Living with people is probably the best way to determine their personality, as many college roommates have found out. Unfortunately, living with someone, as a method of personality assessment, takes too long and is fraught with ethical implications. So, how do psychologists measure personality in a reasonable time and without ethical violations?
All of the methods below will be affected by one of the basic problems in any type of personality assessment, namely the discrepancy between self report and actual behavior. This problem may occur without subjects realizing it, and it highlights the fact the we are often unaware of the biases we possess about ourselves. We are often struck by the discrepancy in how others view us compared to how we see ourselves. For example, I was shocked to learn some years ago that students find me a fearful stimulus, because I consider myself as easy going and pleasant. My colleagues all laugh when I tell that story, so I guess they do not find me that easy going and pleasant either. Now, I take extra effort in the first few classes to appear less scary.
The problem of self-report and actual behavior may also be created intentionally. Often, we take pains to present a certain image to the rest of the world, and that image may not reflect our actual personality or behavior. Dating, for instance, has been criticized because people tend to try to project an image, rather than their true selves, while dating. When I have interviewed, for example, I wear a suit or a sport coat. But they are the only suit and sport coat I own. When I wear them on campus, jaws drop and people ask me why I am wearing them. More seriously, criminals and mental patients may have good reason to cover up their true natures and intentions in order to be discharged from prison or therapy, respectively. With the above in mind, let's examine a few methods for studying personality.
At first glance, an interview may not seem like a very sophisticated method for determining personality. However, a skilled interviewer may be able to determine and infer much from a short interview. Interviews come in two basic types. The structured interview treats all interviewees as similarly as possible in order to assess differences among them. Employment interviews or college admission interviews may be seen as structured interviews. Unstructured interviews are less rigid by definition. An interviewer conducting such interviews may allow each interview to follow its own unique path. Interviewees may be encouraged to pursue topics they have brought up. In the hands of practiced interviewers, unstructured interviews allow deeper penetration into the personality than do structured interviews. All serious decisions concerning therapy, admission to mental health in-patient therapy, or other such situations nearly always include one or more interviews.
Rating scales have been developed to provide a tool for quickly determining both your own personality and the personality of others. Rating scales of self are particularly subject to problems relating to self-knowledge. In other words, the better you know yourself, the better the rating will be. The same logic applies to ratings of others. An interesting problem with ratings, in general, is the halo effect. The halo effect states that extreme scores on one rating will affect nearby subsequent scores in the same direction. So, an extreme negative rating on an item will bias the next several items in a negative direction. The effect also holds for extreme positive ratings. In essay tests, you can exploit the halo effect by submitting your best answer first. Do not try it with me because I read essay tests by the question, not by the student, so that I may control for the halo effect.
Personality inventories have been discussed earlier. They include the 16 PF, the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), the CPI (California Personality Inventory), and many others. All of these techniques ask subjects a great many questions in a pencil-and-paper format, and then the answers yield scores on a number of scales. Those scale scores are usually reported in a standard way with lines connecting them, thus, the "personality profile." The MMPI also includes scales designed to check for random responding and faking "tough" or "nice." One should not rely on scores on inventories as the only method of assessment. But when used correctly, they provide a valuable shortcut to a quick view into an individual's personality.
Projective techniques originally stemmed from psychoanalytic theory. They were designed to tap into a person's unconscious without that person being aware of such probing. The most famous such technique is the Rorschach Inkblot test (see Handout 17 4). Subjects are asked to describe all of the possible things they perceive a particular inkblot to be. Responses are analyzed according to a prescribed method. Another projective test is the TAT or Thematic Apperception Test. In the TAT, subjects are shown a series of pictures of ambiguous situations. They are then asked to tell a story about the people in the picture: Who are they, how did they get there, what are they doing, what is going to happen? Suppose, for example, a picture of two women walking down a country road at sunset toward a small house in the background, is shown. If a subject says that they live in the house, are mother and daughter, they just had dinner, and are enjoying a quiet evening's walk, that is one thing. But, if the story is that the two women's car broke down nearby, they are walking toward the house for help, but will not get it because they will be harmed, then those two stories might prove useful in further questioning of each subject. Finally, the Draw-a-person type of test asks subjects to draw themselves, their family members, or even their houses. Their drawings are then interpreted. One 6-year-old girl I tested drew her parents and siblings as huge, and herself as very small. I interpreted that as a reflection of her perception of her role in the family. Projective tests can be very useful in individual cases, but are usually not used in making comparisons between subjects.
