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anal stage


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According to the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the second libidinal stage of psychosexual development, from about 2 to 3 years of age, characterized by a focusing of libido on the anal erotogenic zone, an investment of object-relationships with meanings associated with faeces and defecation, and a strengthening of sadomasochistic tendencies. In an article entitled ‘The Disposition to Obsessional Neurosis’ (1913), Freud mentioned it for the first time: ‘And now we see the need for yet another stage to be inserted before the final shape is reached—a stage in which the component instincts have already come together for the choice of an object and that object is already something extraneous in contrast to the subject's own self, but in which the primacy of the genital zones has not yet been established’ (Standard Edition, XII, pp. 317–26, at p. 321). When in 1915 Freud revised his book Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905, Standard Edition, VII, pp. 130–243), he placed the anal stage between the oral stage and the phallic stage. In his 1917 article ‘On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Erotism’ (Standard Edition, XVII, pp. 127–33), he famously interpreted the symbolic meaning of giving and withholding: faeces = gifts (to parents or carers), and gifts = money, hence such phrases as filthy lucre. Also called the anal-sadistic stage or phase. See anal-expulsive phase, anal-retentive phase. See also anal character, genital stage, latency period.

Subjects: Psychology.


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