Thursday, 28 October 2010

HCJ lecture 3 - Freud

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist who invented psychoanalysis. He died in London and was a huge celebrity at the time. He believed that men's problems could be solved with psychoanalysis. He was also a cocaine addict, he praised the drug's antidepressant and stimulant effects.

He was seen as a sexual renegade at the time, he considered sex as a central motivational factor for many of our actions. He was influenced by Locke's idea of the "blank slate" - everything we know comes from our education and society.

He believed that women instinctively feel like they were castrated. They lack of power as they have no penis, therefore they love their father and reject their mother. This opinion is of course debatable since Freud is well known for being misogynist.

According to Freud, self love is a barrier to progress. He thought that to be able to scientifically analyse a case, the scientist should take a step back and observe the patient without trying to influence them in any way.

His main legacy is the notion of Unconscious: the conscious brain is not in charge, everything happens in an underlying part. His theory is that the mind is divided in three parts: the Id is the animal instinct, our most basic desires are gathered in the Id - desire for sex, violence, food etc. The Id is repressed and "censored" by the Super Ego, which contains rules and codes our parents and society taught us. The Ego is the conscious part of our mind, which is a sort of balance between our Id and Super Ego. There is a constant battle between Super Ego, Ego and Id.

Still according to Freud's theories, there are five stages of development during our childhood:

the oral stage: time when the baby is breastfed
the anal stage: time when the child learns to be clean
the phallic stage: time when the child is obsessed with his penis - this is also the time when the Oedipus complex appears: symbolically, the child wants to sleep with his mother and kill his father. The child usually overcomes this phase, realising that his father is stronger and could castrate him.
the latent stage: nothing really happens.
The genital stage: the child is obsessed with his genitals.

Men have found a way to hide their "Id outburst":

In order to burn sexual energy, people turn themselves towards a more "correct" activity - sport, arts, reading etc - this is sublimation.

Displacement is turning shameful thoughts into something/someone else.

Projection is sending feelings onto someone else.

Rationalisation is giving a more socially acceptable explanation for something you did that wasn't socially acceptable. If you hit your kid, you wouldn't say that you did it because it was stress relieving, would you?

The key to psychoanalysis is that you are hiding something from yourself. Freud believed he found the way people deal with the Unconscious part of their mind: hypnosis, pressure method, free associations and dreams. All these methods allow people to evacuate some pressure.

Freud was attacked by various people and he's nowadays mainly considered as a writer. Some scientists had a problem with Freud's theories as there is no way to prove them wrong/right.

However neuroscience later found out that the brain was disposed in a similar way, as there are three different layers:
the reptilian brain, which is in charge of motor movement, and basic needs/feelings. (Id)
The Limbic system, in charge of emotions. (Super Ego)
The neo cortex, in charge of language and communication. (Ego)

Reich disagreed with Freud, and in fact believed the opposite. He thought that people were genuinely good and that society was turning some of them into dangerous and violent people. He thought that repression of sexuality was what made people unhappy.


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