Tag Archives: Sigmund Freud

Founding Mothers & Fathers of Counseling


Abstract

This essay explores three of the most significant founding fathers of psychology, W. Wundt, B. F. Skinner, and S. Freud.  Beyond his well lauded contributions as an experimental psychologist, we explore Wundt’s often neglected contributions to social psychology and the legacy of his Völkerpsychologie.  Skinner is explored both in the context of a behaviorist and as a social philosopher.  Finally, treatment is given to S. Freud and his continued relevance into the 21st Century.

Wilhelm Wundt has been described as “one of the anchors of our collective consciousness; one of the fixed points from which we extrapolate our intellectual position and from which we derive the place of our discipline in the family of the sciences.”  (Kroger & Scheibe, 1990, p. 221)  Through a distinctly social lens, Wundt attempted to explain the theoretical and logical necessities that serve as antecedents to empirical regularities.  Contemporary psychological historians frequently credit Wundt with an early recognition of the social dimensions of cognition, emotion, and behavior.  Wundt suggested that cognition, emotion, and behavior are predisposed to align themselves with the cognition, emotion, and behavior of members of social networks or organizations with whom the individual associates.  As a result… beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are held or engaged by individuals because they are represented as held by the people with whom we socialize.  (Greenwood, 2003, p. 70)

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There is a curious dichotomy surrounding Wundt, however.  While his contributions as an experimental psychologist are repeatedly lauded, the social theory that guided his experimentation is decidedly missing of influence or impact.  “His concepts of the higher synthesis, the social mind, the reality of folk-psychological actuality, etc., are all seemingly firmly anchored in a monumental philosophical system; but Wundt’s conceptual scheme breaks down when applied.”  (Haeberlin, 1916, p. 301)  “Wundt asked questions about how the relationship between individual consciousness and cultural heritage ought to be conceptualized, how mind is embedded in, and shaped by, culture.”  (Kroger & Scheibe, 1990, p. 227)  One might deduce that Wundt represents the first multicultural social theorist in the field of psychology.  “Wundt’s Völkerpsychologie contributed substantially to the clarification of the role of culture in the time scale of human phylogeny.”  (Wong, 2009, p. 258)  Aside from his obvious contributions to the field of experimental psychology, I have not included him for that reason.  He is foremost on my list due to contributions to the understanding of the collective consciousness, which are only recently being explored and lauded as his most important contributions to the field of social psychology.

Although he was preceded by great minds like John B. Watson, the field of behaviorism was radically changed by the work of B. F. Skinner.  “By the 1970s, B. F. Skinner was woven into the fabric of American culture both as an experimental psychologist and as a prominent social commentator whose radical behaviorist philosophy, and the technology of behavior arising from it, challenged traditional American outlooks on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  (Rutherford, 2003, p. 371-372)  Skinner revised the Watson Stimulus-Response (S-R) model of respondent behavior to include a third contingency, known as the Stimulus-Response-Reinforcing Stimulus (S-R-S) or operant behavior model.  “Operant behaviors are not elicited by preceding stimuli but instead are influenced by stimulus changes that have followed the behavior in the past.”  (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007, p. 10)  His “experimental analysis of behavior” has been described as a “revolutionary conceptual breakthrough” that “continues to provide the empirical foundation for behavior analysis today.”  (Cooper et al., 2007, p. 11)

Aside from his contributions as a behaviorist, he was a frequent contributor as a social philosopher.  The sociopolitical Skinner reached its pinnacle following the publication of Beyond Freedom and Dignity in 1971.

