“In matters of sexuality we are at present, every one of us, ill or well, nothing but hypocrites.”
In traditional Freudian theory, Sigmund Freud addresses what he believed to be the four primary stages of human development: The “Oral Stage” (from the moment of birth until one year of age), the “Anal Stage” (from one year in age until around 3 years old), the “Phallic Stage” (from three until six years old), and the “Genital Stage” (from adolescence until adulthood). Freud believed, I’d wager with some clarity, that a human being cannot go beyond the final stage of development that begins in adolescence, i.e. the “Genital Stage”. This concept is central to Psychoanalytic Theory, and I’d wager Freud himself wouldn’t have had very much trouble devising later stages of development – were it not basic to Psychoanalytic Theory that the “Genital Stage” is the final and ultimately permanent condition of all Human adults.
We would like to believe as a civilized peoples that we have, in fact, transcended our childish ways and become fully grown adults; free from the wantonness of youthful indiscretion. We like to think of ourselves as fully conscious, fully aware rational beings… However, most adults ignore or simply overlook two key components of Psychoanalytic Theory:
1) The role of irrationality in society and, yea, our own individual Being-Towards-Death.
2) That “the early stages (of development) provide the foundation for adult behavior.”
I rather like this theory as an explanation of why fully mature adults often appear so facile and childish. The fact is, the idea that Humans never really fully outgrow the adolescent “Genital Stage” has a great deal of merit to it. For there to be, in actuality, any of the later stages of development that more recent theorists have posited, one – as a thinker – must fundamentally deny the truest instincts of Human “will”. That is, the will to survive. The unending struggle for survival begins, in my humble opinion, in adolescence when our cognition comes to a kind of primordial fruition.
Think of sex!
Is there anything more central and basic to the human condition and existence on Earth as the Human reflex to reproduce? Is there ever a time when this, what I’ll term, reflex to fornicate is as ripe as it is during adolescence? Considering the rates of teenage pregnancy and the eventual, inevitable, death of the ability to reproduce in later life for women, as well as – to be perfectly frank – just how intensely passionate I, personally, remember teen sex to be; I’d sincerely doubt it. The fact is, from the highest officials in government to the lowliest urchin living off of the government – we are still merely ignorant children, so to speak, grappling and groping blindly with the unknown world of Being-Towards-Death. Death and taxes are two basic things that each and every American experiences universally… Simply, this is to merely say that we all die – in the end.
According to Freud, “Sensual satisfaction (from stimulation of the mouth, anus, or genitals) is linked to developmental needs, challenges and conflicts. How people experience and resolve these conflicts… determines personality patterns.” In this course of this paper, I shall attempt to examine and analyze my own development in the context of what, especially at the time, was a truly groundbreaking theory regarding our truest Modus Operandi: That is, sex.
I was born on April 21st, 1985 in Fairfax Co., Virginia during the wee hours of the morning. The birth, as I was the first of two children born to my folks, was a relatively long and stressful process for my dear mother. Despite this, I was a healthy birth weight with no complications during childbirth.
Upon entrance into this fair world, I began breastfeeding. I breast fed until around 9 months after birth. This, proximally and for the most part, was my initial engagement with what Freud termed the “Oral Stage”, in which psychosexual pleasure is derived from the infant suckling the mothers’ breast. For the first three months of life, I was breast fed exclusively with no bottle. Around three months of age I was introduced to a bottle.
This may, in fact, have started the weaning process slightly too soon, as at around 11 months of age I was introduced to a cup. However, I experienced difficulty transitioning from bottle to cup, and to be perfectly frank, there is a sense in which I experienced a certain amount of challenge and conflict with this “Oral Stage” of development, leading to what I’ll term an “oral fixation”.
This is evidenced by the existent fact that I am a heavy smoker. Perhaps my near pathological smoking habit was merely a neurological response to not being weaned properly. Maybe, in fact, it was my own reticence to leave the nipple, etc. I would, personally, posit that this stage of development was a critical period in which I, as an infant, failed to move beyond my own neurologically hardwired sense of sexual pleasure derived from “suckling”.
As I mentioned, to this day I am a heavy smoker, love cold beer and hot coffee, and have even been told by dentists that I have the bad habit of grinding my teeth during sleep. Perhaps an oral fixation continues to this very day due to my inability to wean properly. Perhaps my folks weaned me too soon. Who knows! The role of the irrational obfuscates most reasoned attempts at interpretation of the phenomena of existence.
