Monday, December 26, 2011

Psychoanalysis and Cultural Theory

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There is a translation issue to be dealt with when we think of culture in these terms the German word Kultur can mean either high culture or civilization generally. Freud scorned the differentiation, but it is worth bearing in mind that the meaning of culture in german is not a straightforward translation into English, and that Freuds use of it at the time would have been loaded by the weight of these two meanings (translations tend to use civilization as a noun, and cultural as the adjective).


In Freuds meta-psychological schema culture is an expression of the struggle to overcome dilemmas, which are either instinctual, or a clash between instinctual drives and civilization. There is usually a conflictual schema being employed to look at warring currents. Freuds methods of looking at dreams, etc. can also be applied to texts and other cultural products a surface with conflicting mental currents (manifest), with censored issues beneath the surface (latent).


Culture or the artwork is a symptom of our attempt to escape nature and natural ties in the form of specific human desires; this clash of nature and culture is an overriding concern in the Freudian narrative of the gradual civilization of our natural impulses. The modern individual is the product of that dialectic, and it is the tension caused by that dialectic that emerge in symptomatic form in dreams, psychological syptoms and various cultural forms.


So there are nineteenth century inheritances in this schemea; for example the Emlightenment idea of the heroic culture controlling nature (see the slogan Where Id was, there shall Ego be). Ego over Id come up clearly on the side of civilization, control, and this is also an Enlightenment inheritance.


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Another important distinction is the paralllel between ontogeny and phylogeny.


Ontogeny is the evolution of the individual consciousness or subject, through childooh to adulthood. Phylogeny describes the evolution of the species. Our individual development fro childhood is seen as recapitulating the development of civilizaiton. (This has roots in Victorian embryology studies) The pre-socialised infant struggles to catch up with society - and this involves the sacrifice of the individuals instinctual payload.


Freud judges psychological symptoms by their relationship to the adult ability to lewave immature childhood behaviour behind. Neuroses have been seen as the failure to mature. Pathological behaviour generally is seen as a failure to mature - what is normal for the child is not normal for the adult. Pathological symptoms can be seen as an exaggeration of normality (see Adorno only exaggerations are true). Art and Literature can be seen as expressions of these exaggerations. Hamlet and Oedipus Rex have classically been seen as the expression of this process.


Another way of interpreting art taken from dream analysis is the theory of wish-fulfillment. This posits the repression of a wish which is then expressed, at least partially, in the drama of the art (again, see Oedipus Rex). The hungry person will dream of food.... but there is a more complex way of looking at this, when the wish is taboo, and has to be censored by the dream and is expressed in a different form. The standard mode of analysis of dreams is to see wishes pushing for a fantasised fulfillment, and then a mental censorship against that expression, which in turn leads to a coding of the dream, in symbolic form. Hence there is a need fo analysis, which decodes.


A frequent form of analysis is to see these expressions as cathartic. Again, the theatre is a good example, but can also be posited as a reason for the consumption of art anyway. In this sense, catharsis is a normative idea art acts as a substitute for behaviour we have to repress. The substitution prevents an explosion caused by this repression. An example would be the libido as repressed sexual energy - which can be channelled into other expressions. Freuds ideas were led by those of Plato, (whose account of passion involvers the idea of sublimation) and by Aristotles ideas of catharsis. The spectacle of the arena, and the role of tragedy and comedy are, for Aristotle, an outlet for repressed instincts.


This theorising has led to a culturally conservative right wing version, which sees a conformist leaning in the theory culture as substitute gratification which mean that we remain within the norms; and a left wing version, based on a Marxist interpretation which holds that art is the opium of the people. The Frankfurt School was influenced by the idea that, far from challenging the world, popular art performed a substitutive role in socity allowing the controlled expression of otherwise repressed desires.


The clinical work on catharsis is based on Freuds early work on hysteria, which uses a hydraulic model of dammed-up energies requiring release. A primary trauma early in life, involving the repression of various instinctual energies, which are still present, eating away at the subject becuase the trauma has not been discharged. Psychoanalytic theory can tap into these energies and allow discharge of trauma. Although Freud moved away from these theories, he hung onto the idea of catharsis.


