thumbnail of Man is not a thing; Freud and the American father
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The National Association of educational broadcasters presents Freud and the American father one in a series of transcribed programs dealing with some of the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud. A series titled Man is not a thing. First you will hear Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as recorded in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico. Then you will meet Robert Nisbet dean of the College of Letters and Science University of California Riverside. Together with Floyd Ross professor of world religions of the Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rutan chief of psychiatry of the California State Mental hygiene clinic in Riverside. Now here is Eric Fromm as interviewed by John Harter in Cuernavaca Mexico. Doctor from here in your study and going to Vaca I'm wondering if we may know take a look at the role of the Father as this is played in the modern American scene. But first we'll if we may drop back to the question how did Freud look at the relationship of a man and a woman.
Well missed out if we say Let a man and a woman let me first speak about a husband a new wife and their Freud is perhaps more biased than any other point by the atmosphere of his time. Freud was a typical 19th century patriarch a man who looked on the relationship between husband and wife in the Patriarca sayings which you rarely find expressed anymore in the United States today. The man was a PIA and the wife's task was to make his life easier to make his life more pleasant. But essentially had to subordinate her personality to that of the husband. That of course was a pattern of feeling an attitude which was prevail and in Europe. So out of the 19th century and in fact even our century is more prevailing the United States. But this view on women led Freud even to certain theoretical conclusions which are quite peculiar.
Freud saw in the woman. To put it very simply in his own words a castrated man. The man was rarely the perfect human being and the woman was that half of the human race which was lacking in something and who in a way could never quite overcome the tragedy of being castrated. To put it in a different way. Freud actually sought the early Beatle was masculine and that the woman was simply lacking in any BDO of her own. This was good old Victorian Age idea on feminine sexuality and as I said before on the subordinate role of the woman in comparison with her husband. Well in this exchange and in this view what what role did he attribute to sex itself.
This is a very peculiar thing. Freud is really known by his emphasis of as many people think is over emphasis on sex. But I think one cannot understand too much about Freud's concept of sex by just saying he was over emphasizing. But one should rather examine what did Freud mean by 6 and he again he was subject to the typical physiological materialism of the nineteenth century Freud's concept of the sexual drive was that this is a drive produced by the inner chemistry of men which causes pain for tension and sexual satisfaction. For Freud was the removal of this painful tension. That is to say Freud's concept of sex was an essentially physiological one formed in analogy to literacy hunger and thirst or the need for sleep.
In this respect I think we must state that Freud did not see the problem of sex sufficiently deeply. The problem of sexual attraction is not primarily that of a physiological age and the need to overcome the painful tension but the problem of sexual attraction is essentially the problem of what one has called Eros. Namely the tremendous attraction between the masculine and feminine pole. This is a polarity. This masculine feminine polarity which is not only existing in the life of man it is you might see a cosmic polarity which runs all all life the life of plants the life of animals the life of men and women attracted to each other. And this is a fact which we cannot explain rationally. It's one of the basic facts of life. And I would suggest that we should substitute
for the physiological concert of sex a biological one namely six is. That is Zion which is rooted in the masculine feminine attraction which is one of the basic forces in all that is a life. Well as concerns the the relationships between the sexes here between the poles are they are they to be viewed as equal I gather that Freud did not view them as equal if he saw a woman as an in adequate story and ill equipped man. What are they. Are they to be viewed as equal. Well this leads us really to a very interesting problem is down in that is the problem of equality we have today. What did equality mean originally. It meant I would say that every person to use religious language is a child of God or to use non-religious language that every person is an end in itself and must never be
used as a means for the in's of others this is the essential concept of equality based on the concept of the dignity and uniqueness of man. But what we find today is a transformation which the cons of equality has undergone today be confuse equality with sameness. If we say people are equal we really mean people Odyssey and therefore all basic differences in their nature should be evened out should be disappeared. And most people feel today that they have a right to equality only when they are the same as everybody else. Are you suggesting that this is occurring between the sexes. Yes indeed I am suggesting that and I think we can make observations. That's the erotic corollary here between the sexes. Let us say in the United States but in many European countries too is I wouldn't say disappearing. That would be too bad. But it
is diminishing everyone tries to be the same as everyone else. Women try to be the same as men. And the idea which is. Underlying this is that only if they are the same do they have the right to feel equal. I think on the contrary we should derive it not in you but if your concept of equality which says the polarities should remain and in spite of or if you please because of these priorities people should be equal in the basic sense of this word. Namely that they have the full right to the unfolding expression of their individuality of their peculiarity. That holds true for National and that holds true for sexual differences. Well in this in this time where we see the relations between the sexes coming to a sort of a central position and if I understand you I feel a little anxious here because
