Freud theory of sexuality summary. Human sexuality.



Freud theory of sexuality summary

Freud theory of sexuality summary

It will be evident that what follows is not a conventional review of the book. However, these cases proved difficult to interpret because independent corroboration was often lacking. From this passage and what follows pp. However, a closer reading of the passage in question indicates that what Schacter had in mind was the whole period in the late s during which Breuer and especially Freud investigated cases they diagnosed as hysteria. Also, many of these cases involved specific physical symptoms in addition to the symptomatology listed by Schacter.

In his introductory remarks on the cases in Studies on Hysteria, Mollon p. However, Mollon makes no mention of the doubts that have been expressed in recent times about the traditional accounts of the Anna O. The objects of repression were thoughts, feelings and desires. This aim can be achieved only if the original event is recalled, and Studies contains several examples of patients supposedly recovering forgotten memories of incidents associated with disturbing ideas e.

In his brief accounts of the 4 main cases described by Freud in Studies, Mollon pp. For a perceptive discussion of the Katharina case, see Swales, , pp. As Mollon notes later p. In the seduction theory papers, Freud claimed that the sexual abuse he had supposedly uncovered most commonly occurred at age 3 or 4, and for 2 cases at half these ages Freud, a, p.

Although he had not reported having uncovered any cases of sexual abuse in infancy before he alighted on the seduction theory in early October Masson, , pp.

This raises the issue of what exactly his evidence comprised. It seems likely that in some cases Freud relied almost entirely on the symbolic interpretation of symptoms that lay at the heart of his etiological determinations.

Moreover, Freud failed to provide some important details: Did he obtain the information directly from the brother, or was it conveyed to him secondhand? What, precisely, was the sexual behavior allegedly confirmed? How can the brother have confirmed that there had been sexual relations dating further back, i.

In addition, Freud is not consistent in his claims relating to such activities between siblings. This involved 2 female patients who, in infancy, had supposedly had sexual relations with the same man.

And there is another question to be considered here. Yet, as Scharnberg has pointed out pp. The first question to ask here is: And, even more pertinently, how could Freud have discovered that the supposed abusers in these cases had in early childhood been subjected to exactly the same sexual practices as they had perpetrated on the infant girls?

The problem is, of course, compounded by the fact that the supposed infantile experiences of his own patients were themselves doubtful analytic findings, purportedly of deeply repressed unconscious memories. Freud made no attempt to provide any information about how he acquired this unlikely knowledge, and Mollon evidently requires none. It is of more than passing interest to note that he never again mentioned these remarkable findings once he had abandoned the seduction theory. After a lengthy passage pp.

However, he is mistaken in saying p. That patients might confabulate as a result of suggestions emanating from the physician, even unconsciously, was widely recognized in the last decades of the 19th century Borch-Jacobsen, a, pp. In two separate passages pp.

As he wrote 2 years later: Some recent commentators have argued that Freud dishonestly distorted the true situation regarding his change of mind. They argue that Freud first coerced his patients into producing false scenes of childhood sexual abuse, which were really his own inventions, and then, realising his error, he subsequently claimed that his patients had spontaneously told him of their sexual scenes, and in this way had given him the idea of childhood sexuality and the Oedipus complex.

These points have little substance. He freely admits that in early papers he played down the role of seduction by fathers because the idea would seem too disturbing to his readers as well as perhaps to himself. His change of mind about how crucial sexual abuse was can be seen as part of a wider and consistent pattern whereby Freud continually revised his views in the light of his further clinical experience and thought. The problem is not that Freud revised his views, but that he made retrospective changes regarding factual details.

In the period in which the main interest was directed to discovering infantile sexual traumas, almost all my women patients told me that they had been seduced by their father.

I was driven to recognize in the end that these reports were untrue and so came to understand that hysterical symptoms are derived from phantasies and not from real occurrences. It was only later that I was able to recognize in this phantasy of being seduced by the father the expression of the typical Oedipus complex in women.

As Mollon indicates p. The 2 cases in question concern attempted sexual assaults after puberty, and the memories had not been repressed [, pp.

