Freud´s theory of fear


Until this day, psychoanalysis is based on Freud's theory that fear is a result of


a.) accumulated, unvented sexual tension, i.e. a direct translation of denied sexual desire or


b.) the signal of a situation perceived as potentially dangerous and potentially causing trauma. Danger signals can be hidden behind in an unconscious intra-mental conflict.


Ref. a.)

I am not the only one who feels that it is pure theory to claim that sexuality is at the root of all fear. After all, one can have sex by oneself if the visit to the club was fruitless. Freud: “One may assume that the ego (in the case of unfulfilled arousal) senses dangers to which it reacts with fear.” What kind of dangers are these supposed be that result from a lack of opportunity to experience sex? Surely one day the opportunity will offer itself. Here, patience is better than fear.


Ref. b.)

With all boys, the Oedipus complex plays a pivotal role in the genesis of the disease. At the bottom of it lies an archaic Greek myth of a brutal kind that, in general, a son will fall in love with his mother. He is jealous of his father and wants to get rid of him – and vice versa, the father the son. Finally, the son would want to kill the father. A small child (and later on the inner child in the unconscious mind of an adult), might now see himself in danger of suffering the consequences of his father’s desire to castrate him, motivated by anger, revenge and jealousy, as the father also considers the son a rival for sexual love with the mother. We have all heard of this “fear of castration”. For a start, this is inaccurate from a urological point of view. A castration is the removal of the testicles and not of the penis. However, let us not be pedantic, let us take a look at Freud’s original publication, his “outline of psychoanalysis”:


The mother wants to stop her male toddler from masturbating - to begin with unsuccessfully. “One day”, the mother “remembers” that it is “not right…” that the son is sexually aroused. Finally, she will take the most effective measure and by telling her child that she “will tell the father and he will cut the penis off”, says Freud. This fear of castration is “the most powerful trauma of his young life.”


According to Freud, the age-old custom of circumcision is a “symbolic replacement of castration” and “an expression of submission to the father’s authority”. According to Freud, however, any girl's biggest trauma is the missing organ, thus leading to a feeling of inferiority, entirely pervading her identity. Freud cannot and may not acknowledge that the religious threat of being tormented in hell traumatizes a child far more gravely. At this point, he is completely inhibited by his neurosis which actually cuts the ground from under his feet in repeated fainting spells. Helpless, he is at the mercy of his God Jahwe, whom he was able to conquer in only 2% of his consciousness, not however in the 98% of his unconsciousness unaware to him. I always like to stress that a person is in fact unaware of his/her unconscious mind. This must be taken into account when someone is adamant that he/she does not believe in hell. What we actually do believe, we generally don’t know, as we are not conscious of it.


Freud’s theory (he himself is after all of Jewish ancestry) seems odd to Christians. But let’s move on: How can a Jewish boy be afraid of his father doing such a terrible thing? Maybe circumcision used to mean significantly more and has survived purely as a “harmless” ritual. Perhaps it used to mean that cutting the organ was cut off. That would have secured the chieftain exclusive access to his harem, as opposed to castration, where the ability to have sexual intercourse is retained. And as we know, in this respect, human beings are indeed equally inventive and brutal. I need only name the surgical sealing of the female vagina in African countries. This surgical intervention by the way is done by women exclusively, with zeal and using a razor blade. The seal is not opened again until the wedding night, by the husband. Eckhart Wisenhütter: “Circumcision is the symbolic replacement of castration which the forefather once imposed due to his own abundant absolute power.” In “Religion and Depth Psychology”.


A Christian child will hardly have a spontaneous fear of intervention in the genital area. It has not yet experienced such raw intervention, and most certainly not without anaesthetic. A Jewish boy in comparison usually experiences it frequently, first-hand and witnessing it happening to brothers and acquaintances. While for nearly all adults it is a “celebration”, the injured child screams incessantly with pain.

To a Christian child the term “castration” will probably not mean a thing and it will therefore not suffer from any fears of that nature. My parents never threatened me with it, but my teacher in my first year of primary school used to frighten us regularly with eternal hell. That was where we would go if we lied too much. In a letter to Karl Abraham on May 3rd, 1908, Freud comments on “racial differences” in religion. In Germany after 1945 it is better to say: Indeed there are differences between “groups of people”. According to more recent findings, which have, however, not gained general acceptance, the right to commit genocide must never be deduced from these minor differences. To deny differences in denial of reality is however no practicable way to go either.


A modern look to the story of Oedipus >