The main thesis of the book, pared down to its essentials, was that the freedom or free will that we all cherish is an illusion; our behavior is actually controlled by subtle and complex systems of environmental contingencies. Skinner’s message was that these contingencies must be recognized and deliberately manipulated through a technology of behavior if we are to improve our prospects for long-term cultural and social survival.  He argued that this deliberate control would be possible only if we gave up our antiquated and sentimental belief in “autonomous man.”  (Rutherford, 2003, p. 383-384)

B. F. Skinner set out to prove that we are capable of controlling ourselves. How is this possible?  Manipulate the contingencies under which your behaviors are reinforced by the environment in which you reside.  (Throne, 1992)  “Toward his goal he contributed 19 books; 2 of these, Behavior of Organisms and Verbal Behavior, certainly rank among the most important contributions to human thought.”  (Holland, 1992, p. 665)  Jack Michael introduced the ideas of B.F. Skinner to Montrose M. Wolf before he was exiled to the University of Houston due to the fact that “the department told me that they didn’t need a Skinnerian in the K.U psychology department, and I should find another job somewhere else.”  (Risley, 2005; Michael, 2006)

How can an essay of the founding fathers of counseling come to pass without mention of Sigmund Freud?  Despite the fact that most books that mention both Skinner and Freud tend to focus on differences instead of similarities, it is worth noting that B.F. Skinner cited Freud more often than any other author.  (Overskeid, 2007)  I have intentionally saved Freud for last, not because I want to finish strong, but because I believe the following statement to be true:

The contemporary attitude toward psychological problems that is fueled by a wish (and promise) of symptom relief (by psycho-pharmacologists and behavior therapists) and the reliance on third-party payments (that limit the number of sessions that will be covered), make Freud’s method (that is many times a week and an intense and comprehensive analysis of the interaction between patient and analyst) admittedly, not relevant for the “climate” of the 21st Century.  (Frank, 2008, p. 377)

Despite the hostile climate, it would be difficult to diminish the contribution of S. Freud.  Freud put the unconscious mind on the map.  (Lothane, 2006)  Twemlow and Parens (2006) advance the view that “Freud’s main legacy will be the application of psychoanalysis to community and social problems and issues, rather than in contributions to the treatment of mental illness.”  (Twemlow & Parens, 2006, p. 430)  Despite repeated attempts to move Freud off the couch, he still has a presence there.  “Recent research findings on the process and mechanisms of change within psychoanalytic forms of treatment now provide much needed empirical support for some of the basic tenets of psychoanalytic theory and practice, challenge long-standing notions regarding the link between therapeutic technique and clinical improvement, and suggest that factors once believed to be unique to psychoanalytic psychotherapy might be playing a crucial role in the promotion of change in other therapeutic modalities.”  (Schut & Castonguay, 2001, p. 40)  The latter opinion might suggest that the theories of Freud are not quite ready to be shoved off the couch just yet.

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References

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Frank, G. (2008, Apr). A response to “The relevance of Sigmund Freud for the 21st century.. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 25(2), 375-379. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.25.2.375

Greenwood, J. D. (2003, Feb). Wundt, Völkerpsychologie, and experimental social psychology. History of Psychology, 6(1), 70-88. doi: 10.1037/1093-4510.6.1.70

Haeberlin, H. K. (1916, July). The theoretical foundations of Wundt’s folk-psychology. Psychological Review, 23(4), 279-302. doi: 10.1037/h0075449

Holland, J. G. (1992, May). B. F. Skinner (1904–1990): Obituary. American Psychologist, 47(5), 665-667. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.47.5.665

Kroger, R. O., & Scheibe, K. E. (1990, July). A reappraisal of Wundt’s influence on social psychology. Canadian Psychology, 31(3), 220-228. doi: 10.1037/h0078919

Lothane, Z. (2006). Freud’s legacy–is it still with us?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 285-301. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.285

Michael, J. (2006). Starting a career in academia. Retrieved June, 20 2010, from http://jackmichael.org/about/index3.html

Overskeid, G. (2007, Sep). Looking for Skinner and finding Freud. American Psychologist, 62(6), 590-595. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.6.590

Risley, T. (2005, Summer). Montrose M. Wolf (1935–2004). J Appl Behav Anal, 38(2), 279–287. doi: 10.1901/jaba.2005.165-04

Rutherford, A. (2003, Nov). Radical behaviorism and psychology’s public: B. F. Skinner in the popular press, 1934–1990. History of Psychology, 3(4), 371-395. doi: 10.1037/1093-4510.3.4.371