There are several theories which can be applied to art, and which can also be used in sociology, history, etc


1. Oedipus theory


Incest and murder, involving rebellion against father or authority figure (God/society)


. The struggle to be separate from the mother/nature


Examines original fusion of the foetus and the mother; who are not as object and subject. The foetus experiences no gap between its needs and gratification. Life is downhill from the womb. We need to find ways of meeting needs (this is associated symbolically with the fall from Eden, etc). Depending on their leaning, left or right thinkers see this as either motivational or regressional.


. Wish fulfillment


Play as an activity is a return to the play (and eroticism) of childhood. The drama or the artwork collects together psychological concerns and impulses of the artist which have been repressed as the adult moves away from the childhood permissiveness of play, and can therefore be used in analysis. There is a psychological entity producing artworks, and this can be analysed - but the analysis has to take into account the society/context in which the artwork is produced.


Often in the analysis of the psycho-drama of artworks, particularly in literature, the protagonist is seen as being representative of the ego. An example is the Frankfurt Schools interpretation of Homers Odyssey which sees the narrative as one describning the development of the hero from a nascent primitive state to a civilised one, and therefore as a netaphor for the development of modern man. Odysseus overcomes temptation, deities, natural forces. He controls his pleasure-seeking crew, and overcomes the primitive temptation of erotic encounter with woman (nature/mother figure). Eventually the crew fail to defer gratification and are lost, whereas the hero returns at the end of the journay - an archetype of hero as ego.


Despite its innocence, childhood also has a darker side sibling rivalry, aggression and jealousy towards the parents. Frueds instinctual schema involves the distinction between Eros and Thanatos Love and Death. There is a subtle negative regression towards death and violence, and this is where Freud starts his analysis of the figure of the anti-hero. We identify with the anti-hero because they express aggression and other emotions which we do not allow ourselves to express.


If there is a tendency in adulthood to recapitulate childhood struggles, then there is the phylogenetic version of that; the repetition of the struggles of the human race to emerge from its primate ancestry. This involves a link between Oedipal complex and various dramas in our primevel ancestral groups. This revolves around pseudo-anthropological analysis of group dynamics, related to our primate origins.


It should be remembered that there is also a chronological aspect to psychoanalysis, which deals with past, present and future as it looks at how we progress/mature in phases.


It should also be borne in mind that symbols are not necessarily transpersonal otherwise this lead to a crude, mechanical interpretation based on the assumption of fixed meanings for any given symbol. There is a value in fee association in psychoanalysis the analysis of personal symbols, which has an artistic expression oin the free-association writing of Woolf, and in surrealist art. Prousts madeleine is another example of the action of a personal symbol, which has profound meaning in the context of the narrators psych-drama.


Much analysis of this kind is based on exposing meanings which are deeper than surface level. There are ideas here about surface and depth which have been playfully inverted by postmodern discourse, which has attached significance to the surface, and moved away from an idea that tru menaing is found beneath it. This playful turn, although an inversion, is nonetheless in dialogue with Freud.


Freuds work itself has also been classified as literature he is aproducer of tragedy, in some critical terminology. One view of his work is that we, as a society, should simply continue with the processes of civilization. Others argue that we should look at the tensions in art as a critique of society and civilization, and therefore as reparative of problems. So there is a problem of adjustment. There is some sense in Freud of modifying the tension to move forward, but he is in an uncomfortable position, as he is not interested in proposing the identification of causes of tension as a programme for revolutionary change. Another problem arises from his analysis of primitive and civilised, which was partly based on the anthropology of today. Recent scholarship has revealed the empiricist content of this work,and this has been used to critique Freuds conclusion, although it seem s that Freud would have argued that there is no difference in the tensions between primitive and civilised societies.


According to Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams we all have repressed wishes and desires. One of the most common of these repressed desires is the wish to sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex and eliminate the same sex parent. Freud named this theory the Oedipus Complex (which he discusses in detail in an essay entitled Some Psychical Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes). This was named after the mythical Oedipus who killed his father and married his mother without knowing that they were his parents. In Oedipus Rex the basic wish-fantasy of the child is brought to light and realised as it is in dreams, in Hamlet it remains repressed, and we learn of its existence only through the effects which proceed from it.


