Self and Society
The modern idea of the authentic self refers to who a person really is. Accordingly, the authentic self is the inner, unique and genuine self of an individual who is not hiding behind their aspects such as roles, masks or desires to please others. When people do so, they tend to lose their true self and become someone they are not and thus they are no longer their authentic self. This usually results in the development of feelings of hollowness causing a person not to place any value on whom they have become. The self usually functions in a social environment better referred to as society. Thus, society also affects the ability of the self to remain authentic. The modern idea of the authentic self has been influenced by various past scholars and researchers through their arguments and perspectives. One such scholar is Sigmund Freud. He contributed to various theories that influenced and continue to influence the field of psychology. This essay outlines and evaluates how the arguments and perspective of Sigmund Freud have enhanced, challenged and transformed the modern idea of the authentic self.
The arguments and perspective of Sigmund Freud have significantly enhanced the modern idea of the authentic self. For instance, Freud’s argument on instincts and drives has enhanced how human sexual behavior is understood and consequently the authentic self. Freud defines instincts as being physical while drives are psychic entities meaning they are found within the mind. According to Freud, the existence of instincts and drives indicates that there is some form of separation between the physical and the mental. Freud’s attributes the drives to be sexual in nature. This argument on instincts and drives enhances the understanding of human sexual behavior because Freud uses them to suggest that human beings are born prematurely and as a result lack some behaviors such as heterosexuality programmed into them unlike other animals. As a result, human sexual drive is not genetically directed towards any particular objects. This argument by Sigmund provides a clue as to the different existing sexual orientations and behaviors. The various sexual orientations exist due to confusion as humans struggle to find the objects where they can direct their sexual drives. This in a way explains the reason why some humans become sexually attracted to members of the same sex, animals and even to inanimate objects. This has enhanced the modern idea of the authentic self by humans identifying themselves in the sexual orientations they truly feel they belong in.
Another relevant perspective of Sigmund Freud that enhances the modern idea of the authentic self is his theory of psychosexual development. This theory suggests that childhood development takes place in a series of fixed stages sexual in nature. The theory suggests that life is built round tension and pleasure and the tension is as a result of tension building up while pleasure is as a result of its release. The theory also offers an explanation of two concepts; the role of conflict and frustration, overindulgence and fixation. According to the Gemes, in the role of conflict, each psychosexual stage becomes associated with a conflict that needs to be resolved in order to allow an individual to move on to the next stage. This enhances the modern idea of the authentic self since for individuals to find their true self; they must first deal with their current issues. Without doing so, they will continue living lie and will therefore not be able to move on to the next stage of their lives. Frustration, overindulgence and fixation show how some individuals are unable to move onto the next stage. This may be because of failure of the needs of the individual not being met at a particular stage. The modern authentic self is enhanced in this perspective by further showing that human needs must be met before a person can move on to become true and genuine.
Sigmund Freud’s act of dividing the human psyche into three parts has further enhanced the modern authentic self. The parts develop at different stages of the life. It is imperative to note that the parts are forms of systems and therefore not physical in nature. The three parts are id, ego and super ego. Freud refers to the id as the completely unconscious, impulsive and childlike part of the psyche. It functions on the principle of pleasure therefore seeking instant gratification. Freud gives the personality of a new born child as an example. On the other hand, the ego is the part of the id that has been altered by the direct influence of the external surrounding. Its significance is to act as mediator between the id and the external world. Since it operates by reasoning, it therefore the decision making part of personality. The ego functions under the reality principle where by fulfills the needs of the id in a realistic way. The final part super ego is the part that is responsible for individuals’ morals and ideals acquired from family and society as a whole. This part of the psyche is constantly seeking perfection. These three parts have enhanced the modern authentic self by making it possible to manage the changes that take place during growth and development of an individual. As a result, only the most acceptable behaviors are emphasized and consequently developed in an individual. Thus these three parts come together to form personality.
In addition to enhancing the modern idea of the authentic self, Freud’s arguments and perspective have also challenged it. In the first instance, Freud’s perspective on femininity and female sexuality challenges the modern idea of the authentic self. Through his perspective on femininity, Freud views women as men and extends the male sexual theories he developed to them. According to him the only difference between the two is that women lack penises. Freud developed the penis envy and describes it as the jealousy little girls feel for their brothers and resentment they feel for their mothers as they blame them for their lack of a penis. Thus Freud categorizes femininity as passive contrasting masculinity. Freud seems to be forcing women to function under male standards. It seems that according to him a female true identity can only be detected and be true if she identifies as a man. This greatly challenges the modern idea of the authentic self as today’s woman has formed her own identity. Women have refused to be compared to men or their abilities to be measured against the men as Freud suggests. Femininity today is about the woman and her own strengths, capabilities, competencies and abilities which she has developed herself as a measure of her true value. Therefore Sigmund Freud’s perspective on femininity challenges the modern idea of the authentic self as it describes a woman who is dependent on a man while the modern idea of the authentic self describes a woman who depends on herself.
