, feelings, or thoughts with some self-serving reasons or explanations. For example, Sam failed in his History exam as he did not study and attended full classes, but he explained to his parents that he failed because the teacher does not like him.
Attributing one’s own undesirable or unacceptable desires, thoughts, or feelings to others. For example, Kim often cheats on his wife, and he is feeling bad about it but doesn’t want to accept it. Hence, he unconsciously projects his feelings on his wife that she is already cheating on him, and she is unfaithful.
Transferring one’s urges or feelings about an individual or a thing onto someone or something less threatening targets. For example, Mark is angry at his teacher as he scolded him for creating nuisance in the classroom, but he can’t show his anger to the teacher. He reaches home and releases his frustrations at his younger brother.
Showing extreme behaviour to express one’s true feelings, or thoughts. For example, when the parents do not give their child his/her favourite toy they may start throwing tantrums or even injure themselves to express their anger.
Suppressing unpleasant and painful memories, thoughts, or feelings in the unconscious. For example, Sunny witnessed the fire accident that burned his house into ashes, it happened when she was nine years of age. However, even now, as an adult, he does not remember this traumatic event as he has repressed this event into the unconscious.
It involves dissociating yourself from your actual personality and thinking and behaving entirely different from your usual personality to deal with emotional stress. People use this mechanism when they become unable to bear their thoughts, memories, or feelings of their real world, they start living in the world that they created in their own mind to get rid of the anxiety. The person who uses the dissociation defence mechanism a lot often loses the right track of time and/or themselves, and it may even lead to the ‘multiple personality disorder.’
Returning to a far less mature stage of psychological development for coping with the undesirable situation. For example, Sandy is an adult, but she cried like a child when she listened to the news of her mother’s death.
Redirecting unacceptable feelings, thoughts, or desires, through socially acceptable behaviour. For example, Ranjan desires revenge from the drunk truck driver who is responsible for the death of his only child. However, he channelized this negative thought of revenge into positive behaviour by adopting an orphan child and supporting the organizations that help the people who’ve lost their loved ones.
Psychosexual Stages of Development
Sigmund Freud proposed that the interactions between the three major components of the human mind (id, ego, superego) develops through the five psychosexual stages of development. According to Freud, the personality of the people gets established during their childhood till the five years of age, and he associated the behaviour of the children with the ‘libido’ (psychosexual energy). He explained personality development through the five stages, and each stage is associated with a specific erogenous zone; erogenous zones are considered as the particular areas of the body that are sensitive to stimulation. The child’s personality depends upon how a child deals with the conflicts that occur in every stage as each stage has distinctive conflicts. The child may get fixated at one stage if the needs or desires of the child are over gratified or are leading to frustration at that particular stage. Fixation disturbs the normal development of the personality from one stage to the next stage, and when the child grows up, he/she may focus on the particular needs that were over gratified or not fulfilled at all. Let us discuss Freud’s five psychosexual stages of development.
It is the first stage of psychosexual development, and it lasts up to the age of 18 months. At this stage, the child focuses on the mouth for gratification, which involves suckling, chewing, sucking, ingesting the food, and putting objects in the mouth. The id is dominant at this stage as ego and super-ego are not yet developed, hence every action of the child depends on the pleasure principle. However, some signs of the ego are seen. As we have read above that the ego is responsible for the delay of gratification and waiting for the appropriate time to fulfil the needs. The development of the ego can be understood from the child’s cry. From birth to around two months of age, the cry seems to be insignificant, but later, it is linked to certain needs such as hunger or pain. The oral stage disturbance could lead to permanent fixation, and negative personality traits such as greediness, dependent on others, and impatience. The examples of oral stage fixation that are observed in adulthood may involve overeating, smoking, thumb-sucking, chewing, nail-biting, and putting objects in the mouth.
The anal phase begins around the 18 months of the child’s age and lasts up to around three years. At this stage, the focus of the child transfer from the mouth to the lower end of the digestive tract and the anus. The ego formation begins at this stage. Toilet training is taught to the children by their parents during this phase, and the conflicts between the id (urge to pee immediately) and ego (pee in the bathroom only) is observed. Fixation at this stage may occur due to strict toilet training or extreme gratification (smearing poop on the walls/creating mess). The little gratification at this stage may lead to the development of anal-character having personality traits of compulsiveness or rigidity, and over gratification at this stage may result in the traits like short-tempered, untidiness, and narcissism personality.
