Eclectic Paths to Integration
Part 2: Psychological Models - Freud
By Jonathan Bethel
The Psychoanalytic schools of the twentieth century attempted to bring the psyche under the dominion of various maps and models, whereby the personality could be gauged, studied, and integrated. The psychological theories of Freud, Jung, Maslow, Assigoli, and Leary paved new roads in our understanding of the over all structure of the mind. Great theories and therapies flourished; unfortunately, not all of these theories were readily accepted by society or the government. Books by Wilhelm Reich, with his brilliant theories and technologies, were burned by masses out of fear and through governmental oppression. Timothy Leary and his successful psychedelic research were banned by the Federal Government. It is no big secret that psychological space is a very restricted and policed environment. Only socially sanctioned spaces are allowable; anything outside of that is forbidden, and violators are severely punished. The time has come for us take back our innate power and enter the world of mind, opening ourselves up to the intricacies and latent worlds within.
Freud introduced society to the unconscious and libido; Jung called attention to the archetypes, synchronicity and the collective unconscious; Reich unveiled the function of the orgasm, while Maslow revealed the call of self actualization, and Timothy Leary brilliantly outlaid the eight-circuits of consciousness. All of these great thinkers, along with countless others, made up the psychological revolution of the twentieth century. This revolution brought us new tools to help awaken the metaprogrammer within, allowing for the complete reprogramming of consciousness. However, towards the close of the twentieth century, the rise in influence of the school of behaviorism and physiological psychology beat out the depth psychology of the past. These new psychologists have banished the esoteric psychotherapies to history, opting instead to medicate their patients into mental slavery. Although most of the following psychological models are no longer used in the psychiatric community, they still hold powerful keys for the unlocking of the self and tools for total integrative unfoldment.
Sigmund Freud – Personality and the Unconscious
Sigmund Freud’s theories of personality are the best known of all psychological theories and the most controversial as well. Freud compared his rebellious theories to that of Copernicus and Darwin in their irereverence. It was Freud who asserted that “reason does not rule behavior”. It was his supposition that unconscious psychological forces were a strong force affecting individual thought and behavior. He stated that these forces originate in the emotions of childhood and continue to affect an individual throughout their lifetime. In his view, man was driven by primal instincts of the unconsciousness, and it was these instincts that lead to our greatest achievements, as well as to our worst side, like poverty, war, crime and mental illness. Freud postulated three levels of mind: the conscious mind, the preconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. He felt that our conscious mind only accounted for a small portion of the totality of the self, and the vast unconscious mind accounted for the rest.
According to Freud, much of the unconscious content that affects us is made up of inherited primal fantasies based on phylogenic experiences, that is fantasies that are species based, not individual based. For example, he refers to a “primal horde”, in which a group of young males rebel against the alpha male, the one who controlled all the women. Upon killing him and taking the women, the men experience guilt and shame. This is the basis of male guilt and according to Freud is the root of his Oedipus complex.
Freud’s main interests lay in understanding how personal experience shaped and formed the unconscious mind. It was his assertion that this formative pressure occurred through a process known as repression. Freud’s “hedonic hypothesis” stipulated that people seek pleasure and avoid pain. Repression, therefore, is the removal of unpleasant thoughts from awareness. In order to better describe the inherent desire of the unconscious to seek expression, and the conscious mind’s effort to hold back the unconscious, Freud introduced the concepts of the id, ego, and the super-ego.
The id is primarily concerned with biological drives and survival and is nearly always unconscious. It operates by the pleasure principle and is hedonistic, that is, it seeks to satisfy urges and reduce tensions. Freud theorized that the id is the structure of the mind that is responsible for the psychic sexual energy known as libido. The libido is the force and motivation behind much of our personality and can be transformed from its primal aspect into higher aspects of humanity. In fact, all works of art, architecture, and music are the result of transformed libido. This psychic force, Freud divided into two types, Eros, the life instinct, and Thanatos, the death instinct. It was from Thanatos energy that suicidal urges and self destructive behaviors emerged. Eros, of course, is the force behind romantic love and the survival of the species.
The Ego is the structure of the personality that brings about a sense of unity of person. It is the part of the mind that is in contact with the objective world. It operates by the “reality principle”; it understands the real world and uses logic and reasoning to operate within it. The ego is adaptive and able to learn quickly to the changing circumstances outside the personality. It is able to delay self gratification, which is termed “secondary process”. A strong ego is necessary for survival, and to stave off the onslaught of unconscious negative emotions that would be paralyzing otherwise. Therefore, contrary to much esoteric literature, a strong healthy ego is a must for inner exploration.
While the ego is the part of the mind that deals with reality on a pragmatic level, the super-ego is the structure of the mind that is the representative for the rules and ideals of family and society. It generates feelings of guilt when we act in a way not in accordance with our higher ideals. Due to the fact that the super-ego forms in childhood, it is a very juvenile and rigid moral system. Freud believed mature ethics are not derived from the super-ego, but the ego. Due to the fact that these three structures do not normally exist peacefully, much psychic energy is used by the ego to keep the unconscious repressions at bay.
The more psychic energy that is used in inner conflicts, the less a person has for daily activities. The problem with our current state of being now becomes apparent. We are operating with deficient energy systems; our psychic force is being over allocated to our inner conflicts. In its dealing with the psychic conflict of the unconscious, the ego utilizes several strategies, or defense mechanisms, to alleviate this pressure. These defense mechanisms are the basis for much of our maladaptive behavior and lack of integration in society. In effect, the ego utilizes these mechanisms as release valves for psychic pressure. By masking the unconscious urge as something else, the urge is allowed to surface without awakening the guilt of the super-ego.
