I have become a Freudian.

There is a way of explaining core beliefs which makes sense to me, and it comes form an interpretation fo Freud by Peter Michaelson (just as Carl Jung's best interpreter is Donald Winnicott).

This is how your brain works:

You are born. Your brain operates according to the pleasure principle, which early on means to get food, get comfortable in the diaper area, and get affection. The infant is a pure megalomaniac, believing that he is the universe and everything which happens is because of his will. And parents do a proper job of reinforcing that idea. When the baby cries, they respond. 

At some point before the baby is 18 month old (in Freud's oral stage of psychosexual development), this can go bad. The baby will cry, and nothing will happen. It gets hungry, cried more, and nothing happens. What is the baby to make fo this? It's a full-blown megalomaniac and something bad just happened. Either the baby realizes that it isn't megalomaniac and that parents are different from itself, or it concludes that it willed a bad thing to happen. The second option, believing that it wanted a bad thing to happen to it, is the first root of bad core beliefs.

Your belief as an infant that you willed something bad to happen creates what Michaelson calls a Secret Attachment to deprivation. The secret attachment exists in the unconscious (Freud's id) and begins to influence almost every aspect of your self. I'll talk about a secret attachment to deprivation in a later post.

When the child is in the phallic stage of development (3-5 yrs), and is interacting almost exclusively with parents, something else can go bad. Parents can show attention elsewhere, which the child experiences as rejection. If it occurs enough times, rejection becomes another secret attachment.

If a child experiences a great amount to control from parents or others, a third secret attraction can develop, one of being controlled.

Secret Attractions all exist in the unconscious. We are never aware of them, but they have a profound influence on our behaviors, how we see others in the world, and even the thoughts running through our heads.

I'll give an example from my own life. I have secret attractions to rejection and deprivation. Once, when I was a teen on a family vacation, I didn't want to go in to the museum or whatever the stop was. I stayed in the car and read. Nearby were some other teens my age playing frisbee. The girls were cute, and I really wanted to join them. A couple came over to the car and asked me to join them, and I said, "no." Why? I didn't know why I said no to the thing I wanted. I thought maybe I was insane, or stupid, but I felt awful about it. I still remember how bad I felt about saying no, but looking back I felt I should say no, it was the right thing to say, and that saying yes wasn't really an option. It was my secret attachment to deprivation telling me what to do. I had become convinced as a baby that it is my will to experience the feeling of deprivation, that I should experience deprivation, and that it's right for me to feel deprived. Again, this is unconscious. It never occurred to my conscious thought that I should feel deprived, but the unconscious is specacularly strong.

Freud said the mind had three parts: 

  • id: unconscious, first formed part of the mind, acts to seek pleasure (food, sex, comfort)
  • ego: mostly unconscious, seeks to balance the id and the superego to create happiness and contentment
  • superego: last formed, punitive and controlling. Ideas come largely from same-sex parent. Partly conscious

A perfectly healthy person has all three aspects of the mind active, with the ego providing some pleasure under the constraints of the superego.

The ego solves conflicts between the id and the superego with defense mechanisms. I'll talk about these in a future post.

In summary, we could have one or more secret attachments to deprivation, control and rejection, which are suppressed with defenses created by the ego. Exposing them is painful but freeing, and conquering them may take time but is easy and I'm finding to be a lot of fun.