In Hamlet and Oedipus, Ernest Jones (Freud’s student and biographer) states that


With his fathers death and his mothers hasty remarriage-[Hamlet] associates the idea of


sexuality with his mother and so this facet of his subconscious enters into the family relationship.


Gertrude’s sexuality invades the play and Hamlet’s long repressed desire to take his father’s place is unconsciously stimulated by the sight of someone else taking this long coveted position. Hamlet is even more disgusted due to the fact that Claudius is his father’s brother and to Hamlet this seems to be incestuous, indeed the ghost of Hamlet’s father calls Claudius “that incestuous, that adulterate beast.” This remark seems to add a spark of jealousy to Hamlet’s anger which is manifested in the sniping remarks that he makes to Claudius


KING CLAUDIUS But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,--


HAMLET [Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind.


In the opening scenes of Hamlet the family unit has been altered to include Claudius as the father which places Hamlet in the rather difficult position of having to choose between two father figures. In order to assume a masculine identity Hamlet must take on the characteristics of his father and, due to the fact that he is confronted by two father figures, Hamlet must kill the false father ( a situation that Shakespeare had previously used to effect in Henry IV). Hamlet has clearly idolised his father for years (comparing him to Hyperion, the Sun-King) a fact borne out by the impassioned speech which he delivers to his mother when he compares his father to Claudius.


Therefore when Hamlet’s father is murdered and Gertrude remarries rather too swiftly for Hamlet’s liking, he feels that he must avenge his father’s death in his role as a dutiful son. In doing so Hamlet can gain the respect of his father and act out the role of main authority figure which his father had done . That is to say that Hamlet could take on the characteristics of the father he had idolised whereby mentally fulfilling the wishes of the Oedipus complex. Wish fulfilment is the desire, unconsciously motivated, to attain those things that provide us with pleasure. This pleasure may or may not be the best thing for our psyche but this does not stop the id (the natural matrix of basic and potentially conflicting instincts or drives) from desiring it and the ego from trying to keep the id happy.


In her work Suffocating Mothers Janet Adelman states that Hamlet is a play that centres on the crisis of the masculine subject and its radical confrontation with the sexualised maternal body, foregrounds male anxiety about mothers, female sexuality, and hence, sexuality itself. Hamlet’s relationship with his mother is obviously the most important aspect of this play but while this is the case, we know very little about Gertrude herself. She is not a powerful character and the play shows very little of her true persona. She is not a wicked woman and she is not a bad mother to Hamlet, vowing to help him and using her last breath to address her son rather than her husband. Gertrude is a woman who knows exactly what is going and never says anything. She knows how her husband was killed and by who but realises that it is a good idea to remain silent on this matter.


It is Gertrude’s passivity in this situation which strikes Hamlet and leads him into thinking of her as a wicked mother. To readers Gertrude does not promote ideas of maternal wickedness but she does to Hamlet and this idea serves only to reiterate his childhood desires. What clearly binds Gertrude and Claudius together, to Hamlet’s horror, is intense sexual attraction. You cannot call it love, he declares, sickened by the very thought of his mothers sexuality. Gertrude’s blatant sexuality is wicked in Hamlet’s eyes as she is allowing herself to be easily possessed. Hamlet’s frustrated Oedipus complex cannot let him support Gertrude’s sexual maternal body and he begins to feel corrupted by her actions


Hamlet feels that his own body has been sullied by his mother’s actions and he wishes that death could save him from the contamination. The world has become “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable” like a garden which has gone to seed due to that which he cannot bring himself to utter Gertrude’s sexuality. Gertrude’s body has become a garden of vile plants and weeds, a thing “rank and gross in nature”, that is to say that Hamlet believes her middle-aged sexuality to be unnatural and thinks that she has contaminated her son with her deeds.


In this paper, I am going to make a research about the figure of Sigmund Freud, the best well-known author of psychoanalysis. First, I am going to sum up the main principles of Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis that are essential to understand its application to the literary theory that I will explain later. I will also talk about Lacan who made a reading of Freud’s theory. And finally, I will talk about some Freud’s books and books that Freud has commented from the point of view of psychoanalysis.


