Essay on Psychoanalysis

This essay has a total of 1635 words and 8 pages.


psychoanalysis






“Psychoanalysis offers a good story to make sense of behaviour, but it is
a story the truth of which can never be confirmed.” Discuss.

Psychoanalysis is an approach to the understanding of human behaviour by Freud and other
famous psychologists. It is a method of treating mental and emotional disorders by
discussion and analysis of one’s thoughts and feelings. It relies on the therapist’s
ability to make the unconscious conscious and to help guide the patients to resolve their
underlying conflicts. It is based on past experiences, but there is limited empirical
evidence that supports this theory as it deals with the emotional side of psychology and
lacks scientific rigour, partly because there are too many variables involved to enable it
to be a controlled study. But that doesn’t mean to say that it is not true, it is just
extremely difficult to confirm.


This essay discusses whether the story of psychoanalysis, used to make sense of human
behaviour, can ever be confirmed as a story of truth.



Freud’s psychoanalytic theory showed how the mind can be seen as three parts, the ‘id’
(the primitive unconscious part of the personality that deals with pleasure), the ‘ego’
(dominates the conscious mind and carries out ‘secondary process thinking’) and the
‘superego’ (social conscience). He then went on to develop the theory of psychosexual
development, in which the child goes through various stages, each characterised by
different demands for sexual gratification and different ways of achieving that
gratification. The first stage is called the ‘Oral stage’ (birth – 15 months old), in
which the child governed by the id and gains gratification through the mouth, sucking,
feeding, crying and such. The second stage is the ‘Anal stage’ (15 months – 3 years),
where the child experiences pleasure from the elimination of faeces. In the third stage,
the ‘phallic stage’, (3 - 5 years) the child takes a greater interest in its genitals and
feels a desire for the opposite sex parent. This makes them view their same sex parent as
a rival and unconsciously they feel hostile which turns to guilt and so they try to
identify with their same sex parent. The boy does this if fear of being castrated by his
father. Freud uses this theory as a way of interpreting situations, emotions and feelings
when he psychoanalyses patients. He believed that if at any particular psychosexual stage
the demands for this sexual gratification were not met, when the child became adult it
would demand gratification for the activity of that stage leading to a fixation or
neurosis. However Freud’s case studies were all based upon adults, with one exception
(below), leaving his theory in big trouble, as studies of adults can not contribute to a
valid theory of child development.


Freud found evidence to support his theory when he analysed a phobia in a 5-year-old boy.
This is called ‘the case of little Hans’. Hans had a phobia of being bitten by horses,
especially ones that were white, with black around the mouth and wearing blinkers. Freud
interpreted this as Hans’ fear of being castrated by his father. One time when Hans saw a
horse collapse in the street he was very frightened. Freud said that when Hans saw the
horse collapse, he felt guilty and afraid as it reminded him about his death wish against
his father. Freud believed that Hans saw the horse as representing his father because his
father had a moustache, which resembled the black part around the horse’s mouth, and he
also wore glasses, which resembled the blinkers, that the horse wore. Also he thought
that the things that Hans used to say were a good indication of this. For example, one
time Hans said ‘Daddy don’t trot away from me’, suggesting connotations that his father
was like a horse, and on another occasion he said ‘Daddy you are lovely, you’re so white’
which suggested that Hans saw his father as being white like the horse that he feared.
Freud thought that as the father and child had often played horses, with Hans riding on
his father’s back that it indicated further that Hans saw his father to resemble a horse.
Hans said that the time his phobia began was when he saw the horse collapse as it ‘gave
him such a fright’ but Freud and Hans’ father ignored the plausible explanation and
believed that Hans wanted to bed his mother and saw his father to be a rival. However it
was actually the mother who made the threats of castration not the father. One day she
said ‘if you do that (touch his penis) I shall send for doctor X to cut off your widdler.
And then what will you widdle with?’ (Mother, Gross, p601). Even so, this is a classic
example of a good, psychoanalytic analysis used to make sense of behaviour, but is a
story, the truth of which can never be confirmed. It can never be confirmed because it
has an awful lot of criticisms and it is Freud’s only case study on a child that supports
the oedipal theory. Freud needed some evidence to support his theory and it seems he had
already made up his mind what was wrong with little Hans and interpreted the data to fit
what he believed (experimenter bias), also Hans’ father originally made the
Psychoanalysis, as he was a big follower of Freud’s theory, and the two men conferred on
the situation. So Hans would have been susceptible to his fathers suggestions, it was
very difficult because they were emotionally involved, making it hard for the father to be
objective about the situation and in actual fact Freud himself only ever met the boy on
one or two occasions. It is a shame really, because without the criticisms the
interpretation of the phobia would have been quite feasible.


Freud also found some examples of the Oedipus complex in adults, of whom he
psychoanalysed. One of these was a female patient who had an erotic attachment to her
father, which Freud said, started before her puberty. She said that she was far too ill
to marry but Freud said that he suspected that she became so ill on purpose so that she
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