Sigmund Freud and Sexuality

Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential psychiatrists of all time, and his work is among the most referenced in the field. His most well-known work was his studies on the unconscious mind and his theory that the primary motivation for all things in life is sex. Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in what is now the Czech Republic, and was raised in poverty with his eight siblings. Throughout his life, Freud and his mother had a very close relationship, and she frequently favored him over his siblings. He showed great academic promise at an early age, and while he originally planned on studying law, eventually decided on medical school.

Freud's most famous studies were regarding what went on in one's "unconscious mind". Psychodynamics was a relatively new concept, so Freud took it upon himself to explore the differences between the conscious and unconscious mind. He argues that we submitted to motivations from both parts of our mind. One of the main components of the unconscious mind is repression, and he theorized that the painful memories that people push to the back of their minds ultimately becomes a part of their unconscious mind and is therefore still a part of their behaviors, whether they are cognizant of that fact or not.

Along the same lines of the unconscious mind was Freud's division of the psyche into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is comprised of our basic drives and desires. We are born with our id hardwired into our brains, and is based around the "pleasure principle" - we want what makes us feel good, no matter what the means or consequences. The id is unconscious and is one of our main motivations. The next part of the psyche to develop is the ego. The ego develops once an individual begins to understand reality, and that always following our id would be considered selfish. Our ego allows us to take others' feelings into consideration and balance out the overwhelming desires of our id. The final part is the superego, or the conscience. The superego gives us a moral compass so that we may understand what is right and what is wrong.

Freud also studies sexuality and psychosexual development very closely. His theory was that children go through five stages of sexual development: oral phase (fixation on the mouth due to nursing), anal stage (bowel and bladder elimination), phallic stage (discovery of genitals, development of Oedipus complex explained below), latency stage (dormant sexual feelings), and genital stage (matured sexuality). During each of these stages of sexual development, children will acquire the necessary development to become a well-adjusted adult. If a child stalls during a particular stage, called a fixation, it may cause problems in their adult life in terms of love, dating, and marriage. For instance, a fixation on the anal stage may cause a person to become anal retentive (excessively neat and tidy) or anal expulsive (reckless, messy, careless) depending on the fixation.

Freud focused a lot of his studies on the phallic stage. His main theory during was the Oedipus complex, named for the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex in which the protagonist unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother. The Oedipus complex states that during the early stages of life (the phallic stage), a child will begin to have strong feelings of affection towards the parent of the opposite sex, and try to cut out or eliminate the parent of the same sex. It is a phenomenon that Freud theorized accounts for many repressed feelings and desires, but also helps develop strong gender roles. It is at this time that boys will begin to develop castration anxiety and girls will develop penis envy. While it is not normal for children to become fixated during this stage and to develop this complex in an extended way, the idea fascinated Freud and he spent much time researching and studying.

Further Freud Reading

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