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Psychoanalysis of Crime Essay

An individual’s sense of self has always been an issue that fascinated people. Under the notion that most people enjoy talking about themselves, the realm of psychology opened its doors to investigate the underlying conditions that make people who they are and how they perceive others and the world. Many theories have been developed in order to understand the complexities that make up the human psyche and it is in this aspect that this paper will center upon.

The theory which I have chosen for this particular case study is the Psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud and I believe this theory will address most of the behavioral patterns that the subject is situated in. Freud’s psychoanalytic style in examining an individual’s motives for behavior has established the grounds for in-depth analysis into a person’s psyche and though it has its limitation, it offers a refreshing viewpoint as to why such behaviors have endured and its significance to an individual’s interpretation of the world (Shoham, 1993).

Psychoanalysis has helped in putting into perspective the many ways in which behaviors of an individual or groups of individuals could be determined by the examining their upbringing and isolating internal and external desires. One of the major conjectures of psychoanalysis is that individuals are inherently sinful and they are controlled by certain instincts which are buried in one’s subconscious. The psychoanalytic theory attempts to realize these internal desires in order to determine the right kind of action in which the individual might be able to control a problematic behavior from recurring (Elliott, 2002).

In order to see the application of the psychoanalytical theory, a brief background of the case study should be presented to comprehend the situation. The case study involves a twenty-eight year old man named Bert who was convicted of committing larceny. In the article, Bert was condemned to serve a four year sentence in prison with eighteen months non-parole. Admitting to the crime he had committed, he was said to have been accompanied by two accomplices whom he knew from his previous prison sentence.

It was relayed that Bert had entered a pub one night and was approached by the two accomplices who urged him to join them rob a factory. Nine weeks before the incident, Bert was out of prison after serving a year in prison for getting caught with stolen goods. In Freud’s Division of the mind, he enlists the concept of the Id, Superego and Ego. The Id is supposed to uphold the baser instincts that are present in each individual. It dispenses on the precepts of pleasure to satisfy the innate wants of the individual.

The Superego comprises the ethical or moral aspect of the individual that appeals to an ideal sense of being. The Ego is said to be the balancing aspect of the individual’s personality as it maintains the needs and wants of both the Id and the Superego. The Ego represents the awareness of an individual regarding his/her state of being (Shoham, 1993). If the processes that harmonize these three should ever be disrupted, it would render uneasiness to the individual’s psyche and cause him/her to employ some defense mechanisms that would be able to shield the ego.

The psychoanalysis in Bert’s case encompasses a great deal of struggle between his superego and id, as can be denoted when he points out that he is frustrated with himself for not being able to avoid criminal activities. This is described as an over-developed superego, which imposes an excessive need for punishment with regard to the things the individual has wrongly committed or the unpleasant experiences that has brought misery into the individual’s life (Shoham, 1993).

In the text, Bert was said to have grown-up in a dysfunctional family and that his absentee father was also a criminal who often displayed a violent attitude towards the family whenever he was home. In this aspect, Bert’s rationale on punishing himself was an act of regression in an early state of his life that involved his father (Shoham, 1993). The illegal acts Bert has committed during his early teens and the subsequent trips to juvenile and adult institutions has led him to think that he should be penalized for the things that he has done and for belonging to a family that breeds criminals..

In a sense, Bert might be trying to compensate for his father’s mistake of abandoning his children with regard to his wife and kids and most especially, his brothers and sister. This kind of rationalization instills tension into his being, which makes him unconsciously commit illegal activities despite his efforts to reform his life (Shoham, 1993). As a result of this conflict, Bert reasons out in a defying way that even though he acknowledges his wrongdoing, he believes that it is under the influence of alcohol and the two conspirators with him the night of the criminal activity.

Bert also pointed out that the long sentence designated to the criminal act that he had committed was a bit unreasonable since he only stole goods from a factory and not a private residence. Based on these statements, Bert had shown feelings of contradiction between his guilt for what he had done and his comprehension of the situation as he puts the blame on other sources in lieu of himself. In the case study, Bert was thought of to be a pushover by the law officers as the former would get caught up in situations that force him to do things that should best be avoided (Elliot, 2002).

