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Thomas Maples

Psychosexual theory proposes that a child initially projects libidinal energy onto an autoerotic zone, which allows perception of the self to emerge; as children become aware of themselves, they project libidinal energy towards an object that meets the autoerotic needs common to the particular stage of development. Finally, the developing child learns to differentiate between internal and external stimuli by mending their internal representation of an object to the objective facts that govern the object as being separate from their emergent self. After resolving the oral, anal, and phallic stages development, the child has no further developmental tasks to undertake until sexual maturity.

Learning is the paramount task during latency. The mind’s ability to process information allows a child to learn increasingly complex systems that promotes independent thought. The ability to differentiate between right and wrong forms the basis of moral development. The superego promotes morality, which curbs the animalistic impulses of the id and the narcissistic tendencies of the ego. A child learns the initial difference between what is right and wrong through the lessons taught by the parental dyad during formative development. Assuring that morals and values continue within the social context underlies Freud’s superego and Jung’s father archetype. After children learn right from wrong, they are ready to begin learning social rules and expectations.

It is during this period of total or only partial latency that are built up the mental forces which are later to impede the course of the sexual instinct and, like dams, restrict its flow – disgust, feelings of shame and the claims of aesthetic and moral ideals. One gets an impression from civilized children that the construction of these dams is a product of education, and no doubt education has much to do with it. But in reality this development is organically determined and fixed by heredity, and it can occasionally occur without any help at all from education. Education will not be trespassing beyond its appropriate domain if it limits itself to following the lines which have already been laid down organically and to impressing them somewhat more clearly and deeply.

Freud, 1905/1989a, p. 261

This passage shows the collective significance that repressing sexual impulses to assure social order has for the moral development of society. It is also similar to Jung’s idea that education en masse shores up the individual psyche to assure uniformity (Jung, 1928/1954b). Our genetic development is predetermined; the shoring up of libidinal energy allows latency to unfold upon its natural course so that a person can learn their expected gender roles within the cultural context. Latency occurs in conjunction with a child beginning formal education.

Freud (1905/1989) believed educational institutions perpetuate development by impeding the focus of libidinal energy from sexual outlets to learning social values. While Freud concentrated primarily on the sexual development of children, Jung (1928/1954) believed that the education of children allows society to perpetuate collective values at the expense of suppressing individuality.

A child initially directs libidinal energy within and then projects it towards suitable objects. During latency, libidinal energy has no projective outlet. Therefore, a child utilizes the bulk of their libidinal energy to pursue matters of educational importance; superego development occurs in conjunction with formal education of social expectations.  

What is it that goes to the making of these constructions, which are so important for the growth of a civilized and normal individual? They probably emerge at the cost of the infantile sexual impulses themselves. Thus the activity of those impulses does not cease even during this period of latency, though their energy is diverted, wholly or in great part, from their sexual use and directed to other ends. Historians of civilization appear to be at one in assuming that powerful components are acquired for every kind of cultural achievement by this diversion of sexual instinctual forces from sexual aims and their direction to new ones – a process which deserves the name of ‘sublimation.’ To this we would add, accordingly, that the same process plays a part in the development of the individual and we would place its beginning in the period of sexual latency of childhood.

(Freud, 1905/1989, pp. 261-262)

From a biological perspective, Siddhartha entered latency. He learned the social customs and traditions common to the brahmin caste during his middle childhood developmental years; however he denied the importance of his early childhood lessons. This extended the protagonist’s latency well into his adolescent years. Siddhartha sought one goal in life; because of his inability to relate with other individuals, he did not allow himself to believe that the lessons taught by others were valid to the plight he pursued. He sought his own path at the expense of seeing no alternatives to the direction he pursued. The resolve to pursue his own path at the expense of negating the lessons taught by others stunted the protagonist’s ability to take part in a viable cultural industry at the appropriate age. Siddhartha had become latent at the right age, but denied himself the value of the lessons taught that would help him navigate becoming an adult sexual being.  

The final stage of psychosexual development centers on the genitalia. This stage occurs during adolescence, when both males and females achieve the ability to procreate. The theories of evolution and natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin (1859/1979) influenced Freud’s theories. Freud sought to understand the psyche from a biological perspective. Through his empirical investigations of patients, Freud developed a topographical model of the human psyche that consisted of three layers: the id, ego, and superego. These layers occur in a natural sequence that assures the organism will reach psychological maturity. Freud sought to dethrone the privileged position humans hold as masters of their environment through the same scientific scrutiny Darwin showed in his exploration of the natural progression species undergo during evolution.

The Superego ~Morality from above
The Ego ~ The person we present on the surface
The Id – The mass that grounds us to what lies beneath in the unconscious

But in thus emphasizing the unconscious in mental life we have conjured up the most evil spirits of criticism against psycho-analysis. Do not be surprised at this, and do not suppose that the resistance to us rests only on the understandable difficulty of the unconscious or the relative inaccessibility of the experiences which provide evidence of it. Its source, I think, lies deeper. In the course of centuries the naïve self-love of men has had to submit to two major blows at the hands of science. This first was when they learnt that our earth was not the center of the universe but only a tiny fragment of a cosmic system of scarcely imaginable vastness. This is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, though something similar had already been asserted by Alexandrian science. The second blow fell when biological research destroyed man’s supposedly privileged place in creation and proved his descent from the animal kingdom and his ineradicable animal nature. This revaluation has been accomplished in our own days by Darwin, Wallace and their predecessors, though not without the most violent contemporary opposition. But human megalomania will have suffered its third and most wounding blow from the psychological research of the present time, which seeks to prove to the ego that it is not even the master in its own house, but must content itself with the scanty information of what is going on unconsciously in its mind. We psycho-analysts were not the first and not the only one’s to utter this call to introspection; but it seems to be our fate to give it its most forcible expression and to support it with empirical material which affects every individual. Hence arises the general revolt against our science, the disregard of all considerations of academic civility and the releasing of the opposition from every restraint of impartial logic.

