New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis

New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Explain why dreams are so important to Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis.

    It is no accident that Freud begins this collection with a treatise on dreams, as dream interpretation provides the most immediate perspective on the workings of the psyche. Dreams provide evidence of the patient’s repressed wishes, a process which allows the analyst to clarify the cause of mental illness. The work of the analyst is to interpret dreams in a way that reveals the underlying (or “latent”) content, by employing the dream work. Dreams tap directly into the id, as they are driven by the id’s desire to fulfill a particular wish. Without dreams, analysts would have no access to a patient’s unconscious. It is only after identifying a patient's unconscious desires that a diagnosis can be made, and the treatment begun.

  2. 2

    In his lecture "Dreams and Occultism", why does Freud discuss occult phenomena at all? How does this eventually connect to his case studies of Herr P. and the concept of thought-transference?

    Freud's investigation of occult phenomena begins by attempting to take such events seriously. There is an implied connection to psychoanalysis here, since many critics of the latter compare it to the former. Freud sets out to investigate the mystical experiences many humans have described, which imply the existence of powers such as telepathy and mental communication. Freud’s case studies lead him to believe that thought transference is indeed possible, and he discusses the strange case of Herr P. at length to show that he himself has experienced it. Ultimately, Freud takes great pains to approach the question of occult phenomena scientifically, implicitly to suggest that psychoanalysis (which many critics liken to a mystical craft) deserves the same objective approach.

  3. 3

    Write an essay that lays out Freud’s model of the psychic personality, and explain how it accounts for the development of the super-ego. Why is Freud’s account of these matters so revolutionary?

    Put simply, Freud believes that the psychic personality is divided into three regions: ego, super-ego, and id. The ego is the conscious mind. The id is the unconscious storehouse of instinctual urges. The super-ego is the part of the mind that directs the conscience and observes the self. While actually a part of the ego that split from it, the super-ego is unique in that it judges the ego. The dictums by which it judges are inherited from the parents, whose authoritative nature is eventually transferred into it (the super-ego). All together, these ideas are revolutionary because they argue that humans are not divinely designed, but rather are shaped by their upbringing and the unconscious desires that are formed and then repressed during childhood. In other words, we are defined by what has happened to us as much as we are by a deity or by our own willpower.

  4. 4

    Consider the relationship between symptoms and anxiety in Freud’s theory. How does his example of agoraphobia reveal this structure, and what is important about its early appearance in his lecture "Anxiety and Instinctual Life"?

    Freud claims that symptoms and anxiety both reinforce and replace one another. The example of an agoraphobic illustrates that symptoms form in order to prevent someone from facing a situation that could bring anxiety. For instance, agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) forms because something in the outside world has inspired anxiety, and so the neurotic develops the symptoms to protect him from repeats of that anxious sensation. Though Freud continues to suggest that anxiety is actually based in childhood traumas and repressions, his understanding of anxiety and symptoms has a more immediate application for someone suffering from it. The discussion also provides a pun that gives meaning to the lecture - he suggests to the audience at lecture's end that they have come through the lecture to emerge in the marketplace, which in Greek is expressed as "agora." The early use of agoraphobia both foreshadows this later idea and indicates Freud’s playful suggestion that his audience is in the position of a psychoanalytic patient.

  5. 5

    Explain how both boys and girls experience a castration complex, even though girls are “already” castrated. Why is this point so important for Freud’s theory of femininity?

    Boys and girls both experience the castration complex, albeit in different ways at different times. Boys experience the threat of castration during the Oedipal stage, as they recognize the impropriety of their attraction to the mother and then fear repercussions from the father that will include castration. The value of the complex for a boy is that it helps him leave the Oedipus complex behind, by focusing their object-cathexes on something other than the mother. Girls, on the other hand, experience the castration complex before entering the Oedipal stage. For them, the complex is less about impending punishment than about shame over lacking a penis. Blaming this deficit on their mother (who also lacks a penis), girls eventually relocate their object-cathexes from the mother to the father. This is key to Freud’s theory of femininity because it explains how girls detach from their mothers without feeling threatened by their fathers, all of which provides a core element of what defines a woman in psychological terms.