As Swales , pp. The fact is that nowhere in his writings did Freud indicate that he played down the role of fathers in the seduction theory papers; he simply changed his story in his later accounts without reference to his original reports , pp.

There is in fact no evidence for the commonly held view that Freud predominantly implicated fathers and that he concealed this in the papers. The seduction theory required only that there be unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse; the identities of the abusers were irrelevant, and this is reflected in the supposed culprits listed by Freud at the time, which were in accord with the typical culprits cited in the contemporary literature on child sexual abuse Makari, , p.

It was only after December , when on theoretical grounds he alighted on the notion that fathers were likely to be the abusers Eissler, , p. Several writers have shown that there are cogent grounds for rejecting the notion that the categories cited in the seduction theory papers concealed a preponderance of fathers among the supposed culprits Eissler, , pp. People who have no hesitation in satisfying their sexual desires upon children cannot be expected to jib at finer shades in the methods of obtaining that satisfaction.

Where the relation is between two children, the character of the sexual scenes is none the less of the same repulsive sort. Then there are the tendentious changes, alluded to above, that occurred with regard to the identities of the supposed abusers. There was no mention of fathers in the first 2 retrospective reports, in which Freud maintained that the putative phantasies of seduction were concealing memories of objectless infantile autoerotic activities , p.

The first appearance of fathers in his public reports of the episode was in , when he asserted that they had been implicated in the case of his female patients. There is a more basic problem with the account endorsed by Mollon. But such a fundamentally flawed clinical procedure cannot provide material that can validly be used as evidence for anything, and certainly not for epoch-making discoveries as Freud later claimed , p. As already indicated n. Nowhere did Freud report that Dora recovered a memory from early childhood of having overheard her parents engaging in sexual intercourse.

Another example of the traumatic observation of parental sexual intercourse was claimed in the Wolf Man case history. In this celebrated analysis, Freud interpreted a memory of a dream recollected by the patient from age 4. By such means he created the impression that the material he was discussing emanated from patients, giving it an illusory substantiality it did not generally possess. This passage provides another indication that the infantile sexual experiences Freud claimed to have uncovered were analytic reconstructions rather than memory reports from patients.

Since he had no way of deciding whether his analytic reconstructions represented unconscious phantasies or authentic memories, he had little option but to take the position that it is of no practical consequence one way or the other. This, to reiterate, is why discussion of whether this kind of material represents true or false memories relating to early childhood is beside the point: I had a dream of someone who I knew in my dream was the doctor in my native town.

His face was indistinct, but was confused with a picture of one of the masters at my secondary school, whom I still meet occasionally. When I woke up I could not discover what connection there was between these two men. I made some enquiries from my mother, however, about this doctor who dated back to the earliest years of my childhood, and learnt that he only had one eye.

The schoolmaster whose figure had covered that of the doctor in the dream was also one-eyed. It was thirty-eight years since I had seen the doctor, and so far as I know I had never thought of him in my waking life, though a scar on my chin might have reminded me of his attentions. Without more precise information about the dream itself and the conversation Freud had with his mother, it is not possible to conclude that there is unequivocal evidence here of the recovery in a dream of forgotten knowledge from childhood.

He was a one-eyed man of small stature, stout, and with his head sunk deep in his shoulders. I concluded from the context that he was a doctor. Luckily I was able to enquire from mother. Freud sought to demonstrate his thesis by analyzing early memories of a subject supposedly an acquaintance, but actually himself [p.

This he accomplished using his technique of analytic inference to relate these elements to experiences that occurred in his late teenage years that supposedly gave rise to the formation of phantasies that were repressed from consciousness because of their disquieting nature. The unconscious phantasy was projected back onto an appropriate early childhood event i. Taking all these points into consideration, this purported demonstration that his own fragmentary early memories disguise unconscious wishful phantasies produced at a later date is unconvincing.

It is certainly true that Freud viewed dreams as an amalgam of diverse elements, but he also contended that they reproduce fragments and sometimes more of actual experiences , pp. In a later passage Mollon reiterates that Freud did find evidence, for example in dreams, that knowledge and memory not available to the conscious mind appeared to be stored in some form unconsciously.

