link: Freud

             LEARNING THEORY: FREUD AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE UNCONSCIOUS

Theme: Significance of Freud's work to educational theory: Freud's greatest contribution was his attempt to formulate a scientific psychology. His discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations is significant for educational theory. The human organism is a social organism. It makes no sense to suggest that human nature is naturally antisocial - the basic assumption upon which is based the work of Freud.

Freud's scientific discoveries made us aware of the unconscious level of the human mind."One of Freud's great contributions to psychology was his realization that the unconscious motivations are emotional in nature." (Karen Horney. New Ways in Psychoanalysis)

Freud lived at a time in which the prevailing trend of thought was to ascribe the peculiarities of one's culture to human nature in general.

  Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire known until recently as Czechoslovakia. His home was Vienna where he studied and practiced medecine until 1938 when Austria was annexed by the Nazis.  With the Nazi annexation of Austria  he went into exile in England and died in London in 1939.

  Freud was ignorant of today's knowledge of anthropology and sociology and so was unaware of the effect of cultural forces on the individual's psyche. In keeping with the general thinking of his time, he had a pessimistic outlook on human nature and accepted the traditional belief that the roots of human nature are morally bad and wicked or 'evil'.  His system of human psychology was based on the premise that the human individual is naturally antisocial with so-called 'antisocial instincts'. Furthermore the antisocial instincts of instinctive sexuality or 'narcissistic libido' are deflected or 'sublimated' to symbolic ends... such as 'love'. According to Freud the sublimation of human instincts is the basis for so-called 'human civilization'.

Freud accepted the traditional belief that there is a dichotomy between man and society based on the assumption that man is naturally antisocial and the function of society is to restrain man's evil nature. He believed that it is the function of society to check and restrain the antisocial instincts... that love is sublimated sexuality... that civilization is a result of the deflection of the sex-impulse to symbolic ends - the process of 'sublimation.' "If we grant this assumption, it follows that there must exist an inverse relationship in any society between the satisfaction of man's drives and his level of cultural attainment, such that the more suppression the more elaborate the culture and the greater the incidence of neurosis, and the less suppression the less neurosis but also the less civilization." (Freud)

"Freud had a pessimistic outlook on human nature....He had no clear vision of constructive forces in man...he denied their authenticity." (Horney, Karen, M.D. Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization, 377)

 Pessimistic view of human nature: Freud's thinking was mechanistic and dualistic - . His mechanistic and dualistic thinking... ego/id, life/death etc... produced his pessimistic concepts of the human personality. He accepted the traditional belief that there is a dichotomy between man and society and that the roots of human nature are evil.... that the release of basic human nature would only lead to destruction. Freud's pessimistic view of human nature led to the fallacious notion that the function of society is to check and restrain the individual's antisocial nature. He likened the human mind to a state in which a destructive mob has to be held down forcibly by a superior class. He claimed that the core of human nature is made up of an obscure 'id' which demands the satisfaction of the antisocial instincts and their immediate satisfaction would lead to conflicts with the external world and ultimately to extinction. He was concerned with what he thought was the question of great theoretical importance - 'when and how it is ever possible for the pleasure principle to be overcome?'.  He postulated an inverse relationship between the satisfaction of human antisocial instincts and the level of cultural attainment: the greater the suppression of instincts, the more elaborate the civilization but also the greater the incidence of so-called  'neurosis'; the less the suppression of antisocial instincts, the less civilization but also the lower the incidence of neurosis. Freud did not see the tragedy in neurosis. He regarded the human being's healthy striving toward self-realization as an expression of 'narcissistic libido'.

  "Having patients talk freely, he discovered that powerful emotional forces were responsible for neurosis, that release of pent-up emotions had the effect of relieving the neuroses. Many were related to traumatic sexual experiences and sexual seductions in childhood. He discovered that many were related to unconscious and repressed desires".( Brown, J.A.C. Freud and the Post-Freudians.1964)

Freud's 'dynamic theory of personality' According to his personality theory, the core of human nature is formed by an obscure 'id' which obeys an inexorable 'pleasure principle' and demands the satisfaction of the antisocial instincts. He postulated the hypothetical 'super-ego' to control the beast within. Freud's mechanistic and dualistic thinking produced his pessimistic outlook on human nature. He believed that basic human nature would only lead to destruction if it were released and it was therefore urgent to control the beast within by means of a hypothetical 'super-ego'.

