Last updated: July 29, 2019
Topic: FamilyChildren
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Freud is a neurologist and neuroanatomist and he proposed the Psychoanalysis Model, also known as Psychodynamic Theory. His work was based on the unconscious mind and fantasy of human beings.


In order to explain behaviour he focused on the childhood experiences of individuals and stated that our present behaviour can be traced back to those childhood memories. In his findings he reported a lot of sexual abuse that his patients experienced and suggested that this trauma has been repressed and pushed to the unconscious mind, as individuals that have experienced sexual abuse cannot deal with those emotions in their conscious mind on a daily. However when the emotions do come to the conscious mind during their recovery they come to the realisation that it is time to let it go. Freud stated that our mind is divided into three parts; Conscious mind where you will find the superego, Pre-conscious mind where the ego is and finally there’s the Unconscious mind where the ID is. The conscious mind is the reality principle given by parents and society and developed during the Phallic stage and if you achieve the superego you feel guilt and you are less likely to behave in such way that would hurt others, but not everyone develops this. However on the other hand the ID, found in the unconscious mind is the pleasure principle and it’s very demanding; this is present from birth and an example is a baby crying because they are hungry and therefore get breastfeed by the mother, so by crying they are getting what they want. Then we have the ego which is our reality principle, that tries to reduce down the conflict between the conscious and the unconscious mind as much as possible in order to satisfy both superego and the ID. There are defence mechanisms that the ego uses to fulfil the balance between the superego and ID; there are many mechanism but here are a few, the main mechanism is called ‘repression’ like mentioned above, another one is denial which is refusing to accept the truth of a situation that happened and we also have displacement which is simply when we transfer out emotions such as anger from one stimulus to another. Overall we push away anything unpleasant to the side as sometimes it can be overwhelming and too much to take in.

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There are psychosexual stages that all of us experience throughout our lives, as Freud suggest. However there is one main stage that explains our behaviour and it is called the ‘Phallic Stage’ which is where we experience either Oedipus Complex (male) or Electra Complex (female) from the ages of 3-6. Freud said that during the Phallic Stage boys experience the Oedipus Complex; this is when the boy develops sexual/love feelings towards his mother and develops jealousy and hatred for his father as he believes he is standing in the way of his love for his mother. The young boy looks at his father as being superior and a competition. However they experience castration anxiety believing that his father will cut his penis off if he finds out about the feelings he has for this mother. Nevertheless the boy eventually loses those feelings he has for his mother and begins to identity himself with the father and takes in his role and expectations. On the other hand Electra complex is when girls experience penis envy. The daughter initially is attracted to her mother but that stops when she realises ‘the lack of penis’ that she has and blames the mother believing she was castrated, but she also eventually realises that she will never have a penis and therefore associates penis envy in having the desire to have a baby and identifies herself with her mother. Towards the end of the Phallic stage, as both genders identity themselves with their parent, the adopt gender behaviours, role and attitudes of others.

As mentioned at the beginning, Freud’s research is all based around the unconscious mind so therefore the aim for psychoanalysis therapy is to release those repressed emotions from the unconscious to the conscious mind, in other words make the unconscious conscious.

Freud would have their patients lie down on a couch to relax and not facing him at all and he would ask questions about their childhood memories, fantasy’s like the dreams they’ve had. One of the therapy techniques used is to have a neutral behaviour, suggesting that it allows the client to open up more about their past; however it can be hard to do. As well as maintaining an equal relationship, the aim is to also have a trusting relationship. There are few different techniques that therapist use to encourage the client to open up and one of them is to get the client to speak freely and tell the therapist everything that is on their mind at that very moment. When doing this sometimes it might not make sense at first as random thoughts might be spilled out from the client, but like Freud did he tried to find the connection to everything. In this type of therapy the client does the more talking than the therapist because the aim is to get as much of information as possible however there are discussions made when needed for instance the therapist helping out the client in thinking in a different way about things.


