Psychoanalysis Theory by Sigmund Freud                   

Sigmund Freud was a doctor cum philosopher. Being a doctor, his interest was in the way human mind affected the body. As a philosopher, Freud’s interest was in looking at the relationship of between mental functioning and certain basic structures of civilizations, such as religious beliefs and incest taboos. Given below is an overview of the Psychoanalysis theory by Sigmund Freud.

Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious Mind:

When Freud Discusses Civilization in his book Civilization and its Discontents, he observes two basic functions- pleasure principle and reality principle, at operation.

  • Pleasure principle allows an individual to do whatever he wishes to do. For example, an individual suddenly feels to slap another individual and he does it so, he has acted according to pleasure principle. The pleasure principle urges for adventure because it thrills and makes us do things which feel good.
  • The reality principle urges an individual to act rationally according to the norms, customs and ethics. For example, an individual wants to slap another individual but he does not do it because he is aware that it is against the moral ethics. The reality principle urges us to channelize our energy into a constructive work like sports or writing.
  • The subordination of pleasure principle by the reality principle is a psychological process and Sigmund Freud calls this process
  • The pleasure principle is always inclined for the fulfillment of desires but such desires are repressed by reality principles in to a specific are of mind which Sigmund Freud terms as
  • The unconscious is inaccessible and one cannot access unconscious, directly, by thinking about it. However, there are some indirect routes into the content of unconscious.
  • The first and foremost is dreams. Sigmund Feud in the Interpretation of Dreams says that dreams are the symbolic fulfillments of dearies and wishes which cannot be fulfilled because they have been repressed.
  • What we see in dreams are repressed desires which cannot be discussed in consciousness as they are forbidden, so, they come out in dreams in strange ways.
  • For example, an individual wants to have sex with a famous actress but he cannot fulfill this desire neither can he express this in front of others so this desire can be fulfilled in dreams in different ways. This is the reason of wet dreams for many of the young boys.
  • Dreams use to main mechanisms for disguising the forbidden desires: condensation and displacement.
  • When a whole set of images and statements is packed into a single image or statement is called condensation.
  • Displacement is where the meaning of one symbol or image gets pushed onto something associated to it which then displaces its original image.
  • For example, metonymy, where one thing is said and the real meaning something associated to it in different way. When we say Islamabad, the real meaning is government of Pakistan. Here one image is displaced by the other.
  • Another way going into unconscious of an individual is parapraxes or slips of tongues. Freud discusses this in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
  • Sigmund Freud says that errors and mistakes in speech, writing and reading are not coincidences or accidents rather they reveal something that has been repressed into unconscious.
  • In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Sigmund Freud says that jokes are the third way accessing unconscious because jokes always indicate the repressed wishes and desires.

The three routes mentioned above tell us that psychoanalysis urges us to pay a very close attention the language and use of the language in different situations. This clearly indicates that psychoanalysis is closely related to literary criticism because the analysis of any kind for psychoanalysis is done on the basis of language.

 Psychoanalysis and the Psyche:

In 1923, Freud developed a structural model of mind possessing three hypothetical conceptualization entities: Id, Ego, and Super Ego. It is important to tell that these are not the physical sections on mind.

  • Id: According to Freud, Id operates at unconscious level according to pleasure principle. The Id is a demand to purely satisfy the wish immediately. For example, an individual does not like his classmate and out of hate he wants to beat his classmate. So in such case the Id force always urges the individual to satisfy this demand. When such demands are fulfilled, the individuals are termed as Id governed individuals because their Id force is stronger.
  • According to Sigmund Freud, this Id has two basic instincts: Eros and Thanatos.
  • Eros is a life instinct. It helps the individual to survive. It directs life survival activities such as respiration, eating, and sex.  These life instincts for the case of survival create energy which Freud calls as Libido.
  • Thanatos is a death instinct. It a set of destructive forces present in all human beings. When this energy is directed outward onto others, it is expressed as aggression and violence.
  • Ego: The ego follows the reality principle and it operates in both the conscious and unconscious mind.  The ego’s prime aim is to satisfy the demands and wishes of the id in a safe a socially acceptable way. For example, a person wants to watch porn movies but he cannot watch in public because of so many societal factors. This wish is an Id demand and he wants to satisfy it at any cost so this will be channelized by Ego and he would watch porn in solitude.
  • Super Ego: The superego is responsible for ensuring moral standards are followed. The superego operates on the morality principle and motivates us to behave in a socially responsible and acceptable manner. For example, a person is left in a room with a strange lady and is asked to do sex but he does not do it because he thinks it is against the norms of societal morality and religion. Such people are governed by Super Ego.

The Oedipus complex:

  • The Oedipus complex is a concept of psychoanalytic theory.
  • Sigmundintroduced the concept in his Interpretation of Dreams (1899)
  • Oedipus complex is the most important aspect of the phallic stage in psychosexual developmental stages. .
  • Oedipus complex derives its name from the Greek myth where Oedipus, a young man, kills his father and marries his mother. On the discovery of this, he takes his eyes out and becomes blind.
  • In a boy (age 3-6), the Oedipus complex arises because the boy develops sexual (pleasurable) desires for his mother. He wants to geet rid of his father and take possession of his mother.  Hence the boy develops castration anxiety. Castration anxiety is a fear of a child that his genitalia will be harmed by the parent of the same sex as retribution for sexual feelings for the other parent.
  • For resolving this fear and problem, little boy starts imitating, copying and joining in masculine dad-type behaviors.  This is called identification.
  • Freud (1909) offered the Little Hans case study as evidence of the Oedipus complex.
  • Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex” and Shakespeare`s “Hamlet” can be taken as best literary examples for Oedipus complex.

Electra complex:

  • Electra complex is the opposite of Oedipus complex.
  • It is developed in girls to possess father.
  • The girl realizes that she does not have a penis.  This leads to the development of penis envy and the wish to be a boy.
  • The girl resolves this problem by repressing her desire for her father.  The girl blames her mother for her ‘castrated state,’ and this creates great tension.  The girl identifies with the mother to take on the female gender role.