Metapsychology: what it is and how it was defined by Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalytic theory is very interesting, mystical and often quite confusing. Unsurprisingly, since this was one of the earliest psychological approaches in history and the science of the mind was still in its infancy, it was to be hoped that the theories about it still needed to be clarified.

Among the most interesting psychoanalytic propositions that we have Sigmund Freud’s metapsychology, A rich set of propositions on how the human mind is organized and functions, although one could also say that it abuses mysticism and is unclear.

Then we will try to understand what this metapsychology is, how Sigmund Freud tried to describe the structure of the mind and what are the energies that would be behind the psychological functioning.

    What is metapsychology?

    Metapsychology is the most abstract and theoretical part of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. It is a very complex theory in terms and frankly it could be considered even somewhat mystical. This is the part of Freudian theory that seeks to explain mental functioning, personality, and behavior on the basis of general principles..

    The term “metapsychology” was developed by Freud himself in 1896, to designate for him psychology based on its most theoretical dimension. Metapsychology develops a set of conceptual modelsTo a degree more or less removed from experience, such as the fiction of a psychic apparatus divided into instances, the theory of impulses, the process of repression, etc.

    The formulations of metapsychology describe mental phenomena in terms of a fictitious psychic apparatus and contain references to the topographical, dynamic and economic aspects of each phenomenon. The topographical aspects refer to the localization of the phenomena within the psychic apparatus, that is to say either in the self, or in the self, or in the superego.

    The dynamic aspects refer to the instincts involved, and the economic aspects refer to the distribution of energy within the psychic apparatus.. Besides the economic, topographical and dynamic vision, Freud speaks of other visions:

    • Structural point of view: referring to the structure of the unconscious.
    • Genetic point of view: talk about biology and genetic inheritance.

    Economic point of view

    This vision qualifies all that is related to the psychic processes involved in the transport and the distribution of an energy which would be at the base of the human behavior. This energy, which would explain the impulses, would be like any other, that is to say likely to increase, decrease and equivalence with respect to other energetic actions of the psyche. Freud’s idea of ​​energy is used to clarify changes in attention, interest, or engagement from one object to another in one activity to another..

    The economic approach consists in considering catechesis (energy which is linked to a set of representations) in their mobility, their changes of intensity, the oppositions which are established between them (counter-text). Throughout Freud’s work there are economic considerations, for him a complete description of a psychic process would not be possible without appreciating the economy of catechesis.

    It goes without saying the psychoanalytic idea of ​​energy proposed by Freud is not without controversy. If it can be understood as the motivational aspect or a psychological representation of action, there are those who would think that this idea is somewhat mystical, like the rest of Freudian metapsychology.

    Dynamic point of view

    This view refers to psychic phenomena resulting from psychological conflict. This idea has a lot to do with the concept of the Freudian unconscious, because it would be the most dynamic dimension of the human mind, because its permanent action influences consciousness, it regulates repression and is directly related to psychopathology from the primitive psychoanalytic point of view.

      Topographic point of view

      When we refer to the topographical aspects of metapsychology, we are referring to the theory or the point of view that it implies. a differentiation of the psychic apparatus into a number of systems with different characteristics or functions, Placed in a certain order. This is what makes it possible to consider them, in the metaphorical sense, as psychic places, hence the “topographic”.

      The first tomographic conception of the Freudian psychic apparatus is represented in Chapter VII of “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900), although it already has its origins in “Project of Scientific Psychology” (1895). In this first proposition of the subject, he already distinguishes three systems within the apparatus itself: unconscious, preconscious and conscious. The relationship between these systems and the existence of censorship would be what would determine a person’s memory capacity, especially related to psychological trauma.

      The topographic division is also presented in the form of instances, which would be the following three:

      • This: instinctive pole of the personality.
      • I: erected body representing the interests of the person (libido)
      • Superego: body which judges and criticizes.

      It goes without saying the topographical idea proposed by Freud can be confused with the anatomo-functional ideas of the brain, Strongly popularized at the time of the psychoanalyst. Thanks to the findings of Wernicke, Broca and other neurologists, the idea that cognitive functions were located in different regions of the brain was gaining strength.

      As curious as it may sound, Freud it does not arise topographically as something that indicates where the conscious, unconscious, and preconscious are located in the brain. Rather, it refers to where it is in a psychic system, of a rather abstract and intangible type.

      Freud, as a metapsychology, considers the unconscious as organized as if it were a file system, even a library. In his work “Studies on Hysteria” (1895), he describes a conception of the unconscious which is organized in strata, where the memories would be arranged more or less close to a pathogenic nucleus, which would represent the traumatic crystallized memory.

      final thought

      Freudian metapsychological ideas were considered fundamental in early psychoanalysis, although it is unclear what Freud referred to in terms of topography, economics, and dynamics. He has tried to explain it in more detail in life, and other writers have tried to expand his principles. However, on numerous occasions these three aspects have been defined somewhat loosely, and even some of the ideas proposed by Freud himself overlap between visions, notably economic and topographical.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Laplanche, Dictionary of psychoanalysis Jean LAP / Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis: edited by Daniel Lagache.- Ia ed. 6f reimp – Buenos Aires: Paid. https://planetafreud.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/guia-freud-04-metapsicologia/
      • Iturbide, L. (2016). Dynamic psychology: Chapter IX Freudian metapsychology. Pays Basque. https://ocw.ehu.eus/pluginfile.php/13440/mod_resource/content/1/La%20metapsicología%20freudiana%20%28texto%29.pdf
      • Roudinesco, E .; Plon, Michel (2008). Dictionary of psychoanalysis. Buenos Aires: Paidós. p. 715. ISBN 978-950-12-7399-1.

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