Beginning with Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, Freud talks about the three forces of the psychical apparatus the id, the ego and the superego. The id has the quality of being unconscious and contains everything that is inherited, everything that is present at birth, and the instincts. The ego has the quality of being conscious and is responsible for controlling the demands of the id and of the instincts, becoming aware of stimuli, and serving as a link between the id and the external world. In addition, the ego responds to stimulation by either adaption or flight, regulates activity, and strives to achieve pleasure and avoid unpleasure. Finally, the superego, whose demands are managed by the id, is responsible for the limitation of satisfactions and represents the influence of others, such as parents, teachers, and role models, as well as the impact of racial, social and cultural traditions.


Freud states that the instincts are the ultimate cause of all behaviour. The two basic instincts are Eros ( love ) and the destructive or death instinct. The purpose of Eros is to establish and preserve unity through relationships. On the other hand, the purpose of death instinct is to undo connections and unity via destruction. The two instincts can either operate against each other through repulsion or combine with each other through attraction.


Freud contends that sexual life begins with manifestations that present themselves soon after birth. The four main phases in sexual development are the oral phase, the sadistic-anal phase, the phallic phase and the genital phase, and each phase is characterized by specific occurrences.


Freud defines the qualities of the psychical process as being either conscious, preconscious, or unconscious. The unconscious is the psychical quality that one has no direct access to. The properties that originate in the unconscious are usually repressed. One can only access the unconscious through indirect interpretations, such as dreams. The preconscious is the psychical quality that one does have access to. While the elements in the preconscious are not present in one’s immediate consciousness, these elements can easily be recovered if necessary. The conscious is the psychical quality that deals with a person’s immediate state of mind. It is composed of what one is thinking and acting right at that moment.


Freud spent many years hypothesizing about the role of dreams and their interpretation. Dreams are undoubtedly caused by conflict and are characterized by their power to bring up memories that the dreamer has forgotten, their strong use of symbolism and their ability to reproduce repressed impressions of the dreamer’s childhood. Dreams are, in addition, capable of bringing up impressions that cannot have originated from the dreamer’s life.


According to Freud, the basic objective of psychoanalysis is to remove neurosis and thereby cure patients by returning the damaged ego to its normal state.


These are the main elements of Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis; once we have understood these basic principles, I am going to focus on the literary aspects of this theory.


The ego is trying to keep a balance between the id and the superego, but this balance is practically impossible. The ego’s contact with the external reality, is not a simple contact. The relationship between the ego and the external reality is controversial, threatening, dangerous, and that is the reason why Freud says that the task of the ego is constructive.


As far as the ego modifies reality and instincts, its place of work should be the fiction ( in terms of literature ). If the ego did not build the fictions of balance, if the ego approached completely to reality, this reality would become intolerable. If the ego did the same with its instincts, it would occur the same. So, in this way, the fictionality is an existential obligation.


As I have said in the previous paper, the individual is obliged to alienate himself from reality and shelter himself in an own construction. This shelter’s construction is known as fiction of balance.


The ego tries to keep a balance between the id and the superego. According to Freud, in the unconscious occurs the substitution of the external reality for the psychic one. And this substitution can only be another act of creation and, therefore, of fiction. From these things that I have already said, we can deduce that the ego is not the only one that create, the id and another third person can create too. The ego is a plurality not always present, or a plurality of fictions.


The conscious part of the ego works with the id and the superego, but the unconscious works too, it also creates its fictions, for example, in the dreams. Later, I will talk about The interpretation of dreams of Freud.


Bearing in mind this concept of dreams, we can understand the importance, that in the psychoanalytic literature has, the concept of fantasy or ghost. The creativity of the ego is possible by means of the fantasy. This concept of fantasy is related to the concept of romanticism. The theory of fantasy or imagination is in the service of a literary theory that broke with the classical conception of mímesis.


Without the substitution, creation, fiction or fantasy, the ego could not hold up in the middle of the forces that compose it.


According to Freud, children repeat in their games anything that in their lives have caused a great impression on them and, in this way, they take over the situation. Only by this point of view, you can understand the pleasure of the literary piece. By means of literature, you do the same as children, you write about something that have caused a great impression on you and, in this way, you take over the situation.


