Introduction to Freud

The key to resolving emotional conflict, that is, neurosis, lies in the talking through therapy. By free association, the therapist brings forth "lost" memories to elicit the primary trauma from childhood. Reliving this insult and resolving its symptoms provides the basis of psychoanalysis. The therapist recreates in the therapy room the trauma in a psychoanalytical technique called transference. That is the bottom line of psychoanalysis. Obviously, you cannot resolve conflicts as an immature child; when an adult, you have the ego (the rational part of the mind) to adjudicate the aggressive and sexual demands of the libido (blind instincts and its masses of undifferentiated energy) and the superego's demand for total abstinence in the interests of the work ethic (conscience).

We are either normally unhappy or neurotically unhappy. The adult has to be socialized into sacrificing sexual drives to the standards of the work ethic. Freud's theory is a topography of the psyche and an economic explanation of how quantities of libido have to be sublimated by the ego. The topography includes the consciousness, preconsciousness, and unconscious, and later evolved into differentiation between ego, superego, and id. Sublimation is the process by which instinctual drives, which are blind, can be rechanneled into creative activities like loving humanity in the abstract, working for use value, and fashioning art. Such equilibrium requires a very high degree of integration of the personality system. Ironically, it can be a source of human happiness in a limited way. For Freud, there is no real substitute for a healthy, uninhibited sex life, but environmental factors and internal conflicts collude to frustrate individuals.

When we cannot resolve psychological crises, then symptoms emerge. Symptoms allow for a counterfeit resolution of a basic conflict. The symptoms show the power of the unconscious, which are repressed memories of childhood allied to the infinite power of the libido and the ego instincts.

Heredity and personal history interact to make a neurosis as well.

The annihilation of the ego by any combination of internal and external forces results in the inability to function in reality. That state is psychosis.

Fixation. We undergo stages of developmen, corresponding to our childhood and its phases of socialization, namely, oral, anal, and phallic. When we cannot resolve an issue of power at a stage of development, we are fixed at that point and cannot emerge into adulthood. Past traumas determine present-day behaviors, especially in the manifestation of symptoms or illness. There are the Oedipal complex and rape fantasies/facts. We cannot learn from our mistakes because of the power of the unconscious to distort the thinking process and consequently our perceptions of reality.

In the Oedipal complex, the son wants to kill the father to sleep with the mother. This triangular power struggle manifests itself early in childhood. The daughter has the same complex, but with reversed roles with the mother and father.

Dreams allow for the release of repressed memories, often in disguised forms that have to be interpreted. Normal people can have "disturbed" dreams, but when you awaken you are in reality. The neurotic awakens to a dream state in which he is to varying degrees disassociated from others and reality.

Neurosis creates memory disturbances. We call this amnesia. The prime neuroses that Freud treated were obsessional neurosis, hysteria, and anxiety neurosis.

Three historical revolutions in terms of world views shook Western man and his self-esteem.

1. The Copernican Revolution

2. The Darwinian Revolution

3. Freud's discovery of the unconscious, which said that the ego is not master in its own house, namely, its own mind

In free association, there is the uncovering of the unconscious in alliance with the therapist who allows unspeakable things to be talked through with restraints. When the neurotic recovers his lost memories, the uncovered material is no longer toxic and recovery is the probable outcome.

Resistance. With respect to the Oedipal scenario, the therapist recreates the conflict in the office where he poses as the father/surrogate figure. The neurotic acts out the original conflict and the therapist interprets the conflict to him. There is resistance to the authority of the father figure/therapist. The essence of psychoanalysis is to overcome these resistances and effect a cure. The psychoanalytic term for resistance is repression.

In the defense mechanism of repression, the unconscious distorts and stores memories with which the ego colludes to deny access to the conscious because it is too painful and threatening. Symptoms serve to fulfill forbidden wishes and frustrated sexual desiresd. Reality causes frustration in the interests of preserving civilization.

Quote. "We might extend our thesis and say that symptoms aim either at a sexual satisfaction or at fending it off, and that on the whole the positive, wish-fulfilling character prevails in hysteria and the negative, ascetic one in obsessional neurosis." (Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis [Norton, 1966], 372).


