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Freud And Caligula Essay, Research Paper

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in Freiberg (which is now Pribor, Czech Republic) . At the age of three, he and his family moved to Leipzig to get away from the Anti-Semitic riots that were raging at that time. Shortly thereafter, they moved into Vienna where he was educated. In 1886 he began his work by opening a private practice center for the treatment of hysteria. Then ten years later he started to use his term “psychoanalysis” to describe his theory of the mind, and his ideas of therapy. Freud first used “defense” as one of his psychoanalytic terms in 1894, and with this came the beginning to his various defense mechanisms. Both he and his daughter Anna contributed to the defense mechanisms that are used so widely in our society today.

According to Freud, the core of personality was made of the id, ego and superego. The id is based on the pleasure principal and required immediate gratification. It also enveloped the life and death instincts. The ego is based on the reality principal as it is rational and logical-where defense mechanisms come into play. The superego supercedes both the conscious and unconscious. It is the part of the mind containing the traditional values & taboos of society.

Psychosexual development had five stages: the oral stage is the time during which the infant is orally fixated; the anal stage is the time during which the child finds gratification through excrement; the phallic stage is the stage during which children begin to choose sexual preference with their parents. This is the stage of the Oedipus and Electra complexes for boys and girls respectively; latency is the period during which both sexes repress their Oedipal attachments and identify with their own sex; finally, the genital stage is characterized by a re-emergence of sexual instinct and sexual conflicts.

Primary defense mechanisms consist of techniques such as repression, and denial, while secondary defense mechanisms include projection, reaction formation, altruism, and isolation. There are numerous defense mechanisms with which people handle their pain. Repression is the act of burying a painful feeling or thought from one’s awareness. For example, after a tragic death in the family one may try to forget about the funeral, and it eventually becomes completely forgotten. Denial is the second defense mechanism in which a person refuses to accept reality because it is too painful for them. A person might have a drinking problem, and even after getting in trouble for it, he/she refuses to believe their problem. Regression is considered an immature way of handling stress in that for the most part, it results in a person acting in a childish manner, i.e. stomping, pouting, or whining after an argument. Projection is when one attributes his own unacceptable feelings to someone or something else. This defense mechanism is commonly seen in families, when the husband and wife have a fight. One of them is the one who provokes the fight, or can be blamed for it, however they play the role of the victim, by denying all accusations. Splitting is one of the defense mechanisms that occurs often with teenagers. The person feels as if everything is black or white, right or wrong, and there isn’t just a happy medium for them to accept. If a friend breaks a lunch date, the person gets angry and thinks of the friend as being worthless just because of a minor problem. The isolation affect is when one tries to avoid a painful thought by detaching himself from the feeling. This is always seen in society, where even though you hate someone, you act aloof, and nonchalant towards her, expressing neither hate, nor like. Displacement is the act of channeling a feeling or a thought from its actual source to something or someone else. For example, when a person gets angry with someone else, they break a glass by throwing it against a wall. The anger gets directed towards an inanimate object rather than the person you are angry with. Reaction formation is a commonly used defense mechanism in that a person denies being angry when in reality they are full of anger. It is the act of channeling a feeling or thought from its actual source to something or someone else. This is similar to the mechanism of suppression, which is the effort to hide and control unacceptable thoughts or feelings. A classic example is among teenagers, where one is attracted to someone but says he does not have feelings for that person at all. Rationalization is the action of adopting beliefs, attitudes, and feelings contrary to what you really believe. When someone always studies for tests, they finally rationalize by saying that since everyone else cheats, he should cheat as well. Altruism is when a person handles their pain by helping others. This is one of the positive defense mechanisms in which people volunteer or do charity work after a negative event has occurred. Another positive, yet unhealthy defense mechanism is the use of humor. By making jokes about certain deficiencies, you are trying to alleviate the problem; however it cannot be solved just by laughing about it. Comedians and the like frequently use humor as seen on television. While these people appear to be jovial and funny, we know very little about their private lives, and their reasons for using such defense mechanisms. Sublimation is redirecting unacceptable, instinctual drives into personally and socially acceptable channels. For instance, when one has a large amount of rage in them, he or she redirects this anger by participating in sports such as boxing, and football. This could be a positive defense mechanism in that it allows a person to take out his aggression on something else rather than the person they are angry with. Finally, the act of undoing is when one tries to reverse a feeling by performing an action that signifies the opposite feeling. For example, when someone has feelings of dislike for someone they end up buying that person a gift. These are just 14 out of the many other defense mechanisms that are used to hide feelings of love, and anger. Other defenses include minimizing, blaming, mastery, compensation, disassociation, and symbolism.

