Brain Injury, Counselling, Freud, My Story, psychology, stages of development, thoughts influence on physical body, Uncategorized

15. A little background on Freud (part 5)

Freud: Defence mechanisms

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This final blog on Freud looks at ways we try to protect ourselves from being hurt, often without even realising what we are doing. Freud noted several “defence mechanisms” (described below) that individuals commonly adopt in order to cope with life’s experiences. These are still important today and it is helpful to recognise when you, yourself, are adopting them.

Defence mechanisms (protecting the ‘ego’, i.e., “I”) are a key feature in psychoanalysis and individuals are often completely unaware of them. Defence mechanisms are unconsciously employed by the individual when they feel unable to cope, or feel that they are under attack. The most common ones are:

  • denial – you refuse to acknowledge something
  • repression – you unconsciously hide unpleasant feelings in the unconscious
  • projection – placing YOUR feelings onto someone else, e.g., believing that Mr X does not like you when, actually, it is YOU who does not like Mr X
  • displacement – your feelings are displaced onto someone/something else, e.g., after a disagreement with a work colleague, anger is then ‘offloaded’ onto someone else, often your partner at home!
  • regression – you go back in time and return to feeling/acting like e.g., a child, when faced with an overwhelming unpleasant feeling
  • sublimation – you take out your emotions/ impulses on a substitute, socially acceptable object, e.g., punching out your anger (towards the boss) on a punch bag at the gym
  • rationalization – you distort the facts by cognitively inventing excuses/reasons/ justifications for your behaviour/motivation.

The first step is recognising them. Once these defence mechanisms have been explored, the individual is then able to realise, feel, and ‘own’ their true feelings and accept them without the need to hide them.

If you liked this 5 part blog on Freud, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. Next week, I begin Jung. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

Bibliography

Storr, A. (1989) Freud: A very short introduction, New York, Oxford University Press Inc.

 

Brain Injury, Counselling, Freud, My Story, psychology, stages of development, Uncategorized

14. A little background on Freud (part 4)

Freud…continued

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It must be noted that life in Victorian times was completely dominated by males, and women had no power and very few rights. Freud’s outlandish suggestions did, at least, provoke people to reflect and think more in depth about how parents could somehow contribute to the personal development of their children.

Freud often used “neologisms” (terminology that Freud himself invented) but failed to provide any actual definitions. This contributed further to misunderstanding and confusion over his theory which led to such a broad range of interpretations and viewpoints. He has been accused of being obsessed with sex and has caused much offense by referring to sexual experiences during childhood. This is dependent on one’s interpretation of his work which might be better understood if his environment (at that time) is taken into consideration. His preoccupation of sex possibly shows his own personal projections from his own upbringing (his own father was twenty years senior to his mother) and fantasies with a negative view point of sex reflecting the epoch and the sexually repressed society that he lived in. However, although Freud’s theory of psychosexual development has stirred much controversy, it was, at least, a starting point for research into child development and child psychology. Building upon this foundation, the following more recent approaches emerged: Erik Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development [2], John Bowlby’s (1973) theory of attachment [1], Jean Piaget’s (1973) theory of cognitive development [3], and Lev Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of social development [4] (which stressed the importance of social interaction) have all surpassed Freud’s theory.

In today’s counselling environment, elements of Freud are still apparent in that a client can talk freely about their presenting issues, their past experiences and family background. Likewise, any lack of memories would, with the client’s consent, be explored.

In conclusion, although Freud’s work has been heavily criticized, his psychosexual development did bring some taboo topics out into the open and it was a starting point in the research of child development which led to the more recent theories of child development. Much of Freud’s work is so ingrained in todays psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy that some of his terminology has seeped into our everyday language. The phrases “anally retentive” and “Freudian slips” are still used in our language today. Despite the lack of empirical evidence to support Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, and its somewhat dated point of view, the basic principle of there being an association between childhood experiences and adulthood traits is still worth bearing in mind as we try to raise our children with the best intentions. Today, most parents are aware that they DO actually play a huge part in their child’s development and it is generally accepted by most people that their childhood experiences do have some influence on their behaviour in adult life.