1. object--genital or not for the purpose of reproduction.

2. Aim--the sexual drive is directed away from a responding other to focus on perverted expressions of sexuality, which is any sexual act that does not result in reproduction. The aim of sex is to reduce displeasure to satisfy the instincts, that is, desire. In an extreme case, we have the necrophile who makes love to a corpse; absence of the human other. Sadomasochism is an excellent and far too common expression of genital love in which you intend to hurt an other or enjoy being hurt to the point often where your own health, mental and physical, is at stake. Freud noted that these perversions, particularly fetishism, have cultural validity in primitive societies. Hence, he is not making a value judgment ethically but rather a disinterested, medical observation in which he is talking about degrees of variance from heterosexual intercourse.

Childhood Neurosis

Perverse sexuality is nothing else than a magnified infantile sexuality split up into its separate impulses. Children are naturally perverse.

The motive of human society is work. Sex and work are antipodal guidelines of conduct for the functional individual. He has to sacrifice a good degree of his libido to earn a living; otherwise, you are not an adult and you will be scorned by proper, bourgeois society.

Sex is perverted if it does not lead to reproduction. Today, we consider that a rigid definition, by which even the psychiatric establishment will not abide.

Quote: "Since, however, everyone, and not only neurotics, experiences these perverse incestuous and murderous dreams, we may conclude that people who are normal today have passed along a path of development that has led through the perversions and object-cathexes of the Oedipal complex, that that is the path of normal development and that neurotics merely exhibit to us a magnified and coarsened form what the analysis of dreams reveals to us in healthy people as well." (p. 420)

Regression and fixation go together. Regression entails attaching yourself to an aim or object of sexuality that originates in childhood. Fixation results when you never have even developed beyond a stage of psychosexual development and you are a child-man in a manner of speaking.

Displaceability of objects to prevent frustration may not be sexual in nature but can be non-sexual. A sexual trend is then attached to a more non-sexual one. We have here the basis of sublimation.

Quote: "You can declare... that libidinal fixation represents the predisposing, internal factor in the aetiology of neuroses, while frustration represents the accidental, external one." (p. 430)

Nonsexual ego-instincts are in opposition to the sexual instincts and compete for libido as the force to unify the psyche topographically and economically.

The ego instincts pursue self-preservation and ways to satisfy sexual drives so as not to be frustrated and neurotic. The ego has libido. The ego can become infantile. The tendency to conflict is as much dependent on the development of the ego as on that of the libido.

Causation of Neuroses

1. frustration

2. fixation

3. tendency to conflict between ego instincts and the sexual drives

The principle of constancy is the one where the mental apparatus masters amounts of stimulus emerging from inside and outside and is related to the pleasure principle. Periodically, there must be a release of this built-up tension to reach equilibrium. The ego instincts are under the influence of necessity and work against the pleasure principle, which must be modified. The ego is reasonable, and that entails the dynamics of the reality principle. We must learn to postpone and modify pleasure and its pursuit to fit the needs dictated by reality. When the ego is properly developing, it is making the necessary transition from the pleasure to the reality principle.

The ego and libido develop parallel and both are subject to regression. Your ego can be sick as well as your libido. Both may return to earlier phases of development recalling childhood and its experiences and repressions. We are all to some degree ill. It is a matter of quantity.

Paraphrased Quote

Sexual Constitution (Prehistorical Experience) + Infantile Experience equals Disposition due to Fixation of Libido + Accidental (Adult) Experience (Traumatic frustration) = Neurosis (p. 450 n 4)

Too, we must be able to distinguish between the neurotic personality and the mental illness of neurosis.

A symptom is like a dream because it represents something as fulfilled, that is a satisfaction in the infantile mode.

Childhood experiences that are remembered are confounded of truth and falsehood. If traumatic, then we have the basis of neurosis and the job of psychoanalysis is to retrieve these traces of memories and render them sensible and comprehensible to the patient by the mechanism of transference, wherein the neurosis is recreated in the office to be resolved by "after education," where the doctor and patient form an alliance.

