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Most of the document consists of extracts from Freud's last book. Click here for suggestions about reading these Freud extracts.

Sigmund Freud's final outline of psychoanalysis

see Blanche Wittman faint
(or feint?)
Vienna was festooned with swastikas in June 1938 when an elderly Jewish doctor, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), left it for the last time and travelled to a new home in London. The swastika was the emblem of the German Nazi party. Six million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis. Freud and some of his family were amongst those who escaped to other countries.

Freud was the creator of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis just means the analysis of mind , but is used to describe the specific method of analysing developed by Freud.

If Freud's ideas, outlined in this document, seem somewhat incredible, it is particularly important to look at how he came to believe them. They are not just ideas he liked the look of - but conclusions he believed he was driven to reach by the evidence of psychoanalysis. So the question you should ask is, what do I think of psychoanalysis as a scientific method?

Freud's London home, at 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, is now a museum. There you can see the couch he used for his psychoanalytic discoveries. His patients were told to lie on it and he sat behind them, out of sight. They then had to say anything and everything that came into their minds. This "free-association" provided the empirical data that Freud analysed.   Freud Museum website
click to visit the house where he lived. Can you find the couch?

Freud only lived at Maresfield Gardens for a short while before his death, but it was here that he wrote the final summary of his life's work, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, which this document is based on.

In an earlier work he tells us that psychoanalysis is much more than a method of treating mental disorders.

Sex and the human mind

Extracts from An Outline of Psycho-analysis

by Sigmund Freud

[Square brackets indicate material that Andrew Roberts has added].

PREFACE [Questions]

(¶1) The teachings of psycho-analysis are based on an incalculable number of observations and experiences (*), and only someone who has repeated those observations on himself and on others is in a position to arrive at a judgment of his own upon it.

[(*) See the description of the method in Interpretation of Dreams - Interpreted literally, Freud appears to say that only a psychoanalyst can assess the conclusions of psychoanalysis. However, Freud and other psychoanalysts write case studies of their observations and these might be the way most people access the observations.]



[Mind and brain]

(¶1.1) Psycho-analysis makes a basic assumption, the discussion of which is reserved to philosophical thought but the justification for which lies in its results.

We know two kinds of things about what we call our psyche (or mental life):

Brain firstly, its bodily organ and scene of action, the brain (or nervous system)

and, on the other hand,

    our acts of consciousness, which are immediate data and cannot be further explained by any sort of description.

Everything that lies between is unknown to us, and the data do not include any direct relation between these two terminal points of our knowledge. If it existed, it would at the most afford an exact localisation of the processes of consciousness and would give us no help towards understanding them.

(¶1.2)... We assume that mental life is the function of an apparatus to which we ascribe the characteristics of being extended in space and of being made up of several portions....We have arrived at our knowledge of this psychical apparatus by studying the individual development of human beings.

[Id and Ego] [Questions]

(¶1.3) To the oldest of these psychical provinces or agencies we give the name of id. It contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, that is laid down in the constitution - above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organisation and which find a first psychical expression here (in the id) in forms unknown to us...

(¶1.4) Under the influence of the real external world around us, one portion of the id has undergone a special development. From what was originally a cortical layer, equipped with the organs for receiving stimuli and with arrangements for acting as a protective shield against stimuli, a special organisation has arisen which henceforward acts as an intermediary between the id and the external world. To this region of our mind we have given the name of ego.

(¶1.5a) Here are the principal characteristics of the ego, In consequence of the pre-established connection between sense perception and muscular action, the ego has voluntary movement at its command. It has the task of self- preservation. As regards external events, it performs that task by becoming aware of stimuli, by storing up experiences about them (in the memory), by avoiding excessively strong stimuli (through flight), by dealing with moderate stimuli (through adaptation) and finally by learning to bring about expedient changes in the external world to its own advantage (through activity). As regards internal events, in relation to the id, it performs that task by gaining control over the demands of the instincts, by deciding whether they are to be allowed satisfaction, by postponing that satisfaction to times and circumstances favourable in the external world or by suppressing their excitations entirely.

(¶1.5b) It is guided in its activity by consideration of the tensions produced by stimuli, whether these tensions are present in it or introduced into it. The raising of these tensions is in general felt as unpleasure and their lowering as pleasure. It is probable, however, that what is felt as pleasure or unpleasure is not the absolute height of this tension but something in the rhythm of the changes in them. The ego strives after pleasure and seeks to avoid unpleasure. An increase in unpleasure that is expected and foreseen is met by a signal of anxiety; the occasion of such an increase, whether it threatens from without or within, is known as a danger.

(¶1.5c) From time to time the ego gives up its connection with the external world and withdraws into the state of sleep, in which it makes far-reaching changes in its organisation. It is to be inferred from the state of sleep that this organisation consists in a particular distribution of mental energy.

(¶1.6) The long period of childhood, during which the growing human being lives in dependence on his parents, leaves behind it as a precipitate the formation in his ego of a special agency in which this parental influence is prolonged. It has received the name of super-ego [see below]. In so far as this super-ego is differentiated from the ego or is opposed to it, it constitutes a third power which the ego must take into account.

(¶1.7a) An action by the ego is as it should be if it satisfies simultaneously the demands of the id, of the super- ego and of reality that is to say, if it is able to reconcile their demands with one another.

