Thursday, 16 August 2012



In psychology, sublimation is a mature type of defence mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are consciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behaviour, possibly converting the initial impulse in the long term. Freud defines sublimation as the process of deflecting sexual instincts into acts of higher social valuation, being "an especially conspicuous feature of cultural development; it is what makes it possible for higher psychical activities, scientific, artistic or ideological, to play such an important part in civilised life". [1] Wade and Tavris present a similar view stating that sublimation is when displacement "serves a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions."[2]. Sublimation allows us to act out socially unacceptable impulses by converting them into a more acceptable form. For example, a person experiencing extreme anger might take up kick-boxing as a means of venting frustration. Freud believed that sublimation was a sign of maturity (indeed, of civilization), allowing people to function normally in culturally acceptable ways

Psychoanalytic theory

In Freud's psychoanalytical theory, erotic energy is allowed a limited amount of expression, owing to the constraints of human society and civilisation itself. It therefore requires other outlets, especially if an individual is to remain psychologically balanced.
Sublimation is the process of transforming libido into "socially useful" achievements, including artistic, cultural and intellectual pursuits. Freud considered this psychical operation to be fairly salutary compared to the others that he identified, such as repression, displacement, denial, reaction formation, intellectualisation and projection. Freud's daughter, Anna, in the The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (1936) classes sublimation as one of the major 'defence mechanisms' of the psyche.
Whilst reading The Harz Journey by Heinrich Heine, Freud got the idea of sublimation. The story is about Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach who would cut off the tails of dogs that he found in his childhood and later became a surgeon. Freud concluded sublimation is if one does an action repeatedly throughout his life many times, but first starts doing it sadistically, he will end up doing a similar activity to the benefit of mankind

Sexual Sublimation

Sexual sublimation, also known as sexual transmutation, is the attempt, especially among some religious traditions, to transform sexual impulses or "sexual energy" into creative energy. In this context, sublimation is the transference of sexual energy, or libido, into a physical act or a different emotion in order to avoid confrontation with the sexual urge, which is itself contrary to the individual's belief or ascribed religious belief. It is based on the idea that "sexual energy" can be used to create a spiritual nature which in turn can create more sensual works, instead of one's sexuality being unleashed "raw. The classical example in Western religions is clerical celibacy.
As espoused in the Tanya[citation needed], Hasidic Jewish mysticism views sublimation of the animal soul as an essential task in life, wherein the goal is to transform animalistic and earthy cravings for physical pleasure into holy desires to connect with God.
Different schools of thought describe general sexual urges as carriers of spiritual essence, and have the varied names of vital energy, vital winds (prana), spiritual energy, ojas, shakti, tummo, or kundalini. It is also believed that undergoing sexual sublimation can facilitate a mystical awakening in an individual.

Sublimation according to Jung

C. G. Jung believed sublimation to be mystical in nature, thus differing fundamentally from Freud's view of the concept. For Freud, sublimation helped explain the plasticity of the sexual instincts (and their convertibility to non-sexual ends). The concept also underpinned his psychoanalytical theories which showed the human psyche at the mercy of conflicting impulses (such as the super-ego and the id). Jung criticized Freud for obscuring the alchemical origins of sublimation and for attempting instead to make the concept appear scientifically credible:
Sublimatio is part of the royal art where the true gold is made. Of this Freud knows nothing, worse still, he barricades all the paths that could lead to true sublimatio. This is just about the opposite of what Freud understands by sublimation. It is not a voluntary and forcible channeling of instinct into a spurious field of application, but an alchymical transformation for which fire and prima materia are needed. Sublimatio is a great mystery. Freud has appropriated this concept and usurped it for the sphere of the will and the bourgeois, rationalistic ethos.
This criticism extends from the private sphere of his correspondence (as above) to specific papers he published on psychoanalysis:
Freud invented the idea of sublimation to save us from the imaginary claws of the unconscious. But what is real, what actually exists, cannot be alchemically sublimated, and if anything is apparently sublimated it never was what a false interpretation took it to be.

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