Schut, A. J., & Castonguay, L. G. (2001). Reviving Freud’s vision of a psychoanalytic science: Implications for clinical training and education. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 38(1), 40-49. doi: 10.1037/0033-3204.38.1.40

Throne, J. M. (1992, Dec). Understanding Skinner. American Psychologist, 47(12), 1678. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.47.12.1678

Twemlow, S. W., & Parens, H. (2006). Might Freud’s legacy lie beyond the couch?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 430-451. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.430

Wong, W. (2009, Nov). Retracing the footsteps of Wilhelm Wundt: Explorations in the disciplinary frontiers of psychology and in Völkerpsychologie. History of Psychology, 12(4), 229-265. doi: 10.1037/a0017711

Counseling’s Founding Fathers


There are many people who have influenced the therapy and counseling world but there are a few who have been the most influential. Sigmund Freud is probably the most known and influential in therapy. He developed his own ideas on a variety of topics and taught many people about what he learned. While doing this he sparked several peoples’ interest in the psychoanalyst world. When they began forming their own opinions many of them branched off and began their own school of thought. Unfortunately, because Freud had a low tolerance when people disagreed with him, many of the friendships and collaborations ended. Among these broken friendships came several different points of view. The points of view are from Alfred Adler M.D., Karl Abraham, and Carl Jung. Each of these men studied with Freud for a period of years and then decided on a different point of view and the end result was the breakup of the friendship, with the exception of Karl Abraham, who stayed loyal to Freud and continued to view things as Freud had taught.

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Alfred Adler M.D. was born in Vienna, Austria. He had five siblings and his Father was a corn trader. Growing up he contracted many illnesses and physical ailments, he was quite an unhealthy child. There were two different points in his life where he was run over by a car.

When he was old enough for college, his original goal was to become an ophthalmologist, but later switched to neurology. He had many interests that included philosophy and politics. He was extremely interested in socialism where politics were concerned.

Adler became an associate of Freud’s in Vienna and during that time he researched what he coined Individual Psychology and he developed his theory of human behavior which had a lot of impact on various areas within the counseling field, including education, social sciences, psychology, and psychotherapy. Some of Adler’s techniques have been widely used in many different types of therapy, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Existential Therapy, and Holistic Therapy. He was among the first therapists to use psychotherapy that was focused and solution oriented but at the same time was much shorter in duration and allowed the patient to be as involved in treatment as the therapist. Typically he would limit a client’s sessions to no more than twenty. He didn’t focus on the patient’s past because he didn’t feel that their past could really define them or that it could dictate the person’s present or future. Because of his beliefs, the Alderian theory makes the assumption that if a person is centered in their own present tense, the way that person looks at the future and expects it to come about can affect the way that person remembers their own past. This belief also helps Alderian therapists create treatment plans that are unique to each client’s situation and needs.

In 1911 Adler separated from Freud because he didn’t believe that sex was the root of neurosis as Freud did. Adler instead thought that when a child experienced feelings of helplessness they would have an inferiority complex later in life. Adler’s theory tried to show how positive social interaction could help treat people with an inferiority complex. This was attributed to his beliefs that humans are goal oriented and need social interaction.

Adler opened Vienna’s first child guidance clinic in 1921 and was able to design tools for parents like educational programs because he was so devout when it came to the prevention of mental health illnesses. He believed if the basic relationships between parents and children and teachers and children were positive, then peoples’ quality of life could be made better for the entire society.

Karl Abraham did not start out studying under Sigmund Freud, he started out instead studying with Carl Jung. When he was chief physician in a psychiatric ward during World War I, war neuroses piqued his interest. He went on to become the founder of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute which helped other psychoanalysts work in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.

Abraham’s interests were geared toward the stages of psychosexual development and their relational patterns. His work helped to pave the way for this type of research both in the United States and in Great Britain. He was one of the very first people to study war neuroses although he mainly concentrated on studying dreams as well as myths and symbols.

Abraham’s contributions to psychoanalysis ranged from sexuality and character development to the psychoanalytical interpretation of dreams and symbolism. He showed how sucking and biting as an infant can affect the development of the libido, saying these two activities give infants their first conflicts. His research in psychosis showed that the disturbances in the libido take more of a toll than other disturbances such as the ego, and he used his theories in the research of schizophrenia.

