Sigmund freud Spark Notes

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sigmund freud

SIGMUND FREUD
1856 - 1939


Freud's story, like most people's stories, begins with others. In his case those others
were his mentor and friend, Dr. Joseph Breuer, and Breuer's patient, called Anna O.

Anna O. was Joseph Breuer's patient from 1880 through 1882. Twenty one years old, Anna
spent most of her time nursing her ailing father. She developed a bad cough that proved to
have no physical basis. She developed some speech difficulties, then became mute, and then
began speaking only in English, rather than her usual German.

When her father died she began to refuse food, and developed an unusual set of problems.
She lost the feeling in her hands and feet, developed some paralysis, and began to have
involuntary spasms. She also had visual hallucinations and tunnel vision. But when
specialists were consulted, no physical causes for these problems could be found.

If all this weren't enough, she had fairy-tale fantasies, dramatic mood swings, and made
several suicide attempts. Breuer's diagnosis was that she was suffering from what was then
called hysteria (now called conversion disorder), which meant she had symptoms that
appeared to be physical, but were not.

In the evenings, Anna would sink into states of what Breuer called "spontaneous hypnosis,"
or what Anna herself called "clouds." Breuer found that, during these trance-like states,
she could explain her day-time fantasies and other experiences, and she felt better
afterwards. Anna called these episodes "chimney sweeping" and "the talking cure."

Sometimes during "chimney sweeping," some emotional event was recalled that gave meaning
to some particular symptom. The first example came soon after she had refused to drink for
a while: She recalled seeing a woman drink from a glass that a dog had just drunk from.
While recalling this, she experienced strong feelings of disgust...and then had a drink of
water! In other words, her symptom -- an avoidance of water -- disappeared as soon as she
remembered its root event, and experienced the strong emotion that would be appropriate to
that event. Breuer called this catharsis, from the Greek word for cleansing.

It was eleven years later that Breuer and his assistant, Sigmund Freud, wrote a book on
hysteria. In it they explained their theory: Every hysteria is the result of a traumatic
experience, one that cannot be integrated into the person's understanding of the world.
The emotions appropriate to the trauma are not expressed in any direct fashion, but do not
simply evaporate: They express themselves in behaviors that in a weak, vague way offer a
response to the trauma. These symptoms are, in other words, meaningful. When the client
can be made aware of the meanings of his or her symptoms (through hypnosis, for example)
then the unexpressed emotions are released and so no longer need to express themselves as
symptoms. It is analogous to lancing a boil or draining an infection.

In this way, Anna got rid of symptom after symptom. But it must be noted that she needed
Breuer to do this: Whenever she was in one of her hypnotic states, she had to feel his
hands to make sure it was him before talking! And sadly, new problems continued to arise.

According to Freud, Breuer recognized that she had fallen in love with him, and that he
was falling in love with her. Plus, she was telling everyone she was pregnant with his
child. You might say she wanted it so badly that her mind told her body it was true, and
she developed an hysterical pregnancy. Breuer, a married man in a Victorian era, abruptly
ended their sessions together, and lost all interest in hysteria.

It was Freud who would later add what Breuer did not acknowledge publicly -- that secret
sexual desires lay at the bottom of all these hysterical neuroses.

To finish her story, Anna spent time in a sanatorium. Later, she became a well-respected
and active figure -- the first social worker in Germany -- under her true name, Bertha
Pappenheim. She died in 1936. She will be remembered, not only for her own
accomplishments, but as the inspiration for the most influential personality theory we
have ever had.


Biography
Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856, in a small town -- Freiberg -- in Moravia. His father
was a wool merchant with a keen mind and a good sense of humor. His mother was a lively
woman, her husband's second wife and 20 years younger. She was 21 years old when she gave
birth to her first son, her darling, Sigmund. Sigmund had two older half-brothers and six
younger siblings. When he was four or five -- he wasn't sure -- the family moved to
Vienna, where he lived most of his life.

A brilliant child, always at the head of his class, he went to medical school, one of the
few viable options for a bright Jewish boy in Vienna those days. There, he became involved
in research under the direction of a physiology professor named Ernst Brücke. Brücke
believed in what was then a popular, if radical, notion, which we now call reductionism:
"No other forces than the common physical-chemical ones are active within the organism."
Freud would spend many years trying to "reduce" personality to neurology, a cause he later
gave up on.

Freud was very good at his research, concentrating on neurophysiology, even inventing a
special cell-staining technique. But only a limited number of positions were available,
and there were others ahead of him. Brücke helped him to get a grant to study, first with
the great psychiatrist Charcot in Paris, then with his rival Bernheim in Nancy. Both these
gentlemen were investigating the use of hypnosis with hysterics.