I'm I'm wondering if we're seeing the creation of a partially feminine man or increasingly feminine man and perhaps increasingly masculine women if we run together unto into one aggregate of roles. But what of what in all of this do you feel is is happening or perhaps has already happened to the image we have of the role of father. Well I would say something very peculiar is happening to the Father or the United States. Perhaps we could see that was clearly if we consider what the fatherly role was in the 19th century in the United States as well as in Europe. The father was an authority who laid down the law who did not have the unconditional love of the mother but the conditional love of the Father. As we find in all patriarchal cultures the father demands certain things from the child. And he likes the child best who is most like him. The father is an authority and the negative side of that was as an
authority which very often function by his power to punish. What we find today I think increasingly in the role of the Father is that he has given up completely his role as an authority. And that he has become much more the power the companion of the child who does not demand anything who has no convictions of his own who has no principles which he wants to teach to the child. And actually in many ways acts more like a mother. In Europe for instance you'll find that the children are usually more afraid of father and that mother is the one the secret ally so to speak to protect them. In the United States you find very frequently that the father rarely plays that motherly role and that the person who they are more afraid of is mother. Where do you think this will lead us. Well I think it really does to a bad end if we don't change it. And I believe we can change it if we establish authority in a new
sense namely authority which does not work with threats and punishments but at the same time which is a stablished on the conviction in certain ideas and principles which a father should have. Perhaps I could mention one thing here we have in America the habit if you please that the latest is always the best. And since a child is younger and in school he has more of the latest. Very often fathers but also mothers. Try to learn from the child what the child should do because the child has information from his younger generation. What is the latest and what is the best that I think is a state of affairs between must overcome and it can be overcome only if the father is aware of his function as a guy. As a man who should have convictions and should convey these convictions to his children. You have heard Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as recorded in his study in
Cuernavaca Mexico. Now to continue our discussion of Freud and the American father we'll switch to Studio C at San Bernardino Valley College where we're joined Dean Robert Nisbet of the University of California Riverside. Professor Floyd Ross of the Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Rutan chief psychiatry of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic Dina's bit is our moderator. Well gentlemen I don't know about you but for me the most important and certainly the most arresting parts of Dr. Frum's remarks were those concerning the changed status of the father in the American family. I've always thought of this as in a sense I did thrill me and father although I may be giving more value than historically is justified in the once proud kingly status of the father in the European family system. Dr. Ross how would you react to it. And I'm wondering if this dethrone Lent has come about partly because of the struggles far silcone quality between women and men in American society.
Our weather has come about primarily because the American AI has come to have quite a few good feelings about the owner way of placing himself at the top of the ladder. In your experience do you find any insight on this. Well I think that both factors are at play in some of the throne moment of the Father. I think it's interesting that from has made a very important point here of the misinterpretation of the word equality. To have it come to mean sameness. So that the female must become the same as the male. And. Apparently a counterpart of this is that to some extent the father has decided that he must become equal to which means the same as the female. So they do seem to work both ways. But this is fairly recent don't you think in the American family system. We sometimes call this a blurring of the roles of the Father and the mother. And when I refer to the
recency of it I'm referring to the respectability. Which now attends the entrance of the husband father into the kitchen into the nursery among a great many areas of American society there is no longer any sense of loss of dignity or prestige for the father to be seen washing dishes or to be seen helping in the care of the small children. Now this may make for a more conjoint family relationship but it does I think we have to admit tend to erase the sharpness of the boundaries between what a father is and what a mother is. I have a feeling that the trouble does not arise because the father goes into the kitchen to help with the dishes are because he becomes a babysitter at times although this horrified my Indian friends when I was living in India. I have a feeling that the real trouble arises from the fact that unfortunately in too many cases in American family life the father is no longer the symbol of discipline and order and stability
at a higher level than can be represented by the mother in her primarily instinctual role in the early years of life. Hasn't this come about as a result of the general attitude that discipline. That the establishment of limits and criteria and values is somehow important that we must be permissive at all costs and that we should not establish rules so that we find both parents mother and father minimizing the law establishing aspects of their parental relationships. I think that's very important Dr. Rodin's equation in a sense of the father's abdication of responsibility with the mothers as a people we Americans have become so preoccupied by the values of equality and the biggest stuffed shirt in American life is always the man who in any way seems to be asserting the Parag of divs of position
and we make almost a fetish of fair play of equality. The image of the leader has changed a great deal of what it takes now for a man to be successful politically is very different from what it took a half a century ago. And this may well be the confusion of roles that is generated simply by the confusion of all the roles that go to make up American society. I think this tendency to go in the direction of too much permissiveness in the family relationship is of course a reaction in part to the memory of an older authoritarianism in family life. But I wish we could recognize that the clinical evidence seems to show that the children who are brought up in a too permissive environment suffer from the same kinds of emotional problems in general as the children who are brought up into a authoritarian environment. At least I understand this is true is it not. This is definitely true and yet it's almost as though there's a stigma
