This is a public confession  -  since my undergraduate days when I first had to read Society and its Discontents, I gave Freud a big pass.  What I learned about his theory through a liberal education was enough for me to dismiss him.  His theories about everything being about sex, repressed sex, expressed sex, delayed sex, women envying men, all about the phallus, turned me off.  I never understood his claims that women, who could become pregnant from one fast sperm, incubate life for nine months, and go through the birth process as heroines, could possibly envy an appendage.   If anything, I understood that men had what is now called Venus envy, since they cannot bring forth life from their own bodies, they have to compensate.

            Nor did I buy into the Oedipal fantasy that all men want to marry their mothers and kill off the father.  Or that all little girls want to marry their daddies, that all dreams are sublimated sexual and libidinal drives.  Or that the psyche conspires to conceal rather than reveal.  It seemed a dark, driven and desperate world he saw, described and stamped on the Western psychological model.  So off to Jung I went, his grasp of the mystery of Psyche, the inner workings of the Self in relationship to a developing ego, the telos of life being to live one’s life consciously and not be lived through the possession of autonomous complexes spoke to me.  Jung allowed a more comprehensive lens through which to understand life than mere sex or even death.

            So, in other words, I followed the established norm of choosing one of two camps, two psychological stances each of which disavowed one another.  To all you Freudians, my apologies.  This is what happened:  I signed up for a certification program at the Assisi Institute entitled:  After the Storm:  Psyche’s Response to trauma, Resilience and Healing.  The first book on the list for the program was Trauma, Growth and Personality by Phyllis Greenacre, an avowed Freudian.  And I was stunned to realize that there was gold in Freud too!  She wrote about the process of birth as the infant’s initial traumatic experience from the infant’s point of view.

            She describes how pre-natal, natal and post natal experiences predisposes the infant’s organism to respond to trauma in particular ways.  The biological process prepares the infant to respond to stimuli in the outer world.  How the initial birth trauma goes, how the infant is held, how the environment responds to its stress and distress, in a sense prefigures how the adult will find ways to modulate stress, and respond to trauma. 

            Those of you well versed in Freudian theory know much more than that, but for me, the depth of attention to the infant’s experience awakened a respect for him that I had not had before.  While I am not embarking on becoming a Freudian, I can find resonance in field theory, initial conditions that constrain how an organism responds to life and its vicissitudes.  Perhaps it speaks to a more mature attitude to the greats, to do homage and respect for their work without holding them to be a God who must either be worshipped or destroyed.  And while I may never speak fluent Freudian, I will study its vocabulary and engage in dialogue with respect and curiosity.  

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Comment by Silvia Behrend on February 18, 2015 at 2:11pm

Thank you for the thoughtful reply, I have no doubt of the truth of your statements, especially the end, where we end up where we first began!  I hope what came across was not a wholesale embrace of Freudian theory, but a respect for what is there of value to be gained.  Again, thank you for the time you took reflect and reply, it is greatly appreciated

Comment by klemens swib on February 18, 2015 at 12:50pm

A very interesting and informative discussion. It took me a few days to put together my thoughts on the subject. I agree with your initial reaction to Freud. Who in their right mind wouldn't huh?  The perseverance of the antiquated freudian ideas has a lot to do with the fact that it was a very aggressive psychological cult. You were with him or you were ostracized. If you were against him the cultists literally went to the ends of the earth to destroy the apostates reputation and ideas. [ I am taking this observation from a video on Freud that i recently watched]...I saw von franz in another video sourcing the imputations in regard to Jung's nazi sympathies to the Freudian camp. Who hasn't heard about  Jung's private affairs. But who every raises the moral depravity and self serving cynicism of Freud as amply documented in the case of Fricker. You will never find it in the featured prominently in the Freudian literature. Yet Freud was so unethical in the case of Fricker that he should have been disbarred. You will no where see the moral depravity of Freud being mentioned every time his name is raised. Why?

Jung never formed a cult around his ideas. This gave the Freudians an incredible advantage. Indeed Freud's ideas/cult became very influential in the realm of psychiatry and remained so up until the time the pharmaceutical companies hijacked the psychiatric establishment. Never the less the Freudian cult was able to get a foothold on the grants and establish themselves in the academic world. These child studies Silvia mentioned grew out of Freudian movements acceptance by the academic mainstream.

I became aware of the child studies approach generated from Freudian beginnings in the early eighties. The classic text at the time was "The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant" by Margaret S Mahler Fred Pine and Annie Bergman..... I have a copy of the book sitting on my desk right now. Alas i only read part of it as my interest in child psychology was more archetypal and theoretical.... 

So where am I going with this reminiscence. Well the sub title of the book was,

:Symbiosis and INDIVIDUATION". Silvia you might do well to consult the text you are praising to see if Individuation is at the heart of it as well. Now the Oedipus complex is an abnormal variation on the mother complex. So maybe when push comes to shove your further reading and research on this admittedly excellent approach to childrens' development might bring you back to Jungian realm of Individuation in very short order. 

Comment by Todd Hayen on February 17, 2015 at 7:29am
Very nice article. Thanks for sharing. I, of course, resonate with Jung as well, but am fascinated with Freud's "mystery."
Comment by Silvia Behrend on February 16, 2015 at 6:02pm

you are most welcome.

Comment by Ed Hannagan @insighttogether on February 16, 2015 at 11:00am
Thank you!*

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