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