attached to having a person act in an authority role as a parent. It's almost as though we must not set rules and values. Doesn't the father come to doubt himself in a very fundamental role where he should have a sense of direction a sense of confidence. Another component of this though is that apparently traditionally and not something uniquely in our culture the male has always wanted some of the. Attributes some of the qualities of the female of the male has always sought for the same kind of creative opportunities which is natural in the mother role has always sought for the tenderness of relationship which are a part of the female role and it is only now and perhaps again out of the permission for him to be quotes the same
as the female that he avails himself of some of the opportunities in his culture to pick up some of these same misses. And if the father is not finding genuine satisfactions in his own role in society economically politically and family wise. This is in the eye of the woman in her natural creativity will tend to poison all of his relationships to a greater degree will it not that she is being creative. I'm glad that you brought this up because it seems to me that one of the other cultural factors which is important here is that so many men are given less of an opportunity to be creative in an automated world or in a mechanized industrialized world right which may have much to do with problems observation of the Father in our culture of being more of a pal. He needs to feel some satisfaction from what he has created and even this remote creative relationship with his own children represents really for many men the only creation.
I'm not sure how many American housewives would regard the daily round of their activities especially when the children are very small. As creative but I certainly agree with your central point that the father if he is as so many American men are at the present time cast in the roles of spectators essentially or have the feeling of a kind of anonymous non belonging where they are working then the family context can look at least as if it is the scene of very real creative possibilities. I think there's another factor we have to take into account here namely the pattern of conformity. Many fathers are caught in the S.. Traditionally it's the role of the father to have a basic set of values or convictions. And in the religions of the world he's always been the symbol of this higher valued life of mine a life of spirit. But when he lives in a society that has demanded unduly too much conformity and he has confirmed he really has no inner compass of his own to steer by he's steering by the mass
media perhaps. And I think children sense this when father doesn't have his own code of values when he goes along with the prevailing prejudices regarding race for example or when he breaks the speed laws with impunity. Children are very much aware of this. Well along that same blood if what Dr David Reese mmon a sociologist has to say about the changing personality of Americans. To wit that they are becoming more other directed in contrast to the earlier inner directed in this personality. Then this would be I think even an intensification of the point that you're making Professor Ross about the ambiguity they indecision of the role which the father occupies and especially with respect to his children. Aren't we finding that the figure of law which is generally represented by Father law and authority and that this doesn't exist and that all that we have left now is the female figure of
justice standing there blindly. But no laws no limits no authority of in in which setting to bring about this just right and for all of the undoubted gains or benefits which lie in the father's power like relationship to his children being a friend in need. Being a child I wonder if possibly there are some losses in what the child is deriving from Father that perhaps I'll wait again. I think there are very definite losses for the child does need this sense of stability and purpose Ignace. And I think the parents sometimes have been confused by some of the writings on psychology they've been told they should respect the feelings of the child. But they have read this to mean that therefore they must be guided by the child and I think they're two entirely different things. Yes I think that if parents are truly respecting the feelings of their children then they are respecting also the innate
needs of their children for definite limits and for some external control for some external authority. At least until that time when the child has developed enough character structure of its own to establish these limits for itself. Quite right and I find myself troubled and let me say that I'm trying to speak here as a sociologist and not as a father troubled by a public image which more and more exists. Father you see this in television serial programmes on the radio and in the stories of the popular magazines. Your father is so often characterized as a well-meaning but essentially inept sort of a person who is usually conspired against of course lovingly and in happiness but nevertheless conspired against by the rest of the family that was allowed so often to think that he is having his way whereas we the viewers of the television drama realize that the whole thing is a kind of plot between the mother and the children. I really quite honestly
find myself troubled by this in terms of. The loss in the available symbols of the law of justice of authority that is a part of growing up the development of character and whether we like it or not again going back to the traditions that give us clues to some of the problems of human history. The mother is always regarded as having an unconditional love as Dr. Frum pointed out. The child doesn't have to earn the love of the mother in fact he can't the love is either there or it isn't. But the Father's love even when this thought is thought of as the heavenly Father must be earned. There are conditions involved. Now if this be part of the history of the human race the chances are it still holds true today that there is a certain psychological need on the part of the child. To earn the love of the Father that is the symbol of OB discipline order and regularity and dependability.
