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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sigmund Freud: The essentials of psychoanalysis

Currently, I'm making my way through Sigmund Freud's 'The Essentials of Psychoanalysis' as part of my further reading for psychology. It was surprising to read the argument that Freud puts forward to the reader, the way that he challenges his own ideas as if presuming the reader's response. Whilst this was at some points a little patronising, it was actually very easy to read and comprehend. I could just imagine Freud sitting in a lovely little apartment in Vienna typing away at the keyboard, a true genius at work. His proposed Oedipus complex (the idea that young boys develop intense affection for their mothers but fear damaging their relationship with their father, leading to them relating to their father and developing his masculine characteristics) is perhaps so controversial because it dares to to take away our believed innocence of children; however, Freud admits this and suggests that he also slightly objects to the concept, even though he must have believed in it fervently.

What seems most fascinating, however, is the idea that 'the child is the parent of the adult'. I have a whole page of colourful notes devoted to the ego - what is, to quote Freud, a 'superficial facade lying between reality and the id', guarding against the danger that the id or subconsciousness ('a cauldron full of seething excitations', with a dominance of the pleasure principle and filled with instincts for hunger and love') might cause in trying to satisfy its want for pleasure. Here, Freud quotes Schiller, a German poet: 'hunger and love are what drives the world'. Whereas the 'super ego' pressurises the ego into controlling the id with moral principles that a child learns as they develop - instilling inside of them a sense of pride, punishing any bad feelings with guilt. Then there are the defence mechanisms, repressing unwanted thoughts into the subconsciousness, displacing feelings onto others, simple denial or identifying with someone else.

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