Updated: Jun 17
Sigmund Freud, an Austrian researcher, was the most influential and well-known personality in the history of Psychology and Human mental studies. He is also known as the Father of Psychology. Freud was the first who introduced the concept of examining mental disorders clinically. According to his psychoanalytic theory, humans’ unconscious mind is a repository of emotions and beliefs that can be figured out through dreams and instant reactions such as a slip of the tongue and first word. Moreover, he argued a deeper connection between a person’s childhood experience and later life. Some early life incident remains intact with him throughout his life.
Freud argued that the human mind could be divided into conscious and unconscious regions. The unconscious mind is hidden, deep, and inaccessible, which holds our emotions and memories, while the conscious mind is generally the front-end of our processing where we are truly aware of our actions. According to him, our mind remains in the continuous struggle, which he called the conflict between conscious and unconscious. He believed that studying the unconscious mind is critical to knowing the dynamics of our intended actions. For instance, Freud argued that Phobia is because of deeply hidden conflict in mind, restraining us from acts.
Freud Level of Consciousness:
He said that the conscious mind is one-tenth of the total sense, and the rest is unconscious. The unconsciousness heavily influences the conscious mind. However, when we are in the stage of consciousness, our unconscious mind is not being functioned. It is due to the process of repression that our mind performs. But, there are certain conditions when the unconscious mind dominates our conscious mind during consciousness. For instance, a slip of the tongue and the first instant word from the mouth is unconscious functioning that reflects our inner feelings.
Freud further argued that our unconscious mind constitutes three things that are the primary reason we react. These are id, Ego, and Superego, which hold their specific function for forming our personality. It is a room of emotions, desires, and urges, and it operates on a principle of Pleasure. All feelings, such as thirst, hunger, and sex, come through id. It produces a sense of self in humans. The interesting thing is that Dopamine is similar to Freud's because both are working on the pleasure Principle. However, Dopamine is a chemical and scientifically proven, but in the case of id, it is intangible or based on emotion so that it can be proved scientifically. Another thing in our unconscious mind, which counter id, is the Superego.
Superego remains in continuous conflict with the id. According to Freud, it is the storage of morals, values, and fear. It tells whether, what your id is telling, is socially acceptable or not. We can also conclude it as a warning system that checks on the id and stops you from being the victim of id gratification. For instance, you are sitting in a meeting with formal and senior people. Suddenly, you see an extremely delicious appetite, which you cannot avoid on the dining table prepared for all. However, you cannot eat until the meeting is in progress. Your id is constantly encouraging you to leave and eat, but your Superego is stopping you from that and warning if you would do that, the impression to others would not be good. This kind of conflict between id and Superego always keeps going in your mind.
Freud argued that nature designed an arbitrary for solving the conflict between id and Superego, which he named Ego. However, it, maybe, near to Freud helps the mind resolve the issue by letting you choose either id or Superego. However, it is only done so if it is that strong to make you decide and arrive at a particular point. For instance, you are in a debate with anyone, and due to some argument, you become angry. Your id is forcing you to act harshly, but Superego is telling you that you would have to face backlash or reaction if you did so. In this way, if you choose not to react harshly, the Ego has resolved the conflict, but if not, then, according to Freud, your mind will have developed a defense mechanism owing to the inability of Ego to resolve the tug of war running in mind.
If the Ego cannot solve the conflict, it tries to find the justification by initiating the defense mechanism. This defense mechanism works in different ways depending on the circumstances. Freud believed that there are eight ways through which a person's defense mechanism can justify its inability. Each one is discussed with details below:
When a person feels an event unpleasant, he starts refusing it by denying the facts. These can be done in two ways: by denials and conscious lies, for various reasons. According to Freud, those, who find anything embarrassing and shame, refuse to accept and deny it to maintain their worth. For instance, if somebody drinks alcohol, and someone asks him whether you are indulged in any kind of drinking habit, he denies that he is not because he feels that telling his secret would diminish his self-respect. This is what Freud called denial self-mechanism. On contrary, the conscious lies, which is used by politician, criminals, and wrongdoers for deceptive purpose. These are deliberately used and do not fit into the context of defense mechanisms.
It is about when a person transfers his urges and anger to a less threatening and more acceptable target or person. For example, you are angry because of your bad results, and if someone, who already had failed, asks about your failure, you just crackdown on him by magnifying his failure to satisfy your anger. Moreover, those, who are engaged in domestic violence displace their anger on women because those are less threatening targets, which is also an example of it.
Projection is done when a person attributes his unacceptable desires to others. For example, a person’s who can’t perform any task or take the challenge because of his imagination of inability, consider others that he also cannot do. Analogically, a test, which you consider is difficult and very challenging, has been accepted by your mind that it is near to impossible for you, so you project someone else that he also can’t pass that. Although he has the ability to go through that, your defense mechanism satisfies yourself by projecting others.
Rationalization is a self-defense mechanism when a person substitutes acceptable reasons for less-acceptable real reasons. For instance, the government is not able to deal with the burgeoning crisis, so it states that the former government has done an immense mess up that can’t be eliminated. This is an act of rationalization when another acceptable reason is replaced with unacceptable.
When a person conflicts, he sometimes adopts what other beliefs rather be stand on his views and perspective. For instance, you are anxious about a thing whether you could do that or not. For that, you ask for a suggestion from someone, and he says that you can’t do it. Thus, you start believing his views that maybe he his right, and I couldn’t do. However, in reality, there is no relevancy of his opinion, but because your mind was in the trap, it felt easy to adopt other views.
