James Dobson Promotes Freud

Patients are nothing but riff-raff. The only useful purposes they serve are to help us earn a living and to provide learning material. In any case, we cannot help them. Sigmund Freud1

Probably no single individual has had a more profound effect on twentieth-century thought than Sigmund Freud. His works have influenced psychiatry, anthropology, social work, penology, and education and provided a seemingly limitless source of material for novelists and dramatists. Freud has created a "whole new climate of opinion"; for better or worse he has changed the face of society. E. M. Thornton2

Sigmund Freud is the most prominent name in all psychotherapy. He is considered the father of the psychotherapy movement and his ideas permeate later theories and therapies.

Freud developed a complex set of theories to describe the human personality and to attempt to understand and treat mental-emotional disorders. Basic to these theories is what Freud described as the unconscious portion of the mind. The unconscious part of the psyche is that which is hidden from us and not open to our direct knowledge. The usual analogy is that of an iceberg, with most of the mind submerged, hidden, and filled with a vast amount of powerful, motivating material.

Freud believed that the unconscious portion of the mind, rather than the conscious, influences all of a person’s thoughts and actions. In fact, he believed that the unconscious not only influences, but determines everything an individual does. Such psychic determinism was considered by Freud to be established within the unconscious during the first five years of life. His supposed evidence for the existence of the unconscious is found in dreams, phobias, and "slips of the tongue." A phobia is an irrational fear, while a slip of the tongue is saying something that one does not intend to say.

Since Freud proposed the doctrine of the unconscious and its related theories, his work has been widely accepted and admired and has significantly influenced the writing and thinking of the twentieth century. Yet this constellation of theories about the human psyche is actually only a set of one man’s fantasies. These theories have been elevated from fantasy to fact, accepted as gospel truth, and applied to almost every area of human endeavor.

Freud invented psychoanalysis as a method for treating mental-emotional disorders and particularly for investigating what he considered to be the unconscious mind. Psychoanalysis has influenced most of contemporary psychotherapy and is one of its most sacred systems. It is only one of the many brand names, but it is considered by some to be the ne plus ultra of cures and is known as the fountainhead of Western psychotherapy.

Oedipus Complex

The cornerstone of the psychoanalytic process is an array of theories that revolve around the unconscious. Contained within the theory of the unconscious is Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality and contained within the maze of the infantile sexuality theory is his theory of the Oedipus complex.

According to Freud’s infantile sexuality theory, the first few years of life pretty much determine all that follow. Freud believed that during the first five or six years of life each human being throughout the entire world and since the beginning of mankind is confronted with certain stages of development. Failure to successfully pass through these stages or experiencing a trauma during one of these stages supposedly results in inexplicable damage to one’s psyche. Freud identified what he called the Oedipus complex. He considered it to be one of his greatest discoveries because of its supposed universal application. He said, "Every new arrival on this planet is faced by the task of mastering the Oedipus complex; anyone who fails to do so falls a victim to neurosis."3

Freud taught that during the phallic stage of development every boy desires to kill his father and have sexual intercourse with his mother, and every girl has a desire to kill her mother and have sexual intercourse with her father. Freud attributed these desires to all children between the ages of three and six. According to this theory, both the boy and girl love the mother at the beginning and resent the father because he is a rival for the mother’s attention. This idea persists in the boy until he finally, unconsciously desires the death or absence of his father, whom he considers his rival, and wants to have sexual intercourse with his mother.

The system is different for girls, however. Freud said that during a girl’s early development she discovers that the boy has a protruding sex organ while she has only a cavity. According to Freud’s theory, the girl holds her mother responsible for her condition, which causes hostility. She thus transfers her love from her mother to her father because he has the valued organ, which she wants to share with him in sex.

The madness is not yet complete, for Freud describes how this hostility and sensuousness are resolved. In Freud’s murky and mad story, filled with fantasy and fabrication, the boy resolves the Oedipus complex through fear of castration. The boy, according to Freud, unconsciously fears that his father will cut off his penis as a punishment for his sexual desire for his mother. This fear successfully brings the boy through this stage of development by causing him to give up or retreat from his unconscious lustful desires.

The girl, on the other hand, fears that her mother will injure her genital organ because of her sexual desire directed at her father. But, within Freud’s wild scheme the girl senses that she has already been castrated and thus ends up desiring the male sex organ. The female castration anxiety results in what Freud called "penis envy." According to Freud, every woman is merely a mutilated male who resolves her castration anxiety by wishing for the male sex organ.

