A Critique On Freudian Psycho sexual Enlightenment Of The Child

A Critique On Freudian Psycho sexual Enlightenment Of The Child




In the annals of history, sex has remained a mystery to both man and the society at large. Its importance in human life is so evident, yet no single human being has been able to give a conclusive explanation of what sex is. No human experience has been able to demystify the hidden meanings of this particular concept. Freud rightly asserts that, “the misunderstanding of sexuality is no intellectual error, nor an accidental ignorance”.[1]




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On the other hand, sex has exerted many impacts on human life. These impacts of sex in the society can be seen in different human experiences. If we have a detour to the sacred scripture, we can see some of the negative impacts of sex in the human society. Some of these impacts can be seen in the story of Samson and Delilah in the book of Judges 16:17.

Another is seen where sex has led to the ruining of the interest of kingdoms as can be seen in the book of Kings Chapter 21 where Jezebel influenced Ahab to give order to the killing of Naboth. Another instance is seen in the story of Herod and Herodias, which led to the beheading of John the Baptist. Matt 14:10.

On the other hand, there are many positive impacts of sex as we can see in the story of Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis. A positive aspect is also seen in the lives of many families in our contemporary society.  “The highest positive impact of sex in the human society is its place in the continuance of the human race”.[2] When sex is integrated, it makes for maturity and good human relationship.

In spite of the positive aspects of sex in human life, its place in our contemporary society has regrettably deteriorated. The reason is not far fetched and can be seen in the misconception of the concept of sex. Majority now see sex as a pleasure-giving thing and as a result, everyone is free to indulge in it at any time he feels.

Furthermore, the indiscriminate use of sex has led to the present day proliferation of diseases including the dreaded HIV, which is capable of wiping off the entire universe if precaution is not taken. These negative impacts of sex can also be seen in the anti-natural scientific inventions of many countries ranging from abortion, cloning etc. It has also led to some anti-cultural practices like gay marriage, marital unfaithfulness and pre-marital sex. The different religious denominations of the world also suffer these negative impacts as can be seen in the ordinations of gays as clergymen in the Anglican Church.

As a result of the debasement which sex has experienced in the contemporary society, I find it pertinent to advocate for a reasoned thought among all. Just as Plato asserted that “The kind of knowledge that helps one to distinguish between shadows, reflections, and real objects in the visible world is just the kind of knowledge that man needs to discriminate between the shadows and reflections of the genuinely good life,”[3]. I have set out to bring out a reasoned thought on how man can be able to discriminate between the shadows and reflections of sex and what it genuinely entails.


Very deep is the well of the past …

For the deeper we sound, the further down into the lower world of the past we probe and press, the more we find that the earliest foundations of humanity, its history and culture reveal themselves unfathomable.

– Thomas Mann

The place of sex and its influence on the formation of the psyche of the adult through the developmental processes was what Sigmund Freud (1853 – 1939) set forth to offer to the world in his psychoanalytic theory. However, he did not do that without encountering some problems ranging from over centralization of sex as what constitutes man’s maturity and entire life to many other problems.

Freud’s lack of religious tenets made him justify many anti-natural problems, which he should not have done. For instance, he regarded sexual perversions like homosexuality, fetishism, sadism and masochism as justified though they are abnormal.


This work is intended to be a proper itinerary into Freud’s psychoanalytic theory in order to study his views, analyze them and finally to make a proper criticism of these views. I also intend to sift out the positive aspect of his theory and at the same time place it side by side with the place of sex in our present day society. Lastly I intend at the end of this study to present a dignified position of sex in the present day society


This research work will be based on the psychoanalytic theory propounded by Sigmund Freud. The views of other psychologists and some philosophers will however be entertained but only as they affect Freud’s line of thought.


The method is expository, analytic and prescriptive. As this is a philosophical approach to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, arguments based on faith are carefully avoided.


