In this essay I am going to evaluate the extent to which Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can help us to understand a client’s presenting issue. I will be describing Freud’s psychosexual theory and its relationship to adult neurotic behaviour as well as looking at the criticisms of Freudian theory.
According to Freud personality is mostly established by the age of five. Early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behaviour later on in life.
Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial. Freud believed that personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure-seeking energies of the id become focussed on certain erogenous areas. This psychosexual energy or libido was described as the driving force behind behaviour. If these psychosexual stages are completed successfully, the result is a healthy personality. If certain issues are not resolved at the appropriate stage, fixation can occur. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage. Until this conflict is resolved, the individual will remain “stuck” in this stage. For example, a person who is fixated at the oral stage may be over dependent on others and may seek oral stimulation through smoking, eating or drinking.
The Oral Stage – Birth to 1 year – Erogenous zone- Mouth
During the oral stage, the infant’s primary source of interaction occurs through the mouth, so the rooting and sucking reflex is especially important. The mouth is vital for eating, and the infant derives pleasure from oral stimulation through gratifying activities such as tasting and sucking. Because the infant is entirely dependent of its carers who are responsible for feeding the child, the infant also develops a sense of trust and comfort through this oral stimulation. The primary conflict at this stage is the weaning process; the child must become less dependent on the carers. If fixation occurs at this stage, Freud believed the individual would have issues with dependency or aggression. Oral fixation can result in problems with drinking, eating, smoking or nail biting Fixation refers to a persistent focus of the id’s pleasure seeking energies on an earlier stage of psychosexual development.
The Anal Stage – Ages 1 to 3 years – Erogenous zones – Bowel and bladder
During the anal stage, Freud believed that the primary focus of the libido (energy created by survival instincts, libido is part of the id and is the driving force of all behaviour) was on controlling bowel and bladder movements. The major conflict at this stage is toilet training. Developing this control leads to a sense of accomplishment and independence. According to Freud, success at this stage is dependent upon the way in which parents approach toilet training. Parents who utilise praise and rewards for using the toilet at the appropriate time encourage positive outcomes and help children feel capable and productive. Freud believed that positive experiences during this stage served as the basis for people to become competent, productive and creative adults.
Not all parents provide the support that children need during this stage. Some parents punish, ridicule or shame a child for accidents. According to Freud, inappropriate parental responses can lead to negative outcomes. If parents take an approach that is too lenient, Freud suggested
that anal-expulsive personality could develop in which the individual has a messy, wasteful or destructive personality. If parents are too strict or begin toilet training too early, Freud believed that an anal-retentive personality develops in which the individual is stringent, orderly, rigid or obsessive.
The Phallic Stage Age 3 to 5 year’s erogenous zone – Genitals
During the phallic stage the primary focus of the libido is on the genitals. At this age, children also begin to discover the...