Full Text for Freud, Mowrer, and the Problem of Anxiety (Text)

Freud, Mowrer. and the Problem of Anxiety C LERGYMEN and clinical psychologists and psychiatrists are coping with the growing ~ r o b l e m of neurotic and psychotic behavior. But in past decades those theologically oriented and those scientificially trained have not been able to attack this problem in a spirit of mutual confidence. More often than not, psychology charges that religion is prescriptive without being diagnostic, while religion charges that psychology is diagnostic without being pre- scriptive. Today, however, there are signs which indicate a possi- ble reconcilia tion be tween religion and ps!~chology. Many feel that there is a healthy rapprochemc~zt begin- ning between two groups which for years not only had been separated by lack of mutual interest and communi- cation but have in some instances shown sus icious, re- other. 6 sentful, disctainful, or actively hostile attitu es to each Forsaking the Freudian approach, a new school of psycholog- ists, led b!, men like Erich Fromin, 0. Hobart Rlowrer, Moreno, Sullivan, Stckel, and others, has arisen which espouses a view of the cause and curc of ansiety which promises at least a partial re- conciliation bet~veen psychology and religion. I t is the intent of this paper to examine this new view to point out its positive as well as its negative features. . As a point of departure, and by way of contrast, it will serve our purpose to exanline briefly the Freudian approach, which since the c i ~ d of the nineteenth century has dominated the field of psy- choanalytic technique. To understand both Freud and Mowrer it is necessary to clarify the concepts of the id, the ego, and the superego. kieidbreder defines the id as . . . the deepest and most primitive part of the person- ality. It is profound, obscure, unconscious, and power- ful' . . . the id, though powerful, is quite without perception; it is unmoral, unenlightened, imperious, and rash. Seeking only the pleasures of the moment, it de- mands its satisfactions insistently and blindly.2 Freud, illowrcr, and the Probletn of Anxiety 3 5 - are lotic pre- log- no, of re- of {ell rve Ice SY- rer fie The id is often called the sum total of the instiilctual drives. The superego is the sum total of all of the laws established by God or man, parents, society, or e.c7en the self-imposed laws of the individ- ual. It is the artificial self we feel we ought to be because of the introjection of the parental vetoes, as Freud called it, plus the in- herited conventions of ~ o c i e t y . ~ The ego is reallv the will of the individual. I t endeavors to manipulate the environment and to regulate the id with reference to it. The ego seems to correspond quite closely to the mill of the individual. Freud maintained that conflict is produced when the blind but insistent demands of the id are vetoed by the demands of the super- ego, which acts like a policeman in its relationship with the id. Because Freud found that sexual difficulties lay behind the neuroses of a high percentage of his patients, sexual experience was for Freud the clue to neurosis. When a person finds that tlle superego will not permit the id to carry out its drives, the ego supresses the id and consciously denies the existence of the repressed instinctual drives. R. S. PVoodworth regards the two theories of repression and infantile sexuality as the twin pillars on which the Freudian hypo- thesis rests. He says: If we put the two theories together, we have in a nutshell the fundamentals of Freud's psychology . . . the import- ance of repression, the importance of sex desire and the importance of the infantile period are Freud's three main emphases . . . a neurosis originates in repressed infan- tile sexuality -that is his main proposition. " NOW, when because of fear of the oppressive superego, these libidinal drives are repressed, they avenge themselves by mental symptoms of anxiety, or fear, or physical ~yrnptorns.