This work is divided into four chapters. The first chapter is the general introduction into this scholarly work. The second chapter goes to explain what psychoanalysis is. The third chapter is an x-ray of Freud’s different theories on psychoanalysis. The fourth chapter is a critical evaluation of Freud’s psychoanalysis and his thoughts on the psychosexual enlightenment of the child.




Sigmund Freud has a historical significance as it regards psychoanalysis. He is the father of psychoanalysis from whose theory all other psychoanalysts developed their own theories. Psychoanalysis as a concept has been appreciated with diversified views. Some have appreciated it to have a positive value to man while some see it as unrealistic and an alien theory of personality. An instance of the negative views on psychoanalysis is seen in the words of an earlier teacher that “Every thing you do is determined by forces inside you of which you are totally unaware.”[4]1 That is to say that man is a mask unto himself. This kind of approach makes psychoanalytic ideas seem esoteric and alien, with the claims made by psychoanalytic theorists being arrogant and ominous.

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Four major myths about psychoanalysis have arisen as a result of the misleading notions, which psychoanalysts have contributed greatly to. The first is that psychoanalysis is largely the work of one man. For the first five decades in the history of psychoanalytic thought (up till the death of Freud in 1939), it would have been tenable to argue that psychoanalysis was largely the invention of Freud’s singular genius.

Secondly, contemporary psychoanalysis, in both Theory and Clinical Practice, is virtually the same as it was in Freud’s day. Psychoanalysis is sometimes presented as if it were fundamentally unchanged since Freud’s time. This is as a result of some analyst striving to maintain their loyalty to tradition.

Thirdly, psychoanalysis has gone out of fashion. This myth is based on partial truth. Orthodox, classical Freudian psychoanalysis is going out of fashion. This is because orthodox psychoanalysis is not of our time; its methods and its understanding were fashioned almost a hundred years ago. As the world around psychoanalysis has changed, the psychoanalysis itself has changed. The fourth myth is that psychoanalysis is an Esoteric Cult requiring both conversion and year of study. Most of the post-Freudian texts are written in a style that encourages a view of psychoanalysis as an esoteric, impenetrable world unto itself, its self proclaimed riches accessible to only selected few. The language is thick, dense with jargon and complex argumentation. [5]

Irrespective of all these negative notions, psychoanalysis has existed with tremendous positive values to the world at large. As Nietzsche rightly asserts that “One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self; of all mines of treasure one’s own is the last to be dug up,”2 there exists a need to help man discover his hidden self. Psychoanalysis becomes not only necessary but also imperative since it will help man to discover himself in the unconscious, which he couldn’t do in his conscious state. Psychoanalytic concepts have the capacity to enrich rather than to deplete, to empower rather than diminish, to deepen experience rather than to haunt it. It is with this ideal in mind that Freud delved into his psychoanalytical theory, hoping that his disciples and clients or analysands will find his views stimulating, challenging and fundamentally therapeutic. [6]


Freud began by acknowledging the fact that the unconscious is a mystery whose effort to be penetrated is nothing but futility and impossibility. He testified to this in his saying that “The unconscious is the true psychical reality; in its innermost nature it is as much unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is incompletely presented by the data of consciousness as is the external world by the communications of our sense organs”. 3

“To know thyself is to be known by another.”4 This was Freud’s powerful revision of the Delphic injunction, and by which he intended to make psychoanalysis the most disenchanting of sciences. What Copernicus had done to man’s ancestry, Freud claimed to have done to man’s ultimate source – reason.

Movies and cartoons offer images of a patient lying on a couch, speaking endlessly into a vacuum, while a silent, colorless, older gentleman with a beard takes notes. Many people who are unfamiliar with psychoanalysis fear it as a coward’s way out, an admission of defeat, a ceding of control and authority to a stranger.5[7]

But what of those who have benefited from or who practice psychoanalysis? Their voices are not often heard. The problem is that psychoanalytic concepts are derived from and are concerned most fundamentally with experience of the analytic process, an intensely emotional, highly charged, deeply personal experience for both participants. From the inside, in the eyes of those who study and practice psychoanalysis as well as those who have undergone a “successful” (i.e., personally meaningful) analysis, the world of psychoanalysis is a rich and intriguing place. Its basic concepts and modes of thought are imbued with an experimental vividness, a conceptual clarity, and a continual practical applicability to the day – to – day conduct of their lives. Psychoanalytic thought helps knit together different domains of experiences: past and present, waking and sleeping, thinking and feeling, interpersonal events and the most private fantasies.