If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

References

  1. Bowlby, J. (1973) Separation: Anxiety & Anger. Attachment and Loss (vol. 2). London: Hogarth Press.
  2. Erikson, H. E. (1959) Identity and the life cycle. New York. Norton.
  3. Piaget, J. (1973) Main Trends in Psychology. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  4. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

Brain Injury, Counselling, Freud, My Story, psychology, thoughts influence on physical body, Uncategorized

Freud (part 3)

 

Freud: emotions and the past

 

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Although criticisms of Freud are perhaps more known nowadays than his actual work, many of Freud’s ideas are still used in the fundamental core of today’s counselling environment. Freud’s belief that one’s past emotions could cause problems in one’s present was ground-breaking and this concept is accepted by many psychologists today. His idea that mental illness is not (necessarily) due to physiological but psychological reasons, which can be helped by talking openly and honestly about what is on one’s mind, remains accepted today.

The idea of talking freely is still at the heart of psychoanalysis and many counselling therapies in general today with the additional advantage of bringing “hidden” thoughts and feelings from one’s unconscious into one’s conscious. Similarly, many further therapeutic techniques have built upon this concept. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) attempts to help the individual modify their habitual patterns of cognition. These patterns of thinking have usually been learned as a child and although they served well in childhood, are no longer helpful in adulthood. Such patterns of cognition are only accessed through the client becoming consciously aware of their internal thoughts which can then be altered appropriately.

Today’s clients are more aware of the process of counselling from the outset, and are encouraged to talk about their thoughts, feelings and past with an empathetic, genuine, non-judgemental therapist who offers unconditional positive regard (in the case of client centred therapy).

Freud also used “free association” as a “talking freely” technique whereby the client responds to a word by saying what springs to mind in association with it. Freud claimed that this was accessing the unconscious mind. He believed too that unconscious thoughts and feelings slip out verbally from time to time (“Freudian slips”) revealing what one is really thinking and feeling.

If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

Bibliography

Storr, A. (1989) Freud: A very short introduction, New York, Oxford University Press Inc.

Brain Injury, Counselling, Freud, psychology, stages of development, Uncategorized

A little background on Freud: part 2

Psychosexual developmental stages

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Freud developed a theory on “psychosexual development” based on the principle that the “libidinal” energy is continually moving throughout development and is concentrated on certain objects/areas in the process. It was thought that if an individual’s progress through the early psychosexual stages, i.e., in early childhood, is somehow disrupted, the consequential fixation at a certain stage leads to certain behaviour/ personality traits in their adult life. Freud described five stages: oral (0-18months) where the baby’s focus of attention is purely on the mouth, i.e., feeding, suckling; anal (18months-3years) where the individual’s attention is focussed on toileting needs, especially defecation and related pleasurable feelings; phallic (3-5 years) where the individual becomes aware of the genitals and related pleasurable feelings, e.g., when going to the toilet; latency (5-adolescence) where individual’s sexual activity is insignificant; and genital (adolescence on through adulthood) where the individual’s love for himself is transferred onto others with a strong physiological drive to reproduce.

Freud claimed that whereas a healthy personality would develop after progression through all the stages had been successfully accomplished, if conflict arose during one of the stages, the individual would remain fixated at that stage. According to Freud, fixation at a psychosexual stage was due to disruption, e.g., at the oral stage, a mother being unable to breast feed. These fixations would result in compensatory characteristics still being evident in the individual in adulthood such as: disruption at oral stage would lead to passivity, or/and oral habits such as overeating, sucking thumb, smoking etc.; disruption at anal stage would lead to obsessive cleanliness, order (as a reaction formation against revulsion over dirtiness of defecation), stubbornness (rebelling against parents’ toilet training, i.e., defecation) and parsimony (associated with hanging on to faeces because money and faeces are often paired in language, e.g., filthy rich); and disruption at phallic stage would lead to narcissistic tendencies and use of sex to relieve emotional build up. Claims about disruption at the genital stage were not mentioned.