After spending a short time as a resident in neurology and director of a children's ward
in Berlin, he came back to Vienna, married his fiancee of many years Martha Bernays, and
set up a practice in neuropsychiatry, with the help of Joseph Breuer.

Freud's books and lectures brought him both fame and ostracism from the mainstream of the
medical community. He drew around him a number of very bright sympathizers who became the
core of the psychoanalytic movement. Unfortunately, Freud had a penchant for rejecting
people who did not totally agree with him. Some separated from him on friendly terms;
others did not, and went on to found competing schools of thought.

Freud emigrated to England just before World War II when Vienna became an increasing
dangerous place for Jews, especially ones as famous as Freud. Not long afterward, he died
of the cancer of the mouth and jaw that he had suffered from for the last 20 years of his
life.


Theory
Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he
certainly was responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind is what you are aware
of at any particular moment, your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies,
feelings, what have you. Working closely with the conscious mind is what Freud called the
preconscious, what we might today call "available memory:" anything that can easily be
made conscious, the memories you are not at the moment thinking about but can readily
bring to mind. Now no-one has a problem with these two layers of mind. But Freud suggested
that these are the smallest parts!

The largest part by far is the unconscious. It includes all the things that are not easily
available to awareness, including many things that have their origins there, such as our
drives or instincts, and things that are put there because we can't bear to look at them,
such as the memories and emotions associated with trauma.

According to Freud, the unconscious is the source of our motivations, whether they be
simple desires for food or sex, neurotic compulsions, or the motives of an artist or
scientist. And yet, we are often driven to deny or resist becoming conscious of these
motives, and they are often available to us only in disguised form. We will come back to
this.


The id, the ego, and the superego
Freudian psychological reality begins with the world, full of objects. Among them is a
very special object, the organism. The organism is special in that it acts to survive and
reproduce, and it is guided toward those ends by its needs -- hunger, thirst, the
avoidance of pain, and sex.

A part -- a very important part -- of the organism is the nervous system, which has as one
its characteristics a sensitivity to the organism's needs. At birth, that nervous system
is little more than that of any other animal, an "it" or id. The nervous system, as id,
translates the organism's needs into motivational forces called, in German, Triebe, which
has been translated as instincts or drives. Freud also called them wishes. This
translation from need to wish is called the primary process.

The id works in keeping with the pleasure principle, which can be understood as a demand
to take care of needs immediately. Just picture the hungry infant, screaming itself blue.
It doesn't "know" what it wants in any adult sense; it just knows that it wants it and it
wants it now. The infant, in the Freudian view, is pure, or nearly pure id. And the id is
nothing if not the psychic representative of biology.

Unfortunately, although a wish for food, such as the image of a juicy steak, might be
enough to satisfy the id, it isn't enough to satisfy the organism. The need only gets
stronger, and the wishes just keep coming. You may have noticed that, when you haven't
satisfied some need, such as the need for food, it begins to demand more and more of your
attention, until there comes a point where you can't think of anything else. This is the
wish or drive breaking into consciousness.

Luckily for the organism, there is that small portion of the mind we discussed before, the
conscious, that is hooked up to the world through the senses. Around this little bit of
consciousness, during the first year of a child's life, some of the "it" becomes "I," some
of the id becomes ego. The ego relates the organism to reality by means of its
consciousness, and it searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that id creates to
represent the organisms needs. This problem-solving activity is called the secondary
process.

The ego, unlike the id, functions according to the reality principle, which says "take
care of a need as soon as an appropriate object is found." It represents reality and, to a
considerable extent, reason.

However, as the ego struggles to keep the id (and, ultimately, the organism) happy, it
meets with obstacles in the world. It occasionally meets with objects that actually assist
it in attaining its goals. And it keeps a record of these obstacles and aides. In
particular, it keeps track of the rewards and punishments meted out by two of the most
influential objects in the world of the child -- mom and dad. This record of things to
avoid and strategies to take becomes the superego. It is not completed until about seven
years of age. In some people, it never is completed.

There are two aspects to the superego: One is the conscience, which is an internalization
of punishments and warnings. The other is called the ego ideal. It derives from rewards
and positive models presented to the child. The conscience and ego ideal communicate their
requirements to the ego with feelings like pride, shame, and guilt.

It is as if we acquired, in childhood, a new set of needs and accompanying wishes, this
time of social rather than biological origins. Unfortunately, these new wishes can easily
conflict with the ones from the id. You see, the superego represents society, and society
often wants nothing better than to have you never satisfy your needs at all!