 Freud studied the neuroses of individuals living in the context of his own time and culture and discovered how childhood experiences influence the formation of the adult character. He had patients talk freely using a psychoanalytic technique known as 'free association' and discovered that neuroses were derived from powerful emotional forces related to traumatic and abusive childhood experiences. He discovered that patterns of adaptation established in the early years of childhood would persist in the adult personality even if they were inadequate and inappropriate to cope with adult life situation; he postulated that the infantile character can influence the formation of the adult character.

In his observations, Freud discovered that an individual's actions and behaviours are based on motivations which lie in emotional forces on the unconscious level of the mind and that neuroses were relieved with the release of pent-up emotions. From this he postulated that human behaviours are determined by unconscious motivations which are emotional in nature. This discovery led to his formulation of an important postulate which formed the basis of his 'dynamic theory of personality'.

    Freud claimed that an understanding of the neurotic personality was based on an understanding of unconsious emotional drives or forces which he claimed 'were often in conflict'. According to his personality theory, the mental conflicts of the neurotic are fundamental conflicts of human nature - conflicts between an 'ego', an 'id' and a 'super-ego'. The core of human nature is made up of an obscure 'id' which demands the satisfaction of the antisocial instincts and obeys an inexorable 'pleasure principle'. The release of the id and the immediate satisfaction of the pleasure principle leads to conflict and destruction. So it was urgent to control the pleasure principle and he postulated that there must be a 'super-ego' to control the id. Freud was concerned with what he thought to be a question of great theoretical importance and for which no answer had yet been given: '"When and how is it ever possible for the 'pleasure principle' to be overcome?". His personality theory denied the authenticity of the constructive forces of human nature.  Freud had no clear vision of the human potential for creativity and productivity of self-fulfillment i.e. self-realisation or 'self-actualisation'. He believed that self-actualisation and the healthy striving towards it was an expression of narcissistic libido.

Freud was unaware of the mechanisms involved in the nervous system. His 'scientific psychology' was incomplete without knowledge of the structural unit of psychology - the nerve impulse.

"Freud saw the nervous system as a syncytium of cells connected to each other by protoplasmic bridges - a concept that solved the problem of continuity, since, in it, the flow of information was unimpeded." (Hobson, 97)

    Freud's scientific psychology was limited because in his day there was insufficient knowledge about the underlying physiological mechanisms which are involved in brain functioning and specifically the molecular mechanisms which explain the apparent continuity of information in the brain. He believed that nervous tissue was a continuous net or 'syncitium' of nerve cells connected to each other by hypothetical protoplasmic bridges or junctions which he called 'contact barriers'. The hypothetical contact barriers provided a tentative explanation for the apparent unimpeded flow of information from one nerve cell to another throughout the brain i.e. 'information flow'. Freud was ignorant of our present day knowledge of the physiological basis of psychology abd the structural units of information processing - the nerve signal or 'impulse', the nerve cell or 'neuron' and the contact point or  'synapse'.  The hypothetical contact barriers have been replaced by the 'synaptic theory of transmission of impulses'  to explain information flow.

Importance of cultural forces in personality development  We now recognize that behaviour which is regarded as normal in one social context may be considered as abnormal in another and vice versa. What constitutes normality or abnormality can only be decided when we consider the motivating forces and conflicts of the society and the culture within which the individual is functioning i.e. 'cultural context'.

"There is no such thing as a universal normal psychology; behavior regarded as neurotic in one culture may be quite normal elsewhere, and vice versa. What constitutes normality or abnormality can only be decided when we consider the culture within which the individual is functioning. The mental conflicts of the neurotic are not fundamental conflicts of human nature arising from biological foundations (Freud's belief). They are based on the motivating forces and conflicts of the society and the culture within which the individual is functioning. Energized by childhood anxieties resulting from obstruction to inner freedom, security and healthy psychological growth, "the neuroses of modern industrial man are therefore based on conflicts inherent in our own culture". (Horney, K. The Neurotic Personality of Our Time. 141)

Unconditional love is a necessary condition for psychological growth Today we know that neuroses are energized by childhood anxieties which result from obstruction to inner freedom, to security and healthy psychological growth. An essential for children's sense of security is genuine concern for their spiritual growth i.e. 'love'. When developmental needs for spiritual growth are repressed, the feelings of fear and anxiety which develop are grounded in reality. The individual develops a very real dread for the environment as a result of intimidation and brutality, isolation and overprotection. The environment is perceived as a threat to individuality, to the instinctive strivings for growth and development and ultimately to freedom and happiness. Under these conditions, the free use of energy is thwarted and expansiveness of personality is warped. The natural sense of self-esteem is undermined and the basic anxiety develops. As a result adulthood is reached without full psychological and emotional development. The struggle towards self-realization and failure to reach maturity with the attributes or 'values' of humaness.