* Personality Tests on the WWW--index, basic, short, links, graphics
o Offers 21 links to on-line personality tests. Includes tests for type-A personality, left or right brain, assertiveness, and others. http://www.2h.com/Tests/personality.phtml
* Spending Personality Self-Test--interactive, basic, medium, links
o Page contains on-line version of commercially available test users may take in order to analyze their spending habits. http://www.ns.net/cash/selftest/selftest.html
* Somatic Inkblot Series--index, adv., short, links, graphics
o Home page of the Somatic Inkblot Series, dedicated to the use of projective techniques. The page has links to sample inkblots, a journal, membership information, and others. http://www.owt.com/sis/
* Keirsey Temperament Sorter--interactive, interm., long, links
o Users may take this personality test based upon Jung's theories. The test yields 16 combinations of personality types. http://www.keirsey.com/cgi-bin/keirsey/newkts.cgi
* Axiom Software Ltd.--index, basic, short, links, graphics
o Home page of provider of personality-profiling test, DISC, page has links to information on personality profiling and other topics. http://www.axiomsoftware.com/default.htm
* The Personality Tests--index, basic, short, links, graphics, Java
o Links to on-line interactive personality tests includes: Keirsey Temperament Sorter, Enneagram, Personality Profile, Color Test, and the Maykorner Test (requires Java). http://www.freshy.com/personality/index2.html
Senin, 15 Oktober 2007
Living with people is probably the best way to determine their personality, as many college roommates have found out. Unfortunately, living with someone, as a method of personality assessment, takes too long and is fraught with ethical implications. So, how do psychologists measure personality in a reasonable time and without ethical violations?
The structure of the personality in psychoanalytic theory is threefold. Freud divided it into the id, the ego, and the superego. Only the ego was visible or on the surface, while the id and the superego remains below, but each has its own effects on the personality, nonetheless.
The id represents biological forces. It is also a constant in the personality as it is always present. The id is governed by the "pleasure principle", or the notion of hedonism (the seeking of pleasure). Early in the development of his theory Freud saw sexual energy only, or the libido, or the life instinct, as the only source of energy for the id. It was this notion that gave rise to the popular conception that psychoanalysis was all about sex, sex, sex. After the carnage of World War I, however, Freud felt it necessary to add another instinct, or source of energy, to the id. So, he proposed thanatos, the death instinct. Thanatos accounts for the instinctual violent urges of humankind. Obviously, the rest of the personality would have somehow to deal with these two instincts. Notice how Hollywood has capitalized on the id. Box office success is highly correlated with movies that stress either sex, violence, or both.
The ego is the surface of the personality, the part you show the world. The ego is governed by the "reality principle ," or a pragmatic approach to the world. For example, a child may want to snitch a cookie from the kitchen, but will not if a parent is present. Id desires are still present, but the ego realizes the consequences of brazen cookie theft. The ego develops with experience, and accounts for developmental differences in behavior. For example, parents expect 3-month infants to cry until fed, but, they also expect 3-year-olds to stop crying when told they will be fed.
The superego consists of two parts, the conscience and the ego-ideal. The conscience is the familiar metaphor of angel and devil on each shoulder. The conscience decides what course of action one should take. The ego-ideal is an idealized view of one's self. Comparisons are made between the ego-ideal and one's actual behavior. Both parts of the super-ego develop with experience with others, or via social interactions. According to Freud, a strong super-ego serves to inhibit the biological instincts of the id, while a weak super-ego gives in to the id's urgings. Further, the levels of guilt in the two cases above will be high and low, respectively.
