Freud’s
theories of personality have helped to explain what motivates us to think, behave
and feel the way we do. A mere slip of the tongue or dream can help us gain
access into the otherwise, inaccessible unconscious. Although behaviors,
practices, rituals and thought processes of non-Western societies differ tremendously
from those of Western societies, some anthropologists who were sympathetic to
the psychodynamic theories of the mind proposed that, although expressed
differently, rituals and behavior of non-Western societies are rooted in the
same conflicts, complexes and instincts. In light of Freud’s psychodynamic
theory, supernatural entities can be seen as projections of the maternal or
paternal figure, objects such as a wooden bow can be seen as a symbol of the
phallus; a representation of the paternal figure. Just like Western societies
resolve conflicts and impulses through defense mechanisms known as sublimation
(for example: transference of sexual urges through Christian work for the
poor), might certain rituals be another form of sublimation of these same
urges? Another source of interest for anthropologists in Freud’s psychodynamic
theory is the Oedipus complex, which according to Freud is a universal and
central concept in the developing child. Anthropologists wondered whether the
same jealousy for the father and sexual desire felt for the mother is experienced
universally. If it’s universality is indeed true, anthropologists posed the
question as to how is tension due to the Oedipus complex expressed.