(¶1.7b) The details of the relation between the ego and the super-ego become completely intelligible when they are traced back to the child's attitude to its parents. This parental influence of course includes in its operation not only the personalities of the actual parents but also the family, racial and national traditions handed on through them, as well as the demands of the immediate social milieu which they represent. In the same way, the super-ego, in the course of an individual's development, receives contributions from later successors and substitutes of his parents, such as teachers and models in public life of admired social ideals.

(¶1.7c) It will be observed that, for all their fundamental difference, the id and the super-ego have one thing in common: they both represent the influences of the past - the id the influence of heredity, the super-ego the influence, essentially, of what is taken over from other people - whereas the ego is principally determined by the individual's own experience, that is by accidental and contemporary events.



Sex [Questions]

(¶3.1) According to the prevailing view human sexual life consists essentially in an endeavour to bring one's own genitals into contact with those of someone of the opposite sex. With this are associated, as accessory phenomena and introductory acts, kissing this extraneous body, looking at it and touching it. This endeavour is supposed to make its appearance at puberty - that is, at the age of sexual maturity - and to serve the purposes of reproduction. Nevertheless, certain facts have always been known which do not fit into the narrow framework of this view:

  1. It is a remarkable fact that there are people who are only attracted by individuals of their own sex and by their genitals.

  2. It is equally remarkable that there are people whose desires behave exactly like sexual ones but who at the same time entirely disregard the sexual organs or their normal use; people of this kind are known as 'perverts'.

  3. And lastly it is a striking thing that some children (who are on that account regarded as degenerate) take a very early interest in their genitals and show signs of excitation in them.

(¶3.2) It may well be believed that psycho-analysis provoked astonishment and denials when, partly on the basis of these three neglected facts, it contradicted all the popular opinions on sexuality. Its principal findings are as follows:

Sex before and after latency

(¶3.3a) The chief interest is naturally focused on [the assertion that sexual life starts soon after birth]. It has been found that in early childhood there are signs of bodily activity to which only an ancient prejudice could deny the name of sexual and which are linked to psychical phenomena that we come across later in adult erotic life - such as fixation to particular objects, jealousy, and so on. It is further found, however, that these phenomena pass through a regular process of increase, reaching a climax towards the end of the fifth year, after which there follows a lull. During this lull progress is at a standstill and much is unlearnt and there is much recession. After the end of this period of latency, as it is called, sexual life advances once more with puberty; we might say that it has a second efflorescence. And here we come upon the fact that the onset of sexual life is diphasic, that it occurs in two waves...[The one before and the other after the latency period]

(¶3.3b) It is not a matter of indifference that the events of this early period, except for a few residues, fall a victim to infantile amnesia. Our views on the aetiology of the neuroses and our technique of analytic therapy are derived from these conceptions...

Oral stage

(¶3.4) The first organ to emerge as an erotogenic zone and to make libidinal demands on the mind is, from the time of birth onwards, the mouth. To begin with, all psychical activity is concentrated on providing satisfaction for the needs of that zone. Primarily, of course, this satisfaction serves the purpose of self-preservation by means of nourishment; but physiology should not be confused with psychology. The baby's obstinate persistence in sucking gives evidence at an early stage of a need for satisfaction which, though it originates from and is instigated by the taking of nourishment, nevertheless strives to obtain pleasure independently of nourishment and for that reason may and should be termed sexual.

Anal stage

(¶3.5) During this oral phase sadistic impulses already occur sporadically along with the appearance of the teeth. Their extent is far greater in the second phase, which we describe as the sadistic-anal one, because satisfaction is then sought in aggression and in the excretory function. Our justification for including aggressive urges under the libido is based on the view that sadism is an instinctual fusion of purely libidinal and purely destructive urges,

Phallic stage

(¶3.6) The third phase is that known as the phallic one, which is, as it were, a forerunner of the final form taken by sexual life and already much resembles it. It is to be noted that it is not the genitals of both sexes that play a part at this stage, but only the male ones (the phallus). The female genitals long remain unknown.

[In a footnote Freud says that the occurrence of early vaginal excitations is often asserted. But it is most probable that what is in question are excitations in the clitoris - that is, in an organ "analogous to the penis".]

(¶3.7) With the phallic phase and in the course of it the sexuality of early childhood reaches its height and approaches its dissolution. Thereafter boys and girls have different histories. Both have begun to put their intellectual activity at the service of sexual researches; both start off from the premise of the universal presence of the penis. But now the paths of the sexes diverge. The boy enters the Oedipus [see below] phase; he begins to manipulate his penis and simultaneously has phantasies of carrying out some sort of activity with it in relation to his mother, till, owing to the combined effect of a threat of castration and the sight of the absence of a penis in females, he experiences the greatest trauma of his life and this introduces the period of latency with all its consequences. The girl, after vainly attempting to do the same as the boy, comes to recognize her lack of a penis or rather the inferiority of her clitoris, with permanent effects on the development of her character; as a result of this first disappointment in rivalry, she often begins by turning away altogether from sexual life.

(¶3.8) It would be a mistake to suppose that these three phases succeed one another in a clear-cut fashion. One may appear in addition to another; they may overlap one another, may be present alongside of one another. In the early phases the different component instincts set about their pursuit of pleasure independently of one another; in the phallic phase there are the beginnings of an organisation which subordinates the other urges to the primacy of the genitals and signifies the start of a co-ordination of the general urge towards pleasure into the sexual function. The complete organisation is only achieved at puberty, in a fourth, genital phase.

