Far from Freud:
Difficulty in Explaining Psychosexual Development in Ethiopia
(Janetius, ST., 2006)
The definitions of health and disease, normal and abnormal are determined by the prevailing social norms; they are culturally determined. "Culture" refers to a group or community with whom we share common experiences that shape the way we interact and understand the world. It includes groups that we are born into, such as gender, race, or national origin, religion etc. It also includes groups we join or become part of. Our culture influences how we grow, develop, think and behave interact and participate in groups and in communities. In counselling and psychotherapy, culture is understood to pose a barrier to quality therapy. The Western theories of human behaviour and personality, counselling and therapy modules that are popularised all over the world do not fit to the needs of people from another culture and do not explain fully. Therefore, an effective psychologist should work in harmony with background influences of human conditions specifically the tradition, life-world, environmental and geographic condition of the specific people. Psychologists are more and more becoming aware of the problems of cultural relativism and focus increasingly on cultural contextualization or culture-specific approach in understanding and answering human behaviour and mental health issues.
As a psychologist and counsellor, my main source of difficulty in understanding human behaviour in either Asia or Africa is that, almost all the theoretical frameworks used in understanding human behaviour, personality, human development and counselling process are Western origin that reflects their culture, thinking and life world. In addition, many of the basic assumptions of psychology such as: the scientific and rational approach, the striving for self-actualisation and the preference for active adjustment over passive acceptance reflect the socio-economic, political and philosophical context of the Western Euro-American cultures.
In fact, just like any reflecting psychologist in the East, I have my own reservations to the applicability of many western theories of psychology in Asia and
The Psychosexual theory of Sigmund Freud…
Sigmund Freud's Psychosexual Development can be defined as the harmonious interplay of the individual’s psychological and sexual capacities within an ordered and ethical value system. A person’s psychological growth is conditioned by the libido or the inner energy that is reflected in sexual growth. Also, our personality develops as we move through a series of psychosexual stages. Freud's most basic hypothesis was that each child is born with basic instincts, a source of basic l energy called libido (vaguely translated as sexual pleasure). Further, each child's libido becomes successively focused on various parts of the body (in addition to people and objects) in the course of development. Freud was influenced by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Therefore, emphasizes the biological basis of human development a lot. Freud talks about four/five stages of development (latency period is not considered a stage of development by many authors). Each stage is characterised by different demands for libido gratification and ways of achieving; if any trouble arises in normal development process, fixations arise to hinder the personality all through our life.
During the first postnatal year, libido (sexual pleasure) is initially focused on the mouth and its activities; nursing enables the infant to derive gratification through a pleasurable reduction of tension in the oral region. Infants seek gratification through mouth, mainly sucking the breast, feeding, crying, and other oral explorations. Freud called this the oral stage of development. Fixation at this stage will affect the growth of the child, especially the personality, leading to disturbed adult behaviours like being passive, overly dependent, verbal aggression, impatience, greediness, and a preoccupation with giving and taking. Adult habits like smoking, overeating, thumb sucking, objects chewing are expressions of fixations and poor oral development.
During the second year, the source of excitation is said to shift to the anal area, and the start of toilet training leads the child to invest libido in the anal functions. Freud called this period of development the anal stage. Too little gratification in this stage results fixation often reflected as orderliness, neatness, rigidity, obstinate, stingy, and possessive and other compulsive behaviours.
During the period from three through six years, the child's attention is attracted to sensations from the genitals, and Freud called this stage the phallic stage. This stage is one of the important periods of psychological development. Oedipus complex occurs in male children and penis envy in females. Oedipus conflict according to Freud takes place when most male children realize the sex difference in their organs, and the male child identifies with the father and desires his mother. Castration anxiety makes the male child afraid of the father (a strange feeling according to Freud that the child fears that he may loose his sex organ for such thoughts). In the female, it is labelled as Electra complex (by the latter psychologists) where the female child desires her father and hates mother thinking that it is the mother who created her without penis. Conflicts and fixations at this stage, according to Freud lead to homosexuality, authority problems, and rejection of appropriate gender roles.
The half dozen years before puberty are called the latency stage. No significant developments take place and libido is dormant at this stage. A kind of repressed drives at this period may lead to formation of friendships, or hobbies. Finally, genital stage of development in which mature gratification is sought in a heterosexual love relationship with another.
Freud believed that adult emotional problems result from either deprivation or excessive gratification during the oral, anal, or phallic stages.
Coming to the Ethiopian Context …
The major problem to the application of this theory in the Ethiopian context arises in the age brackets given by Freud. Look at the table below:
If we apply the theory of Freud in this context, we have to classify all the people of
Throughout the world indigenous peoples have maintained their unique philosophy, worldviews and associated knowledge systems for centuries to explain realities, which are often ignored or undermined by Western civilization and society. The indigenous peoples of Asia and
The theory of Freud clearly reflects the human development in the society he lived and similar societies around the world. Therefore, it is applicable in such societies. However, when we try to understand the human development applying the psychosexual develop theory in Ethiopian context, due to cultural, environmental and social conditions of the people, it is not at all applicable to the majority of the population.