The phallic phase begins around the age of three and lasts up to around the age of six. The focus of the child at this phase shifts to the genital areas. Although genitals are the source of gratification at this stage, it is not in the same way as that of adult sexuality because the children are physically immature yet. The children now begin to understand the differences between girls and boys, and the focus of the driving energy of the children shifts to their parents that leads to the Oedipus complex and Electra complex.
Oedipus Complex and Electra Complex: Freud introduced the terms ‘Oedipus complex’ for males to describes their libido in his psychosexual theory. The term ‘Oedipus complex’ is derived from a Greek mythological king, ‘Oedipus,’ who married his own mother after unintentionally killing his father. According to Freud, the boys become more possessive of the mother and develop feelings of rivalry and envy towards the father. The ‘id’ wants the mother’s affection and resists his father, but the ‘ego’ knows that he can’t fight with the father as the father is stronger than him, which leads to fear of getting punished by the father, Freud, termed it as the ‘castration anxiety.’ The term ‘Electra complex’ (termed by Carl Jung) is derived from ‘Electra,’ a Greek mythological character, who was involved in her mother’s murder and was sexually attracted towards her father. According to Freud, the psychosexual development of females are almost similar to that of males, where the boys face castration anxiety and the girls develop penis envy. He said that females envy males as they possess a penis and argued that most females remain fixated at this phase, which results in an inferior and submissive personality. However, Freud’s views on feminine sexuality, and more particularly the ‘penis envy’ faced strong criticisms. A German psychoanalyst, Karen Horney questioned Freud’s views and considered them shameful and humiliating to women. She instead argued that the men feel inferiority because of their inability to give birth to the babies, which she termed as ‘womb envy.’ The concept of morality beings internalizing in children at this stage, and they follow various norms or rules due to their willingness and belief in morality rather than the fear of getting punished, i.e., the super-ego starts developing at this phase.
The latent phase age period is not exactly defined, it usually begins when the child starts going to school (age 3-7) and may last up to the onset of puberty (age 8-13). The superego of the child continues to progress during this phase, and the child learns to suppress the id energies. As the child begins his/her school journey, their concerns shift towards building relationships with peers, hobbies, and playing games. The child develops morality, social skills, and communication skills and also begins to understand the various complex feelings of disgust, shame, and guilt. If the children get fixated at this stage, it may result in immature behaviour or difficulty in maintaining a good relationship with others, when they grew up.
It is the last stage of Freud’s psychosexual development stages, and it begins from the onset of puberty, and onwards. This phase stays for a longer period of life. The libido gets activated, and the focus is on the genitals in the form of adult sexuality. The person develops sexual interests towards the opposite sex. The source of gratification at this stage includes love relationships, strong bonds with the family, and successfully carrying out the responsibilities of adulthood. In the earlier stages, the primary focus was the self-needs, but due to ṭhe full development of ego and the super-ego at this phase, the individual’s focus shifts to the welfare of both themselves and the society. Maintaining a proper balance in the different areas of life is the main goal of this stage. Unlike younger children, individuals at this stage become able to control the id energies that involve immediately satisfying the needs and desires and take decisions based on reality and moral principles. The genital stage disturbance may lead to the inability of an individual to focus on the more important adulthood responsibilities than focusing on their own body and other needs. The successful completion of all the five stages most probably leads to a kind, caring, and well-balanced personality.
Criticisms of Freud’s Psychosexual Theory
Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of development has been strongly criticized by many researchers and psychologists due to several factors that mainly involve lack of scientific approach and anti-feministic approach. Let us discuss some key criticisms factors related to the psychosexual stages.
- Sigmund Freud has faced massive criticism for focusing only on the single factor, i.e., sexuality, in explaining the development of the human personality.
- Critics argue that this theory focuses more on the male’s psychosexual development, and does not enlighten much about the female’s psychosexual developments.
- It is impracticable to scientifically test or measure certain factors associated with this theory such as libido, hence it lacks scientific validity.
