Understanding Psychological Fixations
Sun, April 18, 2021

Understanding Psychological Fixations

Fixation refers to people’s inability to adopt a new or different perspective on a problem. Those who became fixated on a certain stage of their psychosexual development will not be able to progress to the next stage until issues are resolved / Photo by: Black Salmon via Shutterstock

 

While most adults think that they have finally moved on from childhood, it turns out that we might be stuck in one stage of our development. Sigmund Freud, one of the most popular psychoanalysts in history, explained this through a concept called fixation. Psychological fixation refers to when a person is “stuck” in one stage of psychosexual development. For instance, if an individual wasn’t able to get through the oral stage of development properly, most likely they would be fixated in that stage and would continue to seek oral pleasures. 

Fixation refers to people’s inability to adopt a new or different perspective on a problem. Those who became fixated on a certain stage of their psychosexual development will not be able to progress to the next stage until issues are resolved. According to Verywell Mind, a trusted and compassionate online resource that provides the guidance people need to improve their mental health and find balance, Freud stated that all of us go through psychosexual stages when we’re still kids because they are critical in the development of our adult personality. 

Freud believed that life was built around pleasure and tension. Thus, each stage in our psychosexual development represents the fixation of libido. He stated that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to the formation of adult personality. The id, the disorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human's basic, instinctual drives, must be controlled to satisfy social demands. This is why each stage of psychosexual development of a child must be guided. These stages include Oral Stage (from birth to 18 months), Anal Stage (18 months to three years), Phallic Stage (ages three to six), Latency Stage (age six to puberty), and Genital Stage (puberty to death).

While Freud’s theory of psychosexual development has been widely criticized, it has become an important contribution to our understanding of human development. His works have also emphasized how unconscious influences could have a powerful impact on human behavior. Thus, early experiences in a child’s development are extremely important. 

Stages of Fixation

According to BetterHelp, an online portal that provides direct-to-consumer access to behavioral health services, fixations cause people to focus on energies that create pleasure at an earlier stage of psychosocial development. Freud believed that people must move from the stage where they are stuck before they can get to the next stage. However, most of them haven’t moved past the stage where they would mature and focus on other energies because they are more concerned with creating pleasures in that stage.

According to Feud, there are three types of fixations: oral, anal, and phallic. Being fixated in the oral stage would cause people to seek oral pleasures such as chewing gum, biting their nails, and drinking excessively. Children might develop an oral fixation if they have issues during the weaning process. They may become overly dependent on others, gullible, and perpetual followers. 

Second is the anal stage, which is mainly centered on children learning to control their bowel movements. According to Freud, people who get stuck in the anal stage could become anal-retentive or anal-expulsive because their parents or guardians took a harsh approach to potty-training them. Anal-retentive individuals would grow up becoming overly obsessed with being tidy and orderly, while the anal-expulsive ones might become very messy and disorganized as adults.

For the final stage, people who get stuck in the phallic stage may become conceited, pleasure-seeking, or sexually aggressive. Children would become aware of anatomical sex differences, which sets in motion the conflict between erotic attraction, resentment, rivalry, jealousy, and fear. Freud believed that boys may develop an Oedipus complex, while for girls, it’s the Electra complex. 

According to BetterHelp, an online portal that provides direct-to-consumer access to behavioral health services, fixations cause people to focus on energies that create pleasure at an earlier stage of psychosocial development / Photo by: Jirsak via Shutterstock

 

How Fixations Develop

In Freud’s “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,” he proposed that some people may develop a psychological fixation for several reasons. This includes a lack of proper gratification during one of the stages of psychosexual development and receiving a strong impression from one of these stages. Being fixated in a certain stage is not just about not being able to move forward. This also reveals something about a person’s past.

According to Exploring Your Mind, an online site that features articles and opinions on happiness, fear, and other aspects of human psychology, fixation is a defense mechanism to deal with bad situations. Our brains usually resort to this when they don’t have any psychological tool to cope with them in a conscious manner. Thus, fixation came from having too much indulgence or frustration in a stage. 

Melanie Klein, an Austrian-British author and psychoanalyst, believed that fixation is a pathological issue. She said that people repressed memories by subliminally blocking them to protect themselves from having to reexperience painful memories. Since those memories are already blocked, people can become fixated on these events because they have not experienced any resolution.

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory suggested that people that became fixated on a certain psychosexual stage can undergo a therapy that would replace invasive and unwelcome thoughts with healthier thought patterns. This would help them identify unhealthy or unhelpful thought patterns and address those. 

While simple solutions like mindfulness and exercise can help in addressing psychological fixations, these are not effective on people who have several fixations. Seeking professional help is the best thing to do.