Freud, unconscious mind and Homosexuality


Freud talks about unconscious motives and its impact to the individual. Freud develops some assumption in his theory. He believes that the behavior and feelings are powerfully affected by unconscious motives, as adults (including psychological problems) its rooted in the childhood experiences; All behavior has a cause (usually unconscious), even slips of the tongue. Therefore, all behavior is determined; Personality is made up of three parts (i.e. tripartite): the id, ego and super-ego; Behavior is motivated by two instinctual drives: Eros (the sex drive & life instinct) and Thanatos (the aggressive drive & death instinct). Both these drives come from the “id”; Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego). This conflict creates anxiety, which could be dealt with by the ego’s use of defense mechanisms (McLeod S. , 2007 ).

McLeod (2007) writes that we use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from feelings of anxiety or guilt, which arise because we feel threatened, or because our id or superego becomes too demanding.  They are not under our conscious control, and are non-voluntaristic.  With the ego, our unconscious will use one or more to protect us when we come up against a stressful situation in life.  Ego-defense mechanisms are natural and normal. Defense mechanism according Freud consist with behavior such as repression, projection, displacement, sublimation, denial, regression, rationalization, reaction formation and so on.

As founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology, Freud also made numerous references that talked about homosexuality. Taken out of context, Freud can be portrayed as either virulently anti-homosexual or as a closeted friend of gays (McWilliams, 1996). Freud’s view on homosexuality was certainly tolerant for its time. When asked whether one ought to undertake to cure homosexuals or make their lot easier by increasing society’s tolerance, he replied, “Naturally, the emphasis ought to be put on social measures” (Wortis, 1954). Freud understood the burden to be lifted from homoeroticism primarily as a burden society had itself placed there.

Freud disputed degeneracy theories’ pejorative views (Drescher, 1998), asserting that humans were by nature bisexual. He believed homosexuality to be a variation of the sexual function produced by arrest of sexual development, and attributed homoeroticism to insufficient repression of the original bisexual disposition. Freud argued that a sublimated homosexuality was necessary for normal heterosexual function. Similarly, all homosexuals had some heterosexual feelings. Freud understood homoeroticism as undesirable (if blameless) sexuality when it was the primary erotic orientation in an adult (Drescher, 1998) and believed heterosexuality and reproduction to be the goal of sexual maturation (Freud, Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In standard edition, 1905).

Freud theorised that early childhood development was organised into psychosexual stages of libido, moving from oral to anal to genital stages. Adult sexuality was defined as penile-vaginal intercourse, and oral and anal sexuality were labelled immature vestiges of childhood sexual expression. Homosexuality could be due to a libidinal arrest (in the phallic stage) or failure to reach the final psychosexual stage of genitality due to a blockage of the energic force. Alternatively, an individual had reached the more mature genital stage but due to trauma reverted to an earlier stage. This was termed libidinal regression. For Freud, changing an individual’s same-sex orientation to a heterosexual one meant helping them ‘grow up’ through achieving a higher level of psychosexual development, rather than a ‘cure’ (Drescher, 1998).  Freud used to hypothesise different psycho-developmental events possibly involved in the emergence of adult homosexuality (Drescher, 1998):

  • Homosexuality arises as a result of the Oedipus conflict and the boy’s discovery that his mother is ‘castrated’. This produces intense castration anxiety causing the boy to turn from his castrated mother to a ‘woman with a penis’.
  • In theThree Essays, Freud (1905) theorised that the future homosexual child is so over-attracted to his mother that he identifies with her and narcissistically seeks love objects like himself so he can love them like his mother loved him.
  • If a ‘negative’ or ‘inverted’ Oedipus complex occurs, a boy seeks his father’s love and masculine identification by taking on a feminine identification and reverting to anal eroticism.
  • Finally, homosexuality could result from reaction formation, sadistic jealousy of brothers and father is safely converted into love of other men.


Drescher, J. (1998). I’m your handyman: a history of reparative therapies. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychoteraphy, 36(1), 19-42. doi:10.1300/J082v36n01_02

Freud, S. (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. In standard edition (Vol. 9). London: Hogarth Press. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. (2007 , – -). Psychodynamic Approach. Retrieved December 9, 2016, from Simply Psychology:

McWilliams, N. (1996). Theraphy across the sexual orienttaion boundary: Reflection of a heterosexual female analyst working with the lesbian, gay and bisexual clients. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 1, 203-221. Retrieved from

Wortis, J. (1954). Fragment of an analysis with Freud. New York: Charter Books. Retrieved from



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