Evaluate Freud's Theory

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“Evaluate the extent to which Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can help us to understand a client’s presenting issue”

In this essay I am asked to evaluate one aspect of Freudian theory. I will begin by first describing Freud’s psychosexual theory and demonstrate an understanding of its relationship to adult neurotic behavior. Having done this I will examine some of the criticisms that have been levelled at Freudian theory in order to evaluate it. In 1905 Freud published ‘Three Essays on the theory of Sexuality and other Works’, one of these essays was titled ‘Infantile Sexuality’. In this essay Freud sets out his theory of psychosexual development. He asserts that there is in all humans an innate drive (or instinct>another theory to be debated) for pleasure, a sort of psychic energy, which he calls the libido and this energy needs to be discharged. He then goes on to describe how this drive finds outlet at the earliest stages in life, as babies, toddlers and infants and describes the oral, anal and phallic stages and the psychological effects of fixation at these stages. It is important to note that Freud separated sexual aims and objectives. What Freud meant by sexual in his own writing in German, was ‘life force’ or ‘emotional energy’ (Bettelheim 1983). While this concept has a sexual aspect to it, it is unfortunate that the English translation focuses mainly on this aspect. His work on sexuality and perversions led to the wider theory of sexuality whereby he differentiated the sexual aim (the desire for pleasure) and the object (the person or thing used to fulfil the desire). He asserted that sexuality is more than just a genital copulation between adults and this work is the background to his theory on infantile sexuality. He emphasized particular erogenous zones as being of primary importance at different stages of infancy. Each stage impacts in three significant ways: physical focus where the child’s energy may be concentrated and their gratification obtained: psychologically through demands being made of the child by the outside world as he or she develops-either doing too much or not enough of what is ideal: the adult character type is one that is related to being fixated or struck at a particular stage. In the first year of life, the child experiences an almost erotic pleasure from its mouth, its oral region. Babies get satisfaction from sucking, biting and swallowing. Then, between about two and four years of age, children get pleasure defecating, from feelings defecating, from feelings in their anal region. Then, at around five to eight years of age, children begin to have a kind of immature genital longing, which is directed at members of the opposite sex. The phases of psychosexual development set the stage for a series of conflicts between the child and its environment, its family, and most important of all, its parents. Freud saw the parents or family as having to respond to the childs needs and impulses, and he argued that the way in which the parents responded had a powerful influence on the later personality of the child. Mainly, the parents or family could respond in a way that was too controlling or one that was not controlling enough. For example, little babies cry when they are hungry. If the mother feeds the baby immediately every time, or even feeds before the demand is made, the baby may learn, at a deep emotional level, that it does not need to do anything to be taken care of. It may grow up believing deep down that there exists a perfect world and it may become a person who finds it hard to accept the inevitable frustrations of the actual world. On the other hand, if the baby has to wait too long to be fed, it may learn that the world only meets its needs if it gets angry or verbally aggressive and Freud suggests a similar type of pattern for the anal stage. If the potty training is too rigid and harsh, it will learn that it must never allow itself to make a mess, and may...
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