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And moreover, the virtues that had been "automatically" accorded to Freud over the years -- "clinical acumen, wisdom in human affairs, dedication to his patients and to the truth" -- are now obscured by the skepticism that has come due to the deep questioning and investigation over time (Kramer, 1998, pp. 199-200). That skepticism among scholars has also been brought on by a lack of "accord" between what Freud posited and "with contemporary opinion about paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder" (Kramer, 201).
That having been said, contemporary attacks on Freud's character tends to "diminish his work," which may not be fair Kramer continues (201). If estimates of Freud the man are dragged through the mud of unfair criticism and doubt, then Freud's work suffers as well. Kramer wonders, was Freud just a "relentless self-promoter" or do his ideas and theories have value as strong, profoundly honest science? (201).
William J. McGrath is less harsh on Freud's reputation, asserting that the "…historical task of understanding the relationship between the culture and time in which he lived and the creative process leading to his discoveries remains to be accomplished" (McGrath, 1986, p. 20). Simply by placing his life "more firmly" in its historical context, McGrath believes, including the political dynamics in Europe at that time (which were discussed earlier in this paper), would open up a better perspective on the great volume of work he accomplished, and its meaning for the world in the 21st millennium (McGrath, 24).
Moreover, McGrath takes issue with those who criticize Freud for his experimentation with cocaine. Between 1883 and 1885, Freud experimented with cocaine and wrote about the positive psychic effects of the drug; he advocated it use for a number of maladies, not knowing that later his work on cocaine "…brought him more professional grief than profit" (McGrath, 151). Of course at the time Freud did not understand the addition that people go through when they use cocaine regularly, and hindsight is 20-20, so it is easy to find fault with Freud, McGrath explains, albeit it is unfair to critique something that was believed to be good in 1885.
In a letter Freud wrote to Dr. Wilhelm Fliess on January 24, 1895, Freud seems clearly euphoric through his use of cocaine. Fliess was Freud's closest friend and confidant, and in fact the men had a homosexual relationship. They both believed, according to Jeffrey Masson's book, that bisexuality was perfectly normal for "all individuals" (Masson, 1955, p. 2). In this letter, Freud says he has been feeling "unbelievably well" following a few "viciously bad days" (Freud, 106). He was feeling well, he wrote because:
"…[I applied] a cocainization of the left nostril… [which] helped me to an amazing extent…the next day I kept the nose under cocaine, which one should not really do; that is, I repeatedly painted it to prevent the renewed occurrence of swelling; during this time I discharged what in my experience is a copious amount of thick pus; and since then I have felt wonderful, as though there never had been anything wrong at all…" (Freud, in Jeffrey Masson's book).
Freud's Theory of Personality
Freud believed that people are motivated by "…innate instincts that convert bodily needs into psychological tensions," according to Robert B. Ewen's book an Introduction to Theories of Personality. Freud boiled types of personalities down to instincts; the two instincts he emphasized were a) "sexual, which includes the whole range of pleasurable and self-preserving behavior," and b) "destructive" (Ewen, 2003, p. 50). By destructive he meant that humans' "inherent nature is murderous and incestuous" and moreover, combining the two instincts, Freud believed that any behavior is "at least partly erotic and partly aggressive" (Ewen, 50).
As to the personality, Freud's theory -- which still has enormous credibility today -- posits that the Id is present at birth; the Id is an unconscious state and has within it innate human instincts. At birth a human is entirely moved and motivated by the "pleasure principle" and the infant has no concept of preserving itself or any logic or sense of time,
At about 6 to 8 months, however, the Ego begins developing, which is a result of the child's interaction with the outside world, Ewen explains (51). The Ego responds to the "conscious, preconscious, and unconscious" in the mind and it operates "in accordance with the logical and self-preservative secondary process and is motivated by the reality principle" (Ewen, 51). The Ego helps the individual to put off pleasure until "…a suitable and safe object has been found," Ewen continues (51). All emotions spring from the Ego, even anxiety, as it attempts to keep the Id "under control by using various defense mechanisms" (Ewen, 51).
Next to develop in the child is the Superego, which emerges from the Ego at between 3 to 5 years of age, depending on the individual. By now the child needs to know the difference between right and wrong, and along with parental standards that have been taught, the Superego, partly conscious and partly unconscious, provides the individual with a sense of values and morals (Ewen, 51).
Freud believed that personality emerges during the first five years of a person's life, and every human passes through a series of "psychosexual stages"; those stages include: oral, anal, urethral, phallic, a latency period and a genital period (Ewen, 51). Freud also believed in an "Oedipus complex" that occurs vis-a-vis attitudes towards parents; that is, the boy loves the mother and is jealous of the father; in time the boy "abandons his Oedipal strivings because of castration fears," Ewen concludes on page 51.
Why Take Psychoanalytic Findings Seriously?
Author and Syracuse University professor Ernest Wallwork offers that question in his book Psychoanalysis and Ethics; and he provides three reasons why Freud's concepts are still powerfully linked to human behavior. One, Wallwork believes that Freud's theories have "…so penetrated our culture" that for many individuals the Freudian view of morality "…plays an important role in their thinking on ethical issues" (Wallwork, 1994, p. 293). The second reason Wallwork offers is that basically psychoanalysis is "…inherently a psychology of morals," and because psychoanalysis deals effectively with "…egoism, pleasure, object love, empathy, defensiveness and moral conscientiousness," it draws and challenges scholars and scientists and researchers to these confront these ideas (Wallwork, 293).
The third reason psychoanalysis should be taken seriously (according to Wallwork) is that it offers a "…unique methodology for studying the human personality in depth" (293). Studying personalities through the use of free association, "the couch, and transference reactions in a comparatively neutral interpersonal environment," can and does get down to the basic issue of what is happening within humans as moral decisions are being made and conduct is reflecting those moral decisions (Wallwork, 293).
In conclusion, Sigmund Freud's valiant work and revolutionary theories may be challenged by some, and Freud's behaviors may seem to scholars in the 21st century to be out of touch and even obtuse, but his discoveries that led to psychoanalysis, and his understanding of the human personality, constitute -- in many minds -- the holy grail of psychology.
Costigan, Giovanni. (1965). Sigmund Freud: A Short Biography. New York: The Macmillan
Ewen, Robert B. (2003). An Introduction to Theories of Personality. East Sussex, UK:
Grunbaum, Adolf. (1998). A Century of Psychoanalysis: Critical Retrospect and Prospect. In Freud: Conflict and Culture, Michael Roth, Ed. New York: Alfred a. Knopf, 183-196.
Kahn, Samuel. (1976). Essays in Freudian Psychoanalysis. New York: Philosophical…[continue]
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