Critical Approaches

As Freud writes in such a literary style, but his topic is scientific, critics have generally been concerned with his theories and content of the book rather than his style per se. The psychodynamic theory has not been free from criticism. The main problem it has faced is that of a lack of rigorous empirical support, which modern day science values much more. The 'data' comes largely from middle class citizens or the works of Lichtenberg, and Fischer etc.

Other critical approaches address the other explanations of the mind - namely the biological and cognitive models, against this psychoanalytical one.

Both Segal and Brenner agree that Freud's structural theory of the mind was a major development in psychoanalytical theory. Segal however believes that the key importance lies in the identification of the major ego conflict of ambivalence, and the emphasis on the importance of an internal object. However he goes on to argue that the concept of the id is redundant, fundamentally because of the way in which Freud describes the ego and its functions - so by suggesting that all that is not ego - i.e. needs, instincts, desires and wishes - is a way of disowning it - which cannot be right. Since the ego definitely represent 'Me' or 'I' - the infant at birth, from which the id (if appropriate) could evolve. The Super-Ego on the other hand, matures from this not only physiologically but also psychically in the interaction with an object.

Klein on the other hand, argues that there is more ego present at birth than Freud assumed - in agreement though with the idea that at birth, the ego is the infant. Klein also believes that this ego then needs to form object-relationships in phantasy and reality - hence the 'id' and 'super- ego' respectively.

Segal and Brenner also challenge Freud on the idea that conflicts disappear - they argue that ambivalence is always with us. Another point of disagreement is that they propose that one cannot attribute all guilt to the super-ego, the ego in perceiving psychic and external realities is capable of a realistic guilt. In sum, Brenner and Segal approach Freud's work with support, but propose that the structural theory needs revising, in two main ways:

1) The concept of the id is redundant - the I (ego) has instincts and desires.

2) The role of the super-ego is not redundant, but should be revised and enlarged, since our mental structure should not contain one object, internalised at one moment of development, the heir of the Oedipus Complex. But this structure is not static - it develops and changes as part of the development of the ego.

Other critics to look at include Zimbardo (1992) who states that Freud's work assumes that one's personality is shaped and behaviour is motivated by powerful inner forces. In addition Zimbardo suggests that "Freud's theory of personality boldly attempts to explain the origins and course of personality development, the nature of the mind." Other authors on this topic include Frank (1995), Erikson (1968) and Loewenstein (1994).

  By PanEris using Melati.

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