Repressed Childhood Trauma

Sigmund Freud began the basis of what we now practice as psychology. The span of his in-depth studies lasted over 40 years ranging from the impacts of childhood trauma to the aggression and hidden hatred of an adult. Some people view his studies as vile and sinful as others view them as intriguing and insightful. The way his mind worked, his perception, interpretation and analysis pushed the envelope of all other ideas making people skeptical. However, his studies still have a great influence on the way we practice psychology today.

Sigmund Freud was a born in a small town outside Vienna, Austria. He grew up in what some would call in unconventional home due to his older father, younger mother, and multiple siblings. He experienced the death of one of his younger siblings at a young age. His drive for knowledge was apparent at an early age, as he kept a dream journal and already knew multiple languages by the age 12. Freud began as a hypnotist, pulling his inspiration from Jean Claude Charcot. Freud explored the ins and outs of the unconscious which continued extensively throughout his lifetime. He made early developments in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and eventually became to be known as the Father of Modern Psychology.

Freud believed that personality and behavior is all driven by our unconscious. He states that deep on our unconscious we have the repressed feelings of childhood failures of our parents during our developmental stages. In the beginning, Freud began with hypnosis to access the “second mind” which eventually was referred to as the unconscious. During his relaxing and talking methods, he could calm the hysteria and begin unfolding the root of the repressed childhood trauma. He proved his theories with the famous “Anna O”. Her symptoms were severe, ranging from vision impairment, hysteria, and paralysis. Through relaxation in the “Freud chair” and his talking methods her symptoms began to dampen, eventually resolve her symptoms. Freuds studies in the unobservable psychology, or Metapsychology, states that there are three main phases of the personality: Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id, which was earlier known as the “I”, is our pleasure seeking, right now instinct. This is the area of repression, where our unacceptable urges and desires are buried and unable to accessed by the conscious mind. The Id’s goal is to satisfy our instinctual primitive urges including hunger and sex. During times of anxiety, the Id aims to relieve these stressors and resolve the issue quickly, generally without morals.

The Ego, or “It”, is the voice of reason. Freud believed the ego was the modified Id to consider both external and internal stimulus to make the more reasonable decision. The ego considers the outside world in decision making and was referred to by Freud as the “self”. He referred to the actions of the ego as the “reality principle”, essentially considering all effected parties in the process of decision making and deciding on one in which it satisfies all. Superego, beginning as the “over-I”, is our moral instincts and acts as the conscience. The superego controls our feelings of pride when we perform to our highest potential with a good outcome, satisfying our pleasures to our fullest. It also controls the opposite, the feeling of guilt when we fail to satisfy our urges. The superego strives for perfection and is our source of motivation in success.

The three stages of the personality are all molded throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, identified by Freud in five specific stages. Freud believed there was a direct correlation in parenting style and childhood environment, to how a person’s personality is in their adult life Infancy, spanning from zero to twelve months, is known as the oral phase. In this phase our pleasure of eating is not separated from the pleasure of sex. If infants are not properly weaned from the breast or bottle during this phase, Freud believed this resulted in adulthood oral fixations such as smoking and nail biting. Ages one year to three years is the anal phase during which toilet training takes place. Bowel and bladder movements are the form of pleasure in this phase. If the transition of potty training is not handled correctly this could also result to adulthood quirks, stated Freud. Strict more harsh punishment for failure of transition resulted in a more messy, unorganized adult. Praise and reward was said to result in a more organized, anal retentive manner of living as an adult.

The phallic phase, ages three to six, is where Freud believed that the “Oedipus complex” took place. Freud classified the Oedipus Complex as the feeling of a young boy who wishes to kill his father due to the jealousy of loving his mother. The phallic phase is believed to be when gender recognition and sexuality is established. Freud states that males go through a phase of fear of castration, as there are many other areas of castration through the lifetime already at this point in a child’s life, such as birth from the womb, weaning from the breast, and bowel movements. There are questions that in the phase the mother unavoidably arouses the child. The fourth stage in personality development classified by Freud is the Latency phase. This phase ranges from ages six to twelve but more specifically grades six through eight. The sexual urges and desires remain dormant during this phase and we are more focused on interpersonal relationships between same sex peers. Focusing on hobbies, studies, and friendships satisfies the pleasures in this phase. Freud believed that our actions and outcomes of the latency phase are fixed by our heredity and the feelings and emotions of love were fully established during this time.

The last stage in personality development in the genital phase. The genital phase is from age twelve and on. During this phase it is said we experience the awakening of our sexual pleasure-seeking desires and can adequately transfer these feelings to mature urges and actions. During the genital phase we live out our life long childhood and adolescent conflict experience throughout all phases. This theory can be proven in his successful treatment in hysteria and determining the repressed childhood trauma was the result of neurosis. Freud psychoanalyzed the complete process of psychology in childhood stating that all experiences as a child, negative or positive, have an impact on decision making in your adult life. Freud furthermore broke down the functions of the parts that make up the personality in establishing how the ego handles conflicts. Since ego acts as our conscience, it takes our negative desires and find something else to do with them to help us cope, defined as defense mechanisms. The most popular being repression. Freud defined repression as simply removing the troubling conflict from the conscious mind. Repression is the action if which flight from the source is unavailable and Freud believed is the first step towards condemnation. Repression can be in something as simple working in an environment in which loud noises are present and using ear plugs or headphones in attempts to drown the unpleasant the noise.

Another mechanism established is displacement. Displacement is when the negative feelings are transferred to a different target, resulting in a different outcome. A common form of displacement seen nearly everyday is aggression. We see people daily driving down the road, hit that red light, then got stuck behind a big truck, smacking their hand on the steering wheel in frustration. We obviously can’t take that aggression out on the cause of the frustration, as it would result in some sort of car accident, surely. Rationalization is another defense mechanism established to protect ourselves from the stressors of daily life. When we rationalize the decision, we ignore the true reason for it and provide a false reason to prevent the onset of anxiety or guilt. For example, they applied for a job and another applicant was chosen. They may say they didn’t want that job anyway, in attempts to make themselves feel better about the negative outcome. This then allows us to move forward without stressing about the situation.

This just briefly describes some of Sigmund Freuds many years of studies in the field of psychology. Many of his theories are agreeable as some are them are very farfetched. I agree with Freud in that there are many things that can impact the outcome of the development in the personality, especially when it comes to childhood trauma. For the timeframe in which Freud grew up, however, I can understand the reasoning for some his ideas that come off in modern day as absurd. We can disagree that not all psychosis is brought on by childhood sexual trauma, but obviously is a contributor. Despite Freud’s ideas being unpopular, I stand by that his brain was simply genius. His thought process was unlike any other and he had the drive and determination to prove his theories. He had ideas beyond any other scientist of his time and set the pathway for the psychology that we know today.

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Repressed childhood trauma. (2022, Jun 28). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from

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