I just finished reading a chapter in my psychology textbook. It gave an overview of the history of psychology, including the work of Freud. It described him as the “father of modern psychology,” and praised him for his “innovative ideas that continue to influence psychology, science, and the world at large.” And then it went on to describe some of his “revolutionary” theories.
After reading about the psychoanalytic perspective, I’m not exactly sure if “revolutionary” is quite the right way to describe Freud’s theories.
I’m thinking more along the lines of “totally bizarre, freaky, and creepy.”
A quick summary of Freud’s ideas:
- All boys want to marry their moms and kill their dads.
- There’s no such thing as a seemingly-innocent pencil collection.
- Your 18 month-old brother is going through an Oral stage, soon to be followed by an Anal stage, Phallic stage, and eventually a Genital stage.
Yeah, sure, it’s easy to dismiss and ridicule the ideas of someone from the 19th century. And sure, Freud did have some really important ideas. He explored the “unconscious” aspect of the human mind. He defined and conceptualized personality structures and stages. He just went a little overboard.
But let’s face it: early physicists, biologists, or astronomers from the 19th century weren’t freaks. It’s just early psychologists. Namely Freud.
Consider Sir Isaac Newton. When he proposed the idea of universal gravitation, he didn’t go off the deep end and suggest that objects are gravitationally attracted to one another because they’re going through a Phallic stage. Or because the Earth has repressed feelings of love for its mother and wants to kill its father.
Newton understood the difference between “scientific theory” and “revealing that I probably murdered my own father.”