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Extracts from Sigmund Freud

1900: Interpretation of Dreams
1905: Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
1909/1910: The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis
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
1931: Female Sexuality


1938: An Outline of Psychoanalysis

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)

3. General statements applicable to all perversions

Variation and Disease. - The physicians who at first studied the perversions in pronounced cases and under peculiar conditions were naturally inclined to attribute to them the character of a morbid or degenerative sign similar to the inversions. This view, however, is easier to refute in this than in the former case. Everyday experience has shown that most of these transgressions, at least the milder ones, are seldom wanting as components in the sexual life of normals who look upon them as upon other intimacies. Wherever the conditions are favorable such a perversion may for a long time be substituted by a normal person for the normal sexual aim or it may be placed near it. In no normal person does the normal sexual aim lack some designable perverse element, and this universality suffices in itself to prove the inexpediency of an opprobrious application of the name perversion. In the realm of the sexual life one is sure to meet with exceptional difficulties which are at present really unsolvable, if one wishes to draw a sharp line between the mere variations within physiological limits and morbid symptoms.

Another translation of part: "No healthy person, it appears, can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse to the normal sexual aim; and the universality of this finding is in itself enough to show how inappropriate it is to use the word perversion as a term of reproach. In the sphere of sexual life we are brought up against peculiar, and, indeed, insoluble difficulties as soon as we try to draw a sharp line to distinguish mere variations within the range of what is physiological from pathological symptoms" (pages 160-161)

The Ego and the Id (1923) [See also An Outline of Psychoanalysis
page numbers from The Essentials of Psychoanalysis (Freud, A. 1986)

p.440 The division of the psychical into what is conscious and what is unconscious is the fundamental premise of psychoanalysis

p.450 ... the ego seeks to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavours to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestrictedly in the id. For the ego, perception plays the part which in the id falls to instinct. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions.

p.459 But now that we have embarked upon the analysis of the ego we can give an answer to all those whose moral sense has been shocked and who have complained that there must be a higher nature in man: 'Very true,' we can say, 'and here we have that higher nature, in this ego ideal or super-ego, the representative of our relation to our parents. When we were little children we knew these higher natures, we admired them and feared them; and later we took them into ourselves.'

The ego ideal is therefore the heir of the Oedipus complex, and thus it is also the expression of the most important libidinal vicissitudes of the id. By setting up this ego ideal, the ego has mastered the Oedipus complex and at the same time placed itself in subjection to the id. Whereas the ego is essentially the representative of the external world, of reality, the super-ego stands in contrast to it as the representative of the internal world, of the id. Conflicts between the ego and the ideal will, as we are now prepared to find, ultimately reflect the contrast between what is real and what is psychical, between the external world and the internal world


It is easy to show that the ego ideal answers to everything that is expected of the higher nature of man. As a substitute for a longing for the father, it contains the germ from which all religions have evolved. The self-judgement which declares that the ego falls short of its ideal produces the religious sense of humility to which the believer appeals in his longing. As a child grows up, the role of father is carried on by teachers and others in authority; their injunctions and prohibitions remain powerful in the ego ideal and continue, in the form of conscience, to exercise the moral censorship. The tension between the demands of conscience and the actual performance of the ego is experienced as a sense of guilt. Social feelings rest on identifications with other people, on the basis of having the same ego ideal.

The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex (1924)

(¶1) To an ever increasing extent the Oedipus complex reveals its importance as the central phenomena of the sexual period of early childhood...

(¶5) When the (male) child's interest turns to his genitals he betrays the fact by manipulating them frequently; and he then finds that the adults do not approve of this behaviour. More or less plainly, more or less brutally, a threat is pronounced that this part of him which he values so highly will be taken away from him.

(¶6) ... to begin with the boy does not believe in the threat or obey it in the least.

(¶7) The observation which finally breaks down his unbelief is the sight of the female genitals. Sooner or later the child, who is proud of his possession of a penis, has a view of the genital region of a little girl, and cannot help being convinced of the absence of a penis in a creature who is so like himself. With this, the loss of his own penis becomes imaginable, and the threat of castration takes its deferred effect.