He separated from Carl Jung because their views became different and Abraham began to see Jung’s practices as a hinder, not a help where psychoanalysis was concerned. When he started collaborating with Freud they studied manic depressive illness.

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist who was as influential as Sigmund Freud. He was born in Kesswil in Switzerland. His original intent was to study archeology, but the family finances made it impossible because the schools that taught archeology were too far away and made them too expensive to get to. He settled for studying medicine at the University of Basil, this is where he chose psychiatric medicine as his specialty.

When Jung collaborated with Freud they both studied the unconscious and many of Jung’s findings corroborated a lot of Freud’s ideas. After more than six years of researching together, Jung and Freud’s differing views of the nature of libido and religion finally breaks them apart. Jung felt Freud’s views relied too heavily on pointing toward sexuality when human behavior or psychological complexes was being researched.

Jung’s views were based on the thinking that the unconscious has a creative capacity. He felt that the unconscious serves a positive role in the human culture. Jung had many other interests including flying saucers, he believed they were a sort of psychic projection, he also felt these psychic projections were caused by the global hardships during that time. At one point, Jung went to India where he dreamt of things surrounding King Arthur. These dreams were interpreted by Jung as a message that he should be watchful of Western Spirituality. He did study Western Spirituality which led to interests in mystical traditions, esoteric Christianity and alchemy. When he spoke of what he learned about precognition and parapsychology, the response he received was less than desirable, this also helped lead to the termination of Freud and Jung’s relationship.

Jung developed many opinions of his own including one about the conscious and unconscious being united. He said if this were to happen then the person would actually come to realize their own potential. His work has contributed to the realization of personality tests which are used by many organizations today.

Sigmund Freud has often been called the father of psychoanalysis.  He was an Austrian neurologist as well as a psychiatrist and he co-founded the Psychoanalytic School of Psychology.  He started out planning to study law and was a student at the University of Vienna.  It was at this point that he published his first paper called, “the testicals of eels”.  Some people feel it was because of the research associated with this paper that he seemed to have related his work to signs of hidden sexuality.  In this research he was unsuccessful in finding the male genetalia of eels.

Although he is widely known for his theories related to the unconscious mind, they are controversial and many people not only disagree with them, they call them completely false.  Early on he tried to use hypnosis on patients who were diagnosed as hysterical.  This brought about several confessions of seduction or molestation.  When he was told about a molestation occurring where his friend was the victimizer he classified the confessions as false or made up.

He was among the first to choose talk therapy where the patients had the opportunity to work through their problems by talking through them.  This is now cognitive therapy and Freud’s talk therapy is where it started.

Despite all of his success he still came to suffer from some psychosomatic disorders as well as many phobias.  He used these as a chance to analyze himself as he sorted through his dreams and memories as well as noting what he found about how his personality developed over time.  Once he started looking so closely at this part of himself he discovered that he felt a genuine hostility toward his father as well as realizing that he had sexual feelings toward his mother.

Freud researched the unconscious mind for many years, determining dreams to be the road to the unconscious but after developing and redeveloping the different stages of the unconscious he abandoned it for the concept of the Ego, Super-ego and id.  This theory was about how children go through these stages in order to reach sexual maturity.  Their sexuality would be defined by a strong ego and they would delay gratification.  He also believed that all people have a strong desire for incest and that it must be held back in order to be accepted socially.

Freud, when faced with terminal mouth cancer and after more than 30 surgeries requested to have assisted suicide from his doctor and his friend for which he was obliged, he was given a triple dose of morphine every hour throughout the night after which he passed on.

As stated earlier, Freud’s work has always been and still is considered controversial but just as this is true; it is also true that his impact where psychotherapy is concerned has been seen throughout the years.  His theories and research is referenced by many people throughout the profession.

These men have all been connected at some point in their lives when it comes to their work.  Even though they have researched the same things they have each come up with their own opinions and ideas and eventually broke apart because of them.  The work of each person has sent psychotherapy in a different direction and continues still to influence therapy and research happening today.