However, rather than seeing inaccurate memories as the product of a reconstructive process over time, as is generally held to be the case in modern theories, he asserted that they were formed at a specific later date in the course of a process of repression , p. This applies both to the retrogressive screen memories alluded to above which ceased to play much role in his writings after and to memories of early childhood in general.

Freud held that the reason that most memories of early childhood are of commonplace events is that the recollections of significant experiences e.

This is not unusual or mysterious. Freud certainly wrote about the conscious suppression of memories, thoughts and impulses especially in his early psychoanalytic publications , but in later writings the emphasis tended to be on their repression at an unconscious level e. This all sounds very impressive, until one examines the first of the clinical examples he used to illustrate the process.

The instinctual impulse subjected to repression here is a libidinal attitude towards the father, coupled with a fear of him. After repression, this impulse vanishes out of consciousness: As a substitute for him we find in a corresponding place some animal which is more or less fitted to be an object of anxiety.

The formation of the substitute for the ideational portion [of the instinctual representative] has come about by displacement along a chain of connections which is determined in a particular way. The quantitative portion has not vanished, but been transformed into anxiety. The result is fear of a wolf, instead of a demand for love from the father. It is obviously crucial to discover how Freud actually uncovered the repressed idea or instinctual impulse that is central to his exposition.

If we turn to the Wolf Man paper, we find that the clinical evidence is the celebrated wolf-dream in which the 4-year-old boy looks out of a window and sees a tree in the branches of which are seated a number of motionless wolves.

This activated severe castration anxiety, which suppressed his negative Oedipus complex, i. By some mechanism not entirely clear, under the pressure of his castration anxiety, the libidinal desire for his father was repressed and the boy developed a wolf phobia. His argument for the repression process is circular.

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Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory on Instincts: Motivation, Personality and Development



Freud theory of sexuality summary

It will be evident that what follows is not a conventional review of the book. However, these cases proved difficult to interpret because independent corroboration was often lacking.

From this passage and what follows pp. However, a closer reading of the passage in question indicates that what Schacter had in mind was the whole period in the late s during which Breuer and especially Freud investigated cases they diagnosed as hysteria.

Also, many of these cases involved specific physical symptoms in addition to the symptomatology listed by Schacter. In his introductory remarks on the cases in Studies on Hysteria, Mollon p.

However, Mollon makes no mention of the doubts that have been expressed in recent times about the traditional accounts of the Anna O. The objects of repression were thoughts, feelings and desires. This aim can be achieved only if the original event is recalled, and Studies contains several examples of patients supposedly recovering forgotten memories of incidents associated with disturbing ideas e.

In his brief accounts of the 4 main cases described by Freud in Studies, Mollon pp. For a perceptive discussion of the Katharina case, see Swales, , pp. As Mollon notes later p. In the seduction theory papers, Freud claimed that the sexual abuse he had supposedly uncovered most commonly occurred at age 3 or 4, and for 2 cases at half these ages Freud, a, p. Although he had not reported having uncovered any cases of sexual abuse in infancy before he alighted on the seduction theory in early October Masson, , pp.

This raises the issue of what exactly his evidence comprised. It seems likely that in some cases Freud relied almost entirely on the symbolic interpretation of symptoms that lay at the heart of his etiological determinations. Moreover, Freud failed to provide some important details: Did he obtain the information directly from the brother, or was it conveyed to him secondhand? What, precisely, was the sexual behavior allegedly confirmed? How can the brother have confirmed that there had been sexual relations dating further back, i.

In addition, Freud is not consistent in his claims relating to such activities between siblings. This involved 2 female patients who, in infancy, had supposedly had sexual relations with the same man. And there is another question to be considered here. Yet, as Scharnberg has pointed out pp. The first question to ask here is: And, even more pertinently, how could Freud have discovered that the supposed abusers in these cases had in early childhood been subjected to exactly the same sexual practices as they had perpetrated on the infant girls?

The problem is, of course, compounded by the fact that the supposed infantile experiences of his own patients were themselves doubtful analytic findings, purportedly of deeply repressed unconscious memories. Freud made no attempt to provide any information about how he acquired this unlikely knowledge, and Mollon evidently requires none.

