“Psychoanalysis has enabled us to recognize that the symptoms of neurosis depend on the operation of repressed ideas having a sexual content. They originate in the sexual needs of unsatisfied people and represent a substitute for gratification.” “Our civilization is largely responsible for our misery. The price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness.”
Freud wrote about the “artist’s joy in creating” & scientist’s pleasure in “discovering truths.” These “finer and higher” satisfactions were mild, however, compared with the pleasure of “sating crude and primary instinctual impulses that convulse our physical being” (1930). The 20th century revolved around fulfilling Freud’s dream of ecstatic sexual gratification.
Freud’s theory of sexuality shook the Victorian world. Yet the Freud embraced by the psychoanalytic establishment is the sober, rational Freud who said, “Where id is, there shall ego be.” Many believe that Freud advocated the control of sexual desire.
Although perhaps Freud came down, finally, on the side of sublimation, he often made statements such as “We may well raise the question whether our ‘civilized’ sexual morality is worth the sacrifice which it imposes on us.” Freud believed that the suppression of sexuality damaged healthy psychological functioning.
During Freud’s time, the power of religion and traditional morality made it nearly impossible to conceive of a world that affirmed the pursuit of sexual pleasure:
What decides the purpose of life is simply the program of the pleasure principle. Yet its program is at loggerheads with the whole world. There is no possibility of its being carried through; all the regulations of the universe run counter to it. One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be “happy” is not included in the plan of creation.
In Freud’s world, the “reality principle” far outweighed the pleasure principle. “Society” imposed its rules and regulations, and the possibility of evading them seemed impossible.
In today’s world, the boundary between the reality principle and pleasure principle is not clearly demarcated. Sexual impulses and activities which, in Freud’s time, were forbidden and hidden from public view—now are expressed everywhere. Desires once condemned—considered morally reprehensible—are now openly depicted, and often embraced.
This Chapter introduces Freud’s ideas on sexuality, neurosis and repression, putting forth this book’s central argument: That however complex Freud’s thinking may have been, the public understood and embraced one message, which may be summed up as follows: “Human mental problems, suffering, and unhappiness are caused by the sexual repression. If one is to be happier and healthier, one would do well to overcome one’s inhibitions, and to act upon one’s sexual desires.”
This book shall attempt to demonstrate that a central idea generating the liberation of sexuality was Freud’s theory that neurosis is caused by repression. The societal project of sexual liberation was conceived as a form of collective psychotherapy.