People Problems

I knew someone once who started almost every piece of advice with, “I was feeling that same way about a month or two ago.” Whether that statement was true or not, it always got me steamed up. I don’t exactly know why. I just know that every time I heard that phrase I wanted to pick the world up and drop it on someone’s head a la Lil Wayne.

I’m in this Psychology of Personality class this quarter, which is really swell. And I enjoy it a lot. But I have a major beef with all of the personality theorists that we’ve studied so far. They all think that development is linear – that as we come across new conflicts and resolve them, we become a more full and better person. And I just think that’s silly.

Right now, we are learning about Erik Erikson. He believed that life development consisted of eight epigenetic stages. That’s just a fancy way of saying that each stage grows on top of the other and that if we get messed up in one stage, then it ruins the other stages for us. Each of these stages is marked by a conflict, and if we navigate the conflict correctly, we learn a new “ego skill” or virtue. The conflict in the first stage, for instance, is trust vs. mistrust. And if we navigate it correctly, we acquire hope. That first stage happens before we are a year old.

I don’t even know how to understand this.

These conflicts are never resolved. Aren’t we constantly dealing with whether or not to trust the world? Or take Stage 3’s conflict, initiative v. shame and doubt. This supposedly happens before you are 6. But pretty much every college student I know routinely bounces back and forth between hard-working and lazy, self-loathing bum (myself included).

I don’t think there are “teenage” problems or “adult” problems or “kid” problems in this world. I just think there are people problems.

What are your people problems?

Freudian Thoughts

Sigmund Freud

I really dig psychology. I’m taking a Psychology of Personality class this quarter for my psychology minor. And I’m loving it. It’s a two-hour lecture class, and typically these kinds of classes rarely hold my interest, especially when you can typically read all of the information in the textbook, but I am enamored by this course. We are working our way through the history of psych of personality, and so, like all good psychology, we start with Freud.

Freud was a pretty interesting fellow. He wrote a lot of stuff that people took to be really sexual and stuff when it kind of really wasn’t. Also, he didn’t write about women very much because they were a “dark continent” and he “never really understood them.” And for those reasons, Freud is usually written off as a crazy person. It’s sad, though, because while people don’t think Freud was right about everything anymore, he certainly got some stuff right or said some things about the world that are useful.

Freud had this one really interesting theory about child development. Without going into too much detail, Freud thought that we all go through the same stages of development and that during these stages of development we are obsessed with different erogenous zones. Erogenous zones is just a fancy way of saying parts of the body that give us pleasure. So first, we are obsessed with the mouth. And that’s all good, we get food that way and that makes us happy. Then we go into the anal stage, which has to do with potty training, and then the phallic stage, which has to do with discovering our genitals and so on and so forth.

So basically the whole thing goes that when we are in each stage, we don’t really know about the next stage so we think that the happiness and pleasure we are experiencing from our current stage is the greatest of all the happiness and pleasure we will ever experience. And it’s like, obviously there are greater pleasures than being fed. But when a baby is in the oral stage, everything has to do with the mouth. All objects pass through the mouth because when the mouth is your pleasure center, if something doesn’t work with your mouth, it’s no good for you. If we could just tell all babies that there are greater pleasures than mouth pleasures, then we could fix the whole babies choking on things problem.

Us adults exist in the genital stage, where we have supposedly realized that reproduction causes the greatest pleasure. But this whole notion kind of strikes me as odd, as if there is some end point to development – that one day, we wake up and if everything had gone perfectly from birth, we would be perfect adults. That doesn’t seem right to me. I think we kind of go on developing, and I think that’s why sex permeates our culture in a lot of ways. If we believe, like the baby with his mouth, that the end-all be-all of human existence is sex, then of course we are going to put it everywhere and in everything.  I wish someone would tell us that there are greater pleasures than reproductive pleasures.