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References:

Carl Jung. www.newworldencyclopedia.org;

Karl Abraham. www.newworldencyclopedia.org;

Alfred Adler. www.newworldencyclopedia.org;

Sigmund Freud. www.newworldencyclopedia.org;

Why Should Psychotherapists Be Excited About Adler? Carlson, J., Watts, R., Maniacci, M.

The Standard Family – S. Freud vs. E. Erikson: An analysis


The following vignettes are developed from a hypothetical scenario described by Doris Bergen in Human Development: Traditional and Contemporary Theories (p. 52-53). For benefit of the reader, I have included a “family tree” with the associated Freudian and Erikson-ian developmental stages.  (Just a heads up, you may need to click on the picture below to and open it in a separate browser window to grasp the rest of this article…)

The_Standard_Family

Janet and Henry getting divorced is about as close to worst possible scenario I can predict for their 5 kids, who range in age from 2 to 20.  Donnie may find his will significantly impacted, thereby leaving him unsure of himself and dependent on others’ evaluation of this worth.  It’s hard to say whether he will be the most effected or the least effected since, technically, he is probably too young to remember the divorce if it happens immediately.  I can also see potential for Donnie to be raised by one of his siblings, perhaps holly, since Janet will effectively be a single mother… although that all moves under the assumption that all the kids end up in custody with Janet.  Jason may have his ability to take on leadership roles impacted, and he may harbor feelings of guilt due to the divorce.  As mentioned previously, I believe it’s likely that Holly will fall into the unenviable position of taking on mother role for Donnie due to Janet being overwhelmed, but there are too many variables to predict exact outcomes.  She’s the only girl, my assumption that she will take on this role might be too biased or superficial… Furthermore, under the increased pressure, Erikson would suggest that it is likely that she will give up easily, refuse to make an effort at all, or feel less than competent at many aspects of her life.  Alan may find a lack of direction, feel unproductive, and be unsure of his own strengths as a direct result of unsuccessful resolution at the adolescent stage.  Brad is another quandary.  Part of me wants to believe he will be the least effected since he is likely already out of the house, but it really does depend on where he is at emotionally, financially, etc.  He may have relationship problems, become territorial or possessive.  He may find difficulty with the concept of love, which is unfortunate.  It will suffice to say that all the children will be significantly impacted.  It may also have a significant impact on Grandma Mildred Standard as she mulls over the legacy she has left this world.  Last but not least, there may be some residual effects on the rest of the family, but the interrelationships between and among the family members are not defined well enough to make reasonable predictions about the aftershock of the divorce between Janet and Harry.

Freud would certainly have a different take on the divorce when compared with Erikson.  Freud might suggest that little Donnie would end up being selfish, wasteful, or overly aggressive.  Jason would likely have sexual problems.  Holly may ultimately have difficulty attracting and retaining a sexual partner of her own.  Alan and Brad, according to Freud, would probably remain largely unaffected.  Although I hesitate to generalize or otherwise stereotype, I believe these effects could potentially be more pronounced in family centric cultures (i.e. The Chu Family, or the Ramierez family).  I would be interested in getting feedback on this, as I am suitably unfamiliar with the role of multiculturalism in this area.  Also, take note that this scenario is firmly rooted in the context of the time when the theory was written… we can only suppose the changes that “modern culture” has made on the potential effects of divorce on children.  Because divorce is so common today, it is reasonable to suggest that effects would be more pronounced (say, in the 1930s) as compared to today.  I believe this generalization holds true to all the scenarios, so for the sake of brevity, I will only address multiculturalism once… but for the inquisitive reader, please feel free to make the same basic assumptions about the remaining 6 scenarios…

If Brad graduates from college, I can see this having a huge impact on the entire family.  Brad sets the tone or an example for his 4 younger siblings.  Furthermore, being the oldest, he has the potential to greatly affect his parents since they are currently working through the process of helping and guiding the next generation (him).  His success or failure is inevitably his parents success or failure… funny how that works.  Brad’s success may have a significant impact on the marriage of Henry and Janet, and it will certainly have an impact on how they continue to raise the 4 younger children.  I would be led to believe that if Brad graduates from college, it might be fair to assume that Henry and Janet are doing something right.  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  Conversely, if he turns into a career criminal, I can see a very different upbringing for the younger kids.