It is of more than passing interest to note that he never again mentioned these remarkable findings once he had abandoned the seduction theory. After a lengthy passage pp. However, he is mistaken in saying p. That patients might confabulate as a result of suggestions emanating from the physician, even unconsciously, was widely recognized in the last decades of the 19th century Borch-Jacobsen, a, pp. In two separate passages pp. As he wrote 2 years later: Some recent commentators have argued that Freud dishonestly distorted the true situation regarding his change of mind.

They argue that Freud first coerced his patients into producing false scenes of childhood sexual abuse, which were really his own inventions, and then, realising his error, he subsequently claimed that his patients had spontaneously told him of their sexual scenes, and in this way had given him the idea of childhood sexuality and the Oedipus complex. These points have little substance. He freely admits that in early papers he played down the role of seduction by fathers because the idea would seem too disturbing to his readers as well as perhaps to himself.

His change of mind about how crucial sexual abuse was can be seen as part of a wider and consistent pattern whereby Freud continually revised his views in the light of his further clinical experience and thought.

The problem is not that Freud revised his views, but that he made retrospective changes regarding factual details. In the period in which the main interest was directed to discovering infantile sexual traumas, almost all my women patients told me that they had been seduced by their father. I was driven to recognize in the end that these reports were untrue and so came to understand that hysterical symptoms are derived from phantasies and not from real occurrences. It was only later that I was able to recognize in this phantasy of being seduced by the father the expression of the typical Oedipus complex in women.

As Mollon indicates p. The 2 cases in question concern attempted sexual assaults after puberty, and the memories had not been repressed [, pp. As Swales , pp. The fact is that nowhere in his writings did Freud indicate that he played down the role of fathers in the seduction theory papers; he simply changed his story in his later accounts without reference to his original reports , pp.

There is in fact no evidence for the commonly held view that Freud predominantly implicated fathers and that he concealed this in the papers. The seduction theory required only that there be unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse; the identities of the abusers were irrelevant, and this is reflected in the supposed culprits listed by Freud at the time, which were in accord with the typical culprits cited in the contemporary literature on child sexual abuse Makari, , p. It was only after December , when on theoretical grounds he alighted on the notion that fathers were likely to be the abusers Eissler, , p.

Several writers have shown that there are cogent grounds for rejecting the notion that the categories cited in the seduction theory papers concealed a preponderance of fathers among the supposed culprits Eissler, , pp. People who have no hesitation in satisfying their sexual desires upon children cannot be expected to jib at finer shades in the methods of obtaining that satisfaction. Where the relation is between two children, the character of the sexual scenes is none the less of the same repulsive sort.

Then there are the tendentious changes, alluded to above, that occurred with regard to the identities of the supposed abusers. There was no mention of fathers in the first 2 retrospective reports, in which Freud maintained that the putative phantasies of seduction were concealing memories of objectless infantile autoerotic activities , p. The first appearance of fathers in his public reports of the episode was in , when he asserted that they had been implicated in the case of his female patients.

There is a more basic problem with the account endorsed by Mollon. But such a fundamentally flawed clinical procedure cannot provide material that can validly be used as evidence for anything, and certainly not for epoch-making discoveries as Freud later claimed , p. As already indicated n. Nowhere did Freud report that Dora recovered a memory from early childhood of having overheard her parents engaging in sexual intercourse.

Another example of the traumatic observation of parental sexual intercourse was claimed in the Wolf Man case history. In this celebrated analysis, Freud interpreted a memory of a dream recollected by the patient from age 4. By such means he created the impression that the material he was discussing emanated from patients, giving it an illusory substantiality it did not generally possess.

This passage provides another indication that the infantile sexual experiences Freud claimed to have uncovered were analytic reconstructions rather than memory reports from patients. Since he had no way of deciding whether his analytic reconstructions represented unconscious phantasies or authentic memories, he had little option but to take the position that it is of no practical consequence one way or the other. This, to reiterate, is why discussion of whether this kind of material represents true or false memories relating to early childhood is beside the point: I had a dream of someone who I knew in my dream was the doctor in my native town.

His face was indistinct, but was confused with a picture of one of the masters at my secondary school, whom I still meet occasionally.

