Criticisms of Freud's Theory

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Criticisms of Freud’s theory
There have been criticisms of psychoanalysis from every imaginable angle. It has been equally strongly defended, and has held up very well under fire. Two common criticisms, espoused by laypeople and professionals alike, are that the theory is too simple to ever explain something as complex as a human mind, and that Freud overemphasized sex and was unbalanced here (was sexist). My opinion is that these criticisms are to a large extent the result of misreading, and therefore miss the point. Freud's model is just that--a model. Like an economic model or any other, it simplifies something almost infinitely complex to a point at which it can be analyzed. Like the process of modeling anything, it is difficult to draw the line of oversimplification, but Freud's theory and models are practical in understanding people and have been fruitful in treatment. In my mind, there are two important responses to the criticism regarding sexuality. The first is that people misinterpret Freud's use of the word "sexual." The word should generally be inferred to mean "sensual." Freud included in the concept "sexual" the genital, the anal, and the oral (Freud, 1964). However, even most modern Freudians would concede that Freud's emphasis on the Oedipal complex was excessive. In light of this, another legitimate response to criticisms about the role of sexuality in the theory would be to concede that Freud's emphasis was excessive, but that that in itself does not really have any effect on the theory as a whole. One final criticism, which is often stated, is that Freud's work (and/or Freud himself) was sexist. One can only respond to this in a very limited and fairly unsatisfactory way. Freud's theory was sexually unbalanced--there is no way of denying it. However, he knew and conceded that his theory was less well developed for women; he saw but could not correct this flaw (Freud,1953a), as noted in the section on treatment. The obvious explanations for this inability are time-period cultural bias and the simple fact that Freud was male. Women were not considered equals in Victorian England. Freud's self analysis was an important input into his theories. The reduced emphasis on the Oedipal complex, and other revisions in psychoanalysis, have made modern analysis perfectly applicable to women. The final criticism addressed here is the question of the scientific status of psychoanalysis. Grünbaum (1986) addressed this issue at length. He makes a detailed refutation of the scientific status of psychoanalysis. Many of his points are well formed and legitimate criticisms. For example, there is an element of suggestibility involved in the treatment process. The "tally argument," which Grünbaum (1986) refutes, is that, first, only the psychoanalytic method can yield correct insight into the causes of neuroses, and second, correct insight is necessary for a durable cure of those neuroses. Grünbaum (1986) writes that this argument fails because of a number of complex reasons that he enumerates in great detail, including the fact that successful treatment has occurred without these conditions being fulfilled. Additionally Freud himself weakened this argument considerably later in life (Grünbaum, 1986). Grünbaum goes on to a number of criticisms based on scientific and logical reasoning that weaken psychoanalytic treatment's scientific status. It is true that Freud essentially considered psychoanalysis a pure science, but that is a view which has been superseded by the current view, which puts more emphasis on the issue of how fruitful psychoanalytic treatment is as a treatment. Even if an inordinate amount of time is spent writing about theory within the profession, clinical practice plays the central role in the professional lives of psychoanalysts (Michels, 1983). As a science, psychoanalysis is imperfect, but it has stood the test of time as an important basis of...
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