I have tried to explain the literary side of psychoanalysis and now I am going to talk about Lacan, another important author of psychoanalysis, who made a reading of Freud’s assumptions. I think that it is important to know another point of view of psychoanalysis, and Lacan can bring us another different vision.


Lacan thinks that it is not only important that the individual recycles the external and internal influences, but that the individual should also lose the contact with anything that did not be the significant or the symbolic order. If the individual is individual, it will be because it has been confined in the fiction of the significant.


Lacan, in his reading of Freud, direct, into its highest consequences, the Freud’s analysis of paranoia and the significant’s transformation. Lacan thinks that when an individual looks for something, this search is determined previously by the significant and it meets with the language’s obstacle ( what it is called by Lacan as the significant’s treasure ), this suppose a deviation from the place where the message is produced, to sanction it and turn it to the code. So, the circuit of signification does not close in the message’s production but it should also wait for the code’s sanction. To assume these premises, suppose changing the notion of unconscious as Freud had formulated it. The unconscious will be now ordered and the fiction will identify with the fiction of the significant.


According to Lacan, psychoanalysis want to put all together and explain any sort of discourse both philosophic and literary.


The real things are outside the individual. The significant circulate freely, creating, as a result, the individual and the reality. Trying to stop the significant is almost impossible. Lacan thinks that the literature permits the significant to circulate freely.


The relationship between philosophy and literature is based on dualities such as true-falsehood, real-fictitious, verifiable-fantastic.


These are more or less the general assumptions of Lacan’s theory. I have mentioned them because they are related to Freud and because I think that it is important to know a different point of view from the Freud’s one, in order to contrast different ideas.


The next part of this paper will consist of an analysis of several books of Freud. Books regarding psychoanalysis whose main ideas I will try to explain.


The first book I want to talk about is La interpretación de los sueños ( I am going to name these books in Spanish because I do not know exactly the translation and I am afraid of changing its signification ). Freud thinks that during the dream, the strength of the conscious decreases but not until the moment that the unconscious could flow as it is. The material flow by means of symbols, masks. So, the unconscious material create another fiction, the fiction of dreams. In this book, Freud observe that the mechanisms used to obtain the fiction are the condensation and displacement, that Lacan will identify with the rhetorical mechanisms of metaphor and metonymy. The dream gives its own interpretation of reality that, in fact, do not coincide with reality, because the unconscious origins, reveal us a substitution of the external reality for the psychic one.


Another book is El chiste y su relación con el inconsciente. In this book, Freud will recognize the condensation and displacement as the most characteristic procedures of the joke’s structure. We have to point out that the joke is an small fiction. The creation of the fiction swamps the Freud’s theory of the individual it creates the ego between the impulses of the id and the superego, it creates the collectivity when it tells jokes, according to Freud, to get a commitment between an impulse discharge and a repetition.


In the book titled Paranoia y neurosis obsesiva, Freud interprets the story of Schreber. Freud only bases himself in the memories written by Schreber. These memories talk about the transformation of doctor Schreber in a woman or in a soul given to God, with whom he maintains an stormy relationship. The analysis that Freud made is interesting because Schreber is a man normal and abnormal at the same time. Schreber suffered a paranoia, but his conduct do not differentiate a lot from the conduct of a poet, novelist or playwright because all of them need to recycle, to create and to substitute, in order to be able to subsist.


In the book called El creador literario y la fantasía, Freud puts in relation the origin of fantasy, the mechanisms of thematic symbolism and the fact that children’s games are poetic creations. These are creations of an own world.


Freud wrote a text La cultura como represión. In this text Freud says that the culture is achieved by repressing the instincts. This repression leads to individual and collective neurosis. In this text, Freud also talks about totemic sacrifice, but I am not going to mention it because I think that it is not important in this paper.


Freud wrote also a text in 108, titled La creación literaria y el sueño despertado, in this text Freud approaches the poet’s work to the game of a child and to the fantasies and ghosts of our dreams.


