Psychodynamics and the Formation of Culture-Personality School

Whenever we pick up a discipline to study about, it creates a persona of its own in our mind.The way we see it is a reflection of our perspective towards it. This perspective varies from one individual to another. When we mix it with our already known knowledge, we create vast possibility of creation of new theories. Sometimes we overlap and mix and grind the works done or theories created in several disciplines and form a general understanding. This phenomena is called inter-disciplinary study. Speaking of which, a number of Anthropologists, Sociologists and Psychologists have propounded several theories concerning evolution and development of the human mind. When we bring the three disciplines together we can justify prove and reason with lots of credibility regarding theories that seem incompetent individually.

One of those explanations to phenomena’s is psychic unity of mankind.The famous British Anthropologist, Edward Brunette Tylor also the father of Anthropology has spoken about “Psychic Unity of Mankind”, in his theory of Evolutionism, where he very clearly mentions that the similar development of cultures around the world can be ascribed to the similar Psychological makeup of the human mind. As many Anthropological theories revolve around the study of society and culture and have had an impactful connection with the psychic structure of human mind. These interrelationships between conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious forces that make up the mental and emotional aspects of the human mind are embodied under the study of Psychodynamics or Psychoanalytic theory.

It will be a huge injustice to talk about Psychodynamics without mentioning Sir Sigmund Freud and his contribution towards the Psychodynamic system. The Freudian concept is highly influenced by Lamarckian theory of ‘Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics’. He mentions that what is unconscious or sub-conscious in the modern man was very much conscious in the primitive man and that they are transmitted from one generation to another. Freud, in his theory, talks about the conditions under which ontogenesis takes place. He mentions about the ‘Oedipus Complex’ which was established during the time when primal parricide took place in and around the west. This is a very common psychological phenomenon which affects almost every individual during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. According to him, Oedipus complex is a very pivotal factor in determining the cultural traits that develop over time in a particular cultural area.Through his thesis about the origins of totems, incest taboo, exogamy and Oedipus complex, Freud discussed that a very close connection between the cultural traits of present society can be linked to the survivals of the past. He mentions that the primitive horde had a leader, who generally was old and would presume absolute sexual rights over all the females of the horde. This eventually led to a massive distrust among the young lads of the mob. In consequence, the young members of the group killed the leader (which at times, turned out to be their fathers) in order to establish a sexual relationship with the other females (especially mothers and sisters) of the group. But eventually, this led to the development of guilt feeling and in order to compensate for the sin, they used to select an animal or any other totem object and symbolize it as their father. They occasionally would organize sacrificial meals and impose the ‘incest taboo’ on every member of the family and the group, as whole. Freud, thus, says that all such cultural traits originated from this sacrificial ritual.

The psychoanalytic theory of Freud has another dimension of ID EGO and SUPEREGO which talks about the concept of Libido which is the energy created by survival and sexual instincts of human. In this theory, the clinical phenomenon were taken as transformations of sexual energies, simultaneously, many other social phenomenon such as cooperation, friendship, etc. were also taken into consideration. He referred to these psychodynamic systems of human intellect as the originating force of human culture. The formation of culture was very much influenced by the mental template of its members. The sexual instincts in many ways influence the behavior of the group and accordingly they used to act. And all the incest taboos were very muck likely to be based on these instincts of human sexual needs only.

The gap between the study of socio-cultural Anthropology and psychodynamics, have been tried to be deciphered since the beginning of the study of Anthropological thoughts. Scholars like Fortes, described culture as the product of ‘mental mechanisms’, which is exhibited in the Psychoanalytic theory of Freud. Sir Freud himself after the making of his theoretical concepts went on to apply these in the society and presented it in his works like Totem and Taboo, Civilization and its Discontents etc. keeping the socio-cultural anthropology in mind. And for that he made the works of Dr. Frazer as his base.

As said, impact of psychoanalysis on the discipline of ANTHROPOLOGY has been of immense value. The commonalities between the two are basis for the formation of the understanding of both anthropology and psychodynamics. The ability to listen and understand is of great value to ethnographic data, the analysis made afterwards help stimulate the conventional distinction between the psychic and social aspects of human mind. Such studies offers ethnographically grounded insights into the processes through which layered complexities of lived lives come to a clot and give upsurge to phenomena such as culture and society.Being in the light of Sir Freud’s works on psychodynamics, in early 20th century many scholars came forward to form a Culture and Personality School of Thought also known by the name ANTHROPO-PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH. Major pioneers of this school are MARGARET MEAD, RUTH BENEDICT, RALPH LINTON, ABRAM KARDINER, CORA-DU-BOIS. They tried to look at the aspect of personality formation in contrast with culture and vice versa. With their effort they have made a great deal about it and now all around the world cross cultural studies are being conducted in order to understand culture and psychological makeup of a human in the society.

Article by:- Immon Ghosh

© Copyright reserved 2021 Alysane Society

© Copyright Reserved Immon Ghosh

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