~ The anxiety becomes disassociated with the original fear and becomes a free- floating general condition of the patient.' Since the cause of the anxiety remains out of reach of the con- scious mind of the patient, Freud turned to the search of the un- conscious mind in an effort to bring it to consciousness. His method was that of free association and interpretation of dreams. Freud's method aims at recovering to consciousness the repressed material in the unconscious mind. In that vast depth are stored, he teaches, all the memories of the past, right back to the hour of birth, and perhaps before that. I$ hen these memories have reached coi~sciousness, been re-lived again so as to express their cillotiollal content, the patient can the better adjust himself to life, for his inner- emotional abscess has discharged its poison-to use a psychological figurc-and he can guard against recur- rence because he sees the factors that formed it in the first place. The goal of thc psychoanalytic treatment is to have the tient develop insight into the causes of his anxiety, to remout fears by showing him how absurd the dema~lds of the superego and to provide release for the instinctual drives. Today Freud's approach to the problelll of anxiety is b seriously criticized. His basic supposition that anxiety results j the suppression of instinctual drivcs is seriously que~t ioned .~ perience demonstrates that some who practice continence are ( tional stable, while, at times, libertines are filled with ans But nlore seriously, Freud is charged with promulgating a cloct of social irresponsibility which has penetrated deeply into our ture. In a recent book Richard LaPiere, a sociologist, dcclares the Freudian cthic has penetratcd deeply into our culture an charactcrizcd by individual passivity and irresponsibility, reflel - in thc pcrlllissive home, progressive school, and other agencies, adopted in the new middle class, modern guildisnl, political nl: nalisin, and the security goal. He declares that while the Freut ethic aboullds in such terms as guilt feelings, personal insecu~ frustration, aggressive tendencies, traumas, there is a total S ~ I I C C of S U C ~ I tcr111s, " . . . prominent in the protestant ethic self-confidence, personal integrity, self-rcliance, responsibility."' Finally, Freud is to be condemned for his antipathy to values of Christianity. To him religion is nothing less than ul~iversal obsessional neurosis of humanity. In his book, Future of nlz Zllzrsion, he says: Thus rcli~ion ivould be the universal obscssional neurosis of humanity. It, like the child's, originated in the Oedipus colnplex, the relation to the father. According to this coiiception one nligllt prophesy that the abandoning of re- ligion must take place with the fateful inexorability of a process of growth, and that we are just now in the middle of this phase of de~e lopment .~~ Freud, hdowrer, and the Proble~n of Anxiety 3 7 e pa- e his are, ~eing fro111 Ex- emo- ;iet\l. trine cul- i 1 that I id is + :ctetl and atcr- dian ritv, a b- :, as 10 the the The You have to defend the religious illusioil with all your might; if it were discredited-and to be sure it is suffici- ently menaced-then your \vorlcl ~vould collapse, there \rlould be nothing left for you but to despair of everything, of culture, and of the future of mankind. Froill this bondage I am, we are, free. Since we are prepared to re- nounce a good part of our infantile wishes, we can bear it if soille of our expectations prove to be illusions. l2 0. Hobart R40wrer1s approach to the cause and cure of anxiety is, in many respects, the very antithesis of tlie Freudian view. His major premise is that man is a respoilsible subject. He points out that Inan is able to weigh the future against the immediate conse- quences of his action. This gives illan flexibility and freedom and, by inference, responsibility. In this sense man differs from the animal. Addressing the convention of the Anlerican Psychologi- cal Association in Cincinnati recently, Dr. Rlowrer declared: "The idea that man can have the benefits of an orderly social life without paying for it through restraints and sacrifices is a subversive doc- 6 I t r i n e . " l ~ o l l o May correctly concludes that for R4on~rer . . . the problem of neurotic anxiety is placed squarely in its cultural and historical nexus, and is related specifically to man's distinctive prob- lems of social responsibility and ethics."li Neurotic symptonls develop not as a result of too little self- indulgence and satisfaction or from the suppression of the demands of the id, but from irresponsibility, from ignoring or suppressing the denlands of the superego. Anxiety arises froill the repudiation of moral feelings, froin a lack of ego strength. To put it quite simply, neurotic syn~ptoms arise from sin. Using the analogy of the child-parent relationship Mowrer explains his positioil thus: So long as a child is