Finally, I am going to talk about El malestar en la cultura, wrote in the year 10 by Freud. In this book, Freud establishes different points and I am going to sum up the main ideas. The first point is known as La arqueología de los estados previos, it refers to what the child has lived until the age of six. The second point, talks about that the pleasure principle ( principio de placer ) is the most important one because it rules our lives. In another point, Freud establishes that the culture is a sum of institutions that separate us from the animal instinct. In another point, Freud talks about the essential phases in the constitution of the culture. Freud also says that the superego is sadistic and that the ego experiments a necessity of punishment because its conscience dictates it.


To conclude this paper, I am going to talk about some opinions that Freud gave related to literature, seen from the point of view of psychoanalysis, and comments that Freud made regarding some books.


At the end of his life, Freud considered the art and literature with the eyes of a Goethe or a Schopenhauer. The terms condensation, displacement, censorship, etc. result important mechanisms to analyse texts.


The interpretation that an analyst offers of a text, can give us a more cautious and more flexible reading of that text. This reading allows us to know the secret movements of a text, these movements respond to dark affective movements and these made that the analyst gave a rational expression by means of an open interpretation.


With regard to the play of Hamlet, wrote by Shakespeare, Freud thinks that this play is a masterpiece, he thinks that the only one that has solved our trouble about the emotion that this play creates on us is the psychoanalysis. The Oedipus complex has helped to analyse some works, not only Hamlet, but Edipo Rey or El Cid. We can be supported by the Oedipus complex to understand the games of relationships, given in these works, and try to know why the spectator has that emotion when seeing the play. This can corroborate us the seduction of the text.


Freud also made an analysis of the novel of Jensen, titled Gradiva. You can easily see how the psychological content of the novel could seduce Freud. In this novel you will find elements as images, ghosts, figures, dreams, movements, words...These elements enrich a love story, advance and organize themselves according to an axis that correspond to a development of an analytic cure. Freud recognizes that the novelist has a psychiatric capacity. Freud shows that poets and novelists are with regard to the knowledge of the soul, masters of all of us. The interest that this novel has, according to Freud, is that this novel, because of its psychological contents, can be investigated psychoanalyticly.


Another play that Freud analysed was The King Lear of Shakespeare. In this play, the figure of the youngest daughter of the king, Cordelia, has a feature named dumbness. The psychoanalysis of dream shows us that the dumbness is a usual representation of death. So, the figures of dramas and mythological figures are representations of death, according to Freud.


In conclusion, in my opinion, Freud was very intelligent and he was interested not only in psychoanalysis as a therapy but in many other fields where psychoanalysis could be applied. He is a very interesting figure to study.


The most misrepresented Freudian term of all is not really a Freudian term to begin with PHALLUS. Before its possible to understand what Freud originally meant by any of his other theories, an important distinction must be made between a phallus or a phallic object and a penis. Many people think that when Freud discussed the phallus, he was speaking of the penis, and when he discussed the penis he was speaking of the phallus, because the two were the same. Instead, Freud took the word phallus, which means penis or representation of the penis (according to the American Heritage Dictionary, rd ed. 14, Dell) and redefined the term to mean a symbol of power. Freud believed that small children were very caught up in trying to understand why girls dont have penises and boys do, and the penis becomes a first symbol for power and also for lack. Aside from this first phallic object, an actual penis, Freud used the term phallus to mean any symbol or representation of power, in physical reality or in the mind. Though there may have been and may still be men who believe that their penis is a phallus in the sense Freud used the word, they are fundamentally wrong. Freud believed the phallus -- or power structure -- was an imaginary object that no one ever really had except fleetingly. Freud did not believe, in general, that women were worse off because they had no penis (he refers to the vagina as an equally worthy, though much more difficult to see, genital structure) or that they spent their time desiring one. Women were after the symbolic PHALLUS, or power, the same as men, and none of them ever suceeding in acquiring it.


