Freud The Pioneer
( Originally Published 1920 )
There are few orthodox Freudians at the present day. Few analysts accept all the conclusions which the creator of psychoanalysis reached, but all of them without any exception accept his premises. There is a psychoanalytic point of view which is common to the four principal exponents of the science, Freud, Jung, Adler and Kempf.
I have told elsewhere how Freud gradually came to that point of view, discarding many of his earlier theories as new evidence compelled this most conscious and modest of scientists to revise his own findings.
This chapter will be devoted to a brief exposition of the Freudian theories. In the chapters devoted to Jung, Adler and Kempf, I shall endeavour to bring out further details of it by showing to what extent these scientists disagree with the great pioneer.
The Freudian point of view is presented principally in three of Freud's books, the "Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory," the "Psychopathology of Every Day Life" and the "Interpretation of Dreams." The lectures he delivered at Clark University when he visited the United States and his "Introduction to Psychoanalysis" supply laymen with a clear and intelligible summary of his theories.
Freud considers that a study of dreams is the surest way to penetrate man's unconscious. The dreams of children are very easily understood: they are invariably the fulfilment of wishes which were aroused in children during the day and were not satisfied. The dreams of adults present more difficulties. They undergo a process of distortion, of disguise. The idea which underlies them was meant for a quite different verbal expression.
The manifest dream content is a disguised substitute for the unconscious dream thoughts, and this disguise is the work of the defensive forces of the ego, of the resistances.
These prevent the repressed wishes from entering the consciousness in our waking hours, and even in the relaxation of sleep, they are still strong enough to force them to hide themselves under a mask, to don a symbolical disguise.
By studying the irruptive ideas which arise through free association, we can discover the actual dream thoughts.
They are no longer incomprehensible; they are associated with the impressions of the day preceding the dream and appear as the fulfilment of ungratified wishes.
The manifest dream which we remember after waking may then he described as the disguised fulfilment of repressed wishes.
The analysis of dreams reveals, according to Freud, the unsuspected importance which impressions and experiences from early childhood exert on human beings. In the dream life of the adult, the child continues to live and retain all the traits and wishes he ever had, even those which he was -obliged to abandon in later years. Dream study enables one to realize through what complicated processes of development, repression, sublimation and reaction the normal adult has gradually grown out of the child.
Anxiety dreams do not invalidate the theory of wish fulfilment, for anxiety is one of the ways in which the ego relieves itself of repressed wishes which have become too strong and, therefore, anxiety can easily be experienced if the dream has gone too far toward the fulfilment of an objectionable wish.
Faulty actions are another class of phenomena which throw much light upon the workings of our unconscious. The forgetting of things which one is supposed to know, like proper names, in certain cases, slips of the tongue, mistakes in writing or reading, the automatic execution of purposive acts in wrong situations, the loss or breaking of certain objects, all these are trifles for which no one before Freud had sought a psychological explanation and which had always been considered as the consequences of absent-mindedness, inattention, etc.
This should also include actions and gestures which the subject performs unknowingly, such as playing with objects (buttons, pencils), humming melodies, handling one's person or clothing and the like.
These insignificant actions are not without meaning. They spring from the same sort of repressed wishes which are at the bottom of our dreams.
Such investigation, Freud states, trace hack the symptoms of mental disease with surprising regularity to impressions from the sexual life. They show that the pathogenic wishes are erotic cravings and that disturbances of the erotic sphere are the most important factors of mental disease.
Psychoanalysis may at first trace the symptoms, not to sexual happenings but to banal traumatic experiences. This distinction, however, loses its significance through other circumstances. The analytic research work which is necessary for the thorough explanation and the complete cure of mental disease does not stop in any case with the experiences which coincided with the onset of the disease. It goes back in every case to the adolescence and childhood of the patient. Here only does Freud find the impressions and experiences which determine the later sickness. It is the in-compatible, repressed wishes of childhood which lend their power to the creation of symptoms.
These mighty wishes of childhood are very generally sexual in their nature.
Sexual impulses do not enter the child's life at puberty; the child brings them with him into the world and from these, what we call the "normal" sexuality of the adult gradually develops.
The sexual impulse of the child is very complex and can be analysed into many components arising from different sources. It is not at first related to the function of reproduction. It enables the child to secure various forms of pleasurable sensations such as the auto-excitation of certain particularly sensitive parts of the body, genitals, rectum, skin and other surfaces. Thumb sucking is a good example of this form of gratification.