Case in point: Gaius, emperor of Rome; otherwise known as Caligula. Gaius was born on August 31, 12 A.D., the third of six children . As a child, he grew up amongst his father’s soldiers, often wearing a miniature soldier’s uniform. The troops named him “Caligula” after the child-size military boots he wore in camp. Before he became of age, he was caught in bed with his sister Drusilla. Instability within the hierarchy led to a series of personal tragedies during his childhood. Both of his parents and all of his brothers were killed or starved to death by order of the suspicious emperor Tiberious. During his adolescence, Caligula was a virtual prisoner of Tiberius. By then Tiberius had largely withdrawn from active government and retreated to the island of Capri, where Caligula kept him company and tried to play the part of a dutiful and upright young man. According to the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, at Capri Tiberius felt at liberty to indulge in all kinds of prolonged tortures and sexual perversities until he fell ill in March 37 AD and subsequently collapsed into a coma. When Tiberius awoke, it is said that the emperor was smothered with his bedclothes by Caligula’s chamberlain, Macro. Thus Caligula came to power.

All classical accounts of Caligula agree that he possessed elements of madness, cruelty, viciousness, extravagance and megalomania. He is described as a coarse and cruel despot with an extraordinary passion for sadism and a fierce energy. He could get extremely excited and angry. Caligula was tall, spindly, pale and prematurely bald. He was so sensitive about his lack of hair that it was a capital crime for anyone to look down from a high place as Caligula passed by. Sometimes he ordered those with a fine head of hair to be shaved. He made up for lack of hair on his head by an abundance of body-hair. About this too he could be equally sensitive; even the mention of “hairy goats” in conversation was dangerous. He used to grimace, which he practiced in front of a mirror, and he was an impressive orator.

The ancient sources are practically unanimous as to the cause of Gaius’s downfall: he was insane. The writers differ as to how this condition came about, but all agree that after his good start Gaius began to behave in an openly autocratic manner, even a crazed one. Outlandish stories cluster about the raving emperor, illustrating his excessive cruelty, immoral sexual escapades, or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate. The sources describe his incestuous relations with his sisters, laughable military campaigns in the north, the building of a pontoon bridge across the Bay at Baiae, and the plan to make his horse a consul.

In the first months Caligula’s reign was mild and his policies showed some political judgment. He recalled exiles and reimbursed those who were wronged by the imperial taxation system. But even then, Caligula took much pleasure in attending punishments and executions and he preferred to have them prolonged. In May his grandmother Antonia, who might have been a good influence, died. In October Caligula fell seriously ill, and after his recovering Caligula seems to have changed to the worse. In a few months he entirely exhausted the treasury, which Tiberius had filled by years of economy. In 38 A.D., while having an affair with Macro’s wife, he accused Macro of being her pimp and ordered him to commit suicide . It became a capital crime not to bequeath the emperor everything. In 39 Caligula revived Tiberius’ treason trials. People suspected of disloyalty were executed or driven to suicide. A supervisor of games and beast-fights was flogged with chains before Caligula for days on end, and was not put to death until Caligula was offended by the smell of the gangrene in his brain. On one occasion, when there weren’t enough condemned criminals to fight the tigers and lions in the arena, Caligula ordered some spectators to be dragged from the benches into the arena. Another time, Caligula decided to proclaim his mastery of the sea by building a three-mile long bridge of boats across the Bay of Naples. He crossed them on horseback, wearing the breastplate of Alexander the Great. Thus he claimed that, like the god Neptune, he had ridden across the waters. He gave his horse, Incitatus, jeweled necklaces, a marble stable with furniture and a staff of servants for itself and made it a priest of his temple and proposed to make it even a senator. Caligula loved dressing up and used to clothe in rich silk, ornamented with precious stones and he wore jewels on his shoes. Pearls were dissolved in vinegar, which he then drank, and he liked to roll on heaps of gold. Like his nephew, Nero, Caligula appeared as athlete, charioteer, singer and dancer. Caligula even opened a brothel in his palace where Roman matrons, their daughters and freeborn youths could be hired for money.