Fantasies possess a reality of a definite kind. It remains a fact that the patient has created these fantasies for himself, and this fact is of scarcely less importance for his neurosis than if he had really experienced what the fantasies contain. The fantasies incorporate psychical as compared with material reality, and we gradually learn to understand that in the world of the neuroses it is psychical reality which is decisive.

It seems quite possible that all things that are told to us today in analysis are fantasy, according to Freud. He was alluding to the seduction of children, the influence of sexual excitement by observing parental intercourse, and the threat of castration. Freud believes that in primeval times that these occurrences had reality. Children in their fantasies are simply filling in the gaps in individual truth with prehistorical truth that is inherited as part of their being part of the human family—phylogenetically as a species-being.

It is a matter of what quota of unemployed libido a person is able to hold in suspension and of how large a fraction of his libido he is able to divert from sexual to sublimated aims that determines the severity of an illness or even wellness. Paradoxically, you can be neurotically stable. The ultimate aim of mental activity, which may be described qualitatively as an enterprise to obtain pleasure and avoid displeasure, emerges, examined from the economic perspective, as the task of mastering the amounts of excitation (mass of stimuli) working in the mental apparatus and of keeping down their accumulation which creates displeasure.

Art can cut a path from fantasy to reality that is socially acceptable when employing erotically charged themes.

If in the symptoms of the psychoneuroses we have become acquainted with manifestations of disturbances in the psychical operation of the sexual functions, we shall not be taken aback to find in the "actual" neuroses the somatic consequences of sexual dysfunctions.

What defines psychoanalysis as a science is not the material it handles but the technique with which it works. It can be applied to the history of civilization, to the science of religion, and to mythology, no less than to the theory of neuroses, without belying its essential nature. What it intends and achieves is nothing other than the uncovering of what is unconscious in the mental life.

The problems of the "actual" neuroses, whose symptoms are probably generated by direct toxic damage, offer psychoanalysis no points to attack. It can do little toward illuminating them and must leave the task to biological-medical research.

Discuss Prozac. Prozac Nation

The "actual" neuroses versus the psychoneuroses.

1. neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion)

2. anxiety neurosis (generalized anxiety disorder)

3. hypochondria (vague, floating symptoms--chronic complainers)

Phobias are classified as anxiety hysteria. Symptoms are formed to escape anxiety. What is in question is an accumulation of libido, which is kept away from its normal employment, and here we are in the sphere of somatic processes. How anxiety is begotten from libido is not initially manifest; we can only recognize that libido is absent and that anxiety is observed in its stead.

Unemployed libido results in childhood or adult neuroses. The consequent anxiety replaces the missing love-object by an external object or by a situation.

Every hysterical phobia reverts to an infantile anxiety and is a continuation of it, even if it has a different content and must be given another name. For instance, fear of open spaces is called agoraphobia, which has infantile roots. The avoidance of open spaces represents the avoidance of an infantile conflict that is unbearable to bring to consciousness and which the unconscious will not allow access to. Hence, there is a displacement of anxiety onto an object, the open space, which masks the true conflict in the underworld of the mind.

Realistic anxiety must be regarded as an epiphany of the ego's self-preservative instincts.

In a phobia, regression corresponds to an endeavor at flight by the ego from libido which is felt as threatening. A phobia may be compared to an entrenchment against an external danger which now represents the dreaded libido. The deficiency of the defensive system in phobias lies in the fact that the fortress which has been so greatly strengthened toward the outside remains vulnerable to attack from within.

In a sleeper, the primal state of distribution of the libido is restored. Here we have total narcissism, in which the libido and the ego interest, still fused and inseparable, reside in the self-sufficient ego.

The only thesis which is not an immediate precipitate of our analytic experience is to the effect that libido remains libido, whether it is directed to objects or to one's own ego, and never turns into egoist interest. The converse is also true, namely, the ego has dynamics of its own, independent of the needs of sexuality and its instinctual basis. Thus, the ego interests never turn into sexual energy.

The ego-ideal is the conscience. It is the incorporation of the values of civilization, society, and the family. It is internalized as a censor in the conscious and pre-conscious so as to block awareness of forbidden fantasies and desires.