  6. 6

    Discuss Freud’s characterization of his former students in his lecture “Explanations, Applications, and Orientations.” Why does he discuss education in the same lecture?

    Freud is highly critical of his students Adler, Rank, and Jung. He believes that they have abandoned core precepts of psychoanalysis in order to avoid the complicated realities case studies often present. By limiting their theories, they are choosing easier paths that need not face hard, distasteful truths. His turn to a discussion on education is an underhanded critique of these former students, implying they are unruly and unwanted “revolutionary” children who have not been properly taught how to manage the difficult truths of life.

  7. 7

    One of Freud’s most famous quotations is “Where id was, there ego shall be.” Explain what this means, and how it is a key to understanding a goal of psychoanalytic treatment.

    Freud believes that even though the psychic personality is divided into three key regions with different roles and functions, the entire structure is unified. All three sections interact with one another, reinforcing and sometimes contradicting the demands of each other. The id can therefore be incorporated into the ego, if the ego is strong and healthy enough to translate the id’s demands into a form acceptable to both the super-ego and external reality. Ultimately, Freud considers this the most healthy psychic make-up - a person can satisfy the id's constant demands without being taken over by them, and hence avoid the neurotic symptoms that come from extreme repression. Analysts can assist in this process by helping to strengthen the patient’s ego and helping uncover the unconscious repressions that cause symptoms of mental suffering.

  8. 8

    How do Freud’s accounts of the super-ego and the id counter the ideas of Karl Marx and Immanuel Kant?

    Marxism holds that society, as well as its history and peoples, is defined primarily by economic forces, and secondarily by any other ideological or intellectual aspects. However, Freud finds such an understanding too limited, as it ignores the discoveries of psychoanalysis. In particular, his theories suggest that each individual's super-ego is a reflection of his parent's super-ego, which in turn is a reflection of the grandparent's super-ego, etc. Since so much of social expectation and morality is passed down in this way, a purely economic determination is necessarily limited.

    Just as Freud claims that his theory of the super-ego contradicts Marxism, he also argues that his theory of the id contradicts the Kantian idea that “space and time are necessary forms of our mental acts.” Because he believes that the id knows no time, does not recognize contradictions, and can condense desires and urges into complex knots that ignore our conscious perception of space, Freud believes Kant is operating under his own preconceived notions. In particular Kant, believes we are more capable of controlling and understanding ourselves than is actually accurate. In a word, the id thinks in ways that are not determined by the Kantian a priori categories of space and time.

  9. 9

    Explain Freud’s account of the process of repression. How does the ego create a “reaction-formation” to deal with the id’s demands?

    Repression is key to Freudian theory. When the id delivers an instinctual impulse to the ego, the ego creates an experimental reaction-formation, in which it tests the possible outcomes of pleasure and unpleasure. One of three results occurs: 1) the ego withdraws completely and an anxiety attack ensues; 2) the ego counters the id’s excitation and a symptom is formed; or 3) the ego adapts itself so it can swallow the impulse. This third option is the healthiest, since the ego will then prove capable of managing the id's incessant demands. Meanwhile, within the id, the repressed impulse is either restrained and continues exerting libidinal pressure that causes symptoms, or it is successfully destroyed and the libidinal energy is routed elsewhere. Overall, how this process occurs determines how psychically healthy the person will ultimately be.

  10. 10

    What is Freud’s view of how religion came into being, and what role did psychoanalysis play in revealing its foundation?

    Freud argues that religion serves three needs for humans: it gives knowledge of their origin and of the universe, it assuages their fears and protects them, and it provides a set of rules or principles for action. He contrasts religion (with its faith in gods) to an earlier form of human spirituality known as animism, thereby suggesting that religion is not a natural phenomenon, but rather a reflection of how a certain people sees the world and their relation to it. Freud believes that religion replaced animism by internalizing certain demonic forces (i.e., understanding them as part of ourselves), which then allowed psychoanalysis to try and understand these forces. Eventually, Freud came to believe that the basis of religion (given the three characteristics listed above) is our childhood experiences of fear and frustration. God is modeled on the father, who performs the three functions of religion when we are young and helpless. Overall, the suggestion is that while religion once served an important purpose, it has now been dwarfed in its relevance and power by science and psychoanalysis.