- According to Freud, disturbance at any stage of this theory leads to a certain type of personality in the future. However, it seems quite vague as it is difficult to explain that the current personality or behaviour of the person is due to any particular experience in their childhood because of the longer duration between these two variables, i.e., behaviour, and childhood experience.
- This theory lacks empirical research and is only based on case studies, and that too was not conducted on the children. He only studied the data of his adult patients.
Anna O’s Case and Psychoanalytic Techniques
To understand Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical techniques, we’ll first discuss the famous case study of ‘Anna O.’ The real name of ‘Anna O’ was Bertha Pappenheim, she was suffering from various problems like hallucination, right side body paralysis, hearing, visual, and speech disturbances. She took the help of a physician, Joseph Breuer for her treatment. Breuer diagnosed that Anna O was suffering from hysteria. Breuer discussed Anna O’s case with his friend Sigmund Freud, who suggested the concept of talk therapy to cure Anna O’s hysteria. It was found that Talk therapy helped Anna O to a great extent in dealing with her hysteria. Freud found this case very interesting, and he deeply studied Anna O’s reports. Freud suggested to Breuer that the roots of Anna O’s hysteria belong to her childhood sexual abuse. However, Breuer disagrees with Freud’s conclusion that eventually led to the end of their collaboration. Anna O’s treatment lasted for around two years (1880-1882), his treatment led to the establishment of the various psychoanalytic techniques involving ‘free association’ and ‘talk therapy’ to the treatment of mental disorders. Although Sigmund Freud never met Anna O, her treatment played a crucial role in the development of psychoanalytical techniques. In fact, Sigmund Freud himself called Anna O, the real founder of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic methods involve the various methods or techniques to cure various mental disorders by bringing the fears, feelings, and conflicts present in the unconscious mind into the consciousness of the person, and improving the abilities of the ego to reduce the levels of conflict and anxiety in people. Let us discuss some important psychoanalytic techniques.
As we have read above that when Anna O was freely allowed to talk about her past experiences and traumas, and anything that comes to her mind she felt relief in her hysterical symptoms. This introduced the ‘free association’ psychoanalytical technique. It involves allowing and encouraging the person to freely speak anything that comes to his/her mind without making any judgment or interruption to the talks. Earlier, to encourage the person to talk freely and comfortably, the person on whom the therapy is conducted was made to lay on the couch and the therapist used to sit behind the person, which reduces the eye contact and person speaks freely. While conducting the therapy, the therapist notices every minute detail of the person’s talk such as a pause in the talk, slip of the tongue; which is termed as Freudian slips. According to Freud, Freudian slip gives a deep analysis of the person’s unconscious mind, and by interpreting the hidden messages of the unconscious material, the therapist can get a deeper insight into the person’s mind. For example, Neha accidentally says to her father that ‘he is the beast,’ while she consciously wanted to say that ‘he is the best.’ Hence, as per the Freudian slip, it may be because of Neha’s anger towards her father on the unconscious level.
Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious”-Freud 1900
Freud believed that dreams play a significant role in analyzing the unconscious of a person. Freud’s famous publication, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” formalized his work on dream analysis and psychoanalytical technique. He mentioned that the accurate interpretation of the hidden message behind the dreams can become a great psychoanalytical tool. He also mentioned his dream that worked as the basis of formulating his dream analysis technique. He said that he was once concerned about one of his patients, Irma as she was not showing much improvement as he expected. Freud was guilty about it, and he blamed himself that maybe his treatment was not worth it. Later, Freud had a dream that he met Irma at a party, where he saw some flashes of another doctor treating Irma, and he realized that Irma’s condition is not improving because another doctor used a dirty syringe in Irma’s treatment. Thus, this freed Freud from the self-guilt that another doctor is responsible for Irma’s condition and not him. In concluding his dream, Freud proposed that the dreams worked as wish-fulfilment. He wished that he is not the one who is responsible for Irma’s bad condition, and his dream fulfilled his wish that another doctor is responsible for her condition. He distinguished between the part of the dream that an individual remembers (manifest content) and the true or symbolic meaning behind the dream (latent content). The process through which the hidden desires or wishes of the person are transferred into the manifest content (dreams) is called ‘dreamwork.’ Sigmund Freud wrote the following about the dream work,
At bottom, dreams are nothing other than a particular form of thinking. It is the dream-work which creates that form.”