As in this first phase of the child's sexual life the child finds the gratification he seeks in his own body, Freud calls this period the period of auto erotism.
Besides auto-erotic manifestations, Freud finds in the early life of the child impulse components of the libido which presuppose a second person as their object.
These impulses appear in opposed pairs, active and passive. The most important pairs of this group are sadism and masochism, the pleasure of inflicting pain and the pleasure of suffering pain, and the active and passive forms of exhibitionism.
From the passive form of exhibitionism is derived the impulse toward artistic or histrionic representation. From the active form, scientific curl osity.
The differences between the sexes play no very important part in the child's life and there is in every child a homosexual tendency.
The sexual life of the child, varied but inorganized, in which each single craving goes about seeking its satisfaction independently from the others, becomes gradually organized in two directions and, at the time of puberty, the definite sex of the individual is clearly determined.
The various cravings submit themselves to the primacy of the genital zone and the entire sexual life is taken over into the service of procreation.
Object choice prevails over auto-erotism and the love object satisfies all the separate cravings of the sex urge.
But many of the original components of that urge are given no share in the final shaping of the sexual life. Even before the advent of puberty, certain cravings had been submitted to the strongest repression by education. Shame, disgust, morality prevent the repressed cravings from asserting themselves.
Every process of development brings with itself the germ of pathological predispositions whenever it is inhibited, delayed or incompletely carried out. This is true of the sexual development. In some individuals it may not be completed and it may leave in its wake abnormalities or a predisposition to later diseases by the way of regression. Some cravings which have not fallen under the domination of the genital zone may cause a perversion. The original equality of the sexes may be maintained and homosexualism is the result.
The neuroses contain the same cravings found in perversions but in a negative form. Those cravings have undergone a repression but maintain themselves as complexes in the unconscious.
Exaggerated expression of a craving in very early life leads to a fixation.
The child takes both parents as an object of his erotic wishes but soon singles out one of them, following in that respect the example set by his parents, the father preferring his daughter, the mother, her son. The child reacts to that choice and if a son, wishes himself in the place of his father, if a daughter in the place of her mother.
The feelings aroused by such relations between parents and offspring are not only of a positive and affectionate nature but of a hostile and negative nature as well.
A situation ensues which can be roughly represented by the myth of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother.
This fixation which is submitted at an early age to a strong repression is to Freud's mind the central complex of every neurosis.
About the time when the child is still obsessed by this complex his attention is drawn towards the processes of reproduction and he begins to seek solutions for the question: where do children come from? Children build up at that time a number of pregnancy and birth theories which reappear in later life in many neuroses.
The neurotic disturbance is simply the individual's flight from a reality in which his repressed cravings cannot be gratified. The resistance of the neurotic against any cure is due to the fact that he is not certain that the substitute gratification offered him by his sickness can be replaced in reality by something better.
The neurotic flight from reality takes place over the path of regression, through a return to earlier stages of life in which gratification was not lacking. The regression is "a twofold one, for the libido regresses not only to an earlier stage of development, but also adopts primitive, archaic forms of expression.
We are all, whether we are normal or abnormal, seeking an escape from, reality. The strong, energetic man tries by dint of labour to make his wishes come true and. generally succeeds. If the individual displeased with reality possesses artistic talent he can transform his fancies into artistic creations. The neurosis takes in our days the place of the cloister in which the weak and disappointed took refuge.
The neurosis has no psychic content of its own which cannot be found in healthy minds. The struggle for life leads either to success and health, or to compensatory activities or to the neurosis.
Freud has divided mental disturbances into neuroses, psychoneuroses and psychoses.
The true neuroses are anxiety neurosis and neurasthenia, Their cause lies in the present and in the abnormal condition of the sexual function.
The psychoneuroses are hysteria and the obsession neurosis, in which the real causative factors belong to the patients' early childhood.
In psychoneuroses as well as in neuroses the factors of the disturbance are sexual, but in the psychoneuroses the influence of heredity is more important.
Heredity finds its expression in a peculiar psychosexual constitution which asserts itself in an abnormally strong and many-sided instinctive life and a resultant sexual precocity.
Between the compelling instinct and the opposing force of sexual denial, the way is prepared for some disturbance which does not solve the conflict but seeks to escape it by changing the libidinous cravings into symptoms of disease.
Besides actual heredity, however, there is a pseudo-heredity which is after all the influence of the environment. Neurotic parents may not pro-create neurotic children but they bring up their children to be neurotics.
