Castration Anxiety and Penis Envy

There is a continuation of The Story of Psychology and I have listened to a wonderful introduction into psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. Now I have found a page with a short description about Freund written by Dr. C. George Boeree (the podcast is based on this works).

http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html

For fun:

About the time the little boy recognizes this archetypal situation, he has become aware of some of the more subtle differences between boys and girls, the ones other than hair length and clothing styles. From his naive perspective, the difference is that he has a penis, and girls do not. At this point in life, it seems to the child that having something is infinitely better than not having something, and so he is pleased with this state of affairs.

But the question arises: where is the girl’s penis? Perhaps she has lost it somehow. Perhaps it was cut off. Perhaps this could happen to him! This is the beginning of castration anxiety, a slight misnomer for the fear of losing one’s penis.”

The girl also begins her life in love with her mother, so we have the problem of getting her to switch her affections to her father before the Oedipal process can take place. Freud accomplishes this with the idea of penis envy: The young girl, too, has noticed the difference between boys and girls and feels that she, somehow, doesn’t measure up. She would like to have one, too, and all the power associated with it. At very least, she would like a penis substitute, such as a baby. As every child knows, you need a father as well as a mother to have a baby, so the young girl sets her sights on dad.”

However do not forget:

But Freud’s emphasis on sexuality was not based on the great amount of obvious sexuality in his society — it was based on the intense avoidance of sexuality, especially among the middle and upper classes, and most especially among women. What we too easily forget is that the world has changed rather dramatically over the last hundred years. We forget that doctors and ministers recommended strong punishment for masturbation, that “leg” was a dirty word, that a woman who felt sexual desire was automatically considered a potential prostitute, that a bride was often taken completely by surprise by the events of the wedding night, and could well faint at the thought.

It is to Freud’s credit that he managed to rise above his culture’s sexual attitudes. Even his mentor Breuer and the brilliant Charcot couldn’t fully acknowledge the sexual nature of their clients’ problems. Freud’s mistake was more a matter of generalizing too far, and not taking cultural change into account. It is ironic that much of the cultural change in sexual attitudes was in fact due to Freud’s work!”

Feyerabend’s quote Philosophy Changes Practice seems to work for Freund as well:

However, philosophical theories have not merely reflected things but have changed them, i.e. the (sham) conflict between theory and practice was resolved by a change of practice. This fact refutes the idea that philosophers, and for that matter all mythmakes, only erect castles in the air, …”


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