good, his parents are benign and loving and the child is comfortable; but when the child is bad, the parents become punitive and the child knows no rest. Only when the child once more takes it upon him- self to do as he is supposed to do can he hope to find peace, freedom, an amity in his relations with the parents. Translating this early interpersonal trauma into the intrapsychic events of later life, ego and superego (as the legatee of parental authority) are harmonious only when the ego obeys or, perhaps more accurately, anticipates (ho11ors) the demands of superego. When there is an ego failure, superego takes matters "into its own hands," in a manner analogous to the way parents "take over" when the child, as they say, fails them; an amity is re- established only when ego (or child) again accepts the responsibilities that are regarded as its proper portion. '' TO Mowrer the return to the doctrine of sin is imperz He declares, ". . . we have disavowed the connection bet1 man and his misconduct and we have also largely abandoned helief in right and wrong, virtue a n d si Stekel agrees with h;lowrer. On the basis of his rich clinical experience, Stekel also formed the opinion that in the precipitation of the typi- cal compulsive syndrome the breakdown of the parental moral authority plays the central role, and that the corn- pulsion-neurotic structure centers around traumatic se- crets conilectcd with this "complex of shattered authority." Menlories related to the traumatic events are never really forgotten but annulled, pushed aside, as it were by the neurotic affects and preoccupations. '; RIowrer coiltinues by showing that a man cannot sin impunity. Sin, as hc conceives it, is a break with sincerity; an abrogation of humail intimacy, integrity, honesty, and fai It is the estrangement of the individual from those whom Sull calls "the significant others."lg And sin breeds a sense of g Guilt, in turn, breeds fear, fear of detection and fear of pur ment. Both ys!*chologists and pastors agree that the sense of j plays a large part in neurotic behavior. I t is at the bottom of rr anxiety states. \\.'catherhead distinguishes three kinds of gl 1) Normal guilt-the scnse of sin which follows wrong do 2) Exaggerated co~lscious guilt-the intolerable burden which lows sonle incident, thc guilt of which has been exaggerated ou all proportion; and 3) Repressed guilt-"The feelings of 5 \vhich have been repressed into the unconscious because they so objectionable to the consciousness."20 Schizophrenic patients arc victims of this repressed g~ I-li~rricd by fear of detection and punishment, they lapse into n ism, bizarre behavior, and self-rehearsed stratagems. A grad1 student of psychology, hiinself a schizophrenic, has defined schizoid persolialitp thus : . . . he is a terrified, conscience-stricken crook, who h a s rul)ressed his illierest in people, unavowedly insincere Freud, itlozorcr, and the Probk t~z of Atzxiety 39 ! i ative. i ! ween very ' in."16 with i t is th. Is ivan ;uilt. lish- ' iany ailt : are uilt. nut- uate the and uncooperative, struggling against unconscious sexual perversion. He is of no mean Thespian ability. And his favorite commandment is that wl~ich one nowadays faceti- ously calls the eleventh commanclment, "Thou shalt not get caught." 21 If the cause of anxiety is guilt produced by the loss of illoral integrity, the cure lies in helping the individual to develop a sense of community, openness and relatioi~ship." T o put the matter another way, if anxiety has resulted from ego weakness, the cure lies in developing ego strength within the individual so that he will comport hiinself in a manner acceptable to the demands of the superego. Alexander says, "The ego's integrative function is the basis of the regenerative process in the field of personality disor- d e r ~ . " ' ~ The supportive therapy is not to be aimed at freeing the individual from a supposedly uilrealistic and traumatical superego, as Freud taught. I t rather endeavors to help the individual to do the things he realistically should do and not do the things he rcalis- tically should not do. '' In this prograin of strcilgthening the ego, thc counselor p l q s a more significant role than Freud would allo.tr7. R/fo~vrer and his school emphasize that the contact between the anxiety victim and the counselor should be a inutual and collaborative one. Cholden says, "Our ability and interest in empathizing hold significant meaning for the