Overall with Psychodynamic Therapy, it is developed for a wide range of people with different problems such as phobias, disorders and more and it aims to get the client to be aware of their patterns and behaviour and trying to change those negative aspects to positive. Freud did believe that there is not such things as accidents and that there is always a reason behind it and this is all reinforced by the unconscious mind and has deep symbolic meaning to it.


When evaluating Psychoanalysis, there are few limitations such as the therapy being very time consuming, it can take years to distinguish the relation between the patients behaviour and their childhood memories as it is not an answer you can produce quickly. In addition it is not reliable to be asking the patient about their childhood memories as not everyone remembers their earliest memories crystal clear. In addition the process for this therapy can become delicate for the client as they can become even more upset and depressed about re-visiting events and emotions that they have been trying to ignore and push away for so long which can distress them.


On the other hand Freud’s theories and studies are not empirical as you can’t measure or see the unconscious and conscious mind, therefore it cannot be seen as scientific, however his theories are more considered as ‘pseudoscientific’ which again is a limitation as it can’t be falsified therefore can’t  be reliable and can’t be re-tested. Furthermore for the Oedipus Complex, Freud used a case study called ‘The little Hans’ where this little boy had a phobia of horses and Freud explored more around this case study and came to the creation of Oedipus Complex. For this case study Freud didn’t work directly with Hans factors involved that caused him to have a fear of horses but he mainly focused on little Hans’s father. The reason why Little Hans was scared of horses was because he believed that they were scary and that the horses will kill him by biting him, so Freud associate the horse as being the father and the biting as representing castration. So from this case study Freud developed the theory that every boy experience Oedipus Complex.

As it was the only study Freud used, it is not enough to generalise it to the whole population especially when it is a case study as the sample is very small and in addition not everyone experiences the same thing as little hans did so others can’t come to the same conclusion.

In addition, there’s not enough account on female development in Freud’s theory, he wrote a lot on Oedipus Complex however very limitated when it comes to Electra Complex. He did say that women were always a mystery to him but having this idea of girls experiencing ‘penis envy’ has been criticised also on the time it come across which was in the Victorian Era which Freud lived and worked in. When we speak about today’s generation, it had changed when compared to the Victorian times such as gender roles; now a days some women do desire to be a male and vice versa some men desire to be a female.

Furthermore Bem (1989) challenged Freud’s theory on Oedipus and Electra Complex in addition with child sexual awareness. As Freud stated that both female and male at the ages of 3-6 experience emotions that is linked to their genitalia, it would mean that these children at a young age know or are exposed to their genitalia and the opposite sex’s genitalia. However Bem (1989) did an investigation on children from the aged of 3-6 and none of them knew what the opposite sex genitalia looked like which makes it seem like it would be impossible for Electra and Oedipus Complex to happen. Nevertheless other research does support the idea that parental sex is an issue for children around this age group. Okami (1995) did a longitude experiment on 200 children from the ages of 6-18 and as a result it was declared that younger children were exposed to scenes of parental nudity and sexual activities, which is a concern already at this point that at such young age children are seeing these such things. Moving to the age of 18, few particular effect were found like girls were more likely to become pregnant or receive any sexual diseases than others that weren’t exposed to sexual nudity at a young age. Therefore this suggests that there is an association between sexual experiences during the phallic stage and later sexual behaviours in their lives.


Moving away from limitation there is a strength that this approach has explanatory power, as bizarre as Freud’s theories are he did raised one of the first talking cures in psychology therapy and since then a lot more psychologist have done further research and developed more theories on human behaviour. For the half of the 20th Century Psychodynamic remained the dominant force in psychology and in fact has been used to explain many other human behaviours can be found as abnormal, or to explain personality development, moral development and even gender development. On top of that it has not failed to draw attention to the relationship between a child and their parents from childhood and how it is very important that from a young age everything that happens in a child’s childhood can and does have a negative effect on their long-term relationships and future life with others and themselves.


In conclusion, some people may find Freud’s theories and ideas wrong and unusual however it did have a really huge impact on the psychology world till this date, this therapy is aimed for anyone that is struggling with their life’s and emotions due to their experiences and just like any other therapy it does help the client in changing their perspectives from negative to positive.