The tripartite structure above was thought to be dynamic, changing with age and experience. Also, aspects of adult behavior such as smoking, neatness, and need for sexual behavior were linked to the various stages by fixation. To Freud, fixation is a measure of the effort required to travel through any particular stage, and great efforts in childhood were reflected in adult behavior. Fixation can also be interpreted as the learning of pattens or habits. Part of the criticism of psychoanalysis was that fixation could be interpreted in diametrically opposite fashion. For example, fixation in the anal stage could lead to excessive neatness or sloppiness. As noted earlier, Neil Simon's play, "The Odd Couple", is a celebration of anal fixation, with Oscar and Felix representing the two opposite ends of the fixation continuum (Oscar-sloppy, Felix-neat).
We stated earlier that the ego's job was to satisfy the id's impulses, not offend the moralistic character of the superego, while still taking into consideration the reality of the situation. We also stated that this was not an easy job. Think of the id as the 'devil on your shoulder' and the superego as the 'angel of your shoulder.' We don't want either one to get too strong so we talk to both of them, hear their perspective and then make a decision. This decision is the ego talking, the one looking for that healthy balance.
Before we can talk more about this, we need to understand what drives the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, we only have two drives; sex and aggression. In other words, everything we do is motivated by one of these two drives.
Sex, also called Eros or the Life force, represents our drive to live, prosper, and produce offspring. Aggression, also called Thanatos or our Death force, represents our need to stay alive and stave off threats to our existence, our power, and our prosperity.
Now the ego has a difficult time satisfying both the id and the superego, but it doesn't have to do so without help. The ego has some tools it can use in its job as the mediator, tools that help defend the ego. These are called Ego Defense Mechanisms or Defenses. When the ego has a difficult time making both the id and the superego happy, it will employ one or more of these defenses:
arguing against an anxiety provoking stimuli by stating it doesn't exist
denying that your physician's diagnosis of cancer is correct and seeking a second opinion
taking out impulses on a less threatening target
slamming a door instead of hitting as person, yelling at your spouse after an argument with your boss
avoiding unacceptable emotions by focusing on the intellectual aspects
focusing on the details of a funeral as opposed to the sadness and grief
placing unacceptable impulses in yourself onto someone else
when losing an argument, you state "You're just Stupid;" homophobia
supplying a logical or rational reason as opposed to the real reason
stating that you were fired because you didn't kiss up the the boss, when the real reason was your poor performance
taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety
having a bias against a particular race or culture and then embracing that race or culture to the extreme
returning to a previous stage of development
sitting in a corner and crying after hearing bad news; throwing a temper tantrum when you don't get your way
pulling into the unconscious
forgetting sexual abuse from your childhood due to the trauma and anxiety
acting out unacceptable impulses in a socially acceptable way
sublimating your aggressive impulses toward a career as a boxer; becoming a surgeon because of your desire to cut; lifting weights to release 'pent up' energy
pushing into the unconscious
trying to forget something that causes you anxiety
Ego defenses are not necessarily unhealthy as you can see by the examples above. In face, the lack of these defenses, or the inability to use them effectively can often lead to problems in life. However, we sometimes employ the defenses at the wrong time or overuse them, which can be equally destructive.
Sigmund Freud's Theory is quite complex and although his writings on psychosexual development set the groundwork for how our personalities developed, it was only one of five parts to his overall theory of personality. He also believed that different driving forces develop during these stages which play an important role in how we interact with the world.
Structural Model (id, ego, superego)
According to Freud, we are born with our Id. The id is an important part of our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs met. Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle. In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation. When a child is hungry, the id wants food, and therefore the child cries. When the child needs to be changed, the id cries. When the child is uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold, or just wants attention, the id speaks up until his or her needs are met.