The individual's value system can become so distorted that it contradicts the interests of their own humanity as well as the humanity of others... this is the tragedy of neurosis.

The impact of Freud's theory of child sexuality led to confusion about the real nature of the child. Nineteenth century theories of children were largely based on adult experience. Freud's theory of personality has brought to light previously unknown features of human development. Psychoanalysis has established the influence of the infantile characterin the formation of the adult character. Those patterns of adaptation established in the child's early years persist in the adult personality even if they are inadequate to cope with the adult's life situation.(77) (For a lucid account of insights of psychoanalysis see Anna Freud, Normality and Pathology in Childhood: Assessments of Childhood. New York: International Universities Press, 1966)

 Freud on work as a human phenomenon:   "After primal man had discovered that it lay in his own hands, literally, to improve his lot on earth by working, it cannot have been a matter of indifference to him whether another man worked with him or against him. The other man acquired the value for him of a fellow worker, with whom it was useful to live together." (Sigmund Freud. Civilization and Its Discontents. standard ed., vol. 21, London: Hogarth Press, 1953  p. 59.)

Implications for education  Although Freud was mistaken about the nature of human nature, he made a great contribution to psychology and learning theory with his discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations  His personality theory - though not entirely correct in all its aspects - brought to our awareness the unconscious level of the human 'mind'. As a result we are aware of some previously unknown aspects of human development. We now know that the mental conflicts of the neurotic are not fundamental conflicts of human nature. Instead they are based on the motivating forces and social conflicts of the social environment within which the individual personality develops and functions. The concept of 'normality' makes sense only within the context of nature of the social environment in which the individual is functioning. Freud's scientific discovery of the unconscious has contributed to the understanding of the role of the unconscious in the motivation aspect of learning ...the basis of the valuing process intrinsic to the human organism... ('intrinsic motivation') and the importance of the emotional nature of motivation as a determinant for effective learning. This is of great significance to learning theory and consequently to educational theory. The emotional nature of motivation for learning is a key aspect of educational theory of the so-called  paradigm of education for development of the person as a whole i.e. 'holistic education'. 

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The Interpretation of Dreams http://www.hinduwebsite.com/general/etexts.htm (see psychology)

notes:

 In keeping with the general thinking of his time, he accepted the traditional belief that there is a dichotomy between the human organism and society - a belief which was based on the assumption that the roots of human nature are evil and that the human organism is naturally antisocial with 'antisocial instincts.' He had no clear vision of the constructive forces of human nature and denied their authenticity. As a result he did not understand the tragedy in neurosis. He claimed that in order to understand the human personality, one must take into account the emotional drives or forces which 'were often in conflict'. Freud's mechanistic and dualistic thinking produced his pessimistic outlook on human nature. He believed that basic human nature would only lead to destruction if it were released and it was therefore urgent to control the beast within by means of a hypothetical 'super-ego'. He compared the human mind to a state in which a destructive mob has to be held down forcibly by a superior class. He claimed that the core of human nature is formed by the obscure 'id' which obeys an inexorable 'pleasure principle' and demands the satisfaction of antisocial instincts. Furthermore, the immediate satisfaction of the instincts would often lead to conflicts with the external world and ultimately to extinction. He was concerned with the question "of the greatest theoretical importance, and one that has not yet been answered - when and how it is ever possible for the pleasure principle to be overcome." Freud believed that the function of any society is to check and restrain the antisocial instincts. He believed that civilization is a result of the deflection of the antisocial instincts of the libido to symbolic ends - a process which he called 'sublimation'. He believed that love is sublimated sexuality and that any kind of affection was a sublimated expression of libidinal desires - even an infant's love for its mother! He even believed that the individual's healthy striving toward self-realization was an expression of 'narcissistic libido'. He thought that there should be an inverse relationship between the satisfaction of human antisocial instincts and the level of cultural attainment. The more suppression of instincts, the more elaborate the civilization but also the greater the incidence of neurosis. The less suppression of antisocial instincts, the less civilization but also the smaller the incidence of neurosis. In his studies, Freud used a psychoanalytic technique known as 'free association'. When he had patients talk freely, he discovered that their neuroses could be explained by powerful emotional forces. Many neuroses were related to traumatic sexual experiences such as seductions and abuses in childhood. Other neuroses were related to unconscious and repressed desires. With his technique of free association he showed that patterns of adaptation which were established in the child's early years can persist in the adult personality even if they are inadequate to cope with the adult's life situation. He demonstrated the influence of the infantile character in the formation of the adult character. When he discovered that patients were able to relieve their neuroses by releasing their own pent-up emotions, he assumed that the mental conflicts of the neurotic were fundamental conflicts of human nature. Freud's discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations was one of his great contributions to psychology. The discovery led to his formulation of an important postulate which formed the basis of his 'dynamic theory of personality'. Freud postulated that an individual's actions and behaviours are based on motivations which lie in emotional forces on the unconscious level of the mind. His dynamic theory of personality was based on the postulate that human behaviour is based on unconscious motivations which are emotional in nature. His theory of personality made us aware of the unconscious level of the human 'mind' and brought to light previously unknown features of human development. We now know that there is no such thing as a universal normal psychology. Behavior which is regarded as neurotic in one culture may be considered quite normal in another. What constitutes normality or abnormality can only be decided when we consider the culture within which the individual is functioning. Contrary to Freud's belief, we now know that the mental conflicts of the neurotic are not fundamental conflicts of human nature. Instead they are based on the motivating forces and social conflicts of the culture within which the individual is functioning. Thus the neuroses of the individual living in modern industrial societies can be attributed to conflicting forces which are inherent in the society. Neurotic conflicts are energized by childhood anxieties which result from obstruction to their inner freedom, their security and their healthy psychological growth. Anxiety feelings arise in children whose parents fail to give them genuine warmth and affection (usually because of their own neuroses). Unconditional love is an essential for children's normal development. When this is refused, they do not experience the certainty of being wanted which is crucial to their sense of security. As a result, their environment comes to be dreaded and is perceived as a menace to their individuality, their development, their instinctive strivings for growth, and ultimately their freedom and their happiness. In such an environment, their free use of energies is thwarted and their expansiveness is warped. Their self-esteem and self-reliance are undermined and their basic anxiety develops. Fear is instilled through brutality, overprotective so-called 'love', intimidation and isolation. And the fear is grounded in reality. The result is physical growth to adulthood without psychological growth results and the production of individuals without those attributes which make them 'human'. Inhuman individuals have value systems which are so distorted and unbalanced that they contradict the interests of their own humanity and the humanity of others. Freud's 'scientific psychology' was incomplete because there was insufficient knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the apparent 'continuity of information' in the brain. Freud did not have knowledge of the underlying physiological mechanisms which produce the functions of the nervous system. The molecular mechanisms involved in brain functioning and the functioning of the nervous system were unknown. Freud understood the nervous system to be a continuous net or 'syncytium' of nerve cells connected to each other by 'protoplasmic bridges' or 'protoplasmic junctions' which he called 'contact barriers'. The concept of a net of nerve cells joined together with bridges of protoplasm was a hypothetical one which solved the problem of continuity of information throughout the brain. The hypothetical protoplasmic bridges could 'explain' the apparently unimpeded flow of information. As a working hypothesis, the concept provided a tentative explanation for the continuity of information from one nerve cell to another, since, in it, the flow of information was unimpeded. But his scientific psychology was incomplete without the present knowledge of the molecular mechanisms which are involved in the functioning of neurons and their interconnections. Freud was unaware of the nature of the structural unit of psychology - the nerve impulse.

Freud postulated that an individual's actions and behaviours are based on motivations which lie in emotional forces on the unconscious level of the mind. He was concerned with what was thought at the time to be an important theoretical question... 'how to overcome the pleasure principle'.

Freud's dynamic theory of the personality has brought to our attention some previously unknown features of human development. His personality theory was based on the postulate that human behaviour is based on unconscious motivations which are emotional in nature. ..the motivations of the individual's actions and behaviors lie in emotional forces. He believed that these emotional forces were in conflict and that the mental conflicts of the neurotic are fundamental conflicts of human nature. "In order to understand the human personality it is necessary to take into account emotional drives which are often in conflict." (cited by Brown, J. in Freud and the Post-Freudians. London: Cox and Wyman Ltd. 1964. page 133)

