Theoretical Criticism

Some theoretical criticism of psychoanalysis is based on the argument that it is over simplistic and reductive, because it reduces everything to the idea that we are all driven by our sexuality and does not take into consideration other factors For example: class, political ideology, ecosystem or even spirituality People like the Marxist-Freudian Wilhelm Reich redress this, as does Carl Gustav Jung by factoring in economic and political factors (such as relationship to the means of production in the case of Reich), culture and ideas like the paranormal in the case of Jung respectively. However, there is no clean break between the theories of Freud and Jung. For example, Jung's theories on alchemy as externalized individuation were rooted in Freud's ideas on projection but factored in culture and spiritual teachings. Psychoanalysts have often complained about the significant lack of theoretical agreement among analysts of different schools. Many authors have attempted to integrate the various theories, with limited success. However, with the publication of the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual much of this lack of cohesion has been resolved.

Jacques Derrida incorporated aspects of psychoanalytic theory into deconstruction in order to question what he called the 'metaphysics of presence'. Freud's insistence, in the first chapter of The Ego and the Id, that philosophers will recoil from his theory of the unconscious is clearly a forbear to Derrida's understanding of metaphysical 'self-presence'. Derrida also turns some of these ideas against Freud, to reveal tensions and contradictions in his work. These tensions are the conditions upon which Freud's work can operate. For example, although Freud defines religion and metaphysics as displacements of the identification with the father in the resolution of the Oedipal complex, Derrida insists in The Postcard: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond that the prominence of the father in Freud's own analysis is itself indebted to the prominence given to the father in Western metaphysics and theology since Plato. Thus Derrida thinks that even though Freud remains within a theologico-metaphysical tradition of 'phallologocentrism', Freud nonetheless criticizes that tradition.

The purpose of Derrida's analysis is not to refute Freud, which would only reaffirm traditional metaphysics but to reveal an undecidability at the heart of his project. This deconstruction of Freud casts doubt upon the possibility of delimiting psychoanalysis as a rigorous science. Yet it celebrates the side of Freud which emphasises the open-ended and improvisatory nature of psychoanalysis and its methodical and ethical demand that the testimony of the analysand should be given prominence in the practice of analysis. Psychoanalysis, or at least the dominant version of it, has been denounced as patriarchal or phallocentric by some proponents of feminist theory Other feminist scholars have argued that Freud opened up society to female sexuality.

Some post-colonialists argue that psychoanalysis imposes a white, European model of human development on those without European heritage, hence they will argue Freud's theories are a form or instrument of intellectual imperialism.

While Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis and by many, the father of modern personality theory, he was also very strict and stubborn about his beliefs. As a respected scholar, he developed a following of well known theorists and psychologists in his psychoanalytic society. But as theories were discussed, questioned and revamped, many found themselves at odds with the father in their views for the society and the theories.

As these members began to break from the Freudian camp, many new theories emerged that have become well received in their own right. These new theories, however, hold many of the same underlying beliefs of psychoanalysis, most importantly the view of the unconscious as an important drive in human emotions, cognitions and behaviors. The idea of defense mechanisms related to the unconscious have also been maintained in many of these new theories as well as the importance of early development of the formation of the personality.

As such, these new theories, arising from psychoanalytic thought and the writings of Freud, still maintain many Freudian components. The term Neo-Freudian or Psychodynamic have both been used to describe those who left the psychoanalytic society and formed their own schools of thought.

In this section we will discuss some of the more important neo-Freudian theorists and theories. Like Freud, you will likely see marked similarities between the theory and the life of the theorist. It is important to ask yourself if this resemblance is a mere bias or an ingenious insight.

Among those we will discuss are Alfred Adler and what he called Individual Psychology, Carl Jung's Individual Psychology, Erik and Erikson's Ego Psychology. We will also talk briefly about Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan and Erik Fromm. Main disagreements revolved around (1) the negativity of Freud's theories, (2) his belief that most, if not all of the adult personality is shaped by early childhood experiences and (3) his failure to incorporate social and cultural influences.

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