Psychoanalytic concepts provide useful tools for expanding, consolidating and enriching one’s own life and one’s relationships with others. Yet it is hard to convey this to some one who has not experienced it. To those to whom psychoanalytic concepts can seem odd, abstract, alien, and out of reach, it is sometimes hard to believe they are, themselves, derived from actual human experience. Psychoanalytic formulation is an effort to grasp and portray some piece of human experience, some aspect of the workings of the mind. Each formulation refers to real people, their way of organizing experience, their difficulties in living, their struggle to shape and maintain a personal self in relations to other people.

In the introductory lectures, Freud writes: “Symptoms are not produced by conscious processes; as soon as the unconscious processes involved are made conscious the symptom must vanish”. 6 Hence the need of penetrating people’s unconscious mind through psychoanalysis.. [8]

The aim of psychoanalytic therapy is to bring these rejected drives and wishes, together with the patient’s individual and environmental moral standards, which are the instruments for his rejections; into consciousness and in this way place them at his free disposal. In doing this the conscious self becomes strengthened, since it is no longer involved in continuous job of repressing mental content from his own awareness. The patient can then decide independently which he wishes to regret, his personality no longer being warped or dominated by uncontrollable drives and moral standards. This process permits growth and maturation.7[9]

Nevertheless, psychoanalysis is a face-to-face dialogue between the psychoanalyst and the client. It is an exercise in which the analyst tries to discover the experiences repressed in the unconscious mind of a client through a careful procedure of obtaining information from his conscious experiences. Through PSYCHOANALYSIS, discovery has been made that the essence of the process of repression lies, not in abrogating or annihilating the ideational presentation of an instinct, but in withholding it from becoming conscious. We then say of the idea that it is in the state of unconsciousness, of being not apprehended by the conscious mind. How is the knowledge of the unconscious attained? It is attained only as something conscious that we know anything of it, after it has undergone transformation and translation into something conscious.

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Freud was born on May 6 1856, at Freibury in what is now Czechoslovakia. When he was four, the family moved to Vienna, and his father continued his trade as a small merchant. While following the usual course of studies at the Gymnasium, where for seven years he was first in his class, Freud was attracted by Darwin’s theories to the study of science. Although he had no “particular predilection or liking for the career of a physician, Freud later noted that, it was upon hearing Goethe’s beautiful essay On Nature … … just before I left school that I decided to become a medical student.”8[10]In 1873 he entered the University of Vienna, where he records in his autobiographical sketch; he experienced the effects of anti-Semitic prejudice.

While pursuing his medical studies, Freud began experimental investigation by studying the nervous system of the fish in the physiological laboratory of Ernest Brucke. After taking his medical degree in 1881, financial reasons compelled him to become an intern at the general hospital. With little spare time he had as an intern, he pursued research at the Institute of Cerebral Anatomy on the subject of nervous diseases. The publication of several monographs on cerebral paralysis in children won him the post of lecturer on neuropathology at the university, and in 1885 he was awarded a travelling fellowship to advance his studies.

Upon his return to Vienna, Freud married and to provide for a rapidly growing family, established himself as a specialist in nervous diseases. In the first year of his practice his principal technique “aside from haphazard psycho-therapeutic methods” was hypnotic suggestion. He resumed his friendship with Breuer and in collaboration with him published in 1895 the studies in Hysteria. The partnership was dissolved after the book was completed, and soon afterwards Freud took the decisive step of replacing hypnotism by method of “free association”. Largely as a result of his extensive clinical practice, he turned to the analysis of dreams, and in 1900 provided the first statement of his doctrine on the interpretation of Dreams.

