Wednesday, May 2, 2007

St. Paul and Sigmund Freud' s Psychotherapy

Sigmund Freud discovered the Id, the Ego, and the Super-Ego. Modern Christian teachers are finding similar discoveries in St. Paul’s Epistles.

For Freud, the Id is similar to Paul’s Flesh, with all its lusts. For Freud, the Ego is similar to Paul’s Soul, that is, the conscious cognitive abilities, including the will. (Although sometimes, Paul includes both Id and Ego under the word “Flesh.”) Finally, for Freud, the Super Ego is similar to what St. Paul called “The Law.” (The Super Ego is the internalized values of one’s culture.)

Each writer had similar approaches to dealing with the problems arising from our Id/Flesh. For Freud, the Id is to be brought into conscious awareness by the Ego; thus, giving the Ego control. Freud’s mantra: “Where Id was, Ego must be.”

St. Paul had a similar system to that of Freud’s which he describes in the 6th Chapter of Romans. He identifies the offending part of his Flesh/Id, however, instead of bringing it under the power of the Ego as Freud does, he is going to bring it under the power of God. Paul does this by declaring himself dead to that part (“member,” the word translators use). Now the problematic member can go through God’s process of being crucified and raised to new life. Paul’s mantra: “die daily.”

There is another similarity between Freud and Paul. Freud discovered that rather than use the Ego to control the Id, some people use an overbearing Superego. Crushing the Id with the Super Ego/Law can produce serious psychological pathology and even kill you.

St. Paul made a similar finding described in Romans Chap. 7:15. He reports his struggle using the Super Ego/Law to control the Id. He gets sicker and that method is killing him. I mention both Freud and Paul’s discovery here because trying to crucify the flesh by the Super Ego/Law creates toxic people. Much of the rejection of Christians is brought on by such legalism. Also, legalism used in the manner Freud and Paul described, leads to early aging and deaths of Christians and sometimes even the people around them.

Both systems, Freud’s and Paul’s, call for a kinder, gentler and safer way of dealing with the Id/Flesh. Both work, but Paul, at the same time, cleans us up for eternal life.

3 comments:

Father John+ said...

Father Don+,

What a clever comparison and what a pastoral approach that will lend to both healing and evangelism. Good job, and thanks for your reflections.

Sorry I have not been checking your site. It is well worth the time. Blessings. JCJ+

Anonymous said...

As one goes beyond not only religion and psycologies, who have their own way of doing things, to the word of God which is His way of doing things. He spoke words that are His law, He alone is King. His word, when we connect ourselves to Jesus through the new birth, so He can send us the Holy Spirit to connect us back to the Father, then we will want to do His will, not our own. Then when questions of the law comes up, we can answer, according to the King of Kings law, He ways abortion is wrong. Homosexuality is not my way of doing things. It may be okey with your religion, but is not according to my word. Your religion can change anything that it wants to, but the word of the Lord will never change.

Father Don said...

I am not sure I understand anonymous' comment, but I will publish it anyway and maybe some reader knows what the person is saying. The comment does not seem to address this post.