Critical Points

I've picked these points out of the writing I did yesterday, and from conversations on my blog. It's just a rough, naive guide to the evaluative points I might want to make in the essay.



  • Freud's claim of a causal link between potty traing and weaning and 'oral' and 'anal' personalities is difficult to test definitively (ethical considerations stop us carrying out randomised, controlled experiments).


  • Freud thought that personality was laid down in very early life. What did he mean exactly? Did he mean that we are by then essentially as we are going to be, or that we have all the raw ingredients for making the fruit cake of life? It's not clear. My immediate response to this is to imagine that by five or six our perceptions have developed so that we fall easily in line with consensual reality. We have developed a suite of senses which add up to ecological validity. In my case, it took me much longer than that! But anyway, Freud makes it sound as though we become frozen, set at that point, never to change.


  • Psychological defence mechanisms - I have a paper which supports this idea, especially with reference to repression. It conceptualises repression as a personality trait. Interestingly, repressors apparently suffer worse physical health than non-repressors. The return of the repressed, eh? - evidence not only for repression but for a dynamic unconscious.


  • The concept of a dynamic unconscious is now widely accepted and it is one I find persuasive. However, Freud's theory stressed the conflict aspects of this and completely ignored the co-operative; eg. jet fighter pilots must seamlessly integrate the automatic and the aware. This latter appears to be the domain of cognitive psychology.


  • Libido is a very confusing concept, and as such not exactly helpful. Is it just me? Freud's model on the whole is a weird mixture of energetic and structural concepts which don't sit easily with me.


  • My experience of interacting with growing children bears out Freud's stages.


  • Fixation of libido - apparently factor analysis offers some support for 'oral' and 'anal' personalities.


  • The id and the ego apparently can be loosely related to regions of the brain.



  • Lacan thought that the unconscious was more like a language with its own grammatical rules that three little blokes having a fight. I don't know too much more about this, but I will go and look it up.


  • Where's mutuality of love in all this? It just sounds like unpleasant usage. I think that from the start we look for love and the avoidance of physical unpleasure. I'm thinking here of my experience with premature babies and their incredible response to the 'touch programme'. Even a finger to grasp seemed to elicit a strong response. Freud said that any finer feelings were the result of our sublimating our base urges, but infants have not yet developed the psychological equipment for sublimation. (