Parallel to his over-developed superego, Bert’s behavior also displays a weak Ego in conjunction with his Id. His inability to stand his ground in moral situations and his inadequacy in delivering good judgments makes him a pawn for manipulative individuals like the two conspirators whom Bert met at the pub (Shoham, 1993). In this situation, it is quite clear that he is still in denial of what he has done since he has not fully accepted the responsibility for the criminal act. However, in another statement, he also did not want to cooperate with the law enforcers in identifying who were his accomplices in committing larceny.

This posits a rather confusing behavior as Bert did not want to admit fully to the crime committed yet he does his conspirators a favor and refuses to give out their names to the law officers as he believes that he is not one to break the code of brotherhood. This act alone concurs with the insight made earlier about his desire to be punished for being a criminal (Rosen, 1996). On another note, Bert has tried to justify the crime he had committed by rationalizing the triviality of robbing the factory and that a long sentence was not necessary.

He seems to suppress the mere fact that he has a long track record of criminal activities that warrants for the current court verdict. With this in mind, one can deduce that Bert still thinks of himself as a misguided youth. Such display of reasoning implicates how the environment he grew up in greatly influenced his decisions in life (Shoham, 1993). His lack of a formal education and emotional nurture at home resulted to his rebellious conduct and misplaced aggression that could only be attributed to his family’s situation.

Bert’s leanings toward alcoholism may be credited to his undeveloped oral stage, which his mother could not properly provide as the strains of his father being in prison and the abuses that his mother and siblings received from him deprived Bert of a normal transition into the next stages of development (Shoham, 1993). In addition, his father’s drunken presence at the puberty stage predisposed him and his older brothers to acclimate a life of criminal activities since that might have been the only way that he could be with his father who was gone most of the time.

While he was third among the two boys in his family, he could not look up to his older brothers as they too were undependable for the nurturing in which he sought from his parents (Shoham, 1993). It is in this aspect that one can observe the oedipal complex that Freud has included in his Stages of Development theory as it demonstrates the lack of attention and love that Bert wanted from his father (Shoham, 1993).

Bert’s unresolved intimacy issues from both his parents compelled him to project this in an unhealthy lifestyle through alcohol and a string of criminal records. In defense of the two conspirators, Bert might have felt a sense of belongingness in their company since they understood his situation more than anyone, which is why he was adamant to not cooperate with the law enforcers (Shoham, 1993). Bert’s yearning to successfully reform may be hampered by his own moral perceptions as he is not able to grasp the consequences his actions have merited him.

While he is affected by what happens with his wife and two children, he cannot instinctively change his ways without going through therapy or some form of rehabilitation to straighten his ways. Bert’s situation could have been easily avoided if he has learned to act on his own. Since his lack of education poses a hindrance to the development of his being, one could suggest that individuals like Bert who are frequently law breakers should be also be subjected to an education in their correction facilities aside from the terms that they serve (Kline, 1987).

According to Lester and Van Voorhis’ book “Psychoanalytic therapy”, criminal convicts like Bert should not be subjected to environments that derail their development. Since most these convicts are not well-equipped with the right attitude to stay off the streets, correctional facilities should be able to provide such services that will be able to aid them to commit to reformation.

Support from family and close friends should also be encouraged though for most of these convicts, it would seem quite difficult as most of them don’t have a strong support base (p. 122). From Kline’s book “Psychoanalysis and crime”, it has been suggested that creating a viable environment for these convicts when they got out is necessary as that will sustain their progress for development and would make them not want to seek the confines of the prison walls as they will be able to feel part of the society again.

This entails releasing them in an environment where temptations would not abound and provide them with jobs that does not degrade their sense of being (p. 60). Analyzing Bert’s case in the psychoanalytic perspective has provided grounds on in which correctional facilities should be able to help convicts to maintain a reformed life.


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