By 1908, Freud had colleagues throughout Europe, including Adler, Brill, Ferenczi, Ernest Jones, Carl Jung, Sadger and Stekel, and in that year the first international Congress of Psychoanalysis was held at Salzbury. In the following year at the invitation of Clark University, Freud visited the United States and gave five lectures on his discoveries, which were later published as the Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis. With the establishment of the International Psycho-Analytic Association in 1910 Freud devoted his efforts with increasing success to the development of the psychoanalytic movement.

Disagreement later led to a severance of relations between Freud and several of his closest associates, including Adler, Stekel, Rank, and Jung, but Freud was the acknowledged founder of psychoanalysis as the leader of the movement.

After 1912, Freud gave most of his time to directing the Psycho-Analytic Society, editing its various journals, and writing many monographs. Although his clinical practice was not as extensive as in previous years, he still remained active as an analyst, and his patients cover almost fifty years. At the University of Vienna during the winter sessions between 1915 and 1917, he again explained his theories before a general public, as he had in the United States, in lectures afterwards published in General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.

Until the end of the First World War Freud was mainly occupied with special problems concerning the unconscious, and it was not until 1920 that he began to deal with the more general problems raised by his studies, particularly with the factors making for what he called repression. In 1920 he published ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ and three years later the ‘Ego and the Id’. As early as 1913, Freud had attempted in ‘Totem and Taboo’ to make use of the newly discovered findings of analysis in order to investigate the origin of religion and morality”. He now “returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated him long before” and published the Future of an Illusion (1927), Civilization and its Discontents (1929), and Moses and Monotheism (1939), which was his last book.

With the award of the Goethe Prize in 1930, when he was also given the freedom of the city of Vienna, Freud reached what he described as “the climax of my life as a citizen”. But soon afterwards, Freud notes, “the boundaries of our country narrowed, and the nation would know us no more”. Upon the Nazi invasion of Austria in 1938, Freud’s books were burnt, the psychoanalytische Verlag, directed by his son, was destroyed, and his passport confiscated. For years Freud had lived in virtual seclusion, largely because of the development of cancer of the mouth, which caused him great pain. He was finally allowed to leave Austria in 1938 after the payment of a large ransom. With his wife, a nephew, and his daughter, Anna, who took after him, he went to England, where another of his son lived. He died in September 23, 1939, in Hamstead, London.




Sigmund Freud’s view on psychoanalysis was not unconnected with the influences he got from his earlier intellectual heroes – ranging from Brucke to Charcot. The conclusions he made about the importance of sexuality by a multitude of small details noted in his patients were also instrumental to his psychoanalytic view. He attended one of the evening receptions of Charcot in 1886 when he heard ‘the great teacher’ arguing that a disturbed young woman owed her nervous problems to her husband’s inadequate sexual performances:

For Charcot suddenly broke out with great animation: ‘Mais dans des cas pareils c’est toujours la chose genitale, toujours, toujours’ [But in cases like this it’s always the genital thing – always, always, always]: and he crossed his arms over his stomach, hugging himself and jumping up and down on his toes several times in his own characteristically lively way”1[11]

Freud once recalled how Breuer had once hinted that nervous disorders always involve secrets d’alcove – secrets of bedchamber. Freud also recalled a statement made by the physician Chrobak, who remarked that “the only hope of curing one patient lay in prescribing regular doses of normal penis: Penis normalis dosim repetatur! 2

The crucial role Freud assigned to sexuality enabled him to claim that all his speculations rested on a firm ‘organic foundation’. This point is brought home in a comment Freud made in 1908 in a letter about Jung’s chief, Bleuler:

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I am rather annoyed with Bleuler, Freud wrote, ‘for his willingness to accept a psychology without sexuality, which leaves everything hanging on the mid-air. In the sexual processes we have the indispensable ‘organic foundation’ without which a medical man can only feel ill at ease in the life of the psyche3[12]

Throughout the rest of his intellectual development, Freud remained a biological fundamentalist in that his commitment to the concept of sexual energy and pathogenic centrality of sexuality never wavered. This very fact is apparent in his disagreement with the notion that sexuality might sometimes be a factor, for he was rarely attracted by piecemeal solutions. Indeed one of the characteristics of his intellectual style was “the longing to be able to open all secrets with a single key”.

