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!


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!


  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.