Chapter 2: A Freudian Psychoanalytic Approach

Silvana Rodarte
Mind Map by Silvana Rodarte, updated more than 1 year ago
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By: Silvana Rodarte

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Chapter 2: A Freudian Psychoanalytic Approach

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  • By Silvana Rodarte CitationBerger,A. A. (2016) What Objects Mean: AnIntroduction to Material Culture (2nd ed.). NY, NY: Routledge.  
1 Methodology: Psychoanalysis
1.1 Definition: That unconscious mental processes exist and play an important role in our lives. It is 1) the name of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible any other way. 2) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders, and 3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline. Characteristics: it is an interpretive art that can be applied to artifacts, objects, and psychological problems.
1.2 Methods: Certain mental acts in normal individuals, seen in his findings, were symptoms of neurotic: that is to say the had a meaning. It was unknown to the subject but could be discovered by analytic means.
1.3 Method: We resist knowing contents of our unconscious and repress recognizing the importance of the Oedipus complex of our sexuality.
1.4 Method: It is the hidden meanings and symbolic significance of various artifacts of material culture that a psychoanalytic approach to the subject attempts to discover.
2 Methodology: Artifacts and the Unconscious: Freud's Topographic Hypothesis
2.1 Feud defines topographic hypothesis and characterizes three levels to the human psyche: consciousness, pre-conscious (material we ca access and of which we are dimly aware), and the unconscious, which we cannot access without guidance from psychoanalytic trained therapists.
2.2 Method: The analogy of the iceberg helps us see how the three levels are related to one another. Consciousness (on top=what we are aware of), Preconscious (middle on water line= what we can barely make out), Unconscious (dark area= makes up most of our psyches.
2.3 Method: Can be applied to artifacts: Conscious (what artifact does), Preconscious (other aspects of the artifact’s functionality of which we may be aware, and Unconscious (unrecognized symbolic meaning connected to the artifact.
2.4 Method: Example of the cigarette lighters examined by Ernest Dichter. It uncovered that people often have attitudes towards objects of which they are unaware, attitudes that are hidden in the unconscious areas of their psyches. Lighter used to light (conscious) cigarette yet it goes deeper; it involves mastery and power, and the ability to summon fire (preconscious) at one’s command. Findings were that the deepest level the feeling that one’s lighter will work is connected to attitudes about sexual potency, and the flame of the lighter symbolizes, at the unconscious level, sexual union (unconscious) being consummated.
3 Methodology: Id, Ego, and Superego: Freud's Structural Hypothesis
3.1 Definition of Structural Hypothesis according to Freud: It suggests that our psyches have three components: id, an ego, and a superego. His theory suggests that objects can have different levels of significance.
3.2 Definition of Structural Hypothesis according to Charles Brenner (author of “An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis”): id comprises the psychic representatives of the drives, the ego consists of those functions which have to do with the individual’s relation to his environment, and the superego comprises the moral precepts of our minds as well as our ideal aspiration.
3.3 Characteristics: id is our drives (“I want it all now”), ego is balancing act between id and superego, and superego is our sense of guilt, conscience, and similar phenomena. People who have overly powerful ids or superegos that dominate the ego elements in their psyches generally have psychological problems and experience difficulties in their lives.
3.4 Method: It is possible to classify artifacts according to their connection to id, ego, or superego elements in our psyches. Example: a Barbie doll (id), dictionaries (ego), bible (superego).
3.5 Method: Psychoanalytic theory suggests that the ego can also employ a number of defense mechanisms to help it control id and super ego elements is our psyche prevent anxiety and overwhelming guilt, and control our instincts.
3.5.1 Defense mechanisms we use are: Ambivalence- a simultaneous feeling of action and repulsion Avoidance- refusal to face maters that distress us. Denial: inability to accept reality of things that generate anxiety. Fixation- obsessive attachment to something generally a result of trauma. Identification- desire to be like someone. Rationalization- offering excuses for untoward behavior. Regression- individuals return to an earlier stage of development. Repression- barring certain phenomena from consciousness. Suppression- putting certain things out of mind.
3.6 Method Example: Identifying a sports hero and purchasing a type of running shoe advertised by that figure. We place a fixation on shoes and buy more than what we could use.
4 Methodology: Symbolic Aspects of Material Culture
4.1 Definition and Characteristics according to Hinsie and Campbell is their book “Psychiatric Dictionary”: symbolism is the act or process of representing and order or idea by a substitute object, sign, or signal. We often disguise unconscious aggressive and sexual desires by using symbols, doing so enables us to escape from the strictures of the superego.
4.2 According to Freud the psychoanalytic theory would suggest that people are not aware of the symbolic significance of the objects they use, but quite obviously a large number of artifacts have either a masculine penetrating, or female incorporating character to them.
4.3 Definition of symbol according to Martin Grotjahn in his book, “The Voice of the Symbol”- “message from our unconscious which communicates truth, beauty and goodness”.
4.4 Method: An example Freud uses is that most of the symbolic phenomena in dreams have a masked sexual content, and this masking protects dreamers and prevents the superego from waking them. The penis is symbolized primarily by objects which resemble it in form (sticks, umbrellas, and poles) and expresses property of penetration (knives and daggers). Female genitalia symbols are enclosing spaces (caves and pits), and body (apples and peaches).
4.5 Method according to Cifford Geertz in “The Interpretation of Cultures”: Much of our thinking is based on “significant” symbols and that we use symbols to “impose meaning” on things; our understanding of symbols is connected to the communities in which we are born.
5 Methodology: Sexual Development and Material Culture
5.1 Definition and Characteristics of Sexual Development described in Charles Brenner in “An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis”- First year and a half is the mouth, lips, and tongue as sexual organs of the infant. The next year and a half is the anus. Towards the close of the third year is the genitals known as the phallic (penis and clitoris). The last stage is genital stage where they focus on members of the opposite sex.
5.2 Methods: According to Freud, young boys between ages two and five develop an unconscious desire for their mothers and hostility towards their fathers (known as Oedipus Complex). Resolved in boys by their anxiety about being castrated. Girls wish to supplant their mother and resolve their problem by finding someone to supplant their father (lover or husband).
5.3 Method: We can use Freud’s typology to classify objects according to whether they are primarily oral, anal, phallic, or genital in nature, recognizing that people who sue these objects are generally not aware of their sexually symbolic nature.
5.3.1 Oral (pacifier), anal( enema), phallic (video game joystick), genital (condom/vibrator) Method: For example using French toys like some “live” dolls. Dolls that eat and urinate are all symbols to prepare a young girl for the causality of housekeeping and “condition” her role as a future mother.
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