Essay Sample: Freud and Ahmed Approach to Feelings

Published: 2023-03-22
Essay Sample: Freud and Ahmed Approach to Feelings
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Research Social psychology Human behavior Emotional intelligence
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1811 words
16 min read

Feeling, be it pleasant or unpleasant, is a critical sentimental factor that defines human behavior, how they handle themselves, and how they perceive their environment. Daily, people experience emotions of varying scales that indeed affect how they respond to specific phenomena such as their motivation, temperament, or personality. Strong feelings can completely change human actions in a manner that even the affected individuals cannot understand. In essence, the feeling is always a complex psychological human characteristic that is difficult to understand and influences how people think and behave. Various theorists, including Sigmund Freud and Sarah Ahmed, have examined feeling, as a complex human behavior, in an attempt to establish how and why it influences behavior. The goal of this critical analysis is to critique how Freud and Ahmed deal with feeling as a subject, its concepts, and ideas. Freud and Ahmed tend to have divergent ideas on feelings materialize. Although there is a consensus that feelings indeed affect human behavior on a grand scale, it remains unclear as to how people develop feelings in the first place. It is critical to deeply understand feelings to effectively formulate how it affects behavior.

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Theorization of Feelings

Sigmund Freud's Approach to Feelings

Freud, in his concept of repression, believed that human beings are always in a constant struggle to defend themselves from feelings of anxiety and guilt, among other feelings that might result in 'unpleasure' (Freud 2978). He argued that it is the primary goal of every person to maximize their pleasure of satisfaction. The argument generates a general belief that people always seek to be happy and would do anything possible within their powers to reduce feelings that might deter their goal from attaining happiness. Thus, defense mechanisms are not only natural but also normal in keeping away from anxieties, hysteria, or phobias that tend to threaten the human ego. He perceived repression as an unconscious mechanism that the human ego uses to contain disturbing or threatening thoughts and ensure that they do not become conscious.

According to Freud (2985), the moment a threatening thought finds its way from the unconscious to the conscious mind, it displaces the origin pleasurable though and replaces it with instincts of anxiety, which generates fear leading to phobia or hysteria. His argument is based on the assumption that the unconscious mind always contains hidden, disturbing, and corrupt ideas, wishes, and memories that, if left untamed, would create anxiety. Without effective defense mechanisms, the transformation of unconscious thoughts to conscious thoughts would generate physical symptoms ranging from mild anxiety or guilt to mourning and melancholia, which adversely influence the human psychical characteristics (Trachey and Freud 248). Freud pointed out that melancholia has adverse mental impacts, including painful dejection, loss of capacity to love, reduced interest in the outside world, and loss of self-esteem (Trachey and Freud 243). Mourning, which is an emotional reaction to the loss of a loved person, also generates similar impacts resulting in a suppressed ego and inability to devote to personal interests (Trachey and Freud 243).

Sarah Ahmed's Approach to Feelings

Ahmed perceived human beings as vessels of happiness who wishes to economize hatred and deepen their motivation for love (Gregg and Seigworth 35). According to her, emotion is the primary psychological determinant of human happiness, and it has a crucial role in the "resurfacing" of bodies. By the phrase "resurfacing of bodies," Ahmed means the psychological and behavioral changes that a person experiences as a result of a thought, a feeling, or an occurrence. Sense of humor, affection, gratitude, love, resilience, grief, and displeasure, among others, all define the "resurfacing of bodies."

Ahmed held that emotion can never be a private matter but is attained from or influenced by collective groups or "others" (Ahmed 117). As she argued, emotions, which emanate from external factors, such as a scene within ones' habitat, are supposed to align an individual with his or her environment or community depending on the intensity of their attachment. Rather than seeing feelings as psychological dispositions, Ahmed (119) is convinced that both psychic and social factors generate feelings. For her, the mind does not embody feelings. Instead, feelings tend to rehearse the association that already exists between what people know or establish as the truth and the actual occurrences in their immediate environment or society (Ahmed 124). She also held that the impression left by others affects an individual's feelings.

Negative feelings generate fear and hate, which diminishes human happiness while positive feelings. Ahmed believes that emotions are never static or reside positively in the body as a commodity but circulate in a manner that it is distributed across social and psychic fields to generate distinctive and changing affects. An affect is an observable outcome from emotion or feeling. For example, a person who has a feeling of grieve might exhibit affects such as euphoria, sadness, or anger

Key Similarities and Differences

The two theorists develop almost similar arguments concerning the purpose of feeling and how it is likely to affect human behavior. They both held an agreement that human affects, such as happiness, pleasure, sadness, and hate originate from feelings. Bad feelings generate undesirable affects, while good feelings generate pleasurable affects. For Freud (2977), humans have a primary goal to satisfy their instincts and attain maximum pleasure by limiting thoughts, feelings, and actions that might adversely affect their happiness. Just like a hungry person does everything within his or her power to satisfy the hunger, a person who wishes to attain happiness and maximize his or her pleasure would remain in a constant tension until the goal is attained (Freud 2977). He held that failure to attain personal goals to happiness suppresses the human ego, making a person lose self-respect resulting in melancholic displays and mourning moods (Trachey and Freud 245).