(¶3.9) This process is not always performed faultlessly. Inhibitions in its development manifest themselves as the many sorts of disturbance in sexual life. When this is so, we find fixations of the libido to conditions in earlier phases, whose urge, which is independent of the normal sexual aim, is described as perversion.


(¶4.4) ... Whereas the psychology of consciousness never went beyond the broken sequences which were obviously dependent on something else, the other view, that the psychical is unconscious in itself, enabled psychology to take its place as a natural science like any other. The processes with which it is concerned are in themselves just as unknowable as those dealt with by other sciences, by chemistry or physics, for example; but it is possible to establish the laws which they obey and to follow their mutual relations and interdependencies unbroken over long stretches - in short, to arrive at what is described as an 'understanding' of the field of natural phenomena in question. This cannot be affected without framing fresh hypotheses and creating fresh concepts; but these are not to be despised as evidence of embarrassment on our part but deserve on the contrary to be appreciated as an enrichment of science. They can lay claim to the same value as approximations that belongs to the corresponding intellectual scaffolding found in other natural sciences, and we look forward to their being modified, corrected and more precisely determined as further experience is accumulated and sifted. So too it will be entirely in accordance with our expectations if the basic concepts and principles of the new science (instinct, nervous energy, etc) remain for a time no less indeterminate than those of the older sciences (force, mass, attraction, etc.).

(¶4.5) Every science is based on observations and experiences arrived at through the medium of our psychical apparatus. But since our science has as its subject that apparatus itself, the analogy ends here. We make our observations through the medium of the same perceptual apparatus, precisely with the help of the breaks in the sequence of 'psychical' events: we fill in what is omitted by making plausible inferences and translating it into conscious material. In this way we construct, as it were, a sequence of conscious events complementary to the unconscious psychical processes. The relative certainty of our psychical science is based on the binding force of these inferences. Anyone who enters deeply into our work will find that our technique holds its ground against any criticism.

(¶4.6) ... consciousness is in general a highly fugitive state. What is conscious is conscious only for a moment... the conscious perception of our thought processes... may persist for some time, but they may just as well pass in a flash. Everything unconscious that... can thus easily exchange the unconscious state for the conscious one, is... described as 'capable of becoming conscious' or as preconscious...

(¶4.7) Thus, we have attributed three qualities to psychical processes: they are either conscious, preconscious or unconscious. The division between the three classes of material which possess these qualities is neither absolute nor permanent. What is pre-conscious becomes conscious... without any assistance from us; what is unconscious can, through our efforts, be made conscious, and in the process we may have a feeling that we are often overcoming very strong resistance.

(¶4.11) The inside of the ego, which comprises above all the thought processes, has the quality of being preconscious.

(¶4.12a) The sole prevailing quality in the id is that of being unconscious. Id and unconscious are as intimately linked as ego and preconscious...

(¶4.12b) If we look back at the develoment history of an individual and of his psychical apparatus, we shall be able to perceive an important distinction in the id. Originally... everything was id; the ego was developed out of the id by the continual influence of the external world. In the course of this slow develoment certain of the contents of the id weer tranfromed into the preconscius state and so taken into the ego; others of its contents remained in the id unchanged, as its scarcely accessible nucleus. During this development, however, the young and feeble ego put back into the unconscious state some of the material it had already taken in, droped it, and behaved in the same way to some fresh impressions which it might have taken in, so that these, having been rejected, could leave a trace only in the id. In consideration of its origin we speak of this latter portion if of the id as the repressed. It is of little importance that we we are not always able to draw a sharp line between these teo categories of contenst of the id. They coincide approximately with the ditinction between waht was innately present originally and waht was aquired in the course of the ego's development.


An investigation of normal, stable states [of the mind], in which the frontiers of the ego are safeguarded against the id by resistances...would teach us little.

The only thing that can help us [to gain access to the unconscious id] are are states of conflict and uproar when the contents of the unconscious id have a prospect of forcing their way into the ego and inti consciousness and the ego puts itself once more on the defensive against this invasion...

Now, our nightly sleep is precisely a state of this sort, and for that reason psychical activity during sleep, which we perceive as dreams, is our most favourable object of study.

See extracts from Freud's major work on Interpretation of Dreams




[Child abuse] [Questions]

(¶7.8) Analytic experience has convinced us of the complete truth of the assertion so often to be heard that the child is psychologically father to the adult and that the events of his first years are of paramount importance for his whole later life. It will thus be of special interest to us if there is something that may be described as the central experience of this period of childhood. Our attention is first attracted by the effects of certain influences which do not apply to all children, though they are common enough - such as the sexual abuse of children by adults, their seduction by other children (brothers or sisters) slightly their seniors, and, what we should not expect, their being deeply stirred by seeing or hearing at first hand sexual behaviour between adults (their parents) mostly at a time at which one would not have thought they could either be interested in or understand any such impressions, or be capable of remembering them later. It is easy to confirm the extent to which such experiences arouse a child's susceptibility and force his own sexual urges into certain channels from which they cannot afterwards depart. Since these impressions are subjected to repression either at once or as soon as they seek to return as memories, they constitute the determinant for the neurotic compulsion which will subsequently make it impossible for the ego to control the sexual function and will probably cause it to turn away from that function permanently. If this latter reaction occurs, the result will be a neurosis; if it is absent, a variety of perversions will develop, or the function, which is of immense importance not only for reproduction but also for the entire shaping of life, will become totally unmanageable.