The id doesn't care about reality, about the needs of anyone else, only its own satisfaction. If you think about it, babies are not real considerate of their parents' wishes. They have no care for time, whether their parents are sleeping, relaxing, eating dinner, or bathing. When the id wants something, nothing else is important.
Within the next three years, as the child interacts more and more with the world, the second part of the personality begins to develop. Freud called this part the Ego. The ego is based on the reality principle. The ego understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes being impulsive or selfish can hurt us in the long run. Its the ego's job to meet the needs of the id, while taking into consideration the reality of the situation.
By the age of five, or the end of the phallic stage of development, the Superego develops. The Superego is the moral part of us and develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by our caregivers. Many equate the superego with the conscience as it dictates our belief of right and wrong.
In a healthy person, according to Freud, the ego is the strongest so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego, and still take into consideration the reality of every situation. Not an easy job by any means, but if the id gets too strong, impulses and self gratification take over the person's life. If the superego becomes to strong, the person would be driven by rigid morals, would be judgmental and unbending in his or her interactions with the world. You'll learn how the ego maintains control as you continue to read.
Freud believed that the majority of what we experience in our lives, the underlying emotions, beliefs, feelings, and impulses are not available to us at a conscious level. He believed that most of what drives us is buried in our unconscious. If you remember the Oedipus and Electra Complex, they were both pushed down into the unconscious, out of our awareness due to the extreme anxiety they caused. While buried there, however, they continue to impact us dramatically according to Freud.
The role of the unconscious is only one part of the model. Freud also believed that everything we are aware of is stored in our conscious. Our conscious makes up a very small part of who we are. In other words, at any given time, we are only aware of a very small part of what makes up our personality; most of what we are is buried and inaccessible.
The final part is the preconscious or subconscious. This is the part of us that we can access if prompted, but is not in our active conscious. Its right below the surface, but still buried somewhat unless we search for it. Information such as our telephone number, some childhood memories, or the name of your best childhood friend is stored in the preconscious.
Because the unconscious is so large, and because we are only aware of the very small conscious at any given time, this theory has been likened to an iceberg, where the vast majority is buried beneath the water's surface. The water, by the way, would represent everything that we are not aware of, have not experienced, and that has not been integrated into our personalities, referred to as the nonconscious.
David B. Stevenson '96, Brown University
Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centered on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, a single body part is particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation. These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. The child's libido centers on behavior affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age; he cannot focus on the primary erogenous zone of the next stage without resolving the developmental conflict of the immediate one.
A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of the infant to nurse. Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; Overindulgence stems from such an ample meeting of these needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. Both frustration and overindulgence lock some amount of the child's libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation. If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. But if he fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his adult personality.
The Oral Stage
The oral stage begins at birth, when the oral cavity is the primary focus of libidal energy. The child, of course, preoccupies himself with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth. The oral character who is frustrated at this stage, whose mother refused to nurse him on demand or who truncated nursing sessions early, is characterized by pessimism, envy, suspicion and sarcasm. The overindulged oral character, whose nursing urges were always and often excessively satisfied, is optimistic, gullible, and is full of admiration for others around him. The stage culminates in the primary conflict of weaning, which both deprives the child of the sensory pleasures of nursing and of the psychological pleasure of being cared for, mothered, and held. The stage lasts approximately one and one-half years.
The Anal Stage
At one and one-half years, the child enters the anal stage. With the advent of toilet training comes the child's obsession with the erogenous zone of the anus and with the retention or expulsion of the feces. This represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions. The child meets the conflict between the parent's demands and the child's desires and physical capabilities in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight or he simply refuses to go. The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character. This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. Conversely, a child may opt to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character. This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual propensities to possession and attitudes towards authority. This stage lasts from one and one-half to two years.