In contrast to Erikson, Freud may see this event contribute to successful resolution of the younger children’s respective conflicts.  Donnie learns how to give and receive, Jason develops a stable gender identity, Holly is subsequently able to focus on school and learning, and Alan develops the ability to have adult intimacy.  It would appear that the weight of the world rests on Brad and his ambition to graduate from college…

If Howard comes down with Alzheimer ’s disease, there are a number of different effects that might come as a result.  The most impacted individual will be Sally, his new wife.  She is so much younger than him; I have to wonder if she would reconsider marrying a man that was 22 years older than her.  They are in two totally different categories, assuming pigeon-hole the couple based on age alone… 22 years is quite a gap.  Furthermore, I can see Sally being more concerned with guiding Sue than taking care of Howard.  There’s a storm brewing there.  Grandma Mildred may be effected to some degree because she is a member of the same cohort… it would frustrate and scare me that a peer came down with Alzheimer’s, I couldn’t resist the temptation to think “Am I next?”  Add to that the fact that Grandma Mildred is a widow, and it only compounds the health related concerns for her.  Freud didn’t really address much at this developmental stage, so we’ll leave the conjecture to Erikson.

The one I couldn’t resist is the scenario where Sue starts dating John.  Wow, what a mess.  I am not sure how far you have to be removed to consider yourself “far enough” to be dating a family member, but a marriage there could really twist up the relationships.  I can imagine that it would affect Bill and Ann the most, since they are the people responsible for guiding John in his intimacy vs. isolation struggle.  It would probably have a significant impact on the relationship of Howard and Sally… I can definitely see it making family reunions quite the rumor fest.

If Donnie was diagnosed with autism, I can see major changes in store for all the siblings, as well as for Henry and Janet.  I can see Jason suffering from a significant rivalry with his younger brother, fighting for attention.  Holly may come to find that she has little support (lack of attention and focus) on the part of her parents and her self-esteem will likely suffer as a result.  It’s difficult to know how Alan will be affected because he may be in the process of reexamining a lot of things in his life right now.  Lack of guidance may cause Brad to have difficulty forming intimate relationships or friendships.  Freud would definitely have something to contribute in this scenario.  In short, Donnie is probably in big trouble, hypothetically speaking… depending on his current level of development, he may be stuck at the oral phase and end up being a chain smoker, alcoholic, or a glutton.  If he managed to progress to Freud’s anal stage, Freud might suggest that he may have significant difficulty controlling aggressive impulses.  It stands to reason that the other children may also suffer the negative effects highlighted with in the section covering the divorce of Henry and Janet, although the influence would be from the other direction.  It leaves me curious, how would Freud’s explanation change if it were a sibling that caused the trauma, as compared to a parent?

Finally, if Grandma Mildred has an operation, she is the common denominator between and among all the members of the family.  Her death might cause a two-way or a three-way split in what is currently perceived as a single family system.  Her children, while still in their middle adulthood, may see themselves transitioning to “old age thinking” faster than they wish due to complications with their mom.  It appears unlikely that is Mildred passes away that Howard and his wife and step-daughter will be at the next reunion.  However, if the situation is simply surgery, sometimes family systems have a way of bonding in crisis… so I have confidence that this family system can make it through that trial.

Reference

Bergen, D. (2008). Human development: Traditional and contemporary theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Comparing and Contrasting S. Freud with E. Erikson


The course of personality and social-emotional development was permanently altered by writings of both Sigmund Freud and Eric Erikson.  “Although their theories have implications for other developmental areas, their primary focus was on explaining social and emotional developmental states and the personality dimensions that may be formed by experiences encountered in each stage.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 36)  This essay will attempt to highlight some of the strengths, and some of the criticisms of both Freud and Erikson.