patient. Ferenczi is quoted as having said, 'It's not so bad being crazy, if someone goes along ~vllo knows the way backsf "25 In a similar vein Whitehorn declares: Our obscrvations, already reported in some detail, Icd us to state that in the psychotherapy of schizophrenic patients, improvement seems to be determined, in large measure, . . . bv the differences found among physicians in tEc extent to which they are able to approach their patients' problems in a personal way, gain a trusted, confidential relationship and participate in an active per- sonal way i n the patients' reorientation to personal rela- tionships. Techniques of passive permissi~:eness or efforts to develop insight by interpretation appear to have much less psychotherapeutic value. 36 The function of the counselor is indeed to attempt to help the anxious soul find insight into the cause of his anxiety. But Mowrer, unlike Freud, says that the development of insight is not sufficient. The individual must learn to act as a responsible subject in sc In attempting to provide the anxious soul with the necessar strength, Mowrer advocates a number of methods. The f i ~ these is self-therapy. Moreno declares that this method is I tially a self-cure through self-realization and integration into He indicates that convincing historical illustrations of this mi are to be found among famous personages like Jesus, Buddh; Francis. 27 Another form of self-help is bibliotherapy. Mc avers that a careful study of what ordinary people find helpf reading might be highly suggestive as to what it is that the fr; sick person is seek in^.'^ Building on the principle that peop not get well in analysis, but in life, Mowrer also favors group the Group psychotherapy has received recognition because it satisfies certain needs which the individual therapies cannot satisfy. We live from birth on in groups. Dis- turbances which are conditioned in a large measure by the world around us cannot be resolved unless the milieu is lllade a part of the therapeutic situation and treated simultaneously. Group psychothcrapy approxiinates more closely the natural setting in which people live. This does not mcan that individual methods of therapy have not their usefulness, but group psychotherapy includes them and opens up a new vista. The individual is not treated in isolation, but in situ, in the context in which he is found: in the family, in the workshop, in the com- mul-lity, or in clinics as lnembers of synthetic groups.2g The validity of group therapy is substantiated by the fact in World Wars I and I1 and in the Korean conflict the treatr. of coiilbat casualties in or near the combat zone proved to be r effective than the results with patients evacuated to the re, This experience seems to underscore the value of the therape community for the anxious soul. Here Mowrer sees the valul the cot~gregation as a therapeutic agent. Another article in hiowrer's creed is that "It is easier to yourself into n new way of thinking than to think yourself in1 new way of acting."" "A person gets well of emotional difficu, not just by being treated by others, but by himself being a 'hell ! '732 person. Alcoholics ~ i n o n ~ m o u s and Narcotics Anonymous : port the tr~itll that one helps himself by helping others. for Schcr reports an esperiinent in which patients in a mental hosc were required to perform certain tasks and in tvhich obedience i i lciety, I rst of essen- 1 life. ethod ! a, st, 1 Owrer , 'ul in ankly le do that nent nore ar. 2o %tic e of act to a lties ping sup- d a n ~i tal ivas Frezrd, Moturer, and the Problem of Anxiety 4 1 insisted upon. "The results of this experiment in responsibility ivere significant. Thc patients put out a newspaper, a number of them became well enough to return to normal society. Assaulted- iless progressively decreased. The patients took up interest in their appearance." "" Moreno sunlmarizes the advance that has been made in treat- ing the anxious in the following manner: Fro111 the patient on the couch, to the patieint in the chair, to the patient on his feet, and, finally to the patient able to act-out and integrate his initial and external rela- tionships i ~ t vivo, a considerable part of tlle psychothera- peutic movement since the beginning of the century can be charted. On the other hand, from the analyst as a black screen, to the middle-of-the-road, more active psy- chotherapist (Adler, Stekel), to the openly participating and integrating psychodranlatist, a long way has been trodden. 