Life instincts and the death instinct
Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by the drives or instincts, which in turn are
the neurological representations of physical needs. At first, he referred to them as the
life instincts. These instincts perpetuate (a) the life of the individual, by motivating
him or her to seek food and water, and (b) the life of the species, by motivating him or
her to have sex. The motivational energy of these life instincts, the "oomph" that powers
our psyches, he called libido, from the Latin word for "I desire."

Freud's clinical experience led him to view sex as much more important in the dynamics of
the psyche than other needs. We are, after all, social creatures, and sex is the most
social of needs. Plus, we have to remember that Freud included much more than intercourse
in the term sex! Anyway, libido has come to mean, not any old drive, but the sex drive.

Later in his life, Freud began to believe that the life instincts didn't tell the whole
story. Libido is a lively thing; the pleasure principle keeps us in perpetual motion. And
yet the goal of all this motion is to be still, to be satisfied, to be at peace, to have
no more needs. The goal of life, you might say, is death! Freud began to believe that
"under" and "beside" the life instincts there was a death instinct. He began to believe
that every person has an unconscious wish to die.

This seems like a strange idea at first, and it was rejected by many of his students, but
I think it has some basis in experience: Life can be a painful and exhausting process.
There is easily, for the great majority of people in the world, more pain than pleasure in
life -- something we are extremely reluctant to admit! Death promises release from the
struggle.

Freud referred to a nirvana principle. Nirvana is a Buddhist idea, often translated as
heaven, but actually meaning "blowing out," as in the blowing out of a candle. It refers
to non-existence, nothingness, the void, which is the goal of all life in Buddhist
philosophy.

The day-to-day evidence of the death instinct and its nirvana principle is in our desire
for peace, for escape from stimulation, our attraction to alcohol and narcotics, our
penchant for escapist activity, such as losing ourselves in books or movies, our craving
for rest and sleep. Sometimes it presents itself openly as suicide and suicidal wishes.
And, Freud theorized, sometimes we direct it out away from ourselves, in the form of
aggression, cruelty, murder, and destructiveness.

Anxiety
Freud once said "life is not easy!"
The ego -- the "I" -- sits at the center of some pretty powerful forces: reality; society,
as represented by the superego; biology, as represented by the id. When these make
conflicting demands upon the poor ego, it is understandable if it -- if you -- feel
threatened, fell overwhelmed, feel as if it were about to collapse under the weight of it
all. This feeling is called anxiety, and it serves as a signal to the ego that its
survival, and with it the survival of the whole organism, is in jeopardy.

Freud mentions three different kind of anxieties: The first is realistic anxiety, which
you and I would call fear. Actually Freud did, too, in German. But his translators thought
"fear" too mundane! Nevertheless, if I throw you into a pit of poisonous snakes, you might
experience realistic anxiety.

The second is moral anxiety. This is what we feel when the threat comes not from the
outer, physical world, but from the internalized social world of the superego. It is, in
fact, just another word for feelings like shame and guilt and the fear of punishment.

The last is neurotic anxiety. This is the fear of being overwhelmed by impulses from the
id. If you have ever felt like you were about to "lose it," lose control, your temper,
your rationality, or even your mind, you have felt neurotic anxiety. Neurotic is actually
the Latin word for nervous, so this is nervous anxiety. It is this kind of anxiety that
intrigued Freud most, and we usually just call it anxiety, plain and simple.

The defense mechanisms
The ego deals with the demands of reality, the id, and the superego as best as it can. But
when the anxiety becomes overwhelming, the ego must defend itself. It does so by
unconsciously blocking the impulses or distorting them into a more acceptable, less
threatening form. The techniques are called the ego defense mechanisms, and Freud, his
daughter Anna, and other disciples have discovered quite a few.

Denial involves blocking external events from awareness. If some situation is just too
much to handle, the person just refuses to experience it. As you might imagine, this is a
primitive and dangerous defense -- no one disregards reality and gets away with it for
long! It can operate by itself or, more commonly, in combination with other, more subtle
mechanisms that support it.

I was once reading while my five year old daughter was watching a cartoon (The Smurfs, I
think). She was, as was her habit, quite close to the television, when a commercial came
on. Apparently, no-one at the television station was paying much attention, because this
was a commercial for a horror movie, complete with bloody knife, hockey mask, and screams
of terror. Now I wasn't able to save my child from this horror, so I did what any good
psychologist father would do: I talked about it. I said to her "Boy, that was a scary
commercial, wasn't it?" She said "Huh?" I said "That commercial...it sure was scary wasn't
it?" She said "What commercial?" I said "The commercial that was just on, with the blood
and the mask and the screaming...!" She had apparently shut out the whole thing.