Oedipus and Electra

(¶7.9) However instructive cases of this kind may be, a still higher degree of interest must attach to the influence of a situation which every child is destined to pass through and which follows inevitably from the factor of the prolonged period during which a child is cared for by other people and lives with his parents. I am thinking of the Oedipus complex, so named because its essential substance is to be found in the Greek legend of King Oedipus ... The Greek hero killed his father and took his mother to wife. That he did so unwittingly, since he did not know them as his parents, is a deviation from the analytic facts which we can easily understand and which, indeed, we shall recognize as inevitable.

(¶7.10) At this point we must give separate accounts of the development of boys and girls (of males and females), for it is now that the difference between the sexes finds psychological expression for the first time...

(¶7.11a) A child's first erotic object is the mother's breast that nourishes it; love has its origin in attachment to the satisfied need for nourishment. There is no doubt that, to begin with, the child does not distinguish between the breast and its own body; when the breast has to be separated from the body and shifted to the 'outside' because the child so often finds it absent, it carries with it as an 'object' a part of the original narcissistic libidinal cathexis.

(¶7.11b) This first object is later completed into the person of the child's mother, who not only nourishes it but also looks after it and thus arouses in it a number of other physical sensations, pleasurable and unpleasurable. By her care of the child's body she becomes its first seducer. In these two relations lies the root of a mother's importance, unique, without parallel, established unalterably for a whole lifetime as the first and strongest love-object and as the prototype of all later love-relations - for both sexes.

(¶7.11c) In all this the phylogenetic foundation has so much the upper hand over personal accidental experience that it makes no difference whether a child has really sucked at the breast or has been brought up on the bottle and never enjoyed the tenderness of a mother's care. In both cases the child's development takes the same path; it may be that in the second case its later longing grows all the greater. And for however long it is fed at its mother's breast, it will always be left with a conviction after it has been weaned that its feeding was too short and too little.

Little boys

(¶7.12) This preface is not superfluous, for it can heighten our realisation of the intensity of the Oedipus complex. When a boy (from the age of two or three) has entered the phallic phase of his libidinal development, is feeling pleasurable sensations in his sexual organ and has learnt to procure these at will by manual stimulation, he becomes his mother's lover. He wishes to possess her physically in such ways as he has divined from his observations and intuitions about sexual life, and he tries to seduce her by showing her the male organ which he is proud to own. In a word, his early awakened masculinity seeks to take his father's place with her; his father has hitherto in any case been an envied model to the boy, owing to the physical strength he perceives in him and the authority with which he finds him clothed. His father now becomes a rival who stands in his way and whom he would like to get rid of. If while his father is away he is allowed to share his mother's bed and if when his father returns he is once more banished from it, his satisfaction when his father disappears and his disappointment when he emerges again are deeply felt experiences. This is the subject of the Oedipus complex, which the Greek legend has translated from the world of a child's phantasy into pretended reality. Under the conditions of our civilisation it is invariably doomed to a frightening end.

Father will cut it off

(¶7.13a) The boy's mother has understood quite well that his sexual excitation relates to herself. Sooner or later she reflects that it is not right to allow it to continue. She thinks she is doing the correct thing in forbidding him to handle his genital organ. Her prohibition has little effect; at the most it brings about some modification in his method of obtaining satisfaction. At last his mother adopts the severest measures; she threatens to take away from him the thing he is defying her with. Usually, in order to make the threat more frightening and more credible, she delegates its execution to the boy's father, saying that she will tell him and that he will cut the penis off.

(¶7.13b) Strange to say, this threat operates only if another condition is fulfilled before or afterwards. In itself it seems too inconceivable to the boy that such a thing could happen. But if at the time of the threat he can recall the appearance of female genitals or if shortly afterwards he has a sight of them - of genitals, that is to say, which really lack this supremely valued part, then he takes what he has heard seriously and, coming under the influence of the castration complex, experiences the severest trauma of his young life.


(¶7.14) The results of the threat of castration are multifarious and incalculable; they affect the whole of a boy's relations with his father and mother and subsequently with men and women in general.

[See Civilisation and its Discontents (1930)
for Freud's discussion of society and repression.

As a rule the child's masculinity is unable to stand up to this first shock. In order to preserve his sexual organ he renounces the possession of his mother more or less completely; his sexual life often remains permanently encumbered by the prohibition. If a strong feminine component, as we call it, is present in him, its strength is increased by this intimidation of his masculinity. He falls into a passive attitude to his father, such as he attributes to his mother. It is true that as a result of the threat he has given up masturbation, but not the activities of his imagination accompanying it. On the contrary, since these are now the only form of sexual satisfaction remaining to him, he indulges in them more than before and in these phantasies, though he still continues to identify himself with his father, he also does so, simultaneously and perhaps predominantly, with his mother. Derivatives and modified products of these early masturbatory phantasies usually make their way into his later ego and play a part in the formation of his character. Apart from this encouragement of his femininity, fear and hatred of his father gain greatly in intensity. The boy's masculinity withdraws, as it were, into a defiant attitude towards his father, which will dominate his later behaviour in human society in a compulsive fashion. A residue of his erotic fixation to his mother is often left in the form of an excessive dependence on her, and this persists as a kind of bondage to women. He no longer ventures to love his mother, but he cannot risk not being loved by her, for in that case he would be in danger of being betrayed by her to his father and handed over to castration. The whole experience, with all its antecedents and consequences, of which my account has only been able to give a selection, is subjected to a highly energetic repression, and, as is made possible by the laws operating in the unconscious id, all the mutually contending emotional impulses and reactions which are set going at that time are preserved in the unconscious and ready to disturb the later development of the ego after puberty. When the somatic process of sexual maturation puts fresh life into the old libidinal fixations which had apparently been surmounted, sexual life will turn out to be inhibited, without homogeneity and fallen apart into mutually conflicting urges.

