Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sigmund Freud - Father of Psychology


Sigmund Freud

In my various undergraduate classes I recall hearing gasp coming from fellow students (usually female) that accompanied the introduction of Freud's ideas on the Oedipus complex, and Electra complex. I took many Psychology classes, and so I heard this gasp many times. Freud certainly pushed the envelop on the subject of incest, but why?

In order to understand Freud we first have to look at the times in which he lived. Sexual repression was the order of the day in Freud's time just as it is today, only much worse. Freud was in effect a release valve for the sexually repressed people's of the time in which he lived. If Freud had lived in a less sexually repressed society he would have been less radical in his attempt at uncovering universal subconscious desires (drives) likely to offend the sensibilities of those most likely to deny them - the advocates of sexual repression.

Aside from incest Freud also proposed that "Penis Envy" drove women to ultimately submit to gender role identification with their mothers. Freud's model seems to be an overly simplistic proposal for such a complex process, but I believe Freud was searching for the origin of a gender role identification process which made the evolutionary transition from primates to humans.

While many of his proposals seem highly questionable today the fact that he was looking at instincts as a source of behavior (i.e., proto-behavior) was quite incredible for the time in which he lived. He was applying Darwinian principles in approaching an understanding of human psychology long before anyone else.

Freud greatest fault was that he was born into a time in which scientific instrumentation wasn't sufficiently advanced. Surely Freud would have advocated a more precise, and perhaps more complex, model of human biological, and psychological processes if he had lived today.

Despite Freud's limitations there are many observations which Freud recorded that are considered significant, and useful today. His ideas related to the subconscious are beginning to regain consideration. Freud blazed the trail for a field which had been the realm of the philosopher, and the Priest. His psychoanalytic theory led the way to the development of Psychology into the modern social science that it is today.

Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychology was my second "guest prophet".

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