Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Is Libido & Where Does The Term Come From?

Libido is the term that the noted founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, used to label the sexual drive or sexual instinct. He noted that the sexual drive is characterized by a gradual buildup to a peak of intensity, followed by a sudden decrease of excitement.
As he studied this process in his patients, Freud concluded that various activities like eating and drinking, as well as urination and defecation share this common pattern. Consequently, he regarded these behaviors as sexual or libidinous as well.

Freud also became interested in the development of the libido, which he saw as the basic and most powerful human drive. He believed that the development of the libido involved several distinct and identifiable stages.

Freud's Theory on How Libido Develops
During infancy, he noted, sexual drive is focused on the mouth, primarily manifested in sucking. He labeled this the oral stage of libidinous development. During the second and third years of a child's life, as the child is undergoing toilet training, focus and erotically tinged pleasure shifts to rectal functions. Freud labeled this the anal stage.

Later, during puberty, focus shifts again to the sex organs, a period of development he labeled the phallic stage in the maturation of the libido.

During the later stage of development, libidinal drives focus at first on the parent of the opposite sex and add an erotic coloring to the child's experience of his/her parents. Parental disapproval of uncontrolled libidinal drive, Freud believed,leads to the development of a human psyche that is made up of three components; the id, the ego and the superego. He concluded that the id, or basic set of instincts and drives (including the libido but also other drives like aggression), provides the psychic energy needed to initiate activities.

The ego, an executive function, directs the day-to-day fulfillment of libidinous and other desires in socially acceptable and achievable ways.

The superego labels the learned and internalized social standards of behavior, including an awareness of banned or punishable behaviors. During wakeful periods, strong boundaries separate these three arenas, but during sleep and fantasy the boundaries weaken, giving rise to open expression of otherwise controlled libidinous desires. Conscious awareness of these unrestrained desires and fantasies can cause the person to feel sexual guilt or shame.

Freud believed that an individual's personality is established early on in life and is determined by the ways in which basic drives and impulses such as libido are satisfied. Failure to satisfy libidinal and other drives leads to their repression with resulting consequences for the development of an individual's personality and psychological health.

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