Freud does not classify the psychoses according to their clinical picture but according to their mechanism, into overpowering psychoses and defence psychoses. In the former, the unconscious has completely overcome the conscious and the ego has torn itself loose from some unbearable idea. For instance a girl disappointed in love imagined for two months that she was living with her lover and in that abnormal way had her wishes fulfilled.
The defence psychoses are characterized by the violent repression of an idea. In dementia praecox there is a withdrawal of the libido from the objects of the external world. Freud observed a group of paranoia cases arising from repression of painful memories. The libido fastening itself to the ego complex may lead to ideas of grandeur, which explains the connection between persecution mania and grandiose delusions. As far as the periodic melancholia is concerned, Freud asserts that it dissolves itself with unexpected frequency into obsessional ideas and obsessional affects.
In other words, insanity is no longer considered as a brain disease or as a set of absurd symptoms grouped in varying clinical pictures. Insanity is an abnormal asset for the insane, a dream from which he does not awaken and which supplies him with an abnormal form of wish-fulfilment.
The analytic treatment as outlined by Freud conlists in letting the patient talk on any subject he pleases, since nothing can occur to him which does not bear on the complex which the analyst is seeking. The patient often stops and pretends that he has nothing more to say. This indicates that the patient is holding back or rejecting certain ideas because his unconscious resistance masquerades as a critical judgment of the value of the ideas. The patient can avoid that if he is warned in advance and told not to pass any judgment on the ideas that come to his mind, however unessential, irrelevant, nonsensical or personally unpleasant they may be.
These irruptive ideas which the patient values little, "are to the analyst like the ore which can be transformed through simple processes into valuable metal." If one desires to gain in a short time a preliminary knowledge of the patient's repressed complexes, the examination can be conducted with the help of association experiments.
This procedure is to the analyst what qualitative analysis is to the chemist. It may be dispensed with in the therapy of neurotic patients, but it is indispensable in the study of the psychoses.
This is followed by dream study and the close observation of the patient's involuntary, faulty actions, etc.
Freud attaches a great importance to the phenomenon known as the transference which he considers as further evidence of the sexual forces which are at the bottom of the neurosis.
The patient, he says, directs toward the person of the physician a great amount of tender emotion, often mixed with enmity, which has no foundation in any real relation, and must be derived in every respect from the old wish-fancies of the patient which have become unconscious.
Every fragment of his emotional life, which can no longer be called back into memory, is accordingly lived over by the patient in his relation to the physician, and only by living it over in the transference is he convinced of the power of those unconscious sexual stimuli. The symptoms which, to use a chemical expression, are the precipitates of earlier love experiences, using the word love in its broadest sense, can only be dissolved in the high temperature of the experience of transference and transformed into other psychic products.
The phenomenon of transference is not created by the psychoanalytic treatment. It arises spontaneously in all human relations and in the relations of the patient to the physician. It is everywhere the bearer of therapeutic influences and the stronger it is the less one is aware of its presence.
Psychoanalysis does not create it but simply reveals it to consciousness and avails itself of it to direct the psychic processes toward a certain goal.
People ignorant of the analytic technique often express the fear that by causing certain unconscious cravings to rise to consciousness those cravings may overpower the patient's ethical strivings and rob him of his cultural acquisitions.
Experience teaches, Freud states, that the physical and mental power of a wish whose repression has failed, is incomparably stronger when it remains unconscious than when it is made conscious. The unconscious wish cannot be influenced and is not hindered by strivings in the opposite direction, while the conscious wish is inhibited by other conscious wishes of an opposite nature.
What then becomes of the cravings which were set free by analysis? How can they be made harmless for the individual?
The craving is generally "consumed" during the analysis by the correct mental activity of opposite wishes which are conscious and more valuable socially. Repression is replaced by condemnation. This is easy, Freud thinks, as we have only in the majority of the cases, to efface the effects of earlier developmental stages of the ego.
Analysis may also reveal that some unconscious cravings can be gratified in ways which would have been found earlier if the development of the individual had not been disturbed. The mere extirpation of infantile wishes is not the ideal aim of development, for the neurotic loses, through his repressions, many sources of mental energy which could have been utilized for his character building and his life activities.
Sublimation is a process which directs the energy of the infantile wish-stimuli toward a higher goal, eventually no longer sexual. The components of the sexual urge have a great capacity for sublimation and can exchange their sexual goal for one more remote and socially valuable. "To the utilization of the energy reclaimed in such a way, in the activities of our mental life, we probably owe the highest cultural achievements. As long as an impulse is repressed, it cannot be sublimated. After the removal of the repression, the way to sublimation is open."