The id employs primary processes that produce a memory image of an object designed to please its wants and desires. This is accomplished in accordance to the pleasure-principle, in which the id seeks instant gratification of its desires in an irrational and dreamlike process in order to achieve wish-fulfillment. However, the experience of the id’s fantasy image is only temporary and preverbal, and so the energy of the libido remains unsatisfied. In opposition to the id, the ego employs secondary processes that search for a real-world object to match the image generated by the id’s primary processes. This is accomplished in accordance to the reality principle, in which the ego devises a sense of realistic and rational adaptive expectations. The ego’s secondary processes seek to either send out or withdraw libidinal cathexes in order to discharge the tension existing between the ego and the id, acting as an intermediary between the id and the external world. The ego is therefore able to exercise control over the behavior of the instinctual energies and desires of the libido.
As the id is the only portion of the psychical apparatus that is hereditary and therefore present at birth, individuals are born without a sense of themselves as separate beings. The id is therefore initially in control of the psyche, with its unrestrained and unlimited selfishness inducing only pleasure-seeking activities. This can be attributed to primary narcissism, referring to the state of investing the entirety of the libido into oneself. Primary narcissism is ruled by the wants of the id and is the condition under which infants originate. While in this formative state of primary narcissism, sexual instincts find autoerotic satisfaction as the psyche projects libido unto itself. Ego development begins to occur during the oral phase, the initial phase of psychosocial development. As the oral phase is defined by libido being centered in an infant’s mouth, ego formation evolves in the delayed libidinal gratification from sucking at the mother’s breast. Here, external forces impede upon primary narcissism by creating an obstacle to the desires of the id; the infant is forced to realize that it is not the omnipotent center of the universe. The ego therefore develops by recognizing one’s own body as an autonomous and distinct entity, first beginning to develop a sense of “I” as it perceives itself as a separate being.
Once the ego is formed, it is able to act as an intermediary between the desires of the id and the experiences of the external world. Its fundamental instinct is one of self-preservation, achieved by avoiding excessive stimuli through flight and dealing with moderate stimuli through adaption. When the primary ego-libido becomes overly stimulated, the ego attempts to relocate the resulting unpleasure to an outside outlet. As a result, the ego directs this energy outwards onto an external object in order to maintain self-preservation. Due to the finite nature of libidinal energy, an antithetical relationship exists between degrees of ego-libido and object-libido; the more one of them is engaged, the more the other becomes diminished. The psyche therefore proceeds to distance itself from primary narcissism as the ego evolves by transferring libidinal cathexes onto external objects, transitioning from possessing solely ego-libido to experiencing object-libido as well.
While the oral stage of development originates in the infant’s need to attain nourishment through breastfeeding, it is also motivated by the infant’s desire to obtain sexual pleasure independent of nourishment. Originally confined to sucking, the emergence of teeth initiates the oral-sadistic phase. The coexistence of the libido and aggressive instinct in the relationship to a singular object, the mother’s breast, results in the destruction of said object. This relationship is expressed in the oral phase through teething, chewing, and biting, actions that satisfy early developmental sadistic impulses. As the infant ages, the erotogenic concentration shifts from the mouth to the anus. The sadistic impulse of oral destruction of the breast is reestablished and amplified in the anal phase through infantile aggression. During the anal phase, the ego is transformed through the child’s control over the excretory function as the child becomes aware of his overwhelming parental power while toilet training. The ego seeks mastery and control of the body as it decides when and when not to excrete, receiving delayed libidinal gratification. In its first phase, the infant confronts anal eroticism by exercising control over evacuation, while the sadistic instinct is exercised through destruction of the object. In its second phase, the infant employs anal eroticism through retention of the object and the sadistic instinct to possess the object. The child’s infantile aggression causes the ego to develop through the regulation and control of instinctual drives.