(¶7.15) It is no doubt true that the impact of the threat of castration upon a boy's budding sexual life does not always have these dreaded consequences. It will depend once again on quantitative relations how much damage is done and how much avoided. The whole occurrence, which may probably be regarded as the central experience of the years of childhood, the greatest problem of early life and the strongest source of later inadequacy, is so completely forgotten that its reconstruction during the work of analysis is met in adults by the most decided disbelief. Indeed, aversion to it is so great that people try to silence any mention of the proscribed subject and the most obvious reminders of it are overlooked by a strange intellectual blindness...

(¶7.16)... more than a century before the emergence of psycho-analysis the French philosopher Diderot bore witness to the importance of the Oedipus complex by expressing the difference between the primitive and civilised worlds in this sentence:

"if the little savage were left to himself, preserving all his foolishness and adding to the small sense of a child in the cradle the violent passions of a man of thirty, he would strangle his father and lie with his mother".

I venture to say that if psycho-analysis could boast of no other achievement than the discovery of the repressed Oedipus complex, that alone would give it a claim to be included among the precious new acquisitions of mankind.

Little girls [Questions]

(¶7.17) The effects of the castration complex in little girls are more uniform and no less profound. A female child has, of course, no need to fear the loss of a penis; she must, however, react to the fact of not having received one. From the very first she envies boys its possession; her whole development may be said to take place under the colours of envy for the penis. She begins by making vain attempts to do the same as boys and later, with greater success, makes efforts to compensate for her defect - efforts which may lead in the end to a normal feminine attitude. If during the phallic phase she tries to get pleasure like a boy by the manual stimulation of her genitals, it often happens that she fails to obtain sufficient satisfaction and extends her judgment of inferiority from her stunted penis to her whole self. As a rule she soon gives up masturbating, since she has no wish to be reminded of the superiority of her brother or playmate, and turns away from sexuality altogether.

(¶7.18) If a little girl persists in her first wish - to grow into a boy - in extreme cases she will end as a manifest homosexual, and otherwise she will exhibit markedly masculine traits in the conduct of her later life, will choose a masculine vocation, and so on. The other path leads by way of abandoning the mother she has loved: the daughter, under the influence of her envy for the penis, cannot forgive her mother for having sent her into the world so insufficiently equipped. In her resentment over this she gives up her mother and puts someone else in her place as the object of her love - her father.

If one has lost a love-object, the most obvious reaction is to identify oneself with it, to replace it from within, as it were, by identification. This mechanism now comes to the little girl's help. Identification with her mother can take the place of attachment to her mother. [My emphasis, not Freud's]

The little daughter puts herself in her mother's place, as she has always done in her games; she tries to take her mother's place with her father, and begins to hate the mother she used to love, and from two motives: from jealousy as well as from mortification over the penis she has been denied.

Her new relation to her father may start by having as its content a wish to have his penis at her disposal, but it culminates in another wish - to have a baby from him as a gift. The wish for a baby has thus taken the place of the wish for a penis, or has at all events split off from it.

(¶7.19) It is an interesting thing that the relation between the Oedipus complex and the castration complex should take such a different shape - an opposite one, in fact- in the case of females as compared to that of males. In males, as we have seen, the threat of castration brings the Oedipus complex to an end; in females we find that, on the contrary, it is their lack of a penis that forces them into their Oedipus complex.

It does little harm to a woman if she remains in her feminine Oedipus attitude. (The term 'Electra complex' has been proposed for it) [By Jung] She will in that case choose her husband for his paternal characteristics and be ready to recognize his authority. Her longing to possess a penis, which is in fact unappeasable, may find satisfaction if she can succeed in completing her love for the organ by extending it to the bearer of the organ, just as happened earlier when she progressed from her mother's breast to her mother as a whole person.

(¶7.20) If we ask an analyst what his experience has shown to be the mental structures least accessible to influence in his patients, the answer will be: in a woman her wish for a penis, in a man his feminine attitude towards his own sex, a precondition of which would, of course, be the loss of his penis.



(¶8.10) ... the ego comes to grief over the task of mastering the excitations of the early sexual period, at a time when its immaturity makes it incompetent to do so. It is in this lagging of ego development behind libidinal development that we see the essential precondition of neurosis; and we cannot escape the conclusion that neuroses could be avoided if the childish ego were spared this task - if, that is to say, the child's sexual life were allowed free play, as happens among many primitive peoples...

