Thursday, January 23, 2003

(From) New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis -- by Sigmund Freud

One might make an attempt to characterize femininity psychologically by saying that it involves a preference for passive aims.  That is naturally not the same as passivity; it may require a good deal of activity to achieve a passive end.  It may be that the part played by women in the sexual function leads them to incline towards passive behaviour and passive aims, and that this inclination extends into their ordinary life to a greater or less degree, according to whether the influence of her sexual life as a model is limited or far-reaching.  But we must take care not to underestimate the influence of social conventions, which also force women into passive situations.  The whole thing is still very obscure.  We must not overlook one particularly constant relation between femininity and instinctual life.  The repression of their aggressiveness, which is imposed upon women by their constitutions and by society, favours the development of strong masochistic impulses, which have the effect of binding erotically the destructive tendencies which have been turned inwards.  Masochism is, then, as they say, truly feminine.  But when, as so often happens, you meet with masochism in men, what else can you do but say that these men display obvious feminine traits?

  - The only thing that brings a mother undiluted satisfaction is her relation to a son; it is quite the most complete relationship between human beings, and the one that is the most free from ambivalence.  The mother can transfer to her son all the ambition which she has had to suppress in herself, and she can hope to get from him the satisfaction of all that has remained to her of her masculinity complex.  Even a marriage is not firmly assured until the woman has succeeded in making her husband into her child and in acting the part of a mother towards him.

  - It must be admitted that women have but little sense of justice, and this is no doubt connected with the preponderance of envy in their mental life; for the demands of justice are a modification of envy; they lay down the conditions under which one is willing to part with it.  We say also of women that their social interests are weaker than those of men, and that their capacity for the sublimation of their instincts is less.  The former is no doubt derived from the unsocial character which undoubtedly attaches to all sexual relationships.  Lovers find complete satisfaction in each other, and even the family resists absorption into wider organization.  The capacity for sublimation is subject to the greatest individual variations.

     In spite of this I cannot refrain from mentioning an impression which one receives over and over again in analytic work.  A man of about thirty seems a youthful, and, in a sense, an incompletely developed individual, of whom we expect that he will be able to make good use of the possibilities of development, which analysis lays open to him.  But a woman of about the same age frequently staggers us by her psychological rigidity and unchangeability.  Her libido has taken up its final positions and seems powerless to leave them for others.  There are no paths open to her for further development; it is as though the whole process had been gone through and remained inaccessible to influence for the future; as though, in fact, the difficult development which leads to femininity had exhausted all the possibilities of the individual.  As therapeutists, we deplore this state of affairs, even when we are successful in removing her sufferings by solving her neurotic conflict.