Sex Repression as Child May Be Neurosis Cue

Sex Repression as Child May Be Neurosis Cue

Freud's Greatest Contribution to Man Also Has Aroused the Greatest Protest

By Art Coulter, M.D.

SIGMUND FREUD is best known for his work on sex. It is also that phase of his work that has aroused (and still arouses) the strongest protest. Yet even his opponents now concede he contributed much in this area, as well as in so many others. Whether one agrees or not, his ideas are worth hearing and knowing about.

That sexual disturbances are the root of many emotional problems may seem difficult to believe at first hearing. Yet consider:

1. Sexual prowess or attractiveness has a profound effect on self-esteem.

2. Sexual activity is the most intense source of pleasure, and the enjoyment of that pleasure is often thwarted.

3. Sexual activity, for most women, leads in many cases to pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood, which is both her fulfillment and her greatest trial. For most men, it leads to domestic obligations, which restrict their freedom of action, as well as to the delights of fatherhood.

4. Physiologically, the sex hormones are involved in puberty, the menstrual cycle, and the change of life for women, and are related to the strength and virility of men.

5. Society has a vital stake in sexual activity (it means race survival) and exercises that stake in laws, customs, and taboos.

One of the striking features about sexual disturbances is that they are repressed. Many a reader, taking a serious look at this area for the first time, will probably feel at first: "Well, maybe so, but this doesn't apply to me." And he will be quite honest and sincere in feeling it. Only after he looks more deeply will he begin to find that: "Yes, I do have a sexual problem", and "By golly, it does have a relation to my anxiety (or aggressiveness, or insecurity, or guilt, etc.)".

It should be stressed that Freud's ideas on sex were not speculative, but grew out of extensive observations on neurotic patients in psychoanalysis. Later, they were confirmed by direct observation of children. The reader himself can check their validity by observing the child's activities in the sexual sphere.

Freud's first discovery was that the child has a sexual life from birth. This discovery was quite shocking to Victorian ears and even today arouses disbelief in many when first stated. Yet it can be confirmed easily by observing children. They will be seen to masturbate at a very early age, and suckling at the mother's breast gives them both food and pleasure. Of course, the sexual life of an infant is a vague and undeveloped affair, but it is quite clearly present and appears to be of major importance to him.

Freud distinguished three phases in the sexual development of the child:

1. An oral phase--from which derives later feelings of dependency (and insecurity if there are disturbances).

2. An anal phase--from which derives later tendencies to "being clean", or, in ideas, "being clear" as well as pleasure in "getting rid of" or "destroying".

3. A genital phase--which leads to self-love as opposed to egotism. Later, it leads into another important phase--the Oedipal situation*.

One of the interesting theories resulting from this discovery was that sexual aberrations are simply a distortion of infantile sexuality. Whether this theory is so or not, it at any rate offers an interesting and provocative explanation for the "sex crimes" that seem

* "Oedipal" is derived from "Oedipus Rex", a Greek tragedy in which a king's son kills his father and marries his own mother, all unknowingly.