34 How shall we assess the position of Mowrer with respect to the cause and cure of anxiety? Certainly we can see a number of elements with which we agree. Mowrer hin~self feeIs that there is a close connection between his view and that of religion. Con- cluding his stucly he says: If our present analysis is valid, religion is perhaps the most powerful device ever discovered for making the un- conscious conscious, in the sense of replacing conlpulsion (sin, neurosis) with choice (integration, volition, self- direction). 3j Certainly we can agree with Mowrer on the following points: That man is a responsible creature, that sin is the cause of anxiety, that sin breeds guilt, that a counselor should be a cooperative, help- ing other, that living altruistically is to be referred to living selfish- ly, and that there is value in viewing the church as a helping community. But klowrer is to be criticized because he fails to make room for God in his explanation both of the cause and of the cure of anxiety. Froin the Christian point of view this failure is fatal. Health is the complete and successful functioning of every part of the human being, in harmonious relation- ship with every other part and with his relevent en.crii-on- inent . . . and for Christians the name of that environ- illeilt is the God whom Christ revealed. 36 Jn his excellent book, Counseling and Theology, Hulme argues man callnot be separated from his relationship with God. H clares : Sincc the sting of guilt is in the separation it produces between an individual and his God, the adequacy of any non-religious solution to this probleln is doubtful. I t \vould fail to meet the deeper lel7eI of anxiety that grows out of the break between inan a i ~ d his Creator, which can never bc basically dispersed at the upper levels of human relationships. 3i This exclusion of God in i\llo~t-rer's thinking is a serious f because it discredits the fact that man lives under the judgiiien God because of sin. To say that sin is only social insiilcerit to fail to rcalizc the deeper consequences of sin in terms of estrangen~ent froill God. Furthermore, conversioil is infini inore than making a truce with one's fellon~men. It is f u n d a m ally getting right with God, by turning from self-will and s rule to a life ia Christ under the will of God. Again, in R ~ O . ( Y ~ \ view thcre is no room for the concept of forgiveness in the Scriptu sense. No man can find peace for his guilt except he find pei with God through Christ. Otherwise hc remains without God a without hope in this \vorld and in the world to come. For thc reasons we I ~ I L I S ~ conclude that though hlowrer approaches some the basic concepts of the Christian message, his view is still 1 from the I(ingdon.1. I-Iowever, a study of his position does alert the pastor a1 preacher to his task. If it is true that there is wide-spread anxie in the world, the11 we ought to view the sermon as a medium f mass counseling and preach sermons that are therapeutic in chara ter. This is not to say that we are not to preach doctrine, but does underscore the thought that we ought not to preach doctrir for doctrine's sake, but always preach it in lively rapport with h~ mail need. In the second place, klo\vrer's view reminds us that the stapl of our preaching ought to be lam and gospel, sin and grace. 1. fact, I once heard Mowrer charge modernistic pulpits with mon strous truancy for neglecting the preaching of these basic scriptura truths. 4 3 \ Frezrd, Mo~t~rer, the Probleln of Anxiety In preaching the lam Ive ought to emphasize the fact that Inan that is a responsible subject before God. His very creatureliness makes [e de- hinl accountable to God. Furthermore, sin ought to be preached for what it has alwavs been, rebellion against the just demands of God- Again, sin ought to be preached in terms of its consequences. Sill brings guilt up011 the individual and the just punishment of a 1101>- God. fauIt nt of ty is Ian's itely lent- self- rer's ural eace and 1ese 2 of far and jet!? for -ac- t it ine hu- PI^ In )n - ral But in rapport with the preaching of the law must be the oosyel of the infinite grace of God who commended his love toward a us i n that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. No guilt- riddell soul can find rest until in repentance he turns from sin in oenuine sorrow and accepts by faith the love of God in Christ. b Only in the knowledge that he is not under the law but under grace can the guilty soul find rest. The doctrine of justification satisfies the need of the in- dividual for acceptailce (forgiveness); and for acceptance as he is (by grace); and in acceptance he may claim as his own (through faith). No pastor who has witnessed the power of this doctrine in leading another Luther out of his prison house of guilt into the free air of redemp- tive grace can ever doubt that it is fundamental not only to a system of theology but also to pastoral co~~nseling.