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Rarely is the writing of a single individual so influential on a field that he becomes a household name… such is the case with Sigmund Freud.  We need only refer to a Freudian slip (a verbal mistake that expresses the unconscious mind’s feelings) to get clarity on how deep and wide his influence is.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 43)  “Freud was one of the first theorists who thought that the causes of human behavior could be discovered by scientific methods, and he used the methods that were available in his time to investigate the underlying developmental causes of adult mental health issues.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 37)  Adult is a key component of that statement, since Freud is best known for his phases of psychosexual development that begin with the “oral” phase (ages 0-1) and culminate with the “genital” phase (age 12+).  There is some irony that Freud worked almost exclusively with adults, yet the bulk of his theory was concerned with childhood.

Another basic construct that is inseparable from Freud is the concept of defense mechanisms.  Rationalization, repression, displacement, regression, projection, identification, reaction formation, and sublimation are all concepts that were born of and nurtured by Freud and his disciples.  He is credited with differentiating between the conscious, the unconscious, and the preconscious (the area between the two).  Freud not only put “the unconscious” on the map but he operationalized it in a new way—as a dynamic unconscious, laying down the foundation of a science of the unconscious.  (Lothane, 2006)  He is generally recognized as birthing of the concepts of id, ego, and superego.  All of these theories were the metaphorical shoulders on which the giants of psychological thought stand today… Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Anna Freud, Karen Horney, and Melanie Klein are all indebted to the work of S. Freud.  And that influence only takes the metaphorical couch into consideration… Freud’s real legacy lies beyond the couch in the application of psychoanalysis to community problems and social issues.  (Twemlow & Parens, 2006)

As can be expected with any theory or theorist, Freud is not without his critics.  Among the criticism is that his theory does not meet the test of falsifiability, primarily because they are not supported or discounted with empirical evidence.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 42)  Critics levy charges of “circular reasoning,” “predicting backwards,” “denigrating female development” with an overemphasis on male development in the Oedipal phase, and finally as a “dated construct” due to the fact that it was firmly situated in the Victorian society it attempted to describe.  The confusion around Freud and his theoretical constructs is that we appear to be misapplying Freudian concepts at present.  “Psychoanalysts have to decide whether to stay with the original meanings or to choose different and proper terminology to suit their new concepts instead of misapplying the original ones.”  (Fayek, 2002, p. 476)

Eric Erikson, while less known in contemporary layman circles, is no less influential.  “Erikson’s theory draws on many of Freud’s concepts; however, his emphasis is on explaining how healthy personalities develop rather than focusing on unhealthy developmental processes.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 43)

Like Freud, Eriksons work is increasing seen as dated due to ongoing changes in society at large.  For example, “it is certainly the case that adolescents do ‘try on’ many identities, but because of changing social conditions, they may not do that for a longer period of time without it having unhealthy consequences.”  (Bergen, 2008, p. 50)  Erikson’s discussion of the final two periods of life may also need revision dude to the fact that individuals live longer now than they did previously.  (Bergen, 2008, p. 51)

My biggest issue with Erikson is of a more personal nature.  It is generally well known that Erik Erikson had a 4th child who suffered from Down’s syndrome.  This son, who died at the age of 21, was effectively abandoned by him and his wife.  A psychoanalyst who was famous for effectively treating problem children failed to give even the minimum parental care to his own mentally challenged son.  One might question the integrity of an individual who would do such a thing, but the reality is that this experience shaped some of the critical aspects of Erikson’s theory of human development.  (Paranjpe, 2000)

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References

Bergen, D. (2008). Human development: Traditional and contemporary theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Fayek, A. (2002). Psychic reality and mental representation: Contemporary misapplications of Freud’s concepts. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 19(3), 475-500. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.19.3.475

Lothane, Z. (2006). Freud’s legacy–is it still with us?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 285-301. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.285

Paranjpe, A. C. (2000, Nov). Review of Identity’s architect: A biography of Erik H. Erikson. Canadian Psychology, 41(4), 288-289. doi: 10.1037/h0088184

Twemlow, S. W., & Parens, H. (2006). Might Freud’s legacy lie beyond the couch?. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 23(2), 430-451. doi: 10.1037/0736-9735.23.2.430