On the other hand, the realisation dawns on us that such an early attempt at damming up sexual instinct, so decided a partisanship by the young ego in favour of the external as opposed to the internal world, brought about by the prohibition of infant sexuality, cannot be without its effect on the individual's later readiness for culture. The instinctual demands forced away from direct satisfaction are compelled to enter on new paths leading to substitutive satisfaction...

... many of the highly valued assets of our civilisation were acquired at the cost of sexuality and by restriction of sexual motive forces.


Super-ego [Questions]

(¶9.2a) The picture of an ego which mediates between the id and the external world, which takes over the instinctual demands of the [id] in order to lead them to satisfaction, which derives perceptions from the [external world] and uses them as memories, which, intent on its self-preservation, puts itself in defence against excessively strong claims from both sides and which, at the same time, is guided in all its decisions by the injunctions of a modified pleasure principle - this picture in fact applies to the ego only up to the end of the first period of childhood, till about the age of five. At about that time an important change has taken place. A portion of the external world has, at least partially, been abandoned as an object and has instead, by identification, been taken into the ego and thus become an integral part of the internal world.

(¶9.2b) This new psychical agency continues to carry on the functions which have hitherto been performed by the people (the abandoned objects) in the external world: it observes the ego, gives it orders, judges it and threatens it with punishments, exactly like the parents whose place it has taken. We call this agency the super-ego and are aware of it in its judicial functions as our conscience. It is a remarkable thing that the super-ego often displays a severity for which no model has been provided by the real parents, and moreover that it calls the ego to account not only for its deeds but equally for its thoughts and unexecuted intentions, of which the super-ego seems to have knowledge. This reminds us that the hero of the Oedipus legend too felt guilty for his deeds and submitted himself to self-punishment, although the coercive power of the oracle should have acquitted him of guilt in our judgment and his own. The super-ego is in fact the heir to the Oedipus complex and is only established after that complex has been disposed of.

(¶9.2c) For that reason its excessive severity does not follow a real model but corresponds to the strength of the defence used against the temptation of the Oedipus complex. Some suspicion of this state of things lies, no doubt, at the bottom of the assertion made by philosophers and believers that the moral sense is not instilled into men by education or acquired by them in their social life but is implanted in them from a higher source.

(¶9.3) So long as the ego works in full harmony with the super-ego it is not easy to distinguish between their manifestations; but tensions and estrangements between them make themselves very plainly visible. The torments caused by the reproaches of conscience correspond precisely to a child's fear of loss of love, a fear the place of which has been taken by the moral agency. On the other hand, if the ego has successfully resisted a temptation to do something which would be objectionable to the super-ego, it feels raised in its self-esteem and strengthened in its pride, as though it had made some precious acquisition. In this way the super- ego continues to play the part of an external world for the ego, although it has become a portion of the internal world. Throughout later life it represents the influence of a person's childhood, of the care and education given him by his parents and of his dependence on them - a childhood which is prolonged so greatly in human beings by a family life in common. And in all this it is not only the personal qualities of these parents that is making itself felt, but also everything that had a determining effect on them themselves, the tastes and standards of the social class in which they lived and the innate dispositions and traditions of the race from which they sprang. Those who have a liking for generalisations and sharp distinctions may say that the external world, in which the individual finds himself exposed after being detached from his parents, represents the power of the present; that his id, with its inherited trends, represents the organic past; and that the super-ego, which comes to join them later, represents more than anything the cultural past, which a child has, as it were, to repeat as an after- experience during the few years of his early life. It is unlikely that such generalisations can be universally correct. Some portion of the cultural acquisitions have undoubtedly left a precipitate behind them in the id; much of what is contributed by the super-ego will awaken an echo in the id; not a few of the child's new experiences will be intensified because they are repetitions of some primaeval phylogenetic experience.

"What thou hast inherited from thy fathers,
acquire it to make it thine"
[Goethe's Faust]
Thus the super-ego takes up a kind of intermediate position between the id and the external world; it unites in itself the influences of the present and the past. In the establishment of the super- ego we have before us, as it were, an example of the way in which the present is changed into the past....


From Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832)
Faust, Act I, scene i,

"Was du ererbt von deinen Vätern hast
Erwirb es, um es zu besitzen."

Which, word for word, is:

"What you inherited from your fathers have,
Acquire it, so as it to possess"

External link: Tony Kline's translation this is lines 682 and 683 - translated "What from your father you've inherited,
You must earn again, to own it straight"

External link: Wikipedia


This document was compiled by Andrew Roberts. He is entirely responsible for any Freudian slips, unless they are likely to get him into trouble_In which case, he blames his computer.

Booklist and references

Freud, S. 1926, The Question of Lay Analysis. Reprinted in two Penguin paperbacks: Two Short Accounts of Psychoanalysis (quote on pages 167 to 168) and The Essentials of Psychoanalysis (quote on pages 63 to 64).

Freud, S. 1940, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Hogarth Press 1979


cortical Cortex is Latin for the bark of a tree. In English, a cortex, or a cortical layer, is just an outer layer. The outer layer of the brain (the convolutions you can see on the drawing) is called the cerebral (brain) cortex. Freud argues that the id (part of our mind) has an outer (cortical) layer, from which the ego develops.

Psychical apparatus:

Physical is material - made of matter - like the body of which the brain is part. Our physical apparatus would be all the bits and pieces that make up the body working together. Somatic just means belonging to the body (soma) as distinct from the mind.

