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Freud’s Developmental Theory: Freud and the Psychosexual Stages
•Libido: The energy that drives the psychological machine. It is energy like
any energy cannot be created, or destroyed. It can only be redirected and
shunted from one purpose to another, from one mechanism to another. He
was fashioning a view of the human mind as being mechanical and being
driven by energy (libido). Freud believed that the human mind was a psychic
system which operated on the basis of energy (libido). It reflects the
influence of the physical sciences.
•He saw the libido as being the energy that emerges from human
instincts. This reflects the influence of Darwin on his thinking. Much of the
energy that drives human behavior is instinctual in origin. He originally
thought that there a two types of instincts: instincts relevant to survival
and instincts relevant to sex and survival. He later put the two together
and said that there was one set of instincts that are life preserving in
nature and the energy they generate is called as libido.
LIBIDO: Any life-sustaining need satisfying/pleasure oriented urge.
•In his later career he referred to libido as “Eros”-life instinct – that energy
that drives you towards life preserving action.
•Thanatos – death instinct. Complementary concept that refers to the
urges we have to destroy, to harm, or to aggress against others or oneself.
•Adler challenged the idea that everything could be reduced to libidinal
urges (life-preserving urges). Adler believed that there is an instinct towards
•Critically Freud believed that there was a developmental sequence that
occurred; where the libido became organized and centered around a
particular biological area/fxn. It’s the nature of human organismic
development. As we develop from infancy to adulthood, the libido comes
online and gets organized around particular areas of the body.
•Libidinal organization- the organization of the libido around a particular
biological organ/fxn. The bodily source of libido is referred to as
EROGENOUS ZONE (root: eros/libido)
•As we develop from early infancy to puberty there is this sequence of
stages that occurs the organization of the libido and at each stage, there is a
particular developmental challenge that is being undertaken that requires
•The First of these stages of libidinal organization occurs in the first year
and a half of life - birth -18 months of age. The libido is organized around
the mouth, lips and tongue, hence it is known as the oral stage.
•The libido is present from birth.
•During the Oral stage, infants take great pleasure from being fed, and
they also learn that non-nutrient substitutes can be accepted. Infants can
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suck their thumbs, etc. and they learn that that can be a great source of
pleasure as well
•Over the course of the 18 months, infants begin to teeth. They begin to
learn that they can chew their food and also swallow it. This demarcates the
first of many stages during which the organism becomes much more active in
its approach to the environment, and it’s seeking need-gratification from the
•During this time, the central issue is trust, and the extent to which the
infant can trust or rely on its caregiver to supply the nutrients it needs. The
caregiver is the most important thing in the infants world.
•At this stage of development there is only one personality structure in
place which is the ID.
•ID : the reservoir of the libido. It is the only structure of
personality that is present from birth.
•The libido migrates after 18 months. As the infants proceed towards
toddler hood, the infants begin to discover that they can take some pleasure
from expelling their bowels, and also take some pleasure from retaining their
feces. This stage is known as the anal stage.
•This is the stage when toddlers have one of their more serious conflicts
with their parents. This is the time when the parents try to toilet train their
children. The toilet training represents a metaphoric battle – it’s the
competition of wills. It’s the willfulness of the child to say that they want to
go to the bathroom when ever they feel, and it’s the willfulness of the parents
to say that they will go to the bathroom at this location and certain
•If the infant proceeds properly through this stage, they realize that the
proper regulation of your own impulses, the proper regulation of your own
biological urges can solicit approval from others. By learning to manage your
own intestinal activity you can at least win your mother’s gratitude.
•By regulating ones own biological processes/other processes we can win
approval from significant others (specifically parents and society.
•During this stage of willful self development, autonomy and self mastery
play critical roles. This is where you see a 2nd personality of structure
emerge – the structure of EGO.
•The Phallic Stage: During ages 3-5 children begin to explore their
genitals, and start to realize that touching themselves is a great source of
•Freud: As children are discovering the pleasure that comes from
manipulating their genitals, new protosexual feelings arise.
•Children are looking towards an object to direct the new found
pleasurable feelings. Freud’s hypothesis was that the default settings was to
attach those feelings towards the opposite sex parent. As children begin to
discover their biological capacities for pleasure, they look to their parents as
objects to whom they could direct their feelings.
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