Freud’s Psychoanalysis

’Sigmund Freud’ [2017] LAUTIR

Freud’s theories have had a great influence on the cultural life of this century, probably much greater than that of any other doctrinal system. The field where his ideas have encountered the greatest difficulties has been that of his own terrain, Psychiatry. Psychoanalysis is still polemical, although many of the current discoveries can be divided in two main groups: those with exclusive orientation or very preferentially psychoanalytic, and those that do not accept more than a few fragments of psychoanalysis, considering the rest to be an “interpretive fantasy.” To this latter group belong all the “official” European psychiatric schools (universities).

We can distinguish two aspects in psychoanalysis: psychoanalytic theory of the human psyche, normal and pathological, and the psychoanalytic technique as a psychotherapeutic method. Both are almost exclusive works of the portentous mind of a single man, of such originality and keen thinking that he was able to elaborate them against all the doctrines and scientific prejudices of his era. Although in recent decades certain theoretical aspects of the doctrine and those of the its practical application have been modified and completed, it was elaborated and set out by S. Freud in his books, published between 1910 and 1915.

Psychoanalytic Theory

Psychoanalytic theory has five conceptual pillars: topographic, genetic, dynamic, economic and structural.

The topographic concepts: contain the most important contribution of psychoanalysis to modern psychology: the discovery that psychic life is divided into conscious, preconscious and subconscious strata. The psychic contents of the subconscious have a large effect on the subject’s personality and behavior. They are not directly appreciable (the individual is not aware of his subconscious psychic life), but they can be divined and interpreted, through their symbolic modes of expression: dreams (the “real path” for exploring the subconscious, failed acts, mistakes and things forgotten) and neurotic symptoms.

Genetic concepts: Freud demonstrated that the ultimate ethology of current behavioral disorders derive, in large part, from remote psychic conflicts from early childhood. The modes of response and human behavior are structured with the influence that all the incidents of their life have over their biological constitution. Their entire history plays a role in each new reaction and the modes of reacting vary over the course of normal development, and this development may be set at an intermediate phase or may regress to it due to the effect of affective traumas, thus giving way to neurotic symptoms. The analysis of these symptoms and the study of normal and neurotic children allowed him to elaborate the psychoanalytic theory of development and its stages, which are condensed in the theory of the development of the libido and its phases; all normal children pass through three phases of libido before the age of seven. The oral phase, which lasts from birth until age one and a half; in it, the essential sources of pleasure are centered in the mouth, the lips, the tongue and the stomach. The most pleasant activity is sucking, to which biting is later added. The skin, thermal sensations and bodily equilibrium are secondary sources of pleasure. In this phase, the child does not differentiate itself well from its surroundings, so its relationships with objects are basically narcissistic and pre-ambivalent self-criticisms. In life, they are manifested in pleasures associated with smoking, drinking and non-genital physical sexual activities. Between one and a half and three years of age they go through the anal phase, in which the greatest source of pleasure shifts to the anus, the rectum and the bladder, and the greatest sensual pleasures are those associated with the expulsion of feces and urine, and later with their retention. The phallic phase or genital phase ranges from three to seven years of age, and with it the reactive differences between the two sexes begin. In boys, the pleasant sensitivity of the penis begins and they go through a period of normal masturbation. Simultaneously they realize that girls do not have a penis and they interpret this as the consequence of a mutilation. They feel a sexual inclination toward their mother and in their actions of masturbation they associate their libidinous fantasies with her. Their feelings toward the father, in whom they see a more powerful rival, are charged with jealousy and hostility. The attraction towards the mother and the hostility and fear toward the father were christened by Freud with the name of the Oedipus complex and the feelings of guilt due to their love for the mother and the wishes of death for the father awaken castration anxiety, since this is imagined to be their punishment. The anxious fear of castration and the feelings of guilt inhibit their masturbation activities, which disappear along with the most intense sexual fantasies, entering the latency period. In girls, the basic conflictive situation arises from the discovery of their lack of a penis (penis envy complex), whose absence they reproach the mother about, from whom they detach in their affections, turning their love towards the father (during some time this conflict was called the “Electra complex,” but the name has ceased to be used, and the problem is referred to as the “female Oedipal complex”).

The sensitivity of the clitoris is awakened, which is the subject of masturbation, which later stops, with all the emotional tensions and the fantasies of the Oedipal complex, when faced with the fear of losing her parents’ love, and the girl thus enters her latency phase. The latency phase ranges from seven to twelve years. The resolution of the Oedipal conflict and the development of the superego (moral norms, concepts of good and bad, scale of values, etc.) shut off the sexual tendencies, and aggressive impulses appear. In this phase, great advances and efforts are being made in the field of learning and social relations begin outside the family environment (groups of friends, school). For the first time, there is admiration for individuals who do not belong to the family. With puberty and the instinctive impulses derived from their hormonal turbulence, the balance of the latency phase is upset and new conflicts appear, which last throughout adolescence (until twenty years of age), with alternate triumphs of the instinctive tendencies of the superego or of the sense of reality. In the spiritual realm, it is a stormy phase, with extreme positions of idealism, romanticism, yearning for knowledge and rebellious attitudes. Blessed are we, the youth who live off our dreams, although it is only in a phase of our life! God wishes many of us to live eternally carrying out those dreams and idealism, even though he bestows torment upon us and also gives us great joys.

The dynamic concepts: these envelop the perpetual conflict between the instinctive tendencies, which urgently require satisfaction, and the “counter-instinctive forces” (the principle of reality and the superego), which are opposed to this demand for pleasure. The individual may renounce their instinctive gratification in exchange for salvaging their safety or self-esteem. Life is a battlefield in which the principle of pleasure and the principle of reality are continually fighting.

The structural concepts: these assume a series of hypotheses of the division of the human psyche. Independently from the three strata described above, conscious, preconscious and subconscious, within a person there are three groups of psychodynamic structures: the id, the ego and the superego. The id feeds on all the instinctive tendencies, its original basis is somatic and it is molded by environmental influences. The id operates on the level of the subconscious and responds automatically to the principle of pleasure; its instinctive tendencies seek immediate satisfaction, despite reality and its consequences. The ego, or self, is the control system of the psychic structure. It organizes and synthesizes thought, memory and judgment, words and ideas and the sense of time and space. The ego obeys the principle of reality, which means that it is capable of postponing and sacrificing obtaining a pleasure with the aim of achieving a greater one in the future. The superego is structured in a later stage of development, in the genital phase, at the expense of the resolution of the Oedipal conflict, of the facets of appreciation of the parents and punishments and the rewards derived from them. It contains the ethical norms, ideals and scale of values.

Critical Appreciation of Psychoanalysis

All types of opinions exist in this polemical wasps’ nest, and they are, almost always, expressed with extremism and passion: A) Psychoanalysis, due to its duration, price, relatively elevated mental level required of the sick person and the number of people trained to practice it, must be reserved for certain special cases. B) Psychoanalysis goes beyond the purely curative mission that any treatment must have and attempts a total transformation of the personality, according to its sectarian criteria, for which in addition to futile it is morally disputable. C) Psychoanalysis will allow for an understanding of the subconscious, but it will not cure any sick person, its extraordinary duration being what allows spontaneous remissions to arise in these three years, falsely interpreted as the success of the analytical technique. D) The remaining psychotherapies and the biological treatments are those which only cure cases of spontaneous remission. Only psychoanalysis has authentic therapeutic efficacy, both regarding neurosis as well as psychosis.

There is a little bit of truth in each of these impassioned points of view.



Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at

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Lida Prypchan

Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at