Caligula was irresistibly attracted to every pretty young woman whom he did not possess. He even committed incest with his own three sisters. He would carefully examine woman of rank in Rome and, whenever he felt so inclined, he would send for whoever pleased him best. He debauched them and left them like fruit he had tasted and thrown away. Afterwards, he would openly discuss his bedfellow in detail. His first wife, Julia Claudilla, died young. In the first year of his reign Caligula attended a wedding and ran off with the bride, Livia Orestilla, whom he divorced after a few days.

Caligula demanded that he be worshipped as a god. Caligula’s self-indulgence in his supposed divinity deteriorated his insane behavior. He was convinced that he was entitled to behave like a god. Thus, he set up a special temple with a life-sized statue of himself in gold, which was dressed each day in clothing such as he wore himself. As a sun god he courted the moon. He claimed fellowship with the gods as his equals, identifying himself in particular with Jupiter, but also with female gods like Juno, Diana or Venus. Standing near the image of Jupiter, Caligula once asked the actor Apelles whether Jupiter or Caligula were greater. When Apelles hesitated, Caligula had him cut to pieces with the whip, praising his voice as he pled for mercy, remarking on the melodiousness of his groans.

After a 4-year-reign the Praetorians stabbed Caligula to death when he left the theatre. His fourth wife was stabbed to death too, while their infant daughter’s head was smashed against a wall. One of the conspirators was Cornelius Sabinus, whose wife had been debauched and publicly humiliated by Caligula. Another conspirator was Cassius Chaerea, who hated Caligula, because he had remorselessly imitated his high, effeminate voice. Suetonius wrote that Caligula’s reign of terror had been so severe that the Romans refused to believe that he was actually dead

It was obvious that Caligula had many, many problems. With both parents dying while he was still a child, Caligula did not develop psychosexually, as a normal child would have developed. Although he could have completed the oral stage, the other three stages were never fully processed. Never having gone through the Oedipus complex, it would account for his sexual confusion and promiscuity with women and children of both sexes; especially in light of his sexually abusive uncle Tiberius.

With his torrential childhood, Caligula seems to have developed an overpowering Id. Both the life and death instincts were prevalent during his reign; in his promiscuity and the pleasure that he found in torture and murder. He was obviously driven by the pleasure principal as indulged himself in his favorite activities among other instinctual occurrences. Such would account for his ride across the waters on horseback and his affiliation with rich clothing. He also completely exhausted the treasury, which his uncle had filled during his years of reign. Caligula’s insanity was merely the byproduct of an underdeveloped ego and superego.

Caligula employed several defense mechanisms during his reign. Projection, for example, was used in his affair with Macro’s wife. Caligula accused him of being her pimp and promptly ordered him to commit suicide. Caligula also displaced his early childhood experiences with Tiberius by reverting them into his womanizing ways. He would often remind his women that they could be put to death at any moment with a single command. Reaction formation was used during his childhood with Tiberius. The traumatic physical and psychological torture Caligula experienced was only responded by his strive to be a dutiful young man, even though unconsciously he wished to kill his uncle; something he was able to accomplish later in his life. Caligula reverted to fantasy to account for his shortcomings. He believed that he was a god and consequently was to be revered as one. The temple which he built for himself was another way of fulfilling his fantasy-to be an undisputed god. Caligula was also overly sensitive of his appearance; perhaps a form of denial was employed with his mandates on the usage of the words “hairy goat” and his affiliation with hair. Altruism was present during the first year of his reign as be may have tried to handle his own pain under his uncle by being an altruistic leader.

But his personality disorder was not completely due to his childhood development. There is evidence that he may have suffered from schizophrenia. It is known that he had already inherited the family disorder, epilepsy. More evidence that his personality disorder had biological roots is evident in his contrasting reigns before and after his serious illness. Whether it was nature or nurture or a combination of both, Caligula did not turn out quite right. He utilized many different defense mechanisms to handle his emotions; he never went through a proper childhood developing psychosexual problems; he had acquired an overwhelming id that engulfed his ego and superego. This awkward and unfortunate combination did not make him popular with the government, cutting both his reign and his life short.


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