The Phallic Stage
The phallic stage is the setting for the greatest, most crucial sexual conflict in Freud's model of development. In this stage, the child's erogenous zone is the genital region. As the child becomes more interested in his genitals, and in the genitals of others, conflict arises. The conflict, labeled the Oedipus complex (The Electra complex in women), involves the child's unconscious desire to possess the opposite-sexed parent and to eliminate the same-sexed one.
In the young male, the Oedipus conflict stems from his natural love for his mother, a love which becomes sexual as his libidal energy transfers from the anal region to his genitals. Unfortunately for the boy, his father stands in the way of this love. The boy therefore feels aggression and envy towards this rival, his father, and also feels fear that the father will strike back at him. As the boy has noticed that women, his mother in particular, have no penises, he is struck by a great fear that his father will remove his penis, too. The anxiety is aggravated by the threats and discipline he incurs when caught masturbating by his parents. This castration anxiety outstrips his desire for his mother, so he represses the desire. Moreover, although the boy sees that though he cannot posses his mother, because his father does, he can posses her vicariously by identifying with his father and becoming as much like him as possible: this identification indoctrinates the boy into his appropriate sexual role in life. A lasting trace of the Oedipal conflict is the superego, the voice of the father within the boy. By thus resolving his incestuous conundrum, the boy passes into the latency period, a period of libidal dormancy.
On the Electra complex, Freud was more vague. The complex has its roots in the little girl's discovery that she, along with her mother and all other women, lack the penis which her father and other men posses. Her love for her father then becomes both erotic and envious, as she yearns for a penis of her own. She comes to blame her mother for her perceived castration, and is struck by penis envy, the apparent counterpart to the boy's castration anxiety. The resolution of the Electra complex is far less clear-cut than the resolution of the Oedipus complex is in males; Freud stated that the resolution comes much later and is never truly complete. Just as the boy learned his sexual role by identifying with his father, so the girl learns her role by identifying with her mother in an attempt to posses her father vicariously. At the eventual resolution of the conflict, the girl passes into the latency period, though Freud implies that she always remains slightly fixated at the phallic stage.
Fixation at the phallic stage develops a phallic character, who is reckless, resolute, self-assured, and narcissistic--excessively vain and proud. The failure to resolve the conflict can also cause a person to be afraid or incapable of close love; As well, Freud postulated that fixation could be a root cause of homosexuality.
The resolution of the phallic stage leads to the latency period, which is not a psychosexual stage of development, but a period in which the sexual drive lies dormant. Freud saw latency as a period of unparalleled repression of sexual desires and erogenous impulses. During the latency period, children pour this repressed libidal energy into asexual pursuits such as school, athletics, and same-sex friendships. But soon puberty strikes, and the genitals once again become a central focus of libidal energy.
The Genital Stage
In the genital stage, as the child's energy once again focuses on his genitals, interest turns to heterosexual relationships. The less energy the child has left invested in unresolved psychosexual developments, the greater his capacity will be to develop normal relationships with the opposite sex. If, however, he remains fixated, particularly on the phallic stage, his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression and defenses.
Now we turn to developmental theories, and the most famous, historically, is psychoanalytic or Freudian theory. This theory sprung from Freud's observations of adults' recollections in therapy of their lives. Children were not directly observed. Although Freud's theory has been roundly criticized for its lack of scientific character, it does stand however as a grand metaphor for describing personality.
Freud's theory has three main parts, the stages of development, the structure of the personality, and his description of mental life. Here, the stages of the personality will be discussed.
Again, only from adult recollections did these stages emerge. The first stage is the Oral Stage. It runs from birth to age 2. In the oral stage infants and toddler explored the world primarily with their most sensitive area, their mouths. They also learn to use their mouths to communicate. The next stage is the Anal Stage. In the anal stage, children learned to control the elimination of bodily wastes.
The Phallic Stage (3-5 years of age) is probably the most controversial. The word phallic means penis-like. In this stage, children discover their sexual differences. The controversy comes from Freud's description of the Oedipus (for males) and Electra (for females) complexes, with their attendant concepts of castration anxiety and penis envy, respectively. Those complexes lead, according to Freudian theory, to normal differentiation of male and female personalities. The defense mechanism of repression was invoked to explain why no one could remember the events of this stage.
