Freud Psychology's Man Of Genius?

2678 words - 11 pages

Some commentators have referred to Sigmund Freud as “Psychology’s man of genius”. Evaluate this claim, with reference to his work and impact on the discipline of Psychology.

Sigmund Freud analyzed the human mind to a greater extent than did any other scientist who came before him. His contribution to psychology is enormous and his work has influenced not only areas concentrated around psychology but also literature, art and even the manner in which parents raise their children. Even though much of his work is refereed to as a ‘fallacy’, his findings remain relevant and applicable to this day.

Freud hypothesized that personality emerged through a series of stages of psychosexual ...view middle of the document...

As a result, they begin to view their fathers as an enemy and a competitor for their mother’s affection. However, due to a fear of punishment such as castration by their father, boys begin to suppress their feelings towards their mothers and start to identify with their father rather than compete with him. These feelings are collectively termed as the Oedipus Complex. The same effect was said to occur in girls and was termed the Electra Complex. Freud believed that a fixation at this stage may result in sexual divergence and confused or weak sexual identity. From the age of six until puberty, children were said to evolve through the Latency stage whereby their sexual urges are repressed and substituted by sports or other hobbies. During this stage, children interact mostly with peers of the same sex which helps them suppress their sexual feelings. The last of Freud’s psychosexual stages was said to occur from puberty onwards and is said to be the Genital stage. At this time, sexual urges are said to be reawakened and through experience from previous stages, adolescents aim their sexual feelings towards peers of the opposite sex. Although some terms from the psychosexual development stages are widely used today, the theory behind this model does not stand up to scrutiny and has been abandoned.

There is much controversy around Freud’s work because most of his data is not empirical and is mainly based on assumptions. He described the human mind as consisting of three distinct components, the Id, the Ego and the Superego (Freud, 1922). He believed that the Id functioned at an unconscious level based on a pleasure principle. He theorized that the Ego emerges from the Id during the period of infancy and that its function is to meet the demands of the Id in a socially acceptable and safe way. Freud believed that the Ego functions in both the unconscious and the conscious mind. The Superego was said to develop during early childhood and its responsibility is to ensure that moral standards are obeyed. Freud believed it operates based on morality and rends humans able to behave in a socially acceptable manner. He also believed that often, the three components of the human mind make demands that are incompatible with each other leading to a dilemma which Freud believed to be the source of inner conflict. For example, if rules are not followed due to behavior arising from the Id, the Superego can make a person experience guilt. To resolve the conflict, the ego may implement a range of defense mechanisms (Freud, 1894, 1896) in order to avoid an overwhelming anxiety.

Although the psychosexual stages of development and Id, Ego and Superego are now known to be incorrect, Freud’s discovery of defense mechanisms remains relevant to this day. He claimed that during experiences of threat, guilt or anxiety, the Ego employs a variety of defense mechanisms, which operate at an unconscious level. Some of the main mechanisms include Repression whereby the individual...

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