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Controversy of Love in Psychoanalysis
One of the most controversial issues within psychoanalysis is human love. The implications of this issue are profound to the effectiveness of psychoanalysis as a treatment for mental disorders or even simple psychological and social difficulties which one might seek psychological treatment for. Love, in and of itself is a concept that is very personal and relative, additionally there are many forms of human love and psychoanalysis by its very nature, conflicts with the depth of the human expression of love and rejects anything that is not within a certain mold. In a clinical setting patients have often been left with increasingly negative feelings about the inherently base motivations that psychoanalysis determines to be the unwavering cause for feelings of love and longing. Freud, in Civilization and its Discontents clearly reduces love and even the seeking of happiness to simple sexual gratification.
A am, of course, speaking of the way of life which makes love the centre of everything, which looks for all satisfaction in loving and being loved. A psychical attitude of this sort comes naturally enough to all of us; one of the forms in which love manifests itself -- sexual love -- has given us our most intense experience of an overwhelming sensation of pleasure and has thus furnished us with a pattern for our search for happiness...Happiness, in the reduced sense in which we recognize it as possible, is a problem of the economics of the individual's libido. " (Freud 29-30)
Though clearly, there are other messages about love within Freud's works and there are other reason's why individuals might associate sexual gratification and longing as a negative source for the seeking of human happiness, this message from Freud, does give examples of just what Psychoanalysis attempted to do in the resolution of the conflicts of the human psyche. The idea of love = sexual drive is clearly in conflict of love that does not include or accept overt expressions of sexual feelings, like love between siblings, parent and child or even two adults of the same gender. Freud states the tit and tat relationship between love and sex even more clearly in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego: "The nucleus of what we mean by love naturally consists (and this is what is commonly called love, and what the poets sing of) in sexual love with sexual union as its aim."
Freud 37) Choosing to express so much of the message of sexual love, between to preferably married individuals of opposite genders as the ultimate expression of human happiness reduces the voice in which an individual can express love and happiness. Reducing love to sex and sex to the ultimate and according to Freud the only true goal of the human psyche is today and was then alarming. In a more modern work Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science, and Psychoanalysis, one possible and very plausible answer is offered:
Freud needed sexuality to play a role in his model of mind was that, for all his flights into psychology and metaphysics, he remained, both by training and by aspiration, a physiologist. As such he never gave up seeking to ground his psychological theories in biology. The crucial role he assigned to sexuality enabled him to claim that all his speculations rested on a firm 'organic foundation'.
Yet, the results Freud achieved, mostly in his being the first to express the ideas associated with internal functioning of the mind as apposed to external influence causation of psychological symptoms, ensured that right or wrong his work was influential and groundbreaking.
The most profound difficulty with Love as a psychoanalytic issue is that so much of psychoanalytic process is shrouded in finding the solutions for why, we as humans have the urge to love or desire those we do, in the ways we do. Sometimes this can cause the relationship to come under undue scrutiny and can reduce it to base urges which most people wish not to accept as a source for motivation. Freud and his colleges, both during and after his lifetime constantly combated the issues of human love within the research and clinical settings. The issue became the sticking point of many successful and unsuccessful treatment courses for people in need.
As Freud saw it, love and the reason we felt it desired it and sought it out was simply the psyches way of fulfilling some psychological flaw within ourselves. Even though to some degree Freud determined that love was a natural expression of humanity the constructs of "normal" and "healthy" love, Freud referred to it as "mature" love, are shrouded in the propriety of his day.
Genital love leads to the formation of new families, and aim-inhibited love to friendships' which become valuable from a cultural standpoint because they escape some of the limitations of genital love, as, for instance, its exclusiveness. But in the course of development the relation of love to civilization loses its unambiguity. On the one hand love comes into opposition to the interests of civilization; on the other, civilization threatens love with substantial restrictions.
In the above quote it is clear that aim-inhibited love is love between people who are forbidden to have genital love. This being the case, the expression that any genital love between these taboo partners is clearly immature and can even be considered deviant. The points about society, create the idea that love is simply a source of human conflict on a demand vs. availability scale.
Rejection of healthy forms of love that do not fit the heterosexual/marriage/procreative mold became a part of the psychoanalytic scholarship and often found conflict within the reality of the depth and variety of loves that humans actually feel, express and seek.
Additionally, so much of the emphasis within the psychoanalytic process is upon the sexual drive of individuals as the most foundational of all motivating forces and within a situation where nearly all those treated were "abnormal" the lasting legacy of the clinical research is associated with the negative as apposed to the positive aspects of human love and connections. Freud being unwilling to analyze "normal" healthy loving relationships, or in some ways even acknowledge that they existed, has left the work of psychoanalysis as a simple task of trying to find out what about the person with psychological symptom's love relationships was wrong or negative. In many cases the root of the problem was focused upon the failed or overdevelopment of love relationships between individuals and their families:
major barriers to falling in love derive from two sources: pathological narcissism and, developing Freud's view, the inability to resolve oedipal conflicts by identification with a same-sex parent. "
The profound influence that psychoanalysis has had upon the entire field of psychology, lesser so today than in the past, with this tragic flaw in mind has broader implications on how the definitions of certain psychological "disorders" and "diseases" are viewed, possibly even today in both popular and scholarly views. Though there are clearly other factors associated with the negative view of love, found outside the heterosexism and gender dominant marriage situation, psychoanalysis in many ways has given excursuses to the broader field of psychology, pop psychology and even common culture to hold fast to repressive and fixated ideas about how love is "normal."
For many people, especially today, fighting prejudice and discrimination for any number of reasons possibly associated with gender issues and/or sexual desires the legacy of psychoanalysis has severely hindered their "normal" "healthy" and natural development process as individuals. It is unknown how many clinical situations would have proved effective for the consumer had some of these factors been less in focus, as the keys to understanding were often cut short by the patients feelings of self-loathing and disgust over the exposure to their own feelings being possibly motivated by base and in some ways revolting tendencies.
In some cases Freud, in particular, even seems to have given expression to negative and/or shocking longings and drives that may never have even been present in the psyche, conscious or subconscious. One such case is widely accepted as a work of interesting literary fodder but gives the expression of the fallout Freud and other clinicians would have experienced while treating patients who feel overwhelmed and even offended by the implications of the animal like desire-based solutions that were given for the problems they experienced. (See Feud's Dora commented on below)
Following the eccentric belief of his friend Fliess that masturbation gave rise to enuresis, Freud forced Dora to confess that she had been a late bed-wetter. He also claimed that her catarrh signified that she was a masturbator, as did her stomach troubles. In one of the most bizarre of all interpretations Freud even suggested that Dora's nervous cough was the result of a suppressed fantasy of fellatio. As Janet Malcolm observes, all these interpretations are presented to a young, vulnerable teenager who has trustingly related to Freud a…[continue]
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