Sunday, June 10, 2012

Following Freud

Although I do believe that early childhood contributes to patterned ways of thinking, unlike Freud, I do not believe it is the singular contributing factor. I believe other factors include our immediate external and internal biological environment as well as the strength and limitations of our brain structures, genetics, and probably others. Freud was compelled to see every bit of human behavior through a sexual lens. This was the vehicle by which he introduced his brilliance to the world as well as the perspective from which he could not escape. Not to claim that I truly understand Freud, but I assume inevitably, he was who he was.

To me, Freud’s most significant contribution was taking psychology out of the laboratory and embarking upon his (albeit skewed) version of individualized therapy. Erickson’s brilliant theory of psychosocial development and personality theory are valuable, although I cannot help but think psychosocial development is only one linear perspective of human nature. So, I would follow Freud, but only enough to take his idea that we do become, at least in part, who we are at a much earlier age than many would agree.

I follow more of the idea that we are one part childhood and continued experiences, another part biological circumstances, another part genetically-maneuvered cellular combinations, and another part human spirit. I would not entertain trying to decipher which played a greater role – it is probably what we would call a unique cultural context. But I do believe the last component – the human spirit is a significant force. I like to believe that we are not simply human beings with a spirit, but spiritual beings with a human body, which, as you are well aware, causes an awful lot of dissonance.

Ellenberger (1970) said Freud once told his doctor that of all his patients, he was the one who kept himself the busiest. I think Freud was self-aware enough to be aware of his self-centered exploration. I also believe he did find a piece of himself that he recognized as human nature, and although skewed by his own sexuality, the findings were brilliant. Which is probably why many in the psychological professions still consider him the father of psychology.

Ellenberger, H. F. (1970). The discovery of the unconscious: The history and evolution of dynamic psychiatry. New York: Basic Books.

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