When I woke up I could not discover what connection there was between these two men. I made some enquiries from my mother, however, about this doctor who dated back to the earliest years of my childhood, and learnt that he only had one eye. The schoolmaster whose figure had covered that of the doctor in the dream was also one-eyed. It was thirty-eight years since I had seen the doctor, and so far as I know I had never thought of him in my waking life, though a scar on my chin might have reminded me of his attentions.

Without more precise information about the dream itself and the conversation Freud had with his mother, it is not possible to conclude that there is unequivocal evidence here of the recovery in a dream of forgotten knowledge from childhood.

He was a one-eyed man of small stature, stout, and with his head sunk deep in his shoulders. I concluded from the context that he was a doctor. Luckily I was able to enquire from mother. Freud sought to demonstrate his thesis by analyzing early memories of a subject supposedly an acquaintance, but actually himself [p.

This he accomplished using his technique of analytic inference to relate these elements to experiences that occurred in his late teenage years that supposedly gave rise to the formation of phantasies that were repressed from consciousness because of their disquieting nature. The unconscious phantasy was projected back onto an appropriate early childhood event i. Taking all these points into consideration, this purported demonstration that his own fragmentary early memories disguise unconscious wishful phantasies produced at a later date is unconvincing.

It is certainly true that Freud viewed dreams as an amalgam of diverse elements, but he also contended that they reproduce fragments and sometimes more of actual experiences , pp. In a later passage Mollon reiterates that Freud did find evidence, for example in dreams, that knowledge and memory not available to the conscious mind appeared to be stored in some form unconsciously.

However, rather than seeing inaccurate memories as the product of a reconstructive process over time, as is generally held to be the case in modern theories, he asserted that they were formed at a specific later date in the course of a process of repression , p.

This applies both to the retrogressive screen memories alluded to above which ceased to play much role in his writings after and to memories of early childhood in general. Freud held that the reason that most memories of early childhood are of commonplace events is that the recollections of significant experiences e. This is not unusual or mysterious. Freud certainly wrote about the conscious suppression of memories, thoughts and impulses especially in his early psychoanalytic publications , but in later writings the emphasis tended to be on their repression at an unconscious level e.

This all sounds very impressive, until one examines the first of the clinical examples he used to illustrate the process. The instinctual impulse subjected to repression here is a libidinal attitude towards the father, coupled with a fear of him. After repression, this impulse vanishes out of consciousness: As a substitute for him we find in a corresponding place some animal which is more or less fitted to be an object of anxiety.

The formation of the substitute for the ideational portion [of the instinctual representative] has come about by displacement along a chain of connections which is determined in a particular way. The quantitative portion has not vanished, but been transformed into anxiety. The result is fear of a wolf, instead of a demand for love from the father.

It is obviously crucial to discover how Freud actually uncovered the repressed idea or instinctual impulse that is central to his exposition. If we turn to the Wolf Man paper, we find that the clinical evidence is the celebrated wolf-dream in which the 4-year-old boy looks out of a window and sees a tree in the branches of which are seated a number of motionless wolves.

This activated severe castration anxiety, which suppressed his negative Oedipus complex, i. By some mechanism not entirely clear, under the pressure of his castration anxiety, the libidinal desire for his father was repressed and the boy developed a wolf phobia. His argument for the repression process is circular.

Freud theory of sexuality summary

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4 Comments

  1. However, rather than seeing inaccurate memories as the product of a reconstructive process over time, as is generally held to be the case in modern theories, he asserted that they were formed at a specific later date in the course of a process of repression , p.

  2. It gets much satisfaction from putting all sorts of things in its mouth to satisfy the libido, and thus its id demands. But in all cases the cure is effected essentially by a kind of catharsis or purgation—a release of the pent-up psychic energy, the constriction of which was the basic cause of the neurotic illness.

  3. In addition, Freud is not consistent in his claims relating to such activities between siblings.

  4. But in the s and turn of the century, a significant number of others slowly began gravitating toward Freud's point of view as word of his findings circulated, through both his lectures and his publications. Interestingly such diversity of opinion was something Freud himself seems to have had but little tolerance for. This has the advantage that the analyst may act as observer and listener without using his or her influence from transference, etc.

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