(¶8) ... If the satisfaction of love in the field of the Oedipus complex is to cost the child his penis, a conflict is bound to arise between his narcissistic interest in that part of his body and the libidinal cathexis of his parental objects. In this conflict the first of these forces normally triumphs: the child's ego turns away from the Oedipus complex.

(¶9) ... The authority of the father or the parents is introjected into the ego, and there it forms the nucleus of the super-ego, which takes over the severity of the father and perpetuates his prohibition against incest, and so secures the ego from the return of the libidinal object-cathexis.

(¶10) I see no reason for denying the name of a `repression` to the ego's turning away from the Oedipus complex, although later repressions come about for the most part with the participation of the super-ego, which in this case is only just being formed. But the process we have described is more than a repression. It is equivalent, if it is ideally carried out, to a destruction and an abolition of the complex. We may plausibly assume that we have here come upon the borderline - never a very sharply drawn one - between the normal and the pathological. If the ego has in fact not achieved much more than a repression of the complex, the latter persists in an unconscious state in the id and will later manifest its pathogenic effect.

(¶11) ... the destruction of the Oedipus complex is brought about by the threat of castration...

... The process which has been described refers, as has been expressly said, to male children only. How does the corresponding development take place in little girls?

(¶12a) At this point our material - for some incomprehensible reason - becomes far more obscure and full of gaps. The female sex, too, develops an Oedipus complex, a super-ego and a latency period. May we also attribute a phallic organisation and a castration complex to it? The answer is in the affirmative; but these things cannot be the same as they are in boys. Here the feminist demand for equal rights for the sexes does not take us far, for the morphological distinction is bound to find expression in differences of psychical development. `Anatomy is destiny`, to vary a saying of Napoleon's. The little girl's clitoris behaves just like a penis to begin with; but, when she makes a comparison with a playfellow of the other sex, she perceives that she has `come off badly` and she feels this as a wrong done to her and as a ground for inferiority. For a while still she consoles herself with the expectation that later on, when she grows older, she will acquire just as big an appendage as the boy's...

(¶12b) A female child, however, does not understand her lack of penis as being a sex character; she explains it by assuming that at some earlier date she had possessed an equally large organ and had then lost it by castration. She seems not to extend this inference from herself to other, adult females, but, entirely on the lines of the phallic phase, to regard them as possessing large and complete - that is to say, male - genitals. The essential difference thus comes about that the girl accepts castration as an accomplished fact, whereas the boy fears the possibility of its occurrence.

(¶13) The fear of castration being thus excluded in the little girl, a powerful motive also drops out for the setting up of a super-ego and for the breaking-off of the infantile genital organisation. In her, far more than in the boy, these changes seem to be the result of up-bringing and of intimidation from outside which threatens her with a loss of love. The girl's Oedipus complex is much simpler than that of the small bearer of the penis, in my experience, it seldom goes beyond the taking of her mother's place and the adopting of a feminine attitude towards her father. Renunciation of the penis is not tolerated by the girl without some attempt at compensation. She slips - along the line of a symbolic equation, one might say - from the penis to a baby. Her Oedipus complex culminates in a desire, which is long retained, to receive a baby from her father as a gift - to bear him a child. One has the impression that the Oedipus complex is then gradually given up because this wish is never fulfilled. The two wishes - to possess a penis and a child - remain strongly cathected in the unconscious and help to prepare the female creature for her later sexual role.
It must be admitted, however, that in general our insight into these developmental processes in girls is unsatisfactory, incomplete and vague.

The Question of Lay Analysis (1926)
page numbers from The Essentials of Psychoanalysis (Freud, A. 1986)

conscious - unconscious and ego and id

p.19 The only trustworthy antithesis is between conscious and unconscious. But it would be a serious mistake to think that this antithesis coincides with the distinction between ego and id ... All that is true is that everything that happens in the id is and remains unconscious, and that processes in the ego, and they alone, can become conscious. But not all of them are, nor always, nor necessarily; and large portions of the ego can remain permanently unconscious.

p.22: If the id's instinctual demands meet with no satisfaction, intolerable conditions arise. Experience soon shows that these situations of satisfaction can only be established with the help of the external world. At that point the portion of the id which is directed towards the external world - the ego - begins to function. If all the driving force that sets the vehicle in motion is derived from the id, the ego, as it were, undertakes the steering, without which no goal can be reached. The instincts in the id press for immediate satisfaction at all costs, and it that way they achieve nothing or even bring about appreciable damage. It is the task of the ego to guard against such mishaps, to mediate between the claims of the id and the objections of the external world.

