Terms

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Freudian Terms

Anal Stage
Freudian stage of development, ages 1-3. During this stage the child's focus of pleasure is the anus. There is a conflict between the child's desire to expel feces and the parents' attempt to toilet train the child.
Analysand
A person undergoing psychoanalysis.
Cathexis
Greek word meaning "to occupy" or "to invest." In Freudian psychology, it is used to describe the process of attaching sexual (psychic) energy (libido) to a (particular) object (or goal).
Displacement
A psychoanalytic defense mechanism in which one's desire for something inappropriate, such as one's mother, is displaced onto something acceptable, such as one's wife. The acceptable person shares characteristics with, and takes the place of, the unacceptable person.
Dream Interpretation
The use of dreams as a source of information about the unconscious in psychoanalysis.
Ego
English translation of Freud's term das Ich, or "the I." One of the three structures (components) of the mind (psyche) as conceived by psychoanalysis. Obeys the "reality principle," (deal with reality) mediating between the real world and the desires of the id.
Eros
Freudian term for the sex instinct.
Fixation
In Freudian theory, the process by which libido is attached to various objects and erogenous zones (mouth, anus, genitals) during development. Fixation of different amounts of libido at various stages leads to differences in personality.
Free Association
In psychoanalysis, a technique in which the patient generates words by association. Supposed to act as a window into the unconscious.
Genital Stage
The stage after puberty in Freudian theory; lasts throughout life. Focus is on reproduction and caring for the next generation.
Hysteria
A disorder common in Freud's female patients in turn-of-the-century Vienna, characterized by a grab-bag of somatic symptoms: limb paralysis, motor automatisms, sensory deficits, atonia, etc.
Id
English translation of Freud's term das Es, or "the It." One of the three structures (components) of the mind (psyche) in psychoanalysis, it is responsible for instinctual urges and is completely unconscious. Of these structures, it is the most primitive; the source of sex and death drives; obeys the "pleasure principle."
Latency Period
In Freudian theory, a period of repressed sexuality between the Oedipal crisis and puberty (the genital period).
Libido
In Freudian theory, sexual energy. Each person has only a certain amount of libido that can be "cathected" and fixated onto various objects. Psychic energy derived from the sex drive.
Neurology
The field of medicine concerned with brain disease and brain injuries. Distinct from neuroscience (the scientific study of the brain) and neuropsychology (the study of psychological disorders and impairments caused by brain dysfunction).
Neurosis
A mental disorder that involves distortion, but not outright rejection, of reality. Neuroses include anxiety disorders, "hysteria," "neurasthenia," and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Oedipal Complex
Takes place during the phallic stage in Freud's developmental theory. Boys want to kill father and sleep with mother because of sexual attraction to mother; girls want to kill mother and sleep with father because of "penis envy." The crisis leads to identification with the same-sex parent and development of superego. A persistent set of unconscious beliefs and desires that results, according to Freud, from the childhood repression of the desire to sleep with one's mother and kill one's father.
Oral Stage
The first stage in Freud's developmental theory, in which the focus of pleasure is the mouth.
Penis Envy
Name used to describe girls' supposed desire to have a penis.
Phallic Stage
Third stage in Freud's developmental theory, during which the Oedipal crisis takes place and the superego develops. Focus is on the genitals, specifically the penis.
Physiology
The field of biology concerned with the activities and functions of biological systems (as opposed to anatomy, which is concerned with the structures of biological systems).
Physicalism (materialism)
The philosophical position that all phenomena can be explained by reference to physical (or "material") objects and the laws that govern their interactions.
Pleasure Principle
The "instant gratification" policy followed by the id. The principle obeyed by the id, which attempts to accomplish infantile wishes such as the wish to have sex with one's mother and kill one's father.
Projection
A psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which an unwanted desire is attributed to others instead of the self. If you hate your father, for example, you might project your own feelings onto him and become convinced that your father hates you.


Psychoanalysis
A method of psychotherapy and psychological theorizing founded by Sigmund Freud in turn-of- the-century Vienna. Focuses on early life experiences, basic instincts, and the interplay of unconscious forces (thus a kind of "psychodynamic" theory). Originally a method of treating people with neurotic disorders invented and made popular by Sigmund Freud. Also a general method of interpreting behavior, art, history, etc., as being rooted in unconscious (usually sexual) desires.
Psychoanalyst
A person who performs psychoanalysis. Often a medical doctor, though not always, especially after the 1960s in Europe.
Psychodynamic
General term referring to Freudian and post-Freudian theories that postulated the interplay of forces in the unconscious as the major determinants of behavior.
Psychosis
A mental disorder that involves outright rejection or denial of reality. Psychotic conditions include schizophrenia, very severe depression, and manic- depressive disorder.
Reaction formation
A psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which an unwanted desire is converted into its opposite; e.g. a hatred of one's father is converted into a powerful (neurotic) love for him.
Reality Principle
In Freud's theory, the principle followed by the ego. Accommodates the constraints of reality while still trying to satisfy the id's urges and the superego's ideals. The principle obeyed by the ego, which attempts to reconcile the id's desires with reality.
Repression
The process by which the ego prevents unwanted desires from emerging into consciousness. According to psychoanalysis, partially-successful repression is the cause of neuroticism.
Sublimation
The use of psychic energy generated by an unwanted or inappropriate desire, such as the desire to have sex with one's mother, for an acceptable activity such as art, science, good works, etc.
Superego
English translation of Freud's term "Über-Ich", or "over-I." It is partly conscious, and it enforces rules and imposes guilt. One of the three structures (components) in the psychoanalytic theory of mind (psyche), the super-ego represents internalized social rules. The superego develops during the phallic stage and is the internalized representation of society's morals and goals; the conscience.
Thanatos
Freudian name for the "death" instinct; the human tendency towards aggression, stagnation, and destruction.