Freud Definitions

by Ora Gelley

Note: below are a number of basic definitions of terms in Civilization and its Discontents. Most of these definitions come from The Language of Psycho
Analysis, by J. Laplanche and J.B. Pontalis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company 1973). Keep in mind that these are incomplete definitions and in
many cases do not give a good sense of the complexity of the word or concept as it is defined in Civilization and its Discontents.  You are expected to have a deeper understanding of some of these terms.

topography--theory or point of view which implies a differentiation of the psychical apparatus into a number of subsystems. Each of these has distinct
characteristics or functions and a specific position vis-a-vis the others, so that they may be treated , metaphorically speaking, as points in a psychical space which is susceptible of figurative representation. One topography in Freud's work is id, ego, super-ego.

object-relationship,  subject's mode of relation to his world.

object--In correlation with the instinct: the object is the thing in respect of which and through which the instinct seeks to attain its aim (i.e., a certain type of satisfaction). It may be a person or a part-object, a real object or a fantasied one.

economic--qualifies everything having to do with the hypothesis that psychical processes consist in the circulation and distribution of an energy (instinctual energy) that can be quantified, i.e. that is capable of increase, decrease and equivalence.

pleasure principle--one of the two principles which, according to Freud, govern mental functioning: the whole of psychical activity is aimed at avoiding unpleasure and procuring pleasure. Inasmuch as unpleasure is related to the increase of quantities of excitation, and pleasure to their reduction, the principle in question may be said to be economic.

reality principle--one of the two principles which for Freud govern  mental functioning. The reality principle is coupled with the pleasure principle, which it modifies: in so far as it succeeds in establishing its dominance as a regulatory principle, the search for satisfaction does not take the most direct routes but instead makes detours and postpones attainment of its goal according to the conditions imposed by the outside world. Viewed from the economic standpoint, the reality principle corresponds to a transformation of free energy into bound energy.

sublimation--process postulated by Freud to account for human activities which have no apparent connection with sexuality but are assumed to be motivated by the force of sexual instinct. The main types of activity described by Freud as sublimated are artistic creation and intellectual inquiry. The instinct  is said to be sublimated in so far as it is diverted towards a new non-sexual aim and in so far as its objects are socially valued ones.

repression--strictly speaking, an operation whereby the subject attempts to repel, or to confine to the unconscious, representations (thought, images, memories) which are bound to an instinct. Repression occurs when to satisfy an instinct--though likely to be pleasurable in itself--would incur the risk of provoking unpleasure because of other requirement.

libido--Energy postulated by Freud as underlying the transformations of the sexual instinct with respect to its object (displacement of cathexes), with respect to its aim (e.g. sublimation), and with respect to the source of sexual excitation (diversity of the erotogenic zones).

id--that part of the mind in which are situated the instinctual sexual drives which require satisfaction.  One of the three agencies distinguished by Freud in his second theory of the psychical apparatus. The id constitutes the instinctual pole of the personality; its contents, as an expression of the instincts, are
unconscious, a portion of them being hereditary and innate, a portion repressed and acquired. From the economic pont of view, the id for Freud is the prime reservoir of psychical energy; from the dynamic point of view, it conflicts with the ego and the super-ego.

super-ego--One of the agencies of the personality as described by Freud in the framework of his second theory of the psychical apparatus: the super-ego's role in relation to the ego may be compared to that of a judge or a censor. Freud sees conscience, self-observation and the formation of ideals as functions of the super-ego. In classical theory, the super-ego is described as the heir of the Oedipus complex in that it is constituted through the internalisation of parental prohibitions and demands.  That part which contains the "conscience," viz. socially-acquired central mechanisms (usually imparted in the first instance by the parents) which have been internalized; while the ego is the conscious self created by the dynamic tensions and interactions between the id and the super-ego, which has the taks of reconciling their conflicting demands with the requirements of external reality. It is in this sense that the mind is to be understood as a dynamic energy system.

All objects of consciosness reside in the ego, the contents of the id belong permanently to the unconscious mind, while the super-ego is an unconscious screening-mechanism which seeks to limit the blind pleasure-seeking drives of the id by the imposition of restrictive rules.

Eros--Term used by the Greeks to designate love and the god of love. Freud employs it in his final instinct theory to connote the whole of the life instincts as opposed to the death instincts.

Aggressive Instinct--Term used by Freud to designate the death instincts in so far as they are turned towards the outside world. The aim of the aggressive instinct is the destruction of the object.

Destructive Instinct--Term used by Freud to designate the death instincts when he is tending to view them in the light of biological and psychological experience. Sometimes it has the same extension as "death instinct," but for the most part it refers to the death instinct in so far as it is directed towards the outside world.

Death Instinct--In the framework of the final Freudian theory of instincts, this is the name given to a basic category: the death instincts, which are opposed to the life instincts, strive towards the reduction of tensions to zero-point. In other words, their goal is to bring the living being back to the inorganic state. The death instincts are to begin with directed inwards and tend towards self destruction, but they ae subsequenctly turned towards the outside world in the form of the aggressive or destructive instinct.

Unconscious----The adjective "unconscious' is at times used to connote all those contents that are not present in the field of consciousness at a
given moment; this is a "descriptive," not a "topographical," sense of the word, for no distinction is being made here between respective contents of the preconscious and unconscious systems.

2. With the framework of the second Freudian topography the term "unconscious" is used above all in its adjectival form; indeed, no single agency can now hold a monopoly on its application, since not only the id but also parts of the ego and super-ego are described as unconscious.

Psychoanalysis--As a method of investigation which consists essentially in bringing out the unconcsious meaning of words, the actions and the products
of the imagination (dreams, fantasies, delusions) of a particular subject.  The method is founded mainly on the subject's free associations, which serve as the measuring-rod of the validity of interpretation.

psyche--the mind functioning as the center of thought, emotion, and behaviour.

psychical--of, relating to, affecting, or influenced by the human mind or psyche; mental.

Oedipus Complex--Organized body of loving and hostile wishes which the child experiences towards its parents. In its so-called positive form, the complex appears as in the story of Oedipus Rex: a desire for the death of the rival--the parent of the same sex--and a sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex. The Oedipus complex plays a fundamental part in the structuring of the personality, and in the orientation of human desire.