infantile sexuality

pp.32-33: Another characteristic of early infantile sexuality is that the female sexual organ proper as yet plays no part in it: the child has not yet discovered it. Stress falls entirely on the male organ, all the child's interest is directed towards the question of whether it is present or not. We know less about the sexual life of little girls than of boys. But we need not feel ashamed of this distinction; after all, the sexual life of adult women is a 'dark continent' for psychology. But we have learnt that girls feel deeply their lack of a sexual organ that is equal in value to the male one; they regard themselves on that account as inferior, and this 'envy for the penis' is the origin of a whole number of characteristic feminine reactions.

It is also characteristic of children that their two excretory needs are cathected [charged] with sexual interest. Later on, education draws a sharp distinction here, which is once more obliterated in the practice of joking. It may seem to us an unsavoury fact, but it takes quite a long time for children to develop feelings of disgust. This is not disputed even by people who insist otherwise on the seraphic purity of the child's mind.

Nothing, however, deserves more notice than the fact that children regularly direct their sexual wishes towards their nearest relatives - in the first place, therefore, towards their father and mother, and afterwards towards their brothers and sisters. The first object of a boy's love is his mother, and of a girl's her father (except in so far as an innate bisexual disposition favours the simultaneous presence of the contrary attitude). The other parent is felt as a disturbing rival and not infrequently viewed with strong hostility. You must understand me aright. What I mean to say is not that the child wants to be treated by its favourite parent merely with the kind of affection which we adults like to regard as the essence of the parent-child relation. No, analysis leaves us in no doubt that the child's wishes extend beyond such affection to all that we understand by sensual satisfaction - so far, that is, as the child's powers of imagination allow. It is easy to see that the child never guesses the actual facts of sexual intercourse; he replaces them by other notions derived from his own experience and feelings. As a rule his wishes culminate in the intention to bear, or in some indefinable way, to procreate a baby. Boys, too, in their ignorance, do not exclude themselves from the wish to bear a baby. We give the whole of this mental structure the name of 'Oedipus complex', after the familiar Greek legend. With the end of the early sexual period it should normally be given up, should radically [p.33] disintegrate and become transformed; and the results of this trans­formation are destined for important functions in later mental life. But as a rule this is not effected radically enough, in which case puberty brings about a revival of the complex, which may have serious consequences.

I am surprised that you are still silent. That can scarcely mean consent. - In asserting that a child's first choice of an object is, to use the technical term, an incestuous one, analysis no doubt once more hurt the most sacred feelings of humanity, and might well be prepared for a corresponding amount of disbelief, contradiction and attack. And these it has received in abundance. Nothing has damaged it more in the good opinion of its contemporaries than its hypothesis of the Oedipus complex as a structure universally bound to human destiny. The Greek myth, incidentally, must have had the same meaning; but the majority of men to-day, learned and unlearned alike, prefer to believe that Nature has laid down an innate abhorrence in us as a guard against the possibility of incest.

But let us first summon history to our aid. When Caius Julius Caesar landed in Egypt, he found the young Queen Cleopatra (who was soon to become so important to him) married to her still younger brother Ptolemy. In an Egyptian dynasty there was nothing peculiar in this; the Ptolemies, who were of Greek origin, had merely carried on the custom which had been practised by their predecessors, the ancient Pharaohs, for a few thousand years. This, however, was merely brother-and-sister incest, which even at the present time is not judged so harshly. So let us turn to our chief witness in matters concerning primeval times - mythology. It informs us that the myths of every people, and not only of the Greeks, are filled with examples of love-affairs between fathers and daughters and even between mothers and sons. Cosmology, no less than the genealogy of royal races, is founded upon incest. For what purpose do you suppose these legends were created? To brand gods and kings as criminals? to fasten on them the abhorrence of the human race? Rather, surely, because incestuous wishes are a primordial human heritage and have never been fully overcome, so that their fulfilment was still granted to gods and their descendants when the majority of common humans were already obliged to renounce them. It is in complete harmony with these lessons of history and mythology that we find incestuous wishes still present and operative in the childhood of the individual.

not to be swallowed

pp 63-64: For we do not consider it at all desirable for psycho-analyis to be swallowed up by medicine and to find its last resting place in a text book of psychiatry under the heading 'Methods of Treatment,... As a depth psychology, a theory of the mental unconscious, it can become indispensable to all the sciences which are concerned with the evolution of human civilisation and its major institutions such as art, religion and social order.