The dreamwork involves three major processes, i.e, condensation, displacement, and secondary elaboration. The condensation process involves the merging of various thoughts, desires, or images into one that may be similar or contradictory to each other. For example ‘the image I saw in the dream was once pizza and also a pie.’ The condensation process of the dreamwork is the reason behind the distorted and compact version of the manifest content in comparison to the latent content because a small fraction of the manifest content consists of several latent contents (desires, thoughts, or feelings) merged together. The displacement process involves the transformation of any objects, images, or the person that we are concerned about to something else that may be contradicting or be insignificant in the manifest content. For example, one of Freud’s patients was very disgruntled at his sister-in-law, and he used to call her a dog in anger, and once he dreamed of killing a dog. Freud interpreted this dream that his patient wished to kill his sister-in-law. He said that through dreams the person fulfils the unconscious feelings or desires that will be too threatening on the conscious level, hence dreams make it happen in the sleep because the defences of the ego are low during sleep, and the suppressed desires may enter the consciousness of the person. Here in this example, if the patient has had dreamed of killing his sister in law that might result in the feeling of guilt, hence his unconscious displaced her into a dog. Although most dreams (manifest content) do not seem like making any sense, some dreams seem logical and coherent; it is because of the secondary elaboration. The secondary elaboration links the gaps of the distorted latent content so that dreams appear to make some sense.
Resistance is the unconscious attempt of the person to prevent the undesirable feelings, and thoughts of someone or something that may cause anxiety, to enter into the conscious mind. For example, the resistance of the person to talk about certain things or individuals, and refusing to answer certain questions that are asked during the therapy. Resistance can be a problem for the therapist to get the desired answers, but the resistance analysis can be helpful for the therapist to understand the event or situation that is triggering anxiety in the person.
Transference is the process in which the person transfers his/her unconscious desires, feelings, or thought about the certain individual in their past, onto the therapist, i.e., the person will start relating to the therapist in the same way he/she related to the person in the past. The therapist should not try to stop the transference from occurring as it could reveal unconscious information about the person, and the therapist can help the person deal with the conflict. According to Freud, the relationship between the therapist and the patient resembles that of the mother and the child’s relationships in the transference process.
Criticisms of Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theories and Techniques
Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory laid the groundwork for many other psychologists and researchers such as Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, and Karen Horney to develop their theories of personality. His psychoanalytic techniques are still used by therapists to treat mental disorders. Regardless, his theory and its methods have always been criticized by many psychologists, researchers, and feminists due to certain factors. Here are some key points that are being criticized by the researchers.
- Freud had only focused on the influence of various personality driving forces (id, ego, and the superego) on human behaviour without giving much attention to the other factors such as genetics, environment, or individual differences.
- Psychoanalysis techniques that Freud has described require a significant amount of both money and time. These methods do not serve the purpose for the people who require a brief and effective therapy session, and also those who can not pay the hefty charges.
- To effectively apply psychoanalytical techniques, the individual needs to possess a sufficient level of ego. The person with a high level of ego can easily balance their id and the superego with the assistance of the therapist. Hence, psychoanalysis is not suitable for people who possess a low level of ego.
- Theoretically, many concepts of Freud’s psychoanalytical theories such as the impact of psychosexual stages disturbances on adulthood personality, and oedipal complex are not properly supported with the empirical evidence. Hence, psychoanalytical theories lack scientific validity. Moreover, Sigmund Freud used the term Oedipal complex for both the males and the females, to define the child’s attraction towards the opposite sex parent, and jealousy towards the same-sex parent. However, one of Freud’s students, Erik Erikson introduced the term ‘Electra complex’ to describe the female’s feelings. Sigmund Freud’s opinions were considered anti-feministic and vague, while Erikson’s views were according to the societal norms.
- Some critics argued that Freud’s theory overemphasized the impact of the unconscious on human behaviour, while the consciousness of the person also influences behaviour.
- Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories are the result of his researches on the patients dealing with hysteria, hence his theory lacks generalizability.
- It is observed that Freud’s psychoanalytic theories are applicable only to the western population, and it lacks validity if applied to other culture populations.