Our attempts to conceal our individual sexual inclinations through restraint or denial are ultimately a fruitless enterprise, Sigmund Freud argued. Even a newborn baby oozes with libido. Initially, this libido energy is directionless, requiring a compass to navigate and develop itself. Considering that this libido exists in the newborn suggests that is an essential component in the individual identity. So, how does the libido develop itself?
For Freud, sexuality plays a crucial role in our healthy personality development. During individual stages of psychosexual development, single body parts became particularly sensitive to erotic stimulation. According to Freud’s psychosexual stages, the erogenous zones – the mouth, the anus, and the genital regions – become areas of fixation during individual stages of psychosexual development. If the child expresses and resolves his individual psychosexual stages, then the result is a healthy personality. The risk, however, is that during one of these psychosexual stages, these needs are not met or overindulgence is encouraged. Then, like a drug, it results in a permanent fixation. Freud asserted that this fixation leads to antisocial or personality disorders in the individual’s adult life.
What are the Freud’s psychosexual stages? The oral stage dominates the first two years of a child’s life. The child is dependent on its mother for nurturing, primarily through accepting things through the mouth. Breast feeding and sucking act as the primary form of pleasure in the oral stage. Because the oral stage is defined by the babies dependency, a lack of nursing will create a personality of pessimism and envy. Excess, by contrast, will create a gullible fool for assuming their demands will always be met. Therefore, to complete the oral stage, a natural weaning away from the mother’s breast is ideal.
The second stage of the psychosexual development is the anal stage which brings new meaning to the significance of our daily toilet routine. The anal stage is the stage for the life-long clash between our “Id” – our hedonistic personality that derives pleasure from expulsion of feces – and our “Superego”, which encourages the control our urges and our feces. As the conflict begins to manifest itself during potty training time in the anal stage, the implications for healthy psychosexual development are massive: the anal retentive personality will remain stingy and demand excessive order. The anal expulsive lacks self-discipline, characterized by carelessness in their adult lives.
From ages 3 to 6, the setting for the greatest sexual conflict happens: the phallic stage. With the genital region becoming the weapon of choice, as the phallic stage matures, boys experience the Oedipus Complex whereas girls experience the Electra complex. These complex’s involve the inherent urge to remove our same-sexed parent so to possess our opposite-sexed parent. In boys, the father stands in the way of the increasingly sexual love for his mother. What controls this urge to eliminate the father is the castration anxiety – the fear that his father will remove their common appendage. The best remedy to resolve castration anxiety of the phallic stage is to imitate the father, which in the long-term behaves as a voice of restraint in his adult life. The female counterparts in the phallic stage, Freud argued, suffer from penis envy: she holds her mother accountable for not sharing the appendage that her brother wants to remove from their father. Unlike the male counterparts, Freud remained unclear how the phallic stage, if it can ever, is resolved.
[ad#downcont]If the conflict is somehow resolved, sexual dormancy follows during the latency period, which only ends with the kicking of the hormones in puberty. Generally, latency period is the greatest dread for parents because now the psychosexual stage transitions to the Genital stage. Now, the sexual appetites can be acted upon, much to the dismay of parents. However, if nothing else, the sign of a healthy personality development of past psychosexual stages is success during the genital stage, which lasts to adulthood. So, parents, if concerned about the behavior of your teenage children and their popularity with the opposite gender, take solace that they have resolved the anal stage.