Freuds Doctrine Of Catharsis

See FREUD'S INSTINCT THEORY; FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY.

FREUD'S INSTINCT THEORY. The Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) argued that all animals, human and nonhuman, are born with powerful biological urges, in particular aggression instincts [cf., Freud's notions of sexual instincts, libido, and component instincts as any of the basic elements of sexual instinct as defined by instinctual sources, instinctual aims, and instinctual objects; and his dual-instinct theory -posits that humans act primarily in terms of pervasive instinctive drives toward both love ("eros") and aggression ("thanatos")]. The aggression instinct creates a drive to engage in acts of aggression that must be satisfied. Through the operation of a type of "pressure-building" mechanism, the instincts create an uncomfortable tension within the individual that must be released, often in the form of overt acts of aggression. According to Freud's instinct theory, the way to curb violence and other antisocial aggressive acts is to find nonviolent ways to release the aggressive energy, such as engaging in competitive activities, reading about violent crimes, or watching aggressive sporting events. Freud's viewpoint that the behavior of aggression is inborn has been reinforced by a number of other researchers, often ethologists and biologists, who suggest that violence is an element of evolutionary theory and is necessary for the survival of the fittest. Perhaps the most debatable aspect of Freud's instinct theory is his assertion that instinctual aggressive energy needs to be released in some fashion. Freud referred to the process of releasing instinctual energy as catharsis (from the Greek word katharsis, meaning "purgation or cleansing, especially of guilt"), and suggested that socie ties should develop methods whereby the nonviolent catharsis of aggressive energy may occur. Some psychologists agree generally with Freud that aggression is an inborn aspect of human behavior but do not agree, in particular, that it stems from an overwhelming instinctual urge to aggress. The counterview is that aggression is a natural reaction to the blocking ("frustration") of important motives and goals. Thus, the frustration-aggression theory suggests that not only people but entire nations as well - whose intended motives and goals are frustrated - will react with aggression and anger. Other psychologists, often social psychologists, argue that Freud's catharsis theory and notions of the ways in which catharsis may be exhibited actually have the opposite effect of increasing aggression, rather than dissipating it. Such social learning theory approaches suggest that individuals are aggressive only if they have learned that it is to their benefit to be aggressive. Thus, the social learning theorists disagree with Freud concerning the concept of catharsis. Where Freudian theory emphasizes that cathartic outlets need to be found for aggressive energy in order to keep it from appearing as actual aggression, social learning theory posits that cathartic outlets such as yelling when angry, hitting or punching a bag, or watching violent sporting events will not decrease violence but will actually increase it by teaching violence to the person. See also AGGRESSION, THEORIES OF; AIM-INHIBITION THEO-RY; BANDURA'S THEORY; DARWIN'S EVOLUTION THEORY; FREUD'S THEORY OF PERSONALITY.

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