The phallic stage is followed by a Latency Period in which little new development is observable. In this stage, boys play with boys, and girls with girls, typically. Sexual interest is low or non-existent.
The final stage is the Genital Stage. It started around 12 years of age and ends with the climax of puberty. Sexual interests re-awaken at this time (there were sexual interests before, dormant and repressed from the phallic stage).
Neo-Freudian approaches added more stages (Erikson) and/or altered Freud's emphasis on psychosexual development. Those approaches will be discussed on a below.
Freud's Stages of Development--tutorial, basic, short, links. Provides capsule descriptions of Freud's stages of development: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. http://idealist.com/children/freud.html
by Jean Chiriac, President of AROPA
Freud's self-analysis started in the mid 1890's to reach its climaxes in 1895 and 1900. In certain authors' opinion, it was continued up to his death in 1939. Nevertheless, we have to set a clear boundary between the time of Freud's discovery of the Oedipus complex and other essential contents of psychoanalysis and routine self-analysis he performed to check his unconscious psychic life.
The first phase is full of unexpected aspects and inventiveness - the productive, creative stage. The second becomes an obligation derived from his profession as a psychoanalyst.
Freud's discoveries during his first stage of self-analysis are known to have been included in two of his main books: "The Interpretation of Dreams" and "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life".
"The Interpretation of Dreams" provides plenty of Freud's dreams in his own interpretation, among which the famous dream of Irma's injection, which he considers a key issue in understanding the mysteries of dream life. It opens Chapter II ("The Method Of Interpreting Dreams: An Analysis Of A Specimen Dream") and provides material for an analysis covering several pages ahead.
Just as Freud himself maintained, the analysis of the dream is not complete but it was here that Freud for the first time asserted that dreams are the disguised fulfilment of unconscious wishes.
The explanation of the dream is quite simple: it tries to hide Freud's lack of satisfaction with the treatment given to a patient of his, Irma, and throw the guilt of partial failure upon others, exonerate Freud of other professional errors it also hints at.
Dream interpretation also provides a dream psychology and many other issues. The volume is extremely inventive and rich in information, and, in its author's view, it is his most important work.
"The Psychopathology of Everyday Life", offers Freud room to focus on the analysis of faulty and symptomatic actions, the important thing to emphasize here being that this volume represents Freud's transfer from the clinical to normal life - it proves neurotic features are present not only in sickness but also in health. The difference does not lie in quality but in quantity. Repression is greater with the sick and the free libido is sensibly diminished. Therefore, it is for the first time in the history of psychopathology that Freud overrules the difference between pathology and health. That makes it possible to apply psychoanalysis to so-called normal life...
* Discovery of the Oedipus Complex
The discovery of Oedipus' complex is indicated in a historic letter Freud wrote to Fliess, his friend and confidante.
I have found, in my own case too, [the phenomenon of] being in love with my mother and jealous of my father, and I now consider it a universal event in early childhood, even if not so early as in children who have been made hysterical.
Freud adds a few more important details to his confession:
If this is so, we can understand the gripping power of Oedipus Rex, in spite of all the objections that reason raises against the presupposition of fate; and we can understand why the later «drama of fate» was bound to fail so miserably.
The Greek legend touches upon an urge "which everyone recognizes because he senses its existence within himself. Everyone in the audience was once a budding Oedipus in fantasy and each recoils in horror from the dream fulfillment here transplanted into reality, with the full quantity of repression which separates his infantile state from his present one."
Together with these remarks, essential for psychoanalytic practice and theory, the buds of applied psychoanalysis also emerge. Freud links the Oedipus complex to Hamlet.
