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Psychodynamic Psychology and Religion
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  1. Psychodynamic Psychology and Religion James A. Van Slyke

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. Ego Conscious mind Unconscious mind Superego Id Freud’s Psychology Structure of the Personality

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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)

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. Consequences • 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

  17. Critiques • 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