Psychology in the 19th Century

Group 2

Psychology during the 19th century was based mostly on speculative discussions and philosophical theories as opposed to empirical studies and scientific tests. Freud, a renowned psychologist concerned with mental illness, diverted from popular 19th century thought connecting mental illness with either a supernatural possession or a moral flaw in an individual. He transcribed his data based on extremely in depth personal experiences with his patients which resulted in multiple case studies on mental illness. He found that mental illness did not result from an external influence or possession, but rather from an aberration in the mind of mentally ill individuals. “Mentally ill individuals are not different types of people, but something has gone awry in the makeup of their minds.”


Freud and the Id, Superego and Ego

id – what drives us to gratify our needs, these our are innate instinctual drives for satisfaction in things like food, safety and sex this uses the “pleasure principle” –  this is the need to immediately satisfy this innate instincts but we can’t be immediately gratified as babies so we learn “learned helplessness” – have to rely heavily on people around us and the environment (unconscious)

ego – “conscious-self” – day to day awareness, how we perceive the world, what we experience in everyday life, what controls our innate desires so that we satisfy our needs when its practical, reasonable and socially acceptable – basically the balance between the id and the superego. ego reality principle operates the ego, this is how you parents teach you to reasonably satisfy these needs, when it is done appropriately it leads to well adjusted adults.

superego – provides the moral standards by which ego operates (unconscious), how we wish we could behave and how our societal and emotional expectation reign in these instinctual desires.

These 3 elements of the mind can be understood by the Jockey analogy: ego is the jockey, id is the horse and superego is the track- A good jockey can account for a bad track and a wild horse, essentially meaning that the Id finds balance and compromise between the superego and the ego.


Source: PSYC 260 Textbook,_superego,_and_id

Freud and Darwin: The Evolution of Speculative Science

It is fitting that Sigmund Freud was born a generation later than Charles Darwin, because Freud does not just build on Darwin’s work in regards to the theories of natural selection, but also in regards to the spirit behind the work.

Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution relied heavily on the assertion of a hypothesis that was not the simplest answer to the question of where do species come from. Where his peers concluded that there was no more logical answer than the spontaneous emergence of individual species, Darwin considered the observations, records, and data collected from his trip around the world and chose to suggest the existence of a state of nature that he could not actually see, but that would more completely describe natural history. For his work, his peers lauded his mind, but often rejected his results, citing the ease of believing their own pre-existing theories that did not rely on filling in the blanks of natural history. Darwin’s contemporaries did not see how anyone could speculate so broadly, and still conduct fruitful science. For them, science required drawing logical conclusions from precise observations; if you could not specifically see the behavior or phenomena you were discussing, you could not assume its existence.  It was only after being given sufficient time to review Darwin’s work and the robustness of his proposed theories, that some other scientists in the nineteenth century began to voice their agreement with Darwin, accepting that his speculative approach did not violate the tenants of good science.

However, Darwin’s influence on the physical and even the social sciences became more and more apparent as time progressed into the 20th Century. During the period from 1900-1930, science, as a whole, began to advance rapidly, with more and more figures taking up Darwin’s mantle of theorizing on what could not be directly observed. This acceptance of the theoretical was crucial for the acceptance of Freud’s own work. In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud acknowledges as much when he writes:

But have we any right to assume that the original type of feeling survives alongside the later one which has developed from it?

Undoubtedly we have: there is nothing unusual in such a phenomenon, whether in the. psychological or in other spheres. Where animals are concerned, we hold the view that the most highly developed have arisen from the lowest. Yet we still find all the simple forms alive today. The great saurians are extinct and have made way for the mammals, but a typical representative of them, the crocodile, is still living among -4- us. The analogy may be too remote, and it is also weakened by the fact that the surviving lower species are not as a rule the true ancestors of the present-day more highly developed types. The intermediate members have mostly died out and are known to us only through reconstruction. (3-4).

As Freud acknowledges in his reference to reconstruction, he needs his readers to accept the premise that they can intellectually rebuild the structures and instances that he is describing. He needs them follow him in speculation. Without a willingness to speculate on the unobservable, Freud’s theories of the mind, from which he extrapolates his theories on the evolution of culture and society are cannot seem even the least bit reasonable, as we have no way to actually see what is occurring in the mind; we have no way to make precise measurements or draw definitive conclusions. The leaps of faith that Freud is asking us to make may not be as large as Darwin’s, but they are there none-the-less, demonstrating an increase in the acceptance of speculation in science, but also the ways in which scholars and scientists like Freud continued to challenge conventions in their fields. In accepting Darwin and his methodologies, which is to say accepting and pushing the limits of speculation, Freud was able to push psychology towards the more scientific and biology driven field it is today. To some degree, it would be fair to call Freud the Darwin of Psychology because of the ways in which he challenged the assumptions of his peers.

The ironic twist here, though, is that in the evolution of Darwin’s acceptance in the scientific community, culminating in Freud’s use of Darwin as a justification for speculating on the mind, his work is used more and more frequently to support off-base science. As we know, many of Freud’s theories were debunked as Psychology developed into a more precise and accurate science. So, even while Freud is very much the spiritual successor of Darwin, we can see the potential problems for science that arose out of the reasonable use of speculation to develop theories that were proven to be untrue later. Today, science still grapples with this problem in the public sphere, where unproven theories make it hard for some individuals to accept what the scientific community did over a century ago: natural selection.

Terminology Used by Freud

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist, theorist, and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.  He proposed many experiments and ideas about development of the human mentally and physically. Freud uses some words in his dialogue that need to be understood to grasp what he is truly trying to convey. The first word is repression, the mind’s effort to keep thoughts and impulses out of the forefront of thought by pushing them into the subconscious. Freud believes that this happens without us being aware of it, why certain thoughts and memories are hidden because they could be hurtful to us mentally. This process is sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful. The next term is sublimation, another defense mechanism that is more adaptive. It is like an outlet for the emotion/impulse that keeps problems from occurring. For example, an aggressive person will pick up sports to let out their frustration in a healthy manner. Neurosis is another term that Freud uses. He defines it to mean manifestations of anxiety that are expressed subconsciously. There can be some outward physical symptoms as well. Now, we just classify neurosis into specific disorders, such as anxiety, OCD, depression, personality disorders, etc. Psychosis is the last of the terms, a severe psychological disorder where the ego is carried away by the id and the person is detached from reality. Disorders like this are known usually in terms of schizophrenia and other extreme cases. These terms are ones that Freud uses and discovered in his research, and it is helpful to know the background when reading his findings.

Freud’s Views on Sexuality in Children

Sigmund Freud, a psychologist in the 20th century, published his views about sexuality and children. He coined different phases that a human will go through as they develop. According to Freud, each stage has to be resolved before the next one starts. If someone gets stuck in a stage, they could have developmental problems later in life. The first stage is oral, occurring from birth to one year; where the infant fixates on their mouth by biting, sucking, breastfeeding, etc. This can sometimes come up later in life as people who bite their nails or smoke. The second phase is anal, where from one to three years a child is very impressionable on potty training. The way you are trained also develops some of people’s later relationships with authority. The phallic stage is next, when children are three to six years old. This is the Oedipus complex, where sons are attracted to their mom and daughters are attracted to their father. This is resolved through identification, and this phase is also where the concentration on the genital areas appears. Freud goes into other stages such as latency and genital, but those are for puberty and  doesn’t so much concern a child. As it can be seen, Freud brought some revolutionary thought into his time. All of his findings were experimental, and came with a lot of controversy.