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Freud was a freak

Being from the 19th century is no excuse


 

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:

  1. All boys want to marry their moms and kill their dads.
  2. There’s no such thing as a seemingly-innocent pencil collection.
  3. 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.”


 

Freud was a freak

  1. Scott, you should probably consider taking a history of science course. While Newton wasn’t concerned with the sexuality of children he did advocate a number of things which most scientists would probably think would make a person a “freak.” In addition to being a natural philosopher he was also a radical theologian, alchemist and spent a great deal of his time attempting to predict the apocalypse.

  2. “But let’s face it: early physicists, biologists, or astronomers from the 19th century weren’t freaks. It’s just early psychologists. Namely Freud.”

    Wow, thankfully generalizations haven’t gone out of fashion.

  3. Took an Anthropology class many moons ago and I will never forget the teacher going on about Freud’s theory of the “Incest Taboo”….
    VERY creepy stuff….great read!!

  4. BTW the incest Taboo was not a great read…you were :)

  5. @ Chris:

    To be clear, I’m not saying Freud was a freak because his ideas were wrong. We shouldn’t completely dismiss someone’s ideas just because, in hindsight, they were wrong. Almost all the science courses I take, including microbiology, organic chemistry, etc, include a “history of science” component.

    But there’s a crucial difference between alchemy and some of Freud’s ideas. Alchemists thought you could transform lead into gold. Sort of like those producers in Hollywood who keep trying to turn Toby Maguire into an action hero. It just doesn’t work. But hey, scientists from hundreds of years ago had plenty of adorably wrong ideas.

    I’m not poking fun at Freud because his psychoanalytic perspective turned out to be “wrong.” I’m poking fun at Freud because his ideas were bizarre and creepy. And they weren’t based on any sort of scientific reasoning. Freud based most of his theories on specific, personal experiences. Freud should have realized that, just because he went to his high school prom with his mom, it doesn’t mean EVERY male wants to murder their father and marry their mother. It’s just him.

  6. @ headlarkie:

    Thanks, I always appreciate your comments. And yes, the “Incest Taboo”
    is pretty creepy. It made the short list for this post.

    Scott

  7. Hi Scott!

    Loved your post. While I continue to think of Freud as a “whack job”, great alliteration cannot be neglected!!

    Cheers,
    Betty Anne

  8. @Chris

    could you please back up your claims? links/sources would be appreciated.
    I am curious to see what you consider a “freak”. I have read about this great man, and I fail to understand why anyone would think of him as a “freak”.

  9. This seems like missing a vital point. Freud was attempting to give an account of primal desires and suppressed impulses. He didn’t want to give a socially acceptable model of the mind; he wanted to find out what was underneath the socially acceptable trappings. Won’t that make his ideas uncofortable by default? That’s the price of truth.

  10. @”Chris”, none of the things you mentioned have anything to do with incest or pedophilia, which is what his point was. There’s nothing creepy about being a radical theologian (even if it is ignorant) or alchemy, so your comment is pointless.

    I have always felt Freud was a nutjob, yes he had some good ideas but in the end the man was definitely NOT someone I would invite over for dinner, much less leave alone with my children. Gotta love people who are sick in the head, and then try to justify it by telling the rest of us that we are the same way. NOT!

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