Similarly, Ahmed developed an argument that humans are driven by the desire to attain happiness as a necessity that directs people towards particular objects that would generate social good (Gregg & Seigworth 29). In her perspective, good feelings have the potential of generating happiness. However, she cautions that although feelings are the starting point of happiness, it is dangerous to presume that all good feelings would result in happiness. As she argued, happiness is not only a subject of good feelings but is as well an object with the potential to generate good feelings that would motivate one to attain some goals.

The major difference in how the two theorists approach feelings is on how feelings develop. While Freud believes that feelings and emotions originate from psychological reactions, Ahmed is convinced that feeling is a complex reaction primarily from social or environmental occurrences fostered or retrained by the psychic rather than purely psychological dispositions, as in the case of Freud. For Freud, feelings, especially the bad ones, originate from the unconscious mind when hidden, disturbing, and corrupt ideas, wishes, and memories find their way to the conscious mind displacing pleasurable thoughts and feelings with anxiety. Through repression, the superego turns the unwanted thoughts in the unconscious mind away and safeguards the conscious mind from them (Freud 2978).

On the contrary, Ahmed showed that emotions spring from and work by sticking figures from person experiences together in a manner that generates a belief. For instance, if a person receives something delightful from someone whom he or she loves, the object itself will be of great value such that seeing the object makes the person think of another who gave out the object. Another example is that when a person is exposed to or victimized by terrorism, he or she is likely to develop long-term fear against traveling to specific places (Ahmed 129). Thus, in Ahmed's view, feelings and emotions can never be purely psychological dispositions but instead emanate from experiences.

Forces Constraining or Enabling Certain Feelings

So far, there is a consensus among researchers and theorists that emotions and feelings substantially affect human cognition. The thoughts that people have, decisions they make, and actions they undertake directly depict their emotions. Feelings and emotions affects the level of attentiveness, memory, and ability to learn, reasoning, and problem-solving. However, there are numerous factors that either contain or enable certain feelings. Freud, held that "So immense is the ego's self-love... that we cannot conceive how that ego can consent to its own destruction" (Trachey and Freud 252). His argument generates a line of reasoning that the human ego, in conjunction with superego and id, always aim at enabling good feelings that would satisfy one's needs of that ego, something he calls narcissistic satisfaction, and suppress the feelings that tend to limit it. The mind attains the functionalities of the human ego, id, and superego through the psychic energy produced by the libido.

Cathexis and anticathexis are inbuilt characteristics that help in controlling how the three key parts of human personality use the psychic energy to either enable or contain a feeling. Since the id does not know how to differentiate between reality and fantasy, it might lead to unrealistic behaviors or actions that are socially unacceptable (Freud 2981). For instance, a person might still feel the urge to continue eating for pleasure despite having satisfied his or her hunger. Fortunately, the ego can perform the anticathexis, which blocks irrational, unacceptable, or immoral behaviors.

A common form of anticathexis is repression, which acts by blocking the unwanted thoughts from relocating from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind (Freud 2983). Freud's concern about the ego then comes to light; how can the ego consent to destructive impulses such as suicide given its self-love? In light of Freud's arguments, in a scenario where the strength of the human id exceeds that of the ego, the id, through object-cathexis, might treat the body as an object and direct hostility against self, leading to self-destruction. Object-cathexis can only happen if the mind harboring murderous impulses against others turn against self (Trachey and Freud 252).

Ahmed develops a compelling argument that happiness is contagious (Ahmed 36). Her precise suggestion points out that people can indeed embrace feelings from whatever is happening within the natural setting. For instance, a person in a get-together party is highly likely to be joyous and humorous, having caught the sentiment from the natural setting. Ahmed is convinced that the human body is vulnerable to catching feelings from its immediate environment and other people's affects.

In line with Ahmed's perception, human feelings can be enabled or constrained by affects from other people as well as the occurrences in the natural setting. For example, a person that concentrates on watching a sad or a horror movie is highly likely to exhibit sadness, anxiety, and fright while the same person might exhibit happiness and calmness when watching a comedy. In such a case, it is possible to argue that sad or horror movies generate negative affects while comedies generate positive affects. Ahmed posits that most of the feelings and thoughts that people harbor in the long-term are shaped by their childhood experiences (Gregg and Seigworth 38).

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