In order to achieve a normal psyche during adulthood, children must successfully complete the anal phase and progress to the next stage of psychosocial development. However, if issues are not resolved during this stage of development, pathologies in the form of an anal fixation may occur later in life. According to Freud, there are two mutually exclusive types of anal fixations that may develop: an anal-expulsive personality and an anal-retentive personality. Anal-retentive traits evolve from early childhood history in which children refuse to empty their bowels, deriving a subsidiary pleasure from withholding their excrement. As a result, these children mature to become defined by their strong notions of bodily cleanliness, orderliness, conscientiousness in carrying out minor duties, and a compulsion for control. Divergently, children also may develop an anal-expulsive personality resulting from early childhood behavior. This category refers to children who derived a subsidiary pleasure from expelling excrement, resulting in a rebellion against toilet training by defecating whenever they pleased. This lack of control over the anal sphincter as a child results in an adult defined by disorganization, messiness, rebelliousness, cruelty, and emotional outbursts.
According to Freud, anal eroticism induces a narcissistic implementation in the output of defiance. This concept of defiance resulting from anal-expulsive personalities can be applied to works of art that make use of excrement. Children experiencing a fixation in the anal phase delight in producing their own excretions and utilizing them during toilet training to assert their dominance over parental figures. It therefore follows that as adults, certain modernist avant-garde artists use excremental imagery to scandalize the highbrow standards of perfection and beauty found in more traditional pieces of art. More broadly, artwork that utilizes or thematizes excrement may be interpreted as a call for the return to a primordial culture in which society is not defined by the exclusion or repression of its waste products. Artistic expression involving excrement can therefore be perceived as an act of liberation from established order, hierarchical rank, and societal norms by making use of waste products to symbolize the irrepressible abjection and incontestable reality of human culture.
In his analysis of dreams and the dream-work, Freud theorized that there were two distinct kinds of content in relation to dreams. The first kind of dream content is manifest content and refers to the material experienced in the surface of the dream. Manifest content includes all of the elements of images, thoughts, and content in the dream that is retained in an individual’s memory upon awakening. The second kind of dream content is latent dream-thoughts and refers to the relevant material of the dream discovered through analysis. Latent dream-thoughts consist of the hidden meaning of an individual’s unconscious thoughts, wishes, and desires. The unconscious psyche represses the latent content in order to protect the ego from primitive thoughts or feelings that are difficult to cope with on a conscious level. By analyzing the seemingly bizarre and unrelated manifest content of the dream, individuals can uncover the meaning of deeper underlying issues within the unconscious and eventually resolve these issues that create difficulties in their lives. However, it is not merely the analysis of the manifest and latent content of the dream that reveals the deeper meaning, but instead an analysis of the processes within the dream. These processes in which latent dream-thoughts are transformed into manifest content are referred to as “dream-work.”
Freud denotes four aspects of the dream-work that explain how the hidden wish of the dreamer becomes expressed. These aspects include condensation, displacement, dramatization and secondary revision. Condensation refers to the process of fusing several different latent ideas possessing a common denominator into a singular image. Displacement occurs in shifting the intensities of one person or object onto another so that the manifest content of the dream focuses on a trivial aspect as opposed to the essential one. Dramatization refers to the process by which abstract ideas are transformed into concrete visual images within the dream. Secondary revision is the final stage of the dream-work in which the dreaming mind purposefully organizes the distorted and often contradictive product of the dream-work into something more coherent and meaningful to the dreamer. These processes of the dream-work imply that a singular element of manifest dream content can be interpreted to represent a number of latent dream-thoughts.
While conscious life is primarily regulated by an individual’s ego and superego, the instinctual and impulsive id dominates the psyche during dreams. The id serves as a repository of unconscious primitive desires and impulses that are mediated by the preconscious region. The id is imagistic in nature in that repressed material is stored in the unconscious as visual perceptions, those of which are often amassed, cluttered, and disorganized. As the unconscious employs no imaginative faculty, it would be incorrect to interpret dreams simply as a stream of created images. Similarly, the images in dreams do not contain tense, nor should they be perceived as sequential. Dreams exist as expressions of the id’s internal conflicts as the repressed images that are unable to gain consciousness are brought to an individual’s awareness in disguised and distorted forms. Upon awakening, the superego suppresses the wishes and impulses experienced in the dream so that the individual immediately forgets much of the dream’s content.
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