But Freud is writing about a psychical apparatus. Our psych is our mind (hence psychology - the study of mind). Psychoanalysis is claiming to discover an apparatus (organisation, structure) for this. So what is the mind? What does it look like? Freud says we know its body organ (the brain), but we perceive it directly in "acts of consciousness". Psychoanalysis does not study the brain, it studies these "acts of consciousness" - and from them it deduces that the mind has a structure (psychical apparatus) which includes a large unconscious part. (see diagram)

the libelous bit:

To pose as "scientific" some social scientists wear white coats and others create obscure terms for their concepts. Freud wrote in a down-to-earth German that his English translators thought would be more impressive if spiced up with a little Latin. This is how we got the words "id" "ego" and "super-ego"

Freud wrote (1923) Das Ich und das Es, which is simply translated as The I and the It. "How common!" his first translator (Joan Riviere) thought, and retranslated it as The Ego and the Id.

Id is a newly created "Latin" word for what Freud called (in German) das Es. In German, "das" is "the" and "es" is "it". Das Es is the "it" about us - the part we try to control as distinct from the part of us that tries to control. The simple "es" gets a capital letter when it becomes "Das Es" - because it is now a noun instead of a pronoun.

In chapter two (The Theory of the Instincts), Freud says:

"forces which we assume to exist behind the tensions caused by the needs of the id are called instincts... we have decided to assume the existence of only two basic instincts, Eros and the destructive instinct" [or the] "death instinct"

Eros is "the love instinct". The "total available energy of Eros" he speaks of as "libido".

Libido is a Latin word for desire, lust, passion or caprice. Freud used the Latin (not a German) word. In English "libidinous" (lustful, lecherous or lewd) had been in use for many centuries, but libido was introduced by Brill's translation of Freud's Selected Papers on Hysteria in 1909. The distinction "id, ego, superego" comes later, and leaves us with the problem of relating "id" and "libido". On the basis of what Freud says about basic instincts, it would seem id has two energies: libido and the death wish.

Ego is a newly created "Latin" word for what Freud called (in German) das Ich. In German, "das" is "the" and "ich" is "I", or "Ich" is self. You can say "ich bin" (I am) and you can talk about "sein anderes Ich" (one's other self). So "Das Ich" is the "I" or "self" that struggles to please, control and reconcile the other parts of our personality. without getting us into too many problems with the external world.

Super-ego is a newly created "Latin" word for what Freud called (in German) über-ich, which can also be written ueber-ich. In German, one of the meanings of "über" is "over". "Ich" is "I" or "self", so the super-ego is the "over-I" or the "over-self".

Freud said: "Wo Es war, soll Ich werden" - "Where It was, shall I be". Psychoanalysts seem to enjoy arguing about what this means.

phylogenetic Greek for genesis of the race. In biology it refers to the way all members of a species develop through a succession of forms, as distinct from the ontogenesis of the individual.

trauma Greek for wound. Used as a medical term for a (physical) wound or injury. Freud applied it to a wound of the mind. The related word traumatic has been used (since 1962) for events that cause such psychic wounds.

genital and genitals
genitals generate - they are the body organs involved in sexual intercourse: the male penis and the female vagina. So Freud
is saying that he disagrees with the idea that sexual life is focused on sexual intercourse. He gives sex a much broader definition than this.

Try the sex weblinks if you want more explained

Freud said he had extended the concept of
"sexuality" in two ways:

  1. "sexuality is divorced from its too close connection with the genitals and is regarded as a more comprehensive bodily function"

  2. "the sexual impulses are regarded as including all of those merely affectionate and friendly impulses to which usage applies the exceedingly ambiguous word 'love'

(Sigmund Freud in An Autobiographical Study (1924/1925), quoted by Anna Freud in The Essentials of Psychoanalysis p.272)

Oedipus Rex: The story of King Oedipus, from the Greek play, is retold by Freud in Interpretation of Dreams (1924). The way the Oedipus Complex breaks down with the formation of the super-ego is explained in greater detail, by Freud, in The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex (1924)

Electra was the sister of Orestes, who she incited to murder Clytemnestra, their mother. (See Bulfinch's Mythology)

Science When Freud says that the processes with which psychoanalysis is concerned are in themselves just as unknowable as those dealt with by other sciences, he is making the distinction that Immanuel Kant made between the "thing in itself" (which is unknowable) and the appearances which we experience. Kant argued that reason provides categories with which we interpret empirical observation. Freud appears to be arguing that the "fresh hypotheses" and "fresh concepts" of psychoanalysis are necessary hypotheses for interpreting the data. But, as hypotheses, they may be modified, corrected and made more precise with further experience and analysis.

When Freud speaks of our perceptual apparatus, he is using a concept from Kant. This is the idea that our mind has a structure which arranges what we experience into an order we can understand.

[Corrections to my very limited understanding of German, Latin, Greek (and English?) are more than welcome - as are complaints from translators of Freud and men and women in white coats.]

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SHE13: SHE Document 13 on Freud. Containing extracts from Freud, S. 1938 "An Outline of Psychoanalysis".
(Paragraph numbers from SHE Document 13)

With references in the text to

(SHE13 par. -)

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Normally, one uses an author's name and the date of publication as the key word and key number. The above suggestion uses SHE13 instead. By following the advice, you will avoid the problem that although all of the extracts above are from Freud, the introduction and notes are by Andrew Roberts.