Freud further taught that homosexuality resulted from this failure to master the Oedipus complex and he placed the fault on the parents. In his book The Psychological Society, Martin Gross describes Freud’s reasoning:

Freud and many of his modern successors saw homosexuality as the penalty for the boy child’s failure to win the Oedipal battle against a seductive, overbearing, over-affectionate mother—the classic Mrs. Portnoy. Instead of finally identifying with the hated father at the resolution of the Oedipal rivalry, the child identifies with the mother. Thereafter, the now homosexual male seeks other men as his love object. . . . In the Freudian homosexual model, the penis-adoring child also shows disgust for the penisless woman. This is coupled with his castration fear at the hands of an angry father-rival.4 (Italics in original.)

While few present-day psychoanalysts promote all of Freud’s theories, many continue to promote the Freudian theory of a dominant mother and absent father producing a homosexual son. The Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry describes the current, Freudian-driven view of homosexuality:

Thus, the parental constellation most likely to produce a homosexual or heterosexual with severe homosexual problems was a detached, hostile father and a close-binding, overly intimate, seductive mother who dominated and minimized her husband.5

Sir Karl Popper, who is considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of science, said that Freudian and other such theories, "though posing as sciences, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science; that they resembled astrology rather than astronomy."6

Freud’s theories are gross distortions of biblical anthropology and should be rejected by all Christians. And, one of the grossest distortions of God-given truth is Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex. No true child of God can long endure such an heretical formulation. Yet, we conclude from the following evidence that Dobson does.

Last November (1998), Focus on the Family, headed by Dobson, sponsored a conference titled "Homosexuality and Youth." One of the principal speakers at the conference was Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a Roman Catholic psychotherapist who authored Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality.

In Nicolosi’s book and conference tapes he reveals the Freudian roots of his theory. Nicolosi says:

Typically there is an overly close relationship between mother and son, with the father distant from both of them. . . Perhaps one significant factor is the availability of mother when the boy of 2 or 3 is experiencing problems with the father. A receptive and over-sympathetic mother might provide such a haven of emotional security that the boy would find it easy to disengage totally from such a father.7

In an interview about male homosexuality with Dobson, Nicolosi refers to "poor involvement with the father and an overinvolved mother."

The roots of Freudian Oedipal theory are reflected throughout Nicolosi’s book and conference tapes. However, this would not be surprising to Dobson since he had interviewed Nicolosi on the radio prior to inviting him to be a conference speaker. The tape of that interview is still available from Focus on the Family.

Just as the Oedipus complex is the cornerstone of Freudian psychoanalysis, so too the Oedipus complex is the cornerstone of Reparative Therapy for Male Homosexuals. And, just as lifetime treatment is characteristic of Freudian psychoanalysis, so too is this true of reparative therapy. Nicolosi says:

In his final work, "Analysis: Terminable and Interminable," Freud concluded that analysis is essentially a lifetime process. This is true in the treatment of homosexuality.8

Because Nicolosi begins with a Freudian foundation to his reparative therapy, his proposed solution depends on it. The Dobson-Nicolosi interview reveals that Dobson is very much aware of Nicolosi’s Freudian approach. As a psychologist, Dobson would know that the roots of Nicolosi’s Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality are Freudian. Dobson’s followers should ask him why he would promote a therapeutic approach that originated from a Freudian theory that must have come from the pit of hell. Knowing that the very Freudian ideas Nicolosi revealed in the interview would be promoted, Dobson nevertheless invited Nicolosi to be a principal speaker at the "Homosexuality and Youth" conference last fall. Nicolosi also speaks at Roman Catholic conferences on the same subject.

Less than 50 years ago, proving that a leading evangelical loved Freud’s Oedipal theory would be reason enough to question his entire ministry. However, the church has become too "sophisticated," too lukewarm, too worldly for that to occur. Today such a revelation usually draws only a yawn or perhaps irritation over anyone daring to criticize.

When people reject the biblical concept of universal sin, they are open to all sorts of aberrations, one of which is Freud’s doctrine of universal childhood fantasies of incest and homicide. Those who denied the very thought of mankind’s fallen nature, as described in Scripture, were ready to believe in a powerful unconscious, motivated by infantile sexuality. Many trusted Freudian teachings that the Oedipus complex, castration anxiety, and penis envy (for women) psychically determine the entire life of every individual.


1. Sigmund Freud, quoted in A. Haynal, Controversies in Psychoanalytic Method (New York: New York University Press, 1989), p. 32.
2. E. M. Thornton, The Freudian Fallacy (Garden City: The Dial Press, Doubleday and Company, 1984), p. ix.
3. Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) SE, Volume Seven (London: Hogarth Press, 1953), p. 226.
4. Martin Gross, The Psychological Society (New York: Random House, Inc. 1978), pp. 79,80.
5. Alfred M. Freedman and Harold I. Kaplan, Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Company, 1967), p. 968.
6. Karl Popper, "Scientific Theory and Falsifiability" in Perspectives in Philosophy, Robert N. Beck, ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1975), p. 343.
7. Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1997), pp. 28,29.
8. Ibid., p. 22.

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