Fleetingly the thought passed through my head that the same thing might be at the bottom of Hamlet as well. I am not thinking of Shakespeare's conscious intention, but believe, rather, that a real event stimulated the poet to his representation, in that his unconscious understood the unconscious of his hero. (1)
In its monograph of Freud's biography, Peter Gay asserts that "The method Freud used in his self-analysis was that of free association and the material he mainly relied upon was that his own dreams provided". But he didn't stop there: "[Freud] also made a collection of his memories, of speaking or spelling mistakes, slips concerning verse and patients' names and he allowed these clues to lead him from one idea to the other, through the "usual roundabouts" of free association." (2)
One of the most beautiful examples of self-analysis can be found in his letter to Romain Rolland, entitled "A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis".
The disturbance occurred as follows: In the summer of 1904, after prolonged hesitation, Freud suddenly traveled to Athens in the company of his brother Alexander. Once up on the Acropolis, instead of the expected admiration, he was enveloped by a strange feeling of doubt. He was surprised that something he had been learning about at school really exists. He felt divided in two: one person who empirically realized his actual presence on the Acropolis and the other that found it hard to believe, as if denying the reality of the fact.
In the mentioned text, Freud tries to elucidate this feeling of strangeness, of unreality. He then showed that the trip to Athens was the object of wish mingled with guilt. That was a desire because, from his early childhood even, he had had dreams of traveling expressing his wish to evade the family atmosphere, the narrow-mindedness and poverty of living conditions he had known in his youth.
On the other hand, there was also guilt, as for Freud going to Athens meant getting farther than his own father, who was too poor to travel, to uneducated to be interested in these places. To climb the Acropolis in Freud's mind was to definitely surpass his father, something the son was clearly forbidden to. Let us resort to Freud's own words:
But here we come upon the solution of the little problem of why it was that already at Trieste we interfered with our enjoyment of the voyage to Athens. It must be that a sense of guilt was attached to the satisfaction in having gone such a long way: there was something about it that was wrong, that from earliest times had been forbidden. It was something to do with a child's criticism of his father, with the undervaluation which took the place of the overvaluation of earlier childhood. It seems as though the essence of success was to have got further than one's father, and as though to excel one's father was still something forbidden. ("A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis".)
Fliess' friendship certainly provided Freud the dialectic relationship that psychoanalytic dialogue (or rather monologue) allows. Fliess was the "idealized other", the one who supposedly knew and understood (even appreciated) the analyst's efforts. In fact, self-analysis is of course only possible by projection.
In his letter of November 14th 1897, Freud wrote: "Self-analysis is impossible in fact. I can only analyze myself by means of what I learn from the outside (as if I were another). Were things different, no disease would have been possible otherwise but through projection".
* The Difference between Self-analysis and Introspection
The practice of introspection has its origins in St. Augustus' Confessions. It is thus defined as an analysis of our mind's contents that are directly accessible and ethical in character as it launches a debate on the relationship between moral man, which he longs to be, and immoral man, which he is by birth.
Augustin does not understand dreams and thinks it is God who is responsible for their emergence. There is no trace here of any knowledge of the unconscious mind, of the way it works works. This is the field of Christian psychology which only assumes a horizontal dimension of analysis.
Self-analysis does not deal with known things any more. Having known facts as a starting point, the self-analyser goes deep into the world of his unconscious life and leaves aside the ethic criterion for a while. Conscious psychic manifestations are connected to their unconscious roots and can be explained through the latter.
In this self-analysis God vanishes and with him the guilt of the self-analyser. Moreover, the investigation of unconscious needs resorting to the special investigation methods psychoanalysis has introduced: free associations, dream-analysis, work with slips and symbols, etc.
In short we may say that whereas introspection does nothing else but (re)integrate us into the level of our social values, psychoanalytic self-analysis offers us the opportunity of a radical change in our inner and outer being from the perspective of a reevaluation of these social values .
1. October 15, 1897, Masson, J.M. (1985) (Ed.) "The complete letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess", 1887-1904. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
2. Translation by M. Cristea.
*Translation by Mihaela Cristea