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An alphabetical index follows the Headings list and a list of other works follows this.


The headings have been added to the original text by Andrew Roberts.


Sex and the human mind: Extracts from An Outline of Psycho-analysis by Sigmund Freud

Mind and Brain

Id and Ego


Sex before and after latency

Oral stage

Anal stage

Phallic stage

Child abuse

Oedipus Electra

Little boys

Father will cut it off


Little girls



abandoned objects (people) par. 9.2

aggression: par.3.5 defiant attude to father: par. 7.14

anus: par.3.5

attachment of children to breast: par. 7.11a. Girls attachment to mother replaced by identification: par. 7.18 (but see par. 7.11b

authority: paragraphs 7.12 and 7.19

bottle feeding: par. 7.11c

breasts: paragraphs 7.11a and 7.11c, and par.7.19

early childhood: paragraphs 3.3a, 3.7 and 9.2a
influence of long childhood: paragraphs 1.6 and 9.3
central experience of childhood: paragraphs 7.8 and 7.15

civilisation: 1926 quote. 1940: paragraphs 7.12, paragraphs 7.16 and paragraphs 8.10

conscience: paragraphs 9.2b (judicial aspect of super-ego) and 9.3 (fearing loss of love)

conscious: par.1.1 and unconscious: par. 7.14

conscious, preconscious, unconscious

culture and sex   cultural past and superego

See also society and Totem and Taboo

dream interpretation

ego organisation a "particular distribution of mental energy" (See also note on libido energy.

envy: boys envy father's authority and strength: par. 7.12. girls envy boy his penis (pars 7.17 to 7.19), which leads to accepting husband's authority: par 7.19

analytic: pars 1,   7.8   7.20  
personal: pars 1.5a,   1.7c,   3.7,   7.8,   7.11c,   7.12,   7.13b,   7.14,   7.15,  
individuals compulsory after-exerience of cultural past

female genitals: par.3.6, par.7.17, par.7.13b

feminine component in males and masculine in females

fixation: par.3.3a, par.3.9, par.7.14

hate: girl hates her mother: par. 7.18. (Compare with boys desire to "get rid of" (par.7.12) or kill (par.7.9) his father.

identification: pars 7.14, 7.18, and 9.2a.

inferioriy feelings: pars 3.7 and 7.17

latency period: pars 3.3a and pars 3.7

libido: pars 3.5 and 3.9

love: par.7.11a, abandoning love: paragraphs 7.14, and 7.18, love loss: par.9.3

love and sex: note

masculine vocations

boys: par.7.12 and 7.13a, par.7.14
girls: par.7.17,

mouth: par. 3.4

penis: self stimulation (masturbation): par.7.12 and 7.13a, par.7.14

penis envy: paragraphs 7.17, 7.18 and 7.19

pervert: par.3.1, perversions: pars 3.9 and 7.8,

pleasure and unpleasure: par.1.5b

pleasurable and unpleasurable physical sensations aroused by mother's care: par.7.11b

pleasure : paragraphs 3.2, 3.4, 3.8 and 7.17

pleasure principle (modified): par. 9.2a

preconscious, conscious, unconscious

puberty: defined in par.3.1. See also paragraphs 3.2; 3.3a; 3.8 and 7.14.

reason and passion:
see other extracts

repression and society: par 7.14;


satisfaction: pars: 1.5a; 3.4; 3.5; 7.12; 7.13a; 7.14; 7.17; 7.19; 8.10 and 9.2a

seduction: par.7.8, par.7.11b and 7.12

self-criticism: par. 9.2ba

self-preservation: paragraphs 1.5a, 3.4 and 9.2a

sexual and genital: par.3.2. See also par.3.1.

sex and love: note

sleep: par. 1.5c

society, imagination and repression: par 7.14; Also see authority   civilisation   culture;

social class, race and culture: par 9.3;

social models (teachers and other social ideals as successors and substitutes for parents)


symbolic equation:
see other extracts

trauma: pars 3.7 and 7.13b

unconscious, preconscious, conscious   "Id and unconscious are as intimately liked as ego and preconscious"

Other works

On John Stuart Mill

1900: Interpretation of Dreams

1913: Totem and Taboo

1923: The Ego and the Id

1924: The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex

1926: The Question of Lay Analysis

1930: Civilisation and its Discontents

1933: The Dissection of the Psychical Personality

1933: Femininity


beautiful baby
click on the children to read Beautiful Baby -
an essay that could explain this to you!


The brain is physical (material). The person who drew this picture had a dead one to draw from. The mind is not the same as the brain. It is psychical, not physical. What kind of research would you do to be able to make a diagram of the mind, as Freud does?

Freud's diagram of the mind
Freud's diagram of the mind

Pcpt Cs = Perceptual-conscious system

The diagram is from his 1933 lecture on "The Dissection of the Personality". He says:

"I should like to portray the structural relations of the mental personality... in the ... sketch...

As you see here, the super-ego merges into the id; indeed, as heir to the Oedipus complex it has intimate relations with the id, it is more remote than the ego from the perceptual system.

The id has intercourse with the external world only through the ego - at least, according to this diagram. It is certainly hard to say today how far the drawing is correct. In one respect it is undoubtedly not. The space occupied by the unconscious id ought to have been incomparably greater than that of the ego or the preconscious. I must ask you to correct it in your thoughts".