~" Nor should the preacher underestin~ate the power of the Word of God both in his preaching and pastoral care. It is the power of God because through it the Hoiy Spirit accomplishes his work of convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, of re- creating the guilty soul as a child of God at peace with God. This regenerating power of the Holy Spirit gives the individual the ego strength he needs. Once the sinner realizes the mercy of God for him in Christ, the Spirit of God continues to work in him to will and to do God's will. Of significance, too, is Mowrer's emphasis on the congrega- tion as a helping community. The pastor ought to view his con- gregation not simply as a collection of individuals but rather as the body of Christ, in which the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, i n which they share their faith with one another, strengthening one another in the Christian way. Certainly our Bible classes and con- gregational organizations can do much to make the congregation the sort of helping community i t can be. Furthermore, the gregation offers every individual the opportunity for the necl and healthful program of service to Christ and his church. Finally, every pastor ought to remember that the persc the counselor is more important than his method. Each of U reason to pray daily for the gift of the Holy Spirit that we marl with people with some of the loving concern of Jesus for those labor and are heavy laden. NOTES 1. Paul E. Mcehl, et. RE., What , Then, is Man? (St. Louis, 1958), p. 2. Edna Heirlbreder, Seven Psychologies (New York, 1933), p. 398. 3. Lcslie Weatherhcad, Psychology, Religion, and Healing, (New 1 1952), pp. 263f. 4. Ibid. 5. R. S. Woodworth, Corzte7nporary Schools ~f Psychology (Ronald P 1931), quotcd in Lcslie W'eathcrhead, op. cit . , pp. 275f. 6. Wcatherhead, op. cit., p. 252. 7. Rollo May, The Meaning o f Anxiety (New York, 1950), p. 116. L Frcud rcvcrsed himself by saying that the repression docs not crcate anxicty; ansicty is there first; thcn comes repression. Cfr. Sigm Freud, New 1ntroducto1-y Lectures in Psyclzonnalysis (New York, 19: p. 119. 8. Weatherhead, op. cit., p. 262. 9. Cfr . Waync Oatcs, Anxiety in Christian Experience (Philadelp 1955), who Iists other causcs for anxiety: Economic anxiety, Finit anxiety, Anxiety of grief, Legalistic anxiety. 10. Richard La Picre, The Frezcdian Ethic (New York, 1959), pp. 63f. 11. Sigmund Freud, The F2lture of an Illusion, p. 7 6 quoted in 0. H. : nrrer, Psychorr~znlysis and Religion: A Partial Reconciliation (Champai 1957), p. 7. 12. Ibid., p. 95. 13. "Sin and Psychology," Time, LXXIV, 69. 14. hlap, op. cit., p. 116. 1 5 . 0. llobart Mowrer, Psychoanalysis and Religion: A Paztial Reco~gci~ tion, p. 28 . 16. "Sin and Phychology," op. cit., p. 69. Frezrd, illotvt-er, and the Problenl o f Anxiety 4 5 1 2 con- 17. I'rogl-css i n P ~ ? ~ c l ~ o t k c r a ~ ~ , F. Fromm-Reichman and 3. L. I\Ioreno, e d ~ . (KenT York, 1 9 5 6 ) , p- 137 quoted in 0. H. hlowrrr, Ncll.. Perspectives essary in Psychotherapy (Champaign, 19 57), pp. ?sf. 1s. ;\.do\\:rer, NCW Perspectires i n Ps~clzotlrcrapy, p. 9. hlowrer's views pa- rallel those of Soren Ilo\vrrr, Psychoa?zalysis and Iieligion: A Partial Rcco~zcilirrtion, yp. 23f . 2 5 . Mon.rer, Nczv Pcrspcctivcs i n Psychothcmyy, p. 25. 26. F. Fromni-Rcichman, oy. cit., pp. 64-65. 2 7 . lhiil., p. 24. 29. F. Fromm-Keichman, op. cit., p. 64. 30. IbiJ., pp. 186-187. 3 1 . Mo\vrcr, N e w Perspectives i ~ z Psychotherapy, p. 22. 33. E. Pumpian-Mindlin, "Changing Concepts of Therapy in a Veterans Ad- ministration Mental Hygicnc Clinic," T h c American JorinznE of Psychi- atry ( 1 9 5 7 ) , CXIII, 1095-1098. 34. F. Fronim-Keichman, op. cit., p. 326. 35. Molvrcr, Psychoanalysis and Religion: A Partial Reco)zciliation, p. 33. 3 6 . Weatherhead, op. cit., pp. 31 1. 315. 37. William E. Hulrne, Counseling and Theology (Philadelphia, 19 5 6 ) , pp. 109f .