The use of analysis for the treatment of the neuroses is only one of its applications; the future will perhaps show that it is not the most important one

Civilisation and its Discontents (1930)

par.3.12: The last... of the characteristic features of civilisation remains to be assessed: the manner in which the relationships of men to one another, their social relationships, are regulated - relationships which affect a person as a neighbour, as a source of help, as another person's sexual object, as a member of a family, and of a State...

... the element of civilisation enters on the scene with the first attempt to regulate these social relationships. If the attempt were not made, the relationships would be subject to the arbitrary will of the individual: that is to say, the physically stronger man would decide them in the sense of his own interests and instinctual impulses...

[Civil and savage images 1906-1919 Look at the photographs of a Lancashire family who do not eat their neighbours and a savage chief who does.

par.3.13: The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilisation. It was greatest before there was any civilisation, though then, it is true, it had for the most part no value.

par.4.7 ... women soon come into opposition to civilisation and display their retarding and restraining influence - those very women who, in the beginning, laid the foundations of civilisation by the claims of their love. Women represent the interests of the family and of sexual life. The work of civilisation has become increasingly the business of men, it confronts them with ever more difficult tasks and compels them to carry out instinctual sublimations of which women are little capable...

par.4.8: The tendency on the part of civilisation to restrict sexual life is no less clear than its other tendency to expand the cultural unit...

... the economic structure of the society also influences the amount of sexual freedom... Here... civilisation is obeying the laws of economic necessity, since a large amount of the psychical energy which it uses for its own purposes has to be withdrawn from sexuality...

... A high-water mark in such development has been reached in our Western European civilisation. A cultural community is perfectly justified, psychologically, in starting by proscribing manifestations of the sexual life of children, for there would be no prospect of curbing the sexual lusts of adults if the ground had not been prepared for it in childhood...

As regards the sexually mature individual, the choice of an object is restricted to the opposite sex, and most extra-genital satisfactions are forbidden as perversions. The requirement, demonstrated in these prohibitions, that there shall be a single kind of sexual life for everyone, disregards the dissimilarities, disregards the dissimilarities, whether innate or acquired, in the sexual constitution of human beings...

... heterosexual genital love, which has remained exempt from outlawry, is itself restricted by further limitations, in the shape of insistence upon legitimacy and monogamy. Present-day civilisation makes it plain that it will only permit sexual relationships on the basis of a solitary, indissoluble bond between one man and one woman, and that it does not like sexuality as a source of pleasure in its own right and is only prepared to tolerate it because there is so far no substitute for it as a means of propagating the human race.

par.4.9: This, of course, is an extreme picture...

par.6.6: "... civilisation is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind... These collections of men are to be libidinally bound to one another. Necessity alone, the advantages of work in common, will not hold them together."

par.8.9: Just as a planet revolves around a central body as well as rotating on its own axis, so the human individual takes part in the course of development of mankind at the same time as he pursues his own path in life. But to our dull eyes the play of forces in the heavens seems fixed in a never-changing order...

par.8.11: The analogy between the process of civilisation and the path of individual development may be extended in an important respect. It can be asserted that the community, too, evolves a super-ego under whose influence cultural development proceeds... The super-ego of an epoch of civilisation has an origin similar to that of an individual. It is based on the impression left behind by the personalities of great leaders...

... during their lifetime these figures were - often enough, even if not always - mocked and maltreated by others, and even despatched in a cruel fashion. In the same way, indeed, the primal father did not attain divinity until long after he had met his death by violence.

The most arresting example of this fateful conjunction is to be seen in the figure of Jesus Christ - if, indeed, that figure is not part of mythology, which called it into being from an obscure memory of that primal event...

par.8.12: The cultural super-ego has developed its ideal and set up its demands. Among the latter, those which deal with the relations of human beings to one another are comprised under the heading of ethics...