Through much trial and error, I eventually left the ‘nipple’ and transitioned to drinking from a ‘sippy cup’. Around this time I began toilet training; at the age of 2 ½ I was able to use the bathroom without a diaper. According to my mother, I was toilet trained relatively easily, meaning that the way in which I coped with what Freud termed (the much dreaded) “Anal Stage” was fairly effective, leading to little or no anal fixations. This is evidenced by the senses in which I dislike anal sex, I’m not particularly “anal retentive” (I’m a kind, understanding person at heart), and take no joy in using the toilet. In this context one wonders; what kind of man I would be had I not properly been toilet trained?
The sophisticated, intricate, and subtle ways early childhood development affects the adult mind can hardly be fathomed… Yet this was exactly the crux of Psychoanalytic Theory, explicitly conceptualized by Sigmund Freud. What a theory!
From approximately the age of 3 until age 6, I went through what is known as the “Phallic Stage”, in which I – as a young child – came to take pride in my penis. Had I been psychologically examined, I probably would have exhibited a kind of cognition that saw my mother to, also, be endowed with such a source of pride. This is what is known as the “Phallic Woman” phenomena, in which the child experiences an “image or fantasy of a woman endowed with a phallus”. If this seems at all odd, that’s because it is! The phallic stage is probably the beginning of the sexual drive directed towards the penis or lack of a penis. Experienced by boys as the Oedipal Complex and by girls as the Castration Complex (i.e. early manifestations of penis envy) the phallic stage is absolutely central to a young Human’s healthy development, which I would wager is where Freud’s critics see his Psychoanalytic Theory as lacking substantiality. It seems tremendously counter-intuitive to many women to say that a females’ unconscious mind envies the males’ possession of a phallus.
The most common element I’ve seen scoffed at in Freudian theory is just this… Yet isn’t it telling that the biggest sticking point for critics of Freud is regarding his emphasis on the importance of the phallus-as-such. I say “phallus-as-such” because of the often humorously cited quote attributed to Freud that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, which I take to mean that a phallus was literally, not figuratively, meant by Freud in the context of Psychoanalytic Theory to indicate the male sex organ. Again we find the role of sex running through all four stages of development, from childhood on into adulthood and remaining a Human organism’s primary Modus Operandi right up until an individual passes on.
Around the nubile age of 12, I entered into the final stage of psychosexual development; this is known as the “Genital Stage”. I agree ardently with Freud that this stage continues on well into adulthood and one never, really, transcends this fundamental stage of psychosexual development even up until, as I outlined, one’s eventual demise. This is a basic premise built within the necessary foundations and presuppositions of Psychoanalytic theory, one which I think can be determined to be true, ironically enough, by virtue of how offensive it seems to modern man. All people of adult age would like to surmise that their childish and adolescent infidelities are a thing of the past; however, I think the popularity of luxury automobiles, reality television, pornography, as well as a myriad of other cultural icons prove, irrefutably, that the preconscious neurologically hardwired drive for the act of sex and sexuality in general shines a light on the grim existential fact that we - as a species - never, truly, advance or progress beyond this primordial “Genital Stage”.
According to the science of human development, I could be said to have entered this stage out of a period of latency rather innocently. I attended a summer camp at NCSA around the age of 15, in which I experienced my first bout of heterosexual indulgence. After “popping my cherry”, I returned to schooling in the fall semester a virtually changed young man.
At this point in my psychosexual development, genital stimulation was of primary concern (unfortunately, rather than my schoolwork). After my first true relationship (sexual) with a nice young woman who attended my high school, I fell dramatically and irreversibly in love. I immediately dropped out of high school and began a courtship process with a young woman I fancied and whom had been an early childhood friend. She reciprocated my affection, and we eventually moved into our own place together in Asheville, NC.
However, this young love lacked the kind of emotional responsibility necessary for a healthy relationship, due to our age and lack of maturity. Upon being confronted by this young lass with emotions such as hysteric sadness and feminine waning and ailing, I responded irresponsibly with what the ancient Greeks referred to as “menis” or “rage”. I, tragically, treated this fine young lady poorly, mostly due to my selfish genital fixation and lack of mature emotional coherence. After a long bout of approximately 5 years or so, she left me behind to pursue success in NYC; leaving me all alone to live with my folks again back in Pittsboro.
