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Psychodynamic Psychology and Religion. James A. Van Slyke. Psychodynamic Psychology. Definition Based on unconscious cognitive, emotional and relational dynamics that influence behavior Drives – instincts that motivate behavior Structures – patterns that organize aspects of personality

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psychodynamic psychology
Psychodynamic Psychology
  • Definition
    • Based on unconscious cognitive, emotional and relational dynamics that influence behavior
      • Drives – instincts that motivate behavior
      • Structures – patterns that organize aspects of personality
      • Objects – internalized representations of relationships
    • Psychotherapy focused on uncovering these unconscious processes
      • Bring them to conscious awareness
      • Modifying the patterns of relational dynamics
friedrich nietzsche 1844 1900
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
  • Death of God
    • Modern Science
    • Secularization of Society
    • God is no longer basis for meaning and values
  • Academic context open to competing claims about source of religion
friedrich nietzsche 1844 19001
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
  • Subversion of Religion
    • Theology based on the assumption that Christian beliefs produce moral goodness
    • Nietzsche reverses this thesis
    • Religion serves the needs of those in power
    • Used as a means of control and manipulation
  • Christian morality used to control the poor and less fortunate
  • Undermines traditional view of religion
  • Opens the door for subversive interpretations of religion
ludwig feuerbach 1804 1872
Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)
  • Anthropological essence of religion
  • God is the projection of the internal nature of humanity
    • Needs
    • Desires
  • God is not divine, but humanity projects itself as a divine supernatural being
  • Exposes religion as an illusion to be rejected
sigmund freud 1856 1939
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
  • Raised in a Jewish context in what would become the Czech Republic, later moved to Vienna
  • First born of 8 children to his mother
  • Parents sacrificed considerably for his education
  • Father of Psychodynamic theory
  • Started as a neurologist
  • Atheist; Critical of Judeo-Christian Religion
freud s psychology


Conscious mind





Freud’s Psychology

Structure of the Personality

freud s psychology1
Freud’s Psychology
  • Id
    • Source of unconscious psychic energy
    • Attempts to satisfy sexual and aggressive drives
    • Operates by the pleasure principle
  • Super Ego
    • Internalized moral standards
    • Judges behavior according to external moral laws
    • Often in conflict with Id
freud s psychology2
Freud’s Psychology
  • Ego
    • Manages the conflicting needs of the id and superego within the constraints of reality
    • Aspect of personality that is largely conscious
    • Executive aspect of the personality
    • Operates according to the reality principle
  • Drives
    • Libido (Drive to live)
      • Survival, reproduction, hunger, thrist
    • Death Instinct (Thantos)
      • Return to a state of calm
      • Lower levels of arousal
freud s psychology3
Freud’s Psychology
  • Satisfying the needs of different aspects of the personality and drives causes tension
    • Id wants to be satisfied, super ego moralizes, ego tries to deal with reality
    • Unconscious processes difficult to deal with
    • Tensions create anxiety and other psychological problems
    • Persons seeks to decrease the tension
freud s psychology4
Freud’s Psychology
  • Defense Mechanisms
    • Ego reduces anxiety by unconsciously distorting reality
    • Repression
      • Removes negative and anxiety-producing feelings or thoughts from consciousness
    • Projection
      • Applying negative aspects of the the self to others
    • Displacement
      • Taking out aggression or other drives on less threatening objects
freud s psychology5
Freud’s Psychology
  • Defense Mechanisms
    • Rationalization
      • Justifying behavior based on acceptable reasons rather than unconscious ones
    • Regression
      • Moving to a more immature state to deal with anxiety
    • Reaction Formation
      • Switching unconscious impulses to their exact opposites
origins of religion
Origins of Religion
  • Totem and Taboo (1913)
  • Religion came about through an act of patricide
    • Early human tribe in pre-history
    • Father of a group of expelled males is the Alpha (Leader)
    • Males later return and kill the father to achieve power
    • Guilt and ambivalence over murder leads to the deification of the father (Totem or religious symbol)
    • Sacrificial rituals arise out of this first act of violence (Original Sin)
origins of the judeo christian god
Origins of the Judeo-Christian God
  • God is a projection of the internal unconscious world
  • Subversion of Religion
  • Freud reverses the basis of Christian theology
    • “God created humanity in his image” Gen 1:27
    • Humanity created God in their image
  • Religion is a source of consolation to deal with anxiety and tension
god as projection
God as Projection
  • The Future of an Illusion (1927)
    • Built a case for the elimination of religion
    • Civilization should help us tame nature and its resultant problems
    • Longing for God is the search for a protective father
      • Helps us deal with anxiety and helplessness
      • Childhood idealizations
    • Religion contains too many contradicts to be true
    • Should instead turn to reason and science to deal with social problems
  • God as projection through which unconscious processes resolved
    • Can be positive or negative
    • Aspects of internal world projected onto to God in order to deal with tension and anxiety
    • God as critical parent; loving parent
    • Reaction formation – God is all good because I see myself as all bad
    • Displacement – negative aspects of the person attributed to Satan
  • Anthropological and evolutionary evidence disproves his origins theory
  • Freud’s definition of God is a projection of his internal world, but only his
    • Adolescent rejection of the father
  • Reductionistic and inflexible views of religion
  • Associating religion with pathology ignores the positive aspects of religious belief
  • Freud’s psychodynamic case studies do not directly support his theories about religion