link: Freud LEARNING THEORY: FREUD AND THE DISCOVERY OF THE UNCONSCIOUS "Freud's scientific discoveries made us aware of the unconscious level of the human 'mind.'" (Forem) Theme: Significance of Freud's work to educational theory: One of Freud's great contributions to psychology was his discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations. Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia, a part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire known recently as Czechoslovakia. Freud studied and practiced medecine in Vienna, his home until 1938 when Austria was annexed by the Nazis. He went into exile in England and died in London in 1939. Freud lived at a time in which the prevailing trend of thought was to ascribe the peculiarities of one's culture to human nature in general. He was ignorant of today's knowledge of anthropology and sociology and so was unaware of the effect of cultural forces on the individual psyche. Freud had a pessimistic outlook on human nature which was in keeping with the general thinking of his time. He accepted the traditional belief in the basic 'evil' of human nature and believed that the human individual is naturally antisocial with 'antisocial instincts'. He argued that it is the function of society to check and restrain the individual's evil nature. His theories were based on this supposed individual/society dichotomy. He likened the human mind to a state in which a destructive mob has to be held down forcibly by a superior class. The healthy striving toward self-realization was considered to be an expression of what was called 'narcissistic libido' and the antisocial instincts of the libido are deflected or 'sublimated' to symbolic ends and the result is human 'civilization'. He postulated an inverse relationship between the satisfaction of human antisocial instincts and the level of cultural attainment: the more suppression of instincts, the more elaborate the civilization but also the greater the incidence of 'neurosis'; the less suppression of antisocial instincts, the less civilization but also the lower the incidence of neurosis. We now recognize that behaviour which is regarded as neurotic in one culture may be quite normal in another and vice versa. What constitutes normality or abnormality can only be decided when we consider the motivating forces and conflicts of the society and the culture within which the individual is functioning. Freud studied the neuroses of individuals living in the context of his own time and culture and discovered how childhood experiences influence the formation of the adult character. He had patients talk freely using a psychoanalytic technique known as 'free association' and discovered that neuroses were derived from powerful emotional forces related to traumatic and abusive childhood experiences. He discovered that patterns of adaptation established in the early years of childhood would persist in the adult personality even if they were inadequate and inappropriate to adult life, and that neuroses were relieved with the release of pent-up emotions. In his observations, Freud discovered that an individual's actions and behaviours are based on motivations which lie in emotional forces on the unconscious level of the mind. From this he postulated that human behaviours are determined by unconscious motivations which are emotional in nature. This discovery led to his formulation of an important postulate which formed the basis of his 'dynamic theory of personality'. Freud claimed that an understanding of the neurotic personality was based on an understanding of unconsious emotional drives or forces which he claimed 'were often in conflict'. According to his personality theory, the mental conflicts of the neurotic are fundamental conflicts of human nature - conflicts between an 'ego', an 'id' and a 'super-ego'. The core of human nature is made up of an obscure 'id' which demands the satisfaction of the antisocial instincts and obeys an inexorable 'pleasure principle'. The release of the id and the immediate satisfaction of the pleasure principle leads to conflict and destruction. Freud was concerned with what he thought to be a question of great theoretical importance and for which no answer had yet been given: '"When and how is it ever possible for the 'pleasure principle' to be overcome?". He postulated that since it was urgent to control the pleasure principle, there must be a 'super-ego' to control the id. His personality theory denied the authenticity of the constructive forces of human nature and so did not imply any clear vision of the human potential for productiveness. Freud did not see the tragedy in neurosis. Today we know that neuroses are energized by childhood anxieties which result from obstruction to children's inner freedom, to their security and to their healthy psychological growth. An essential for children's sense of security is genuine concern for their spiritual growth i.e. 'love'. When developmental needs for spiritual growth are repressed, the feelings of fear and anxiety which develop are grounded in reality. The individual develops a very real dread for the environment as a result of intimidation and brutality, isolation and overprotection. The environment is perceived as a threat to individuality, to the instinctive strivings for growth and development and ultimately to freedom and happiness. Under these conditions, the free use of energy is thwarted and expansiveness of personality is warped. The natural sense of self-esteem is undermined and the basic anxiety develops. As a result adulthood is reached without full psychological and emotional development. The struggle towards self-realization and failure to reach maturity with the attributes or 'values' of humaness. Distortion of value systems contradicts the interests of one's own humanity and the humanity of others. This is the tragedy of neurosis. Although Freud was mistaken about the nature of human nature, his great contribution to psychology and learning theory was his discovery of the emotional nature of unconscious motivations. His personality theory - though not entirely correct in all its aspects - brought to our awareness the unconscious level of the human 'mind'. As a result we are aware of some previously unknown aspects of human development. We now know that the mental conflicts of the neurotic are not fundamental conflicts of human nature. Instead they are based on the motivating forces and social conflicts of the social environment within which the individual personality develops and functions. Therefore the concept of 'normality' only makes sense in the context of the nature of the social environment in which an individual is functioning. Behaviour which is regarded as normal in one social context may be considered quite abnormal in another. Of particular significance to learning theory, Freud's scientific discovery of the unconscious has contributed to the understanding of the role of the unconscious in the motivation aspect of the learning process.