Since then, I've noticed little kids sort of glazing over when confronted by things they'd
rather not be confronted by. I've also seen people faint at autopsies, people deny the
reality of the death of a loved one, and students fail to pick up their test results.
That's denial.

Anna Freud also mentions denial in fantasy: This is when children, in their imaginations,
transform an "evil" father into a loving teddy bear, or a helpless child into a powerful
superhero.

Repression, which Anna Freud also called "motivated forgetting," is just that: not being
able to recall a threatening situation, person, or event. This, too, is dangerous, and is
a part of most other defenses.

As an adolescent, I developed a rather strong fear of spiders, especially long-legged
ones. I didn't know where it came from, but it was starting to get rather embarrassing by
the time I entered college. At college, a counselor helped me to get over it (with a
technique called systematic desensitization), but I still had no idea where it came from.
Years later, I had a dream, a particularly clear one, that involved getting locked up by
my cousin in a shed behind my grandparents' house when I was very young. The shed was
small, dark, and had a dirt floor covered with -- you guessed it! -- long-legged spiders.

The Freudian understanding of this phobia is pretty simple: I repressed a traumatic event
-- the shed incident -- but seeing spiders aroused the anxiety of the event without
arousing the memory.

Other examples abound. Anna Freud provides one that now strikes us as quaint: A young
girl, guilty about her rather strong sexual desires, tends to forget her boy-friend's
name, even when trying to introduce him to her relations! Or an alcoholic can't remember
his suicide attempt, claiming he must have "blacked out." Or a someone almost drowns as a
child, but can't remember the event even when people try to remind him -- but he does have
this fear of open water!

Note that, to be a true example of a defense, it should function unconsciously. My brother
had a fear of dogs as a child, but there was no defense involved: He had been bitten by
one, and wanted very badly never to repeat the experience! Usually, it is the irrational
fears we call phobias that derive from repression of traumas.

Asceticism, or the renunciation of needs, is one most people haven't heard of, but it has
become relevant again today with the emergence of the disorder called anorexia.
Preadolescents, when they feel threatened by their emerging sexual desires, may
unconsciously try to protect themselves by denying, not only their sexual desires, but all
desires. They get involved in some kind of ascetic (monk-like) lifestyle wherein they
renounce their interest in what other people enjoy.

In boys nowadays, there is a great deal of interest in the self-discipline of the martial
arts. Fortunately, the martial arts not only don't hurt you (much), they may actually help
you. Unfortunately, girls in our society often develop a great deal of interest in
attaining an excessively and artificially thin standard of beauty. In Freudian theory,
their denial of their need for food is actually a cover for their denial of their sexual
development. Our society conspires with them: After all, what most societies consider a
normal figure for a mature woman is in ours considered 20 pounds overweight!

Anna Freud also discusses a milder version of this called restriction of ego. Here, a
person loses interest in some aspect of life and focuses it elsewhere, in order to avoid
facing reality. A young girl who has been rejected by the object of her affections may
turn away from feminine things and become a "sex-less intellectual," or a boy who is
afraid that he may be humiliated on the football team may unaccountably become deeply
interested in poetry.

Isolation (sometimes called intellectualization) involves stripping the emotion from a
difficult memory or threatening impulse. A person may, in a very cavalier manner,
acknowledge that they had been abused as a child, or my show a purely intellectual
curiosity in their newly discovered sexual orientation. Something that should be a big
deal is treated as if it were not.

In emergency situations, many people find themselves completely calm and collected until
the emergency is over, at which point they fall to pieces. Something tells you that,
during the emergency, you can't afford to fall apart. It is common to find someone totally
immersed in the social obligations surrounding the death of a loved one. Doctors and
nurses must learn to separate their natural reactions to blood, wounds, needles, and
scalpels, and treat the patient, temporarily, as something less than a warm, wonderful
human being with friends and family. Adolescents often go through a stage where they are
obsessed with horror movies, perhaps to come to grips with their own fears. Nothing
demonstrates isolation more clearly than a theater full of people laughing hysterically
while someone is shown being dismembered.

Displacement is the redirection of an impulse onto a substitute target. If the impulse,
the desire, is okay with you, but the person you direct that desire towards is too
threatening, you can displace to someone or something that can serve as a symbolic
substitute.

Someone who hates his or her mother may repress that hatred, but direct it instead
towards, say, women in general. Someone who has not had the chance to love someone may
substitute cats or dogs for human beings. Someone who feels uncomfortable with their
sexual desire for a real person may substitute a fetish. Someone who is frustrated by his
or her superiors may go home and kick the dog, beat up a family member, or engage in
cross-burnings.