The Dissection of the Psychical Personality
page numbers from The Essentials of Psychoanalysis (Freud, A. 1986)

p.484 Symptoms are derived from the repressed, they are, as it were, its representatives before the ego; but the repressed is foreign territory to the ego - internal foreign territory - just as reality (if you will forgive the unusual expression) is external foreign territory.

From the very first we have said that human beings fall ill of a conflict between the claims of instinctual life and the resistance which arises within them against it.

p.487 I am now prepared to hear you ask me scornfully whether our ego psychology comes down to nothing more than taking commonly used abstractions literally and in a crude sense, and transforming them from concepts into things - by which not much would be gained. To this I would reply that in ego-psychology it will be difficult to escape what is universally known; it will rather be a question of new ways of looking at things and new ways or arranging them than of new discoveries. So hold to your contemptuous criticism for the time being and await further explanations. The facts of pathology give our efforts a background that you would look for in vain in popular psychology.

The most striking feature of this illness [melancholia] ... is the way in which the super-ego - `conscience`, you may call it, quietly - treats the ego.

p.497 We call the unconscious which is only latent, and thus easily becomes conscious, the `preconscious` and retain the term `unconscious` for the other.

p.498 You will not expect me to have much to tell you that is new about the id apart from its new name. It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality; what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations. We picture it as being open at its end to somatic influences, and as there taking up into itself [p.499] instinctual needs which find their psychical expression in it but we cannot say in what substratum. It is filed with energy reaching it from the instincts, but has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. The logical laws of thought do not apply in the id, and this is true above all of the law of contradiction.

There is nothing in the id that could be compared to negation; and we perceive with surprise an exception to the philosophical theorem that space and time are necessary forms of our mental acts {footnote* The reference is to Kant}. There is nothing in the id that corresponds to the idea of time; there is no recognition of the passage of time, and - a thing that is most remarkable and awaits consideration in philosophical thought - no alteration in its mental processes is produced by the passage of time.

p.500 The relation to the external world has become the decisive factor for the ego; it has taken on the task of representing the external world to the id - fortunately for the id, which could not escape destruction if, in its blind efforts for the satisfaction of its instincts, it disregarded that supreme external power.

p.502 The ego's relation to the id might be compared with that of a rider to his horse. The horse supplies the locomotive energy, while the rider has the privilege of deciding on the goal and of guiding the powerful animal's movement.

p.503 If the ego is obliged to admit its weakness, it breaks out in anxiety - realistic anxiety regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the super-ego and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions of the id.

page numbers from The Essentials of Psychoanalysis (Freud, A. 1986)

p.427 In a boy the Oedipus complex, in which he desires his mother and would like to get rid of his father as being a rival, develops naturally from the phase of his phallic sexuality. The threat of castration compels him, however, to give up that attitude. Under the impression of the danger of loosing his penis, the Oedipus complex is abandoned, repressed and, in the most normal cases, entirely destroyed, and a severe super-ego is set up as its heir. What happens to a girl is almost the opposite. The castration complex prepares for the Oedipus complex instead of destroying it; the girl is driven out of her attachment to her mother through the influence of her envy for the penis and she enters the oedipus situation as though into a haven of refuge. In the absence of fear of castration the chief motive is lacking which leads boys to surmount the Oedipus complex. Girls remain in it for an indeterminate length of time; they demolish it late and, even so, incompletely. In these circumstances the formation of the super-ego must suffer; it cannot attain the strength and independence which give it its cultural significance, and feminists are not pleased when we point out to them the effects of this factor upon the average feminine character.

p.429 Furthermore, it is our impression that more constraint has been applied to the libido when it is pressed into the service of the feminine function, and that - to speak teleologically - Nature takes less careful account of its [that function's] demands than in the case of masculinity. And the reason for this may lie - thinking once again teleologically - in the fact that the accomplishment of the aim of biology has been entrusted to the aggressiveness of men and has been made to some extent independent of women's consent.

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society (civilisation)
See also Totem and Taboo and society index to An Outline of Psychoanalysis

The work of civilisation has become increasingly the business of men

reason and passion:
The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions.

symbolic equation
She slips - along the line of a symbolic equation, one might say - from the penis to a baby