Another significant argument by Sigmund Freud that challenges the modern idea of the authentic self is his concept of life and death drives. Freud believed that people were motivated by two conflicting central desires. The first desire is life drivers and the second is death drivers. Life drivers refer to the sexual instincts, tendency to survive and creative and life producing drivers. The death driver on the other hand refers to the push towards death, self-destruction and the ultimate return to the inorganic. Life drivers have challenged the modern idea of the authentic self as they entail doing anything to survive. This will ultimately lead to change of self thus challenging the honesty and truthfulness of a person to themselves.
Freud’s argument on religion also challenges the modern idea of the authentic self. Freud perceived religion to be a wish fulfillment concept. He argues that adaptation of religion is a way of reverting to childish patterns of concepts such as forgiveness. He therefore views religion as delusions. This greatly challenges the modern idea of the authentic self as it threatens many individual’s belief in their religion and God. Following Freud’s believes implies changing and turning away from ones beliefs. This will equate to lying to oneself and not being true. Thus it will threaten the idea of modern belief of the self which entails being genuine.
Freud’s arguments and perspective have also to a large extent transformed the modern idea of the authentic self in the following ways. Psychoanalysis through the concept of unconsciousness plays a significant role in human behavior. The unconscious is knowable despite humans not being able to experience it directly at times. It usually forces itself through people’s conscious lives in unexpected manner. According to Freud there is no such thing as accidents or casual actions. He attributes these accidents and casual actions as man’s unconscious reaction which they may not be aware of. This thus explains the so called Freudian slips in which a person does something which may appear offensive to others without being aware of their action. For example an individual may leave their property in their friend’s house. This may be an indication to return there for a yet to be determined reason. This perspective of viewing the conscious has transformed the modern idea of authentic self by speeding up the process that psychiatrists use to help patients find themselves. During psychiatric sessions, the psychiatrists pay attention to the Freudian slips as they indicate to a large extent the issues preventing the individuals from discovering their true selves.
Sigmund Freud’s perspective on dreams has also transformed the modern idea of the authentic self. Freud perceived dreams to be a royal road to the unconscious. He goes to explain that in dreams the defense mechanisms developed to protect an individual from negative feelings such as fear are lowered. As a consequence, some of the issues that had been repressed will pass through an individual’s awareness. However, this material that passes through is usually in distorted form. Through the study of the dreams it is possible to learn how the conscious mind functions. One significant observation that Freud made was that dreams play the role of fulfilling wishes. Thus, through dreams an individual can alter their self-authenticity and become something they are not in a bid to experience their wish. This is despite the fact that these wishes are not real and only exist in the dreams alone. This has transformed the modern idea of the self as it has changed the way people perceive themselves in a bid to search for their true self by wishing to live their dreams.
Transformation of the modern idea of the authentic self has also been done by Freud’s perspective of defense mechanism. Freud defined the defense mechanisms as psychological techniques brought into existence by the unconscious mind in order to alter reality so as to prevent a person from feeling anxiety or guilt. This have transformed the modern idea of the authentic self because by leading to change of the self. The authentic self is supposed to be genuine and should not hide behind anything. However, Freud’s defense mechanisms suggest the person to make a complete change and alter their behavior. Therefore, this will entail the person hiding who they truly are in a bid to protect themselves from their fears and whatever negative emotion they may likely experience. This perspective of Sigmund Freud has therefore transformed the modern idea of the authentic self as an identity that can alter in certain instances in order to protect itself and thus its validity is lost.
In conclusion, it is imperative for people to remain genuine to who they are for this is the true sign of an authentic self. When individuals fail to do so, they develop behavior that can lead to their destruction. The various perspectives developed by Sigmund Freud have illustrated some of the ways that the authentic self can be altered by individuals’ beliefs. The modern idea of an authentic self can be enhanced, challenged or transformed. All this can be for the better or for the worse. As a pioneer and great contributor in psychology and in some aspects of sociology Freud presented a number of interesting theories and studies. However, it is critical to note that some of his arguments and perspectives were a bit irrelevant and while some have been described as nonsensical. Thus, when it comes to having an impact on the modern idea of an authentic self it can be said that the impact has not been very useful to modern man.