Evaluate the extent to which Freud’s theory of psychosexual development can help us to understand a client’s presenting issue?
(Word count 2,749 excluding bibliography, references)
Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is based on the idea that parents play a pivotal role in the sexual and aggressive drives that form in the early years of their child’s development. Freud (Freud & Philips 2006) proposed that psychological development in childhood takes place in a series of fixed stages - psychosexual stages.
Each stage represents the fixation on a different area of the body and as a person grows physically, certain areas of their body become important as sources of ...view middle of the document...
Each of the psychosexual stages is associated with a particular conflict that must be resolved before the individual can successfully advance to the next stage (McLeod 2008). The amount of sexual energy that the individual exerts during a stage and how successful they are at moving through a stage can result in frustration, overindulgence and fixation.
Fixation according to McLeod (2008) refers to the notion that a portion of the individual's libido has been permanently 'invested' in a particular stage of his development and thus each person will behave in some ways that are characteristic of infancy, or early childhood. This may manifest itself in traits such as aggression or dependency.
This investment of libido may be because the needs of the individual at any particular stage may not have been adequately met in which case there is ‘frustration’ (McLeod 2008). Or possibly the person's needs may have been so well satisfied that he/she is reluctant to leave the psychological benefits of a particular stage in which there is ‘overindulgence’.
During the oral stage, which is generally taken to cover the first twelve to eighteen months of development, the infant gets much satisfaction from putting all sorts of things in its mouth, beginning with the mother’s breast, to satisfy the libido, and thus its id demands, which at this stage in life are oral, or mouth orientated, such as sucking and biting. The ‘id’ being the need to satisfy basic human needs, referred to Freud (1920) as the ‘pleasure principle’ in that we will always seek those things that are pleasurable to us. Communication at this stage of life tends to focus on crying to express the need for satisfaction; feeding, changing, contact. As part of the weaning process the child may be given a ‘dummy’ or ‘pacifier’ to simulate the mother’s breast satisfying and reinforcing the oral id demand.
Freud said oral stimulation could lead to an oral fixation in later life (Freud & Philips 2006). We see oral personalities all around us such as smokers, nail-biters, finger-chewers, and thumb suckers. Oral personalities engage in such behaviours particularly when under stress.
During the Anal stage, up to the age of three, the libido becomes focused on the anus and the child derives great pleasure from defecating (McLeod 2008). Freud believes the child is now fully aware that they are a person in their own right and that their wishes can bring them into conflict with the demands of the outside world and that their ego has developed (Freud & Philips 2006).Where ‘ego’ is 'that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world' (Freud 1923). The ego operates according to the ‘reality principle’ (Freud 1923), working out realistic ways of satisfying the id’s demands, often moderating satisfaction to avoid any negative consequences of conflicting with society (McLeod 2008).
Freud believed that this type of conflict tends to come to a head in potty...