Repressed Sexual Urges and Neurotic Anxiety
We often toss the word neurotic around saying quite easily that this person is “your classic neurotic” but how many of us really know what being neurotic really means?
We can thank Freud for the term neurotic or neurosis. As you can see the word resembles neurons, which are the brain cells. It is not surprising considering Freud was a neurologist long before he became the father of psychology.
A neurotic is said to be a person with unrealistic fears and by that definition many classic therapists will describe the world as being neurotic.
Note: Remember the classic paradigm looks for illness whereas modern therapists often look for other solutions for client issues before deciding they are mentally ill.
Freud had two separate theories about neurosis. His first theory was published in 1895. In the first theory, he postulated that neurotic anxiety was caused by blocked unconscious impulses. These impulses could be blocked due to unfulfilled sexual tension; in other words sexual deprivation. So if a person was deprived of sex that person would become neurotic and have a lot of anxiety. However, the person would not know it is due to an unsuccessful sex life because this part of the process (Id and pleasure principle) is unconscious.
His second theory of neurotic anxiety was a revision of the first. The second one was published in 1926. What he did was flip his theory around. In the first theory he proposed that neurotic anxiety was caused by repressed sexual feelings. In his second theory it is the very anxiety caused by having sexual feelings that causes neurotic anxiety. In other words the ego the reality based part of the psyche is aware of having sexual feelings and is afraid of the consequences of letting them continue.
Of course we know that Freud based his theory on the behavior of the Victorian women of his times. To him they were all experiencing repressed sexual urges. Then again, the Victorian era was known for repressed sexuality. If we want to extend this theory into today’s world and use a man as an example, we might find that a male teacher has these unconscious sexual urges towards his young female student. His ego knows these urges are unacceptable (please remember it is still on the unconscious level the man would not consciously know this is happening). He will experience neurotic anxiety even though he consciously has no idea why this is happening.
Of course with Freud the rise of these first impulses start with infancy, but as the baby grows, the ego is developing. The job of the ego is to repress these Id impulses. Now, when an individual becomes an adult and these sexual unconscious urges surfaces; if the ego cannot successfully deals with them, Freud’s Victorian women would revert back to a childlike state. It is also a state of helplessness.
Actually anxiety is considered a good thing in this period because it is present to warn the ego that it is time for it to control the Id impulses so that the behavior is acceptable to society.
Objective or realistic anxiety
This type of anxiety is also normal. It is the normal reaction of the ego when faced with something that is threatening in the real world such as a house fire and so on.
Moral anxiety is self- explanatory. Here the superego would trigger the ego to feel guilty or shame over something that was done. Freud said this was really a fear of punishment.
Note: the key to neurotic anxiety for Freudians is that it is unconscious, if you know about it and are dealing with it then it is not neurotic anxiety and you are not repressing Id impulses.