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  • This is a thinker who helps us understand why our lives and relationships

  • are full of so much confusion and pain. He tells us why life is hard, and how to cope.

  • His own life incurred a lot of anxiety. Sigmund Schlomo Freud was born to a middle-class Jewish family

  • in 1856.

  • His professional life was not an immediate success. As a medical student,

  • he dissected hundreds of eels in an unsuccessful attempt to locate their reproductive organs.

  • He promoted cocaine as a medical drug, but it turned out to be a dangerous and addictive idea.

  • A few years later he founded the discipline that would ultimately make his name.

  • A new psychological medicine he called

  • PSYCHOANALYSIS

  • The landmark study was his 1900 book The Interpretation of Dreams.

  • Many others followed.

  • Despite his success, he was often unhappy.

  • During some particularly strenuous research he recorded, "The chief patient I am preoccupied with is myself.”

  • He was convinced he would die between 61 and 62 and had great phobias about those numbers.

  • Although he actually died much later, at age 83.

  • Perhaps because of his frustrations, Freud achieved a series of deep insights into the

  • sources of human unhappiness.

  • He proposed that we are all driven by the

  • Pleasure Principle

  • which inclines us towards easy physical and emotional rewards

  • and away from unpleasant things like drudgery and discipline. As infants we are guided more or less solely

  • according to the pleasure principle, Freud argued.

  • But it will, if adhered to without constraints, lead us to dangerous reckless things

  • like never doing any work eating too much

  • or, most notoriously, sleeping with members of own family.

  • We need to adjust to what Freud called

  • THE REALITY PRINCIPLE

  • Though we all have to bow to this reality principle, Freud believed that

  • there were better and worse kinds of adaptations. He called the troublesome ones

  • NEUROSES

  • Neuroses are the result of faulty negotiations withor in Freud's language,

  • repression ofthe pleasure principle.

  • Freud described a conflict between three parts of our minds: the

  • the ID

  • driven by the pleasure principle,

  • the SUPEREGO

  • driven by a desire to follow the rules and do the right thing according to society.

  • and

  • the EGO

  • which has to somehow accommodate the other two.

  • To understand more about these dynamics, Freud urged us to think back to the origins of our

  • neuroses in childhood.

  • As we grow up, we go through what Freud termed

  • THE ORAL PHASE

  • where we deal with all the feelings around ingestion and eating.

  • If our parents aren't careful we might pick up all kinds of neuroses here: we might take

  • pleasure in refusing food, or turn to food to calm ourselves down,

  • , or hate the idea of depending on anyone else for food.

  • Then comes

  • THE ANAL PHASE

  • which is closely aligned with what we now callpotty-training".

  • During this period, our parents tell us what to do, and when to go.

  • At this phase we begin to learn about testing the limits of authority.

  • Again, if things go wrong, if we don't feel authority is benign enough,

  • we might, for example, choose to withhold out of defiance.

  • Then, as adults, we might becomeanally retentive”; in other words, not able to

  • give or surrender.

  • Next comes,

  • THE PHALLIC PHASE

  • which goes until about age 6. Freud shocked his contemporaries by insisting that little

  • children have sexual feelings. Moreover, in the phallic phase children direct their sexual

  • impulses towards their parents, the most immediately available and gratifying people around.

  • Freud famously described what he called

  • THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX

  • Where we are unconsciously predisposed towards

  • being in love with the one parent and hating the other.”

  • What is complex is that no matter how much our parents love us, they cannot extend this to sexual life

  • and will always have another life with a partner. This makes our young selves

  • feel dangerously jealous and angryand also ashamed and guilty about this anger.

  • The complex provides a huge amount of internalised worry for a small child.

  • Ultimately, most of us experience some form of confusion around our parents

  • that later ties into our ideas of love.

  • Mum and dad may both give us love, but they often mix it in with disturbed behavior.

  • Yet because we love them, we remain loyal to them and also to their bizarre, destructive patterns.

  • For example, if our mother is cold, we will be apt nevertheless to long for her.

  • And as a result, however, we may be prone to always associate love with a certain distance.

  • Naturally, the result is very difficult adult relationships. Often the kind of love we've learned from mum and dad

  • means we can't fuse sex and love

  • because the people we learnt about love from are also those we were blocked from having sex with. We might find that the

  • more in love with someone we are, the harder it becomes to make love to them.

  • This can reach a pitch of crisis after a few years of marriage and some kids.

  • Freud compared the issues we so often have with intimacy to hedgehogs in the winter.

  • they need to cuddle for warmth, but they also can't come too close because they're prickly.

  • There's no easy solution. Freud says we can't make ourselves fully rational,

  • and we can't change society, either. In his 1930 book Civilization and its Discontents,

  • Freud wrote that society provides us with many things, but it does this by imposing

  • heavy dictates on us: insisting that we sleep with only a few (usually one) other,

  • imposing the incest taboo, requiring us to put off our immediate desires, demanding that we follow authority

  • and work to make money. Societies themselves are neurotic

  • that is how they function and it's why there are constant wars and other troubles.

  • Freud attempted to invent a treatment for our many neuroses, he called it, psychoanalysis.

  • He thought that with a little proper analysis, people could uncover what ails them

  • and better adjust to the difficulties of reality.

  • In his sessions, he analyzed a number of key things.

  • He looked at people's dreams, which he saw as expressions of

  • WISH FULFILLMENTS

  • He also looked at

  • PARAPRAXES

  • or slips of the tongue.

  • We now call these revealing mistakes

  • FREUDIAN SLIPS

  • Like when we writethighwhen we wanted to writethough”.

  • He also liked to think about jokes. He believed that jokes often help us make fun of something

  • symbolic like death or marriage, and thus relieve some of our anxiety about these topics.

  • There's a temptation to say Freud just made everything up, and life isn't quite so hard

  • as he makes it out to be. But then one morning we find ourselves filled with

  • inexplicable anger towards our partner, or running high with unrelenting anxiety on the train to work,

  • and we're reminded all over again just how elusive, difficult, and Freudian

  • our mental workings actually are.

  • We could still reject his work, of course. But as Freud said,

  • No one who disdains the key will ever be able to unlock the door.”

  • We could all use a bit more of Freud's ideas

  • to help us unpick ourselves.

This is a thinker who helps us understand why our lives and relationships

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B1 UK freud principle phase love pleasure psychoanalysis

PSYCHOTHERAPY - Sigmund Freud

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