Turning against the self is a very special form of displacement, where the person becomes
their own substitute target. It is normally used in reference to hatred, anger, and
aggression, rather than more positive impulses, and it is the Freudian explanation for
many of our feelings of inferiority, guilt, and depression. The idea that depression is
often the result of the anger we refuse to acknowledge is accepted by many people,
Freudians and non-Freudians alike.

Once upon a time, at a time when I was not feeling my best, my daughter, five years old,
spilled an entire glass of chocolate milk in the living room. I lashed out at her
verbally, telling her she was clumsy and had to learn to be more careful and how often
hadn't I told her and...well, you know. She stood there stiffly with a sort of smoldering
look in her eyes, and, of all things, pounded herself on her own head several times!
Obviously, she would rather have pounded my head, but, well, you just don't do that, do
you? Needless to say, I've felt guilty ever since.

Projection, which Anna Freud also called displacement outward, is almost the complete
opposite of turning against the self. It involves the tendency to see your own
unacceptable desires in other people. In other words, the desires are still there, but
they're not your desires anymore. I confess that whenever I hear someone going on and on
about how aggressive everybody is, or how perverted they all are, I tend to wonder if this
person doesn't have an aggressive or sexual streak in themselves that they'd rather not
acknowledge.

Let me give you a couple of examples: A husband, a good and faithful one, finds himself
terribly attracted to the charming and flirtatious lady next door. But rather than
acknowledge his own, hardly abnormal, lusts, he becomes increasingly jealous of his wife,
constantly worried about her faithfulness, and so on. Or a woman finds herself having
vaguely sexual feelings about her girlfriends. Instead of acknowledging those feelings as
quite normal, she becomes increasingly concerned with the presence of lesbians in her
community.

Altruistic surrender is a form of projection that at first glance looks like its opposite:
Here, the person attempts to fulfill his or her own needs vicariously, through other
people.

A common example of this is the friend (we've all had one) who, while not seeking any
relationship himself, is constantly pushing other people into them, and is particularly
curious as to "what happened last night" and "how are things going?" The extreme example
of altruistic surrender is the person who lives their whole life for and through another.

Reaction formation, which Anna Freud called "believing the opposite," is changing an
unacceptable impulse into its opposite. So a child, angry at his or her mother, may become
overly concerned with her and rather dramatically shower her with affection. An abused
child may run to the abusing parent. Or someone who can't accept a homosexual impulse may
claim to despise homosexuals.

Perhaps the most common and clearest example of reaction formation is found in children
between seven and eleven or so: Most boys will tell you in no uncertain terms how
disgusting girls are, and girls will tell you with equal vigor how gross boys are. Adults
watching their interactions, however, can tell quite easily what their true feelings are!

Undoing involves "magical" gestures or rituals that are meant to cancel out unpleasant
thoughts or feelings after they've already occurred. Anna Freud mentions, for example, a
boy who would recite the alphabet backwards whenever he had a sexual thought, or turn
around and spit whenever meeting another boy who shared his passion for masturbation.

In "normal" people, the undoing is, of course, more conscious, and we might engage in an
act of atonement for some behavior, or formally ask for forgiveness. But in some people,
the act of atonement isn't conscious at all. Consider the alcoholic father who, after a
year of verbal and perhaps physical abuse, puts on the best and biggest Christmas ever for
his kids. When the season is over, and the kids haven't quite been fooled by his magical
gesture, he returns to his bartender with complaints about how ungrateful his family is,
and how they drive him to drink.

One of the classic examples of undoing concerns personal hygiene following sex: It is
perfectly reasonable to wash up after sex. After all, it can get messy! But if you feel
the need to take three or four complete showers using gritty soap -- perhaps sex doesn't
quite agree with you.

Introjection, sometimes called identification, involves taking into your own personality
characteristics of someone else, because doing so solves some emotional difficulty. For
example, a child who is left alone frequently, may in some way try to become "mom" in
order to lessen his or her fears. You can sometimes catch them telling their dolls or
animals not to be afraid. And we find the older child or teenager imitating his or her
favorite star, musician, or sports hero in an effort to establish an identity.

A more unusual example is a woman who lived next to my grandparents. Her husband had died
and she began to dress in his clothes, albeit neatly tailored to her figure. She began to
take up various of his habits, such as smoking a pipe. Although the neighbors found it
strange and referred to her as "the man-woman," she was not suffering from any confusion
about her sexual identity. In fact, she later remarried, retaining to the end her men's
suits and pipe!

I must add here that identification is very important to Freudian theory as the mechanism
by which we develop our superegos.
Continues for 20 more pages >>




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