During this time my folks and I experienced, harshly, even more of my youthful “menis”. The sexual frustration of loosing my high school sweetheart as well as my complete lack of education for a vocation left me, now in my mid twenties, stranded and emotionally desolate.
Eventually, though, I moved to Raleigh, NC. Living on my own as a bachelor was a liberating experience. I found in my independence a kind of emotional integrity and insight. Soon, the love bug struck again and I found myself falling completely and devastatingly in love; this time with a nice woman who would eventually become my fiancé. I, idealistically and without due diligence regarding the serious of marriage, proposed to her and she accepted.
This phenomenon I believe was, in true Freudian fashion, still basically a desperate act of unconscious genital fixation as well as some kind of desperate and dire drive towards reproduction. However, this time I approached my relationship with far more emotional responsibility than before, and treated my love with an unyielding respect, kindness and compassionate understanding. Despite my best efforts, this young woman would eventually leave to move back to her home state; leaving me, once again, heartbroken and forlorn. Such is the folly of man…
In reflecting upon my last relationship I realize that erotic love is much like a drug. It lasts for only a short time, during which period the participants feel a deep sense of euphoria; and after an initial stage of an intense “falling” in love, we develop a sort of neurologically bound tolerance to the stimulus of affection and genital satisfaction. Hopefully, for most people, this is where some kind of mature love comes into play – however, due to the existent facticity of our fallen Being-Towards-Death, I would say most relationships degenerate due to our continuing “Genital Stage” complexes and mans’ inherent, innate immaturity. I read Freud’s emphasis on this final stage of Being-In-The-World to mean that we, as a species, are incapable of escaping the sex drive. Even if one does manage to find some kind of homeostasis in a mature, long-term relationship – I’d personally wager we always, in a sense, pine for that first initial rush of falling in love. That’s why I say mankind is, truly, young forever. We’re all still kids at heart.
And this comports with some of the teachings of Jesus, who remarked somewhere in the New Testament that one should always look at the world with a kind of childish amazement and wonder at the great mystery. I think he was right on the money. It’s far better to confront one’s psychological pathologies from our years of youth than to look at all of one’s failings and inadequacies with what Freud termed “disavowal”. Yet this seems to be the dominant instinct of most people. As former POTUS George w. Bush once proffered, one must not blink in the face of terror.
I was 16 years old when the Twin Towers in NYC crumbled to the ground, killing thousands of civilians. I remember witnessing the images of a burning tower on live television as if I were in a dream, and responded to the trauma (I believe anyone who was cognizant enough to witness this horrific tragedy was, in fact, traumatized) with what the ancient Greeks termed “ataraxia”, or a kind of trancelike emotionless state of untroubled calmness. I can recall my teacher, as the second tower fell, crying at the sight of it all. I remember the shock of my classmates. I couldn’t even understand, in a basic way, what was happening. The entire world changed on that day. 9/11.
So I spent all of my years of development after this in a country that was at war with terrorism, and I would like to think (and even hope) that this caused me to develop in such a way as to discover a kind of compassionate respect for human life, a kind of yearning for justice, and a hardheaded drive to weather the storm and come out on top. During this period shortly after 9/11, I began composing electronic music regularly, putting copies of my compositions on the now burgeoning world wide web, for free. It was due to this drive towards unselfish service that I believe I coped with a world that had fallen into terror, war and violence. This occupied much of my early life, and I found that people were rather impressed with my compositions, which attained some kind of contextual cultural currency in lieu of the post-9/11 climate. I found myself organizing, booking and playing local shows – playing at venues in NYC, and generally flourishing musically. It was a very weird time in history, one that I reflect back on with a kind of somber remembrance and youthful nostalgia. I’ll never forget. I will always remember.
So, in conclusion, it is not – in fact – my conscious cognition that has freed me from the tribulations of life-as-such. Rather, it is my unseen preconscious and unconscious erotically oriented nature that binds me, and yea all of human suffering, to a brute, basic and ultimately primordial existence. This primordial state of Being-In-The-World is such that as far as I may go in the course of my development I shall never, according to Freudian Psychoanalytic Theory, go beyond the stage of development that began in adolescence and continues today and will go well on into the future; i.e. the “genital stage”. This underlines the importance and pervasiveness of the basic human instinct of “Being-Towards” sexual gratification. Accordingly, I will remain – happily and with no embarrassment – young forever.
“We are often most ignorant of that which is closest to us.”