The question of why no one ever has complete power leads nicely into Freuds concept and use of CASTRATION. Freud himself uses the term to mean two seperate things that are related. When speaking of children learning about gender differences, Freud theorizes that when a young boy sees a young girl or even an adult woman and finds no penis on her, it occurs to him that perhaps she used to have one and it was cut off. Even if someone sits the child down and rationally explains to him that girls and boys are different, and he doesnt need to be afraid that his mother or sister had her penis cut off, the explanation occurs after the fear, which occurs immediately upon noticing the lack of the object. Although a young girl does not have the same immediate fear of losing something she has when she notices the existence of the penis, she also recognizes the possibility that since she does not have one and a male does, he could lose it. She proceeds to extrapolate that she could lose other extensions of her body, or perhaps even wonders if she did once have one and has lost it. In his discussions of childrens reflections on gender difference, Freud writes of them considering the concept of actual, physical castration.


Freud held that normal development out of childhood involved this period of considering physical castration and differences between people in general. He believed that in order to recognize differences between oneself and others, starting with ones own gender and the opposite gender, a person had to accept the possibility of difference created by a lack of an object on someones part. After dealing with the physical concept of castration as such, Freud appropriates the term to mean something more symbolic. When children learn about gender difference and accept castration, they accept that they are different than everything else in the world and not in control of it. Adults continually recognize, forget, and rerecognize that they are different than the world and cannot control it. This lack of control, or power, is a lack of the PHALLUS and the reality of CASTRATION. Often, when Freud speaks of someone feeling castrated, he means that they have realized that they are without the symbolic phallus, and without power in their lives. Few people, aside from small children, actually spend their time worrying about real physical castration.


The concept of the acceptance of CASTRATION leading to the recognition of difference between genders, and self and other, leads us to the question What happens to a child who never accepts the possibility of castration (loss)? The answer is that the person gets stuck at an earlier phase of psychosexual development (generally anal or oral) and their lack of belief in castration and gender difference manifests through perversions. Some of the most commonly thrown around terms are sadomasochism and fetishism (Freud also considered homosexuality a perversion, but for slightly different reasons that tie in to his complex analysis of what causes mysogyny) which are often misunderstood and misdefined by the communities that have grown up around them.


The LIBIDO leads into the last Freudian term covered here the OEDIPAL COMPLEX. Even if you havent heard of the Oedipal Complex, youve heard that little boys like their mothers better than their fathers and little girls like their fathers better than their mothers, and sometime just before puberty, it switches and boys like their fathers and girls like their mothers. Anyone looking for this sort of behavior can find a million and one examples of it, whether or not it is actually true, and whether or not Freuds Oedipal Complex really explains it. Freud constructed a model of psychosexual development beginning with the birth of a boy and his attatchment to his mother, or mother-substitute. While he is a newborn, the mothers attention to it is nearly unbroken by any interruption her identity and role in life consists of taking care of the infant and nothing else. She, after a fashion, lives for the child. As time progresses and he is less fragile, and the mother more used to his prescence, so she begins to spend more time with others, including and typically mostly, the father, or a father substitute. Once she is gone, her son understands what it means not to have her complete attention and immediately wants it back. He wants to be everything to her, and seeing what his father is to her -- her lover -- he wants to assume that role in addition to his previous role. Hence the condensation of the Oedipal complex that you will hear all the time He wants to kill his father and marry his mother. Freud outlined a similar process for little girls, involving the father as the figure they desired to marry, but even he admitted the shortcoming of that theory, and later Freudian analysts considering the possibility that all children, male and female, want their mothers sole attention, and want to be their father, at least initially.


Though the Oedipal Complex is represented straightforwardly in pop culture, it has been taken out of its context of normalcy. Freud believed everyone went through the Oedipal Complex, and needed to, in order to resolve many childhood psychosexual issues and grow up at all. Freud did not think that a child who experienced a desire to murder his father and marry his mother was anything except exceptionally ordinary, and any child who avoided the Oedipal phase was doomed never to grow up. In addition to the initial complex, the Oedipal gives rise to a struggle which must be resolved within a family. A little boy, for example, expresses a desire to kill his father and take his fathers place with his mother, and the father responds by saying, No, shes mine, find your own. Eventually, the child associates himself with his father, and rather than attempting to take the mother-substitute his father has found, he goes out to find his own mother-substitute.


Hopefully, these definitions will give a little more insight into the complex philosophy and theory of Freud which has been abandoned by academics and reduced to misconstruction in pop culture. If youre curious and interested in further reading about these terms, here are some recommended texts actually written by Freud.








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