(Freud, 1917/1966, pp. 352-353)

For Freud, the culmination of evolutionary development within the individual consisted of developing the ability to procreate.

The genital stage redirects libidinal energy to the genitals. The libidinal energy that remained latent during middle childhood re-emerges during adolescence with one difference; adolescents focus libidinal energy towards sexual aims. During puberty, physiological and psychological transformations take place within the adolescent, which assures infantile sexuality will reach its final goal (Freud, 1905/1989). Freud believed the culmination of this process consists of finding an appropriate object by which to discharge pent up libidinal energy.

The sexual instinct has hitherto been predominantly auto-erotic; it now finds a sexual object. Its activity has hitherto been derived from a number of separate instincts and erotogenic zones, which, independently of one another, have pursued a certain sort of pleasure as their sole sexual aim. Now, however, a new sexual aim appears, and all the component instincts combine to attain it, while the erotogenic zones become subordinated to the primacy of the genital zone… A normal sexual life is only assured by an exact convergence of the affectionate current and the sensual current both being directed towards the sexual object and sexual aim. The former, the affectionate current, comprises what remains over of the infantile efflorescence of sexuality.

Freud, 1905/1989, p. 279

Freud viewed that the natural progression of human development consisted of finding an appropriate mate with whom to discharge sexual energy. Jung viewed that the selection of an appropriate mate was dependent on the projection of the anima and animus archetypes that lie at the foundation of the male and female psyche. Both theorists drew attention to the later pathologies that arise because of unresolved conflicts during puberty.

The new sexual aim in men consists in the discharge of the sexual products. The earlier one, the attainment of pleasure, is by no means alien to it; on the contrary, the highest degree of pleasure is attached to this final act of the sexual process. The sexual instinct is now subordinated to the reproductive function; it becomes, so to say, altruistic. If this transformation is to succeed, the original dispositions and all the other characteristics of the instincts must be taken into account in the process. Just as on any other occasion on which the organism should by rights make new combinations and adjustments leading to complicated mechanisms, here too there are possibilities of pathological disorders if these new arrangement are not carried out. Every pathological disorder of sexual life is rightly to be regarded as an inhibition in development.

Freud 1905/1989 p. 279

Freud believed that the sexual development of the individual is the foundation from which normal and pathological development occurs. A male child first directs the libidinal energy toward the mother during Oedipal development. A child then redirects this libidinal energy towards an object outside of the familial circle. Jung developed a similar line of thought about the anima.

She [anima] likewise is a personality, and this is why she is so easily projected upon a woman. So long as the anima is unconscious she is always projected, for everything unconscious is projected. The first bearer of the soul-image is always the mother; later it is borne by those women who arouse the man’s feelings, whether in a positive or a negative sense. Because the mother is the first bearer of the soul-image, separation from her is a delicate and important matter of the greatest educational significance… The mere fact of becoming adult, and the outward separation, is not enough; impressive initiations into the “men’s house” and ceremonies of rebirth are still needed in order to make the separation from the mother (and hence from childhood) entirely effective… The modern civilized man has to forego this primitive but nonetheless admirable system of education. The consequence is that the anima, in the form of the mother-imago, is transferred to the wife; and the man, as soon as he marries, becomes childish, sentimental, dependent, and subservient, or else truculent, tyrannical, hypersensitive, always thinking about the prestige of his superior masculinity.

Jung, 1928/1966, p. 197

As the two citations show, both theorists approached normal and pathological development from a relational perspective. While Jung did not draw attention to the Oedipal conflict that arises during normal childhood development, his theory of separating the anima from the mother image coincides with Freud’s view that the Oedipus complex lies at foundation of future object relationships.

From a psychosexual perspective, Siddhartha’s attainment of sexual maturity happened much later in life than Freud’s suggestion of adolescence. As an adolescent, Siddhartha showed no evidence of sexual longing. His pursuit of Self-abnegation during his years as a shramana suggested that Siddhartha showed contempt and disdain for females. “His eyes became hard as iron when he encountered women” (Hesse, 2002, p. 14), and “what I have learned up to now from the shramanas… I could have learned it, my friend, in any tavern in the whore’s quarter” (p. 18) are two examples of the disdain Siddhartha felt toward females. Both citations suggest that Siddhartha remained in latency during his adolescent years. Siddhartha may have reached sexual maturity from a physiological perspective, but he failed to develop an appropriate relationship with a person he could discharge his pent-up libidinal energy until much later in life. Because Siddhartha never developed the ability to attach, the complete picture of his psychosexual development suggests he never successfully mastered any of Freud’s developmental stages.


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