There are nine defense mechanisms that Freud delineated and all them begin their process through the repressing of socially unacceptable impulses into the unconscious. Denial is the most primitive of the defense mechanisms and occurs when an individual will not acknowledge the repressed feeling at all. This can often lead to nervous breakdown and very bad health. Reaction formation is another primitive defense, where the unacceptable impulse is repressed and its opposite is developed in an exaggerated form. An example of reaction formation would be an instance where an employee hates their boss and represses that urge, only to then exhibit overly exaggerated admiration or love for them. Projection is the third mechanism whereby the repressed content is projected out onto another person. This mechanism is a major force behind racism and prejudice. Displacement is the mechanism whereby the repressed primitive urge is displaced onto another object or person. The kick the dog syndrome is a perfect example of this mechanism. The fifth defense mechanism is identification and is the process of borrowing or merging one’s identity with another person’s. This other person is a complete symbol of the repressed content. Isolation is another mechanism in which thoughts related to some unpleasant occurrence are disassociated from thinking and, therefore, do not come into mind. Rationalization is, of course, the mechanism whereby the repressed content is allowed to emerge; however, these actions are explained away through plausible, yet false, rationalizations. This mechanism involves relatively little distortion of the original content; consequently, it is a somewhat mature defense mechanism. Intellectualization is the eighth mechanism that Freud defined for dealing with psychic distress. In intellectualization, the mechanism is very similar to rationalization; however, in this defense the impulse is covered up thru lengthy and elaborate intellectual games. This again is a more evolved mechanism than the primitive mechanisms listed above, but the content is still not seen for what it really is. The most desirable and healthy way of dealing with unacceptable impulses is through sublimation. Sublimation is the process whereby the individual finds socially acceptable objects for the expression of unacceptable impulses. This allows an indirect discharge of the pent up impulses, while leading to constructive and socially approved behavior. Great works of art for instance usually represents the sublimated libido. Surgery is the sublimation of more violent urges, and competitive athletics is also the sublimation of aggressive urges. In moving toward an integrated self and positive self image, it is vital that an individual realize these processes and begin to uncover the hidden motives and agendas behind the defenses. Only through the unraveling of these behavior games and mechanisms is the unconscious merged and assimilated into the collective image of the Self.
Another big point in Freud’s psychoanalytical model is the focus of the libido onto various body regions during the early stages of personality development. This development involves a series of conflicts between the individual, who wants to satisfy urges, and the civilized world, which seeks to constrain these urges. In the process of development, the individual finds ways to obtain as much hedonic gratification as possible, given the constrained environment it finds itself in.
Freud’s supposition was that the various mucous membranes, the erogenous zones, are the source of the id impulses and where the libido centers itself. These zones are highly reactive to sensation and are associated with increased tension and then a release of that tension. These zones are active at different stages of development. In the adult, the erogenous zone is fixated in the genitals. During the development of the child the libido moves and shifts to various zones. As the child grows and develops, it moves from the oral stage in infancy, to the anal stage for early toddler, on to the phallic stage for somewhat older children. At this point the libido recedes and the child enters a latency period. Once the child has entered puberty, and everything has progressed in a normal fashion, then the libido is transferred outside the body and onto another person. Each stage of the libidos movement represents a new conflict between the child and society. This crisis point is navigated as the personality develops, finding new strategies to cope with the frustrations imposed by socialization. If this socialization is too severe or too shocking, then the young ego cannot cope, and the personality develops unbalanced. These early traumatic events can lead to fixations where the impulse is severely repressed, rather than outgrown. The libido becomes fixed at one of the various stages, and the individual carries this fixation into
adulthood. This fixation leads to the well known personality types of the oral passive character and the anal aggressive character.
Although Freud’s psychoanalytical theory is by no means the only model of the personality, it is a model that we still use when considering the psyche. Through this model, we can understand the dynamics of our unconsciousness and the repressed content and conflicts contained within. It gives us a clear lens with which to peer into the caverns of our mind, uncovering the past hurts and conflicts that take away from an authentic and integrated life. As these conflicts and repressions are uncovered, and the latent energies within them unleashed, the higher self can absorb this stolen and locked away energy, turning it into useful ambition and willpower. When the bottled up pressure of the unconscious mind is released in a constructive way, the personality can assimilate these forces and walk more steadily and calmly toward pure contentment.
Other Articles in This Series:
Eclectic Paths To Integration
Centers of Power
The convoluted path that leads to the integration and illumination of the soul and personality is often a daunting, yet rewarding, undertaking, simultaneously riddled with pitfalls of despair and plateaus of bliss. To tread this path is one of the highest aspirations an individual can have, second only to the desire to help others on this path.
Eclectic Paths To Integration
Part 3: Shaman/Shadow
The dualistic nature of our universe sets the stage for the many rifts that form in our own mind, as well as the neurosis that we experience in our modern culture. The Us-Them, Light-Dark, and Good-Bad dichotomies are constantly pulling us back into a dualist mindset. The meta-programmer, the wise man, and the shaman have all learned the mental techniques whereby the fusion of opposites is assimilated into a higher synthesis of wholeness.
Jonathan Bethel is a writer and lecturer in the areas of futurism, philosophy, esoterica, psychology and science. Additionally, he runs an ezine called OmegaPoint.org focusing on the esoteric and philosophical implications of futurism.