And why has the father denied himself this particular role the child is asking for him to adopt this role in the Father in our particular culture has denied himself this opportunity. What all are you referring to a doctor with a role of being the authority the role of being the loving father only when certain conditions are met. This is the contemporary American father is not permitting himself. He has become a kind of extended adolescent hasn't it. He's become the symbol of lack of authority. He's become the symbol of the individual who can be the Powel of the sporty person the person who does not represent law and order which is a kind of extension of adolescence. This is not unrelated I think to the fact that the woman has been trying to internalize certain masculine values in our culture and achieve what. From called sameness this is becoming a mutual confusion of relationships here.
Much of this perhaps coming from the widened opportunities of education. The fact that by now an ever larger percentage of American women have been exposed to a system of education that at least from high school on was a system of education originally devised for the male and I mean the whole system of liberal arts education. It may well be that now we're on a kind of new frontier quite different from anything we've had in past American life and that we're going to have to pioneer in terms of the kinds of relationships between men and women in the family as well as the kinds of relationships between the children and the parents were great in other words that any drive toward leveling as such is probably an unhealthy drive that unless the very real differences the differences given by nature and those which existed in history between man and woman between father and mother unless differences in one degree or another continue. Children are being deprived of extremely important bases of character formation.
So there are real differences. And yet these differences do not mean that there cannot be a fundamental equal a T as persons. And again looking at the traditions unless the son particularly although it applies also the daughter in some degree unless the son can learn to identify with the father symbol. As the representative of dependability and the life of mind and spirit then the son never goes on to genuine maturity. But this will have a kind of day sexing influence upon the boy. Very definitely. Well this is where you've mentioned the boy let's just briefly mention the girl too. That's fair because certainly her picture of what she should expect from her adult heterosexual relationships will depend very largely on the picture she has seen in her own home of her father and of his relationships both with her and with his wife so that whatever passive aday whatever kind of sameness the father is himself. Seeking or finding it is going to get transmitted to his daughter and leave her with continuing confusions about
what to expect in her marital relationship. Well gentlemen I think once again we have reached a perhaps possible if not natural stopping point I gather from what has been said here. We're agreed that equality is a possible relationship within the family but it certainly need not degenerate into mere mechanical leveling and that within a relationship of ethical and spiritual equality it is perfectly possible for differences between sexes and between roles to exist and that there may even be a hierarchy of such differences and roles without in any way hurting the foundations of equality. Dr. Lloyd Ross professor of theology at the Southern California School of Theology. Thank you. And you also Dr. Edward Rutan chief psychiatry of the riverside state mental hygiene clinic. You have been listening to Freud and the American father. One in a series of transcribed programs concerned with the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud. A
series titled Man is not a thing. First you heard Dr. Eric from psychoanalyst and author as interviewed in his study in Cuernavaca Mexico then to Studio C at San Bernardino Valley College where we heard from Robert Nisbet dean of the College of Letters and Science University of California Riverside. Together with Floyd Ross professor of World Religions Southern California School of Theology and Dr. Edward Roche chief psychiatry of the California State Mental hygiene clinic in Riverside. These programs were produced and edited by John harder for the community education division of San Bernardino Valley College and were developed under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. There's B and E. B Radio Network.
Man is not a thing
Freud and the American father
Producing Organization
San Bernardino Valley College
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-w6697f41).
Episode Description
This program, "Freud and the American Father," looks at how Freud's theories apply to American fathers.
Series Description
This series presents a discussion of the discoveries and errors of Sigmund Freud and his impact on the American family, politics and religion.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Editor: Harding, Bob
Interviewer: Walker, Fred
Producer: Harter, John
Producing Organization: San Bernardino Valley College
Speaker: Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980
Speaker: Nisbet, Robert A.
Speaker: Ross, Floyd Hiatt
Speaker: Rudin, Edward
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-22-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:10
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Man is not a thing; Freud and the American father,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Man is not a thing; Freud and the American father.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Man is not a thing; Freud and the American father. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from