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Issues surrounding Freud's stages of psychosexual development.

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Introduction

Alex Jockelson Issues surrounding Freud's stages of psychosexual development Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centred on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, a single body part is particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation. These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. The child's libido centres on behaviour affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age; he cannot focus on the primary erogenous zone of the next stage without resolving the developmental conflict of the immediate one. A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; overindulgence stems from such an ample meeting of these needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. Both frustration and overindulgence permanently lock some amount of the child's libido into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation. If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if he fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction that characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality. The importance of Freud's theory of psychosexual development is that it provides a single framework within which we can ask a wide range of questions which span physical, emotional, cognitive, social, sexual and personality development. ...read more.

Middle

the mother. Freud was not so concerned with object relations as he had his instinct based theory but he did highlight that the quality of gratification or frustration (I will talk in more detail about this later), toleration or punishment that infants meet will determine their personality and influence their socialization. This means that the role of other people in the child's experience during the first five years is crucial in determining his or her development. Added to this role that other people play is the notion that there are meanings behind the pleasures and frustrations at a particular stage. For example when a child is being potty trained, it might refuse to use the potty and therefore experiences such sensations as pleasure and an autoerotic feeling in not using the potty and therefore controlling his own pleasure and experiencing autonomy - this is amplified by the social meaning of this action which is depriving the mother of what she wants: for the child to use the potty. Therefore it is combining pleasurable bodily sensations with its first opportunity to exercise power and withhold love from its mother and indeed still incorporating the feelings that it expresses towards her. I previously mentioned the fact that Freud highlighted the quality of frustration and gratification. It is now interesting to note what the effect of these two things are on the child's personality at each stage. ...read more.

Conclusion

During the time period Freud lived in, sex and sexual ideas did not make for socially acceptable topics for dinner conversations, or most any other sort of conversations. Therefore, those ideas were unspoken, because they were socially unacceptable. Recently, James Pennebaker has done some studies in which people tell negative secrets to the experimenter - in confidence and with confidentiality, in a set similar to a Catholic confessional - and Pennebaker takes various measures of their well being. He finds that a few months later, people who tell the negative secrets have higher levels of well being than people who did not reveal any negative secrets. One measure is the number of trips to the university medical office to be treated for illness. Let me suggest that Pennebaker's results - that confessing negative secrets leads to higher well being - relates to Freud's work by illustrating that people who release some socially unacceptable thought/belief/action feel better as a result. This suggests that Freud may have been correct about "psychic energy" being tied up in negative things, although the exact content of those things may not be sex and aggression. Thus, Freud may have correctly identified an important aspect of well being - the notion that unspoken thoughts can influence our behaviour - but the identifying the content of the thoughts as exclusively sexual and aggressive may be incorrect. ...read more.

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