Regression, basically, a concept of returning to a certain point. In the case of Freud's theory of self-defense, it is about when a person starts behaving like his childhood. For instance, a person, who has recently done his diploma in painting, performs his artwork like he used to do in his childhood. Although he has matured with advanced tools, feeling comfortable in his childhood ways.
To make sleep down the memories and bad events is a process of repression. In it, a person, unconsciously, eliminate the past painful event. For instance, in the Netflix film “Guilt,” Kiara Advani didn’t remember, she is the victim of Rape which happened with her in childhood is a classic example of repression. It is like the vanishing of harsh memories from the store of mind. However, it could be revived depending on similar events recalling of memories.
Sublimation is about following desires through socially acceptable manners or norms. For instance, the mob lynching of a Sri Lankan national, who was working as a factory manager in Sialkot, by labor is an act of Sublimation. In this case, the social norms of mobbing, which has been developed in Pakistan, for blasphemy, is becoming an opportunity for people to revenge for personal causes by redirecting the acceptable norms. Religious extremism has been linked where people are killing because of their reasons by using social beliefs.
Psychosexual Development Theory:
He believed that a person’s personality is developed in a childhood stage of life. Later, whosoever we are, that depends on the nurturing and experiences which we hold during child. However, his arguments about the psychosexual stage are rejected by modern scientists, but still many believe childhood environment and development impact a personality to some extent. Erik Erikson, who became a proponent of Freud, argued that there is a deeper connection between one’s childhood and later life, but the personality is developed through the environment and surroundings which he named the Psychosocial Theory of Development.
Near to Freud, a person goes through the five stages of development: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital. These stages are characterized by a particular period of age. For instance, Oral (0-1), Anal (1-3), Phallic (3-6), Latency (6-12), and Genital (12+). In each stage, one develops a distinctive set of urges and pleasure which transform his mind.
Oral Stage of Development:
The stage starts when a child comes into the world and ends when he has spent one year of his life. This is the period when he is breastfeeding or bottling. The major body part, which is being functioned, is the mouth. Freud believed that if at infancy age, the child is not dealt with properly, at a later stage when he is grown, he would indulge in smoking, drinking, and nail eating. However, the assertion of Freud is discarded because there is no evidence or correlation that if a person is a smoker, he was not properly managed at his infancy age.
Anal Stage of development:
It is about the age period between 1 to 3 years. During this stage, a child is toilet-trained and taught self-control. Freud suggested that if a child is properly trained and learns the stuff of self-cleanliness, he would be lenient and flexible in nature. On the other hand, if he is dealt with rigidly and with less care, he would be stubborn and messy in nature. This logic is also rejected by the intellect.
Phallic Stage of development:
A child explores their genital organs at the stage during 3 to 6 years of age. Freud argued that at this period of their age they start developing an understanding of their gender existence. Moreover, the attraction and proximity towards the opposite sex are also being developed which is why a boy's love for his mother increases vice versa a girl loves to her father. Freud further added that the child sees their opposite-sex parent as a rivalry. For instance, the boy feels the need for more attention from his mother and considers his father a share taker of her love. The same situation happens with a girl where she strives for her father's care. However, Freud believed the Phallic stage of development was wrong because of various reasons. Owing to him putting all the balls in the court of nature, missed the role of social impacts. For example, it is, today, widely, believed by the researchers that sexual attraction is a societal construct, and a person can attract with the same sex. However, it is still in debate whether the heterogeneous sexual urges are innate or in-built in Human nature or not, but the fact is that in Freud time, gay or lesbian were considered as a taboo or psychological disorder, so maybe there was no such case of same sexual orientation that Freud considered. Secondly, it is normal that a can also be near to his father than his mother and girl to her mother; take an example of single parenting.
Latency stage of development:
It is a sleeping period of urges which starts from the phallic stage to puberty. In this stage, all the attraction towards the opposite sex has been in the dormant stage, and the kid is engaged with their social life: friends, schools, family, so the development which happened in the Phallic stage goes in latency.
Genital Stage of development:
It is the age of puberty when a child is being transformed to physical maturity. Near to Freud, it is the reviving stage. The glimpse of urges or attraction, that a child witnessed in the Phallic stage, is finally in complete shape. Freud believed that if a kid completed all the pre-Genital stage successfully becomes a healthy young boy, but those who could not have succeeded, have to face issues with development.
Sigmund Freud Concept of Dream:
Dreams, in history, were considered that these are the messages or signs from God. If somebody sees something good in these, it is a positive indication, or if anything unpleasant is looked at, the curse and bad thing will happen to you. However, Freud's concepts about dreaming were different. He believed that dreams are part of our unconscious mind, and because it constitutes memories and experience, the dreams tell the mental conditions such as phobias and anxiety. Freud considered dreams as the Psychoanalytical stuff. According to him, two types of content occur in a person’s dream. The Manifest content, which is the main part of the script. The Latent content is the hidden message that is embedded in Manifest content, which can only be understood by decoding. For instance, if a woman sees a wild animal is running her behind, and she is trying to save herself, means she had a bad experience of sexual abuse wherein saving herself is the main storyline or manifest content, and the wild animal is that person of which she became the victim.
Is Sigmund Freud Hypothesis Falsifiable?
There are some Hypotheses in social science that cannot be falsified. Among them, some are of Freud as well. For instance, his idea of ID, Pre-consciousness, and consciousness cannot be declared completely null on the Empirical method which means they are out of the purview of empirical observations and testing. It is the same as that one can raise an argument against the theologians’ concepts of death and soul, but cannot destroy empirically.