Morality. We can present society with a blunt calculation that what is outlined in its morality calls for a bigger sacrifice than it is worth, that its proceedings are not based on honesty and do not evidence wisdom. Analysts do not keep such criticisms from the patients, but they accustom them to rendering unprejudiced consideration to sexual matters no less than to any others; and if, having grown independent after the completion of their treatment, they decide on their own judgment in favor of some compromise in which they take a position between living a full life and absolute asceticism, psychoanalysts feel their consciences are clear whatever the patient’s choice.

Anticathexis. a counterinvestment in which the energy expended by the ego maintains repression or otherwise blocks the entrance of id derivatives into consciousness.

Anticathexis: repression

Cathexis: libidinal tie to sexual object or aim.

The therapeutic task comprises freeing the libido from its present attachments, which are withdrawn from the ego, and making it once more serviceable to the ego. The neurotic's libido is attached to the symptoms, which yield it only substitutive gratification at the time of sexual discharge.

The decisive part of the therapeutic work is attained by creating in the patient's relation to the doctor "transference"; thus, new editions of old conflicts emerge. In these new editions, the patient would like to behave in the same manner as he did in the past, which the psychoanalyst, by summoning up every available mental force in the patient, compels him to make a reality-based decision. Thus, the transference becomes the field of competing forces, drawn from emotional conflicts dating to childhood, on which the struggle is conducted and resolved.

Doctor represents a normal mental conflict, using recovered materials from the unconscious.

Since a fresh repression is avoided, the alienation between ego and libido is brought to a conclusion and the subject's mental health has been restored. When the libido is released once more from its temporary object in the analyst, it cannot revert to it former objects, but is at the disposal of the healthy ego.

By means of the work of interpretation, which transforms what is unconscious into what is conscious, the ego is enlarged at the expense of the unconscious; by means of education, the ego is made conciliatory towards the libido and inclined to grant it some gratification, and its revulsion to the claims of the libido is diminished by the possibility of disposing of a portion of it by sublimation.

The distinction between mental health and illness is a practical one about the capacity for enjoyment and efficiency in the sexual economy of the individual in a way not to put that individual at odds with society's norms and to preserve an unnecessary expenditure of mental energy to keep the peace internally. It reverts to the relative sizes of the quota of energy that remains free of what is bound by repression, and is of a quantitative not qualitative measure. This discovery is the theoretical justification for the belief that the neuroses are in principle treatable in spite of their being coincidental with constitutional factors of a hereditary nature.

Shame is based on denial and projection.

America is a shame-based culture. There are times when unbearable memories in the unconscious are triggered. These memories cannot be denied. Sadistic fantasies are a common, neurotic theme that most people will not openly admit to having and enjoying. The adult cannot project unpleasant or undesirable traits onto others. Individuals feel exposed and naked in their helplessness and hopelessness. In consequence destructive and self-destructive urges are released in blindly striking out to relieve tension.

Shame is the basis of racism. People who have low self-esteem need to scapegoat others to reinforce their egos. When you can look down on and punish the helpless other, you feel much better about yourself. A paranoid worldview may develop in which delusions of grandeur evolve to create a tolerable but falsified reality. For example, we scapegoat "welfare mothers" for our collective transgressions in not having a savings strategy; and we do not consequently assume personal and social responsibility for the budget deficit debacle that is destroying the backbone of democracy, namely the middle class.

Child abuse in America stems from the perversion of sadomasochism. The pervert has low self-esteem. Often, he or she is arrested pyschosexually at the oral or anal stage of development. There is a surplus of sexual and aggressive instincts from the libido which the ego cannot sublimate from the unconscious. Thus there is acting out of Oedipal conflicts on the helpless child who is punished for expressing naturally perverse instincts.

Shaming leads to dysfunctional and anxiety-ridden adults who repetitiously and compulsively act out the same conflicts into which the parents socialize their children into a perpetual cycle of violence. Psychoanalysis is a tool to recover the traumatic memories that induce the illnesses that lead to child abuse. A mature and healthy adult ego will not berate or beat a child but educate his instincts.