More controversially, Freud believed that sadistic, masochistic, exhibitionistic, voyeuristic and fetishistic tendencies, and an interest in homosexuality were basic instincts in everyone (but further accentuated in neurotic individuals) which collectively create the adult libido. If accentuated instincts of neurotic individuals were not repressed, the individual would become a sexual pervert, however, if such instincts WERE repressed, the individual would become neurotic. It must be mentioned that, although today, some of Freud’s theory seems ridiculous to many people, and obsessed with sex (!), in Freud’s epoch such topics were completely taboo and it was therefore the beginning of overtly questioning such topics and bringing such subjects out into the open. I suppose we had to start somewhere… and there is still a long way to go! If you liked this, be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

Bibliography

Storr, A. (1989) Freud: A very short introduction, New York, Oxford University Press Inc.

Counselling, Freud, psychology, Uncategorized

11. Freud: part 1

A little background on Freud

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Freud, today, doesn’t have a great reputation since he mentions sex a lot throughout his work and seems to have been obsessed with it! However, that aside, he did actually have many excellent ideas, some of which have been carried through to today’s psychology and counselling. Here is a brief introduction to Freud.

Born Jewish in the Czech Republic, Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) moved to Vienna with his family where he remained thereafter. After his initial interest in zoological research which was based on the (then novel) idea that physics and chemistry underlie (and determine) all processes, Freud transferred his determinist philosophy to the development of psychoanalysis [2]. Thus, his explanations for all psychological aspects were heavily based on the “cause and effect” principle, sparing no room for any religious or spiritual influence. He married and had six children, the last of whom was Anna who also became well known in the field of psychoanalysis.

His obsessive work ethos led to vast volumes of work, however, many of his colleagues were driven away from psychoanalysis due to Freud’s denial of any difference of opinion. Freud learned about hypnosis from Josef Breuer who was trying to establish a “talking cure” and also studied hypnosis with Jean-Martin Charcot. Working with a small group of female patients with “hysteria”, Freud and Breuer [1] realized that these hysterical individuals benefitted greatly from remembering and describing the first time that they experienced their symptoms. Such memories were often retrieved from the subconscious through use of hypnosis and it became apparent that most were painful or embarrassing memories that had been “hidden” (repressed) from consciousness. Freud coined the phrase “repression” and noted many other “defence mechanisms” that individuals commonly adopt in order to cope with life’s experiences, which are still important and recognised in the field of psychology and psychoanalysis today.

For example, in the case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), where traumatic memories have been repressed, it is often considered beneficial to release emotions. Freud then described a conflict within the mind between the emotion (trying to remain conscious and be “let out”) and the part of the mind which was trying to hide the emotion. This conflict within the mind was damaging and, according to Freud, would even manifest in physical problems. His “conversion hysteria” suggested that such conflict of the mind is converted into the physical symptoms, e.g., hysteria, and physical symptoms were described which reflected psychological pain symbolically, e.g., a broken heart when love is lost.

Broken Heart Love Damaged Broken Heart Bro

Realizing that current problems could be associated with or due to (negative) experiences from the past, and that the majority of his female patients (with hysteria) had had (negative) sexual experiences, Freud began to focus on the influence of those experiences and the patient’s imaginative worlds. Part 2 of this will be next week.

If you liked this, click the little star below (to like) and be sure to subscribe. It’s free and you will have access to my weekly blogs. If there are specific areas of interest that you would like me to write about, please comment or write a question and I’ll do my very best to answer. I would love to hear from you!

References

  1. Freud, S., & Breuer, J. (1895) Studies in Hysteria. Translated by Nicola Luckhurst, with an Introduction by Rachel Bowlby. Penguin Books, London 2004.
  2. Storr, A. (1989) Freud: A very short introduction, New York, Oxford University Press Inc.
  3. Thompson, C., & Mullahy, P. (1951) Psychoanalysis: evolution and development (3rd ed.). New York: Hermitage House.