Freud saw both hysteria and neurosis to have a sexual origin. Neurasthenia which was often considered to be one of the two main neuroses was also acclaimed to have a sexual origin. This is vividly seen in the theoretical innovation which Freud communicated to Fliess in his letter of 1893 consisting in the suggestion “that sexual factors were not simply one among many possible causes of neurasthenia, but the sole cause”4 It may be taken as a recognized fact, ‘that neurasthenia is a frequent consequence of an abnormal sexual life.’ This assertion, however, which Freud wishes to make and test by observations, is that neurasthenia actually can only be a sexual neurosis. He even went further to say “that Neurasthenia in males is acquired at the age of puberty and becomes manifest when the man is in his twenties. According to him, its source is masturbation, the frequency of which runs completely parallel with the frequency of male neurasthenia. One can observe in the circle of one’s acquaintances that (at least in urban populations) those individuals who have been seduced by women at an early age have escaped neurasthenia”. 5[13]

We are accustomed to think of character-training starting at an age when a child can talk and understand the difference between right and wrong. Freud showed that the foundations of character are laid very much earlier. The attitude of the mother in feeding the child at the breast and training him in toilet is not a trivial matter.6

He needs emotional as well as bodily nourishment if he is to pass safely through the successive stages of growth that lie ahead. It is of overwhelming importance that this child should feel that security of being loved.

In order to develop a firm ground for Freud’s speculations, he went on pilling up theories upon theories. However, the major tenets of these theories are to be x-rayed in this chapter.


“Far from being an odd or aberrant episode in his intellectual biography, Freud’s theoretical solution to the non-existent problem of neurasthenia provided a pattern on which a number of his most important intellectual “discoveries” were subsequently based”. 7[14]

One of these was the revised theory of Hysteria, which he developed after the publication of studies on Hysteria in 1895. This theory, which is generally known as the ‘seduction theory’, and which assumed that hysteria was the product of sexual abuse suffered during infancy has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. There is perhaps no part of Freud’s theoretical enterprise, which has been more widely misunderstood and misrepresented. Consequently, any blame on this theory should be directed to Freud and no other person because the first to misrepresent the seduction theory was none other than Freud himself.[15]

According to Freud in his seventeenth lecture, “neurotic symptoms then, just like errors and dreams, have their meaning and like these, are related to the life of the person in whom they appear.”8 In Freud and Breuer’s Preliminary Communication, “On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena” (1893), Charcot’s approach to hysteria as an affliction which could be precipitated by any psychical trauma. ‘Any experience which calls up distressing affects’, they wrote, ‘- such as those of fright, anxiety or physical pain-may operate as a trauma of this kind.[16]

Gradually however, sexual factors came to loom larger and larger in the new theory. For Freud and Breuer persuaded themselves at a very early stage of their investigations, that the causes of hysteria would be found primary among those thoughts and memories, which their patients did not or could not normally retrieve. This assumption was derived directly from the work of Charcot, for it was he who has suggested that a key role was played in hysterical phenomena by an idea or series of ideas which had become physically isolated from normal waking consciousness. In order to develop their own notion of cathartic therapy, however, Breuer and Freud found it necessary to delve into their patient’s past experiences in order to identify the particular factors, which had supposedly given rise to hysteria. They did that at first by using hypnosis and then by using the technique of free-association developed by Freud. Since they deliberately set-out to find aspects of their patients’ mental life which were hidden, these premises led almost inevitably, in view of the degree of fear and reticence which

A Critique On Freudian Psycho sexual Enlightenment Of The Child


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