Despite the progress made regarding race relations in America there remains an unspoken notion that things black are bad and inferior and white is good and superior. These messages are both overt and subliminal. The overt messages are easy to identify and to address; however, it is the subliminal messages, which seep into the superego of our society. These messages take hold and become a quiet part of society’s belief system and are difficult to identify and erase.
This belief system extends into our ideas of behavior, patterns of speech, and to physical characteristics. The system is even further complicated by a value structure produced out of a patriarchal dominate views. This value structure erroneous places a woman’s value based on a set of narrowly defined characteristics of a woman’s behavior as well as her physical appearances which are exclusionary and unrealistic.
These concepts of Eurocentric patriarchal standards that are embedded in the psyche of American society can be seen in children stories, advertisements, and disconcertingly in the populace. If we look at the most popular Disney story princesses you can see the narrow description of what is beautiful. Cinderella for example is a young woman with “classically” beautiful features. The word classically implies that her features are the norm. She is of average height, well-proportioned and slender with a softly-shaped kind face. She has a curvy and hourglass figure. Her skin is fair and flawless, her lips are pink, and her eyes a twinkling blue. Cinderella’s hair is a beautiful strawberry-blonde (light strawberry-blonde in her childhood) and medium-length with soft bangs.
You will see from the picture below of Disney Princesses from many of the popular children’s story this theme of a young and white female being promoted as the definition of what is beautiful. This young white beautiful girl who is not aware of this unique quality of beauty she possess then falls victim to mean older woman who is jealous of both the beauty and the youth of the beautiful young woman. These stories always end with the princess being saved by young and handsome prince who marries her into a life of happily-ever-after.
When a young child hears these stories it imprints in their mind an impression the definition of a woman’s value and the message becomes part of their superego. While these stories create universal problems for society, the problem is even more contradictory to the image of women African descent. For a young black girl hearing these stories and seeing the pictures of “beauty” being of such value to woman and seeing pictures of this value belong to the female in the story that is young and whites, creates an internal conflict that brings into question who she is and sends a quiet yet powerful message that who she is far from what is defined as beautiful.
All women, despite color or ethnicity, suffer a daily attack through imaginary of unrealistic conception of the ideal woman. This image imposes a burden on women and creates an internal conflict between what society describes a woman to be and who the individual woman really is. This point is demonstrated through statistics released March 2014 the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) released statistical data that women over 10.3 million cosmetic procedures, 90.6% of the total. The number of cosmetic procedures for women increased over 471% from 1997. In 2013, more than 2.5 billion dollars was spent on injectables alone. In addition, nearly 1.9 billion was spent on skin rejuvenation, a fast-growing sector of the aesthetic nonsurgical industry. These statistics demonstrates how the promoted image of how women should look and behave has a very strong impact on how women behave. When women spend 2.5 billion dollars to achieve the male created image of the ideal woman, it speaks volumes of both the external and internal effects imaginary and language has on women.
The best way to explain the mental process that takes place is utilize the Freud’s concept of the superego which is comprised of the conscience and the ideal self. The ideal self is the invented picture in and individuals mind developed from outside sources such as society and family of who they are, how things in life should be and they how to behave as a member of society. When the idea of the value and image of beauty in society become part of a young black woman’s superego and she see that it does not affirm who she is the damage becomes layered. Especially considering how the superego operates by punishing by through guilt when the person falls short of the internal picture and that super-ego will reward us when we behave ‘properly’ by making us feel proud. This theory can be demonstrated particularly with the relationship with black women and her hair.
As you will see from the pictures below of culturally popular hip hop personalities Nicki Minaj and Blac Chyna:
“As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” ― James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
As all humans are, women are a product of their collective mind which is an indoctrination of their life’s influences. There are various psychological perspectives of when theses influences have the greatest opportunity to make an impact on our psychological development. Sigmund Freud believed that the influential impact occurred during life’s early stages; whereas Carl Jung supposed that the influences occurred throughout the human lifespan. (Coon, 2004) Nevertheless, despite which school of thought we choose to accept, we are trained through life’s influences how to think and act. These influences affect all aspects of life such as how we view ourselves, how we dress, our philosophies of success, love, justice, and what we accept as true that we are personally worth. It is through theses influences that we develop the internal picture that reflects our feelings about who we believe that we are. To get a better appreciation of ourselves comes through knowing why and how these feelings have developed the way they have.
Depending on the motivations as well as the application of the people that are responsible to contributing to our influences, humans are either trained to think good about themselves or poorly. However, it is important to understand that even with these outside influences, humans have the capability to choose to mentally conform or redirect their own through process. It is a matter of the degree to which the person accepts as true that they are responsible for control over their existence. When a person has a high internal locus of control they believe that life circumstances are predominantly from their own actions. Simply put, it is making the choice of letting life happen to us or happen through us.
In order to discern exactly who we are and to take responsibility for our self, self- knowledge vital. Each of us live in two worlds. There is the world within and the world without. Sigmund Freud used the iceberg theory to describe the human personality. He assessed that most people only display 10 percent of who they really are and the other 90 percent is hidden. Most people would like to believe that they know the people that they interact with. The fact is that more often than not people are shocked to find out things about our neighbors, children, spouses, and friends. Even when we think we know about a person we are usually just speculating. In that 90 percent of the personality that is hidden, therein lies not only who they really are but also impetus of our action.
When it comes to understanding people, it is not enough to just see action, psychology implores us to understand motivation as well. In order for us to being to understand what makes people think and operate as they do, we can employ Freud’s breakdown of the human personality; the Id, ego, and Super-ego. According to Sigmund Freud, human beings are motivated, even driven, by desires, fears, needs, and conflicts of which they are unaware…” (Freud, 1923). Freud contends that our personality develops into the aforementioned three components which are produced out of our unconscious conflicts and desires. These three components fight for dominance as the human develops from infancy, to childhood, to adulthood. (Coon, 2004)
- The IDis the part of personality that we are born with, our survival drive. It is our instinctual element of personality exists within us, it is unconscious. It exists to fulfil our basic urges, which are breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion. The Id is driven by our libido and seeks for instant satisfaction of our human urges. The Id does not want to wait and when it has to wait, the effect is anxiety or tension.
- Friend or Foe?Just as we seek to understand other humans, we must also seek to understand the Id in the same way, as if it were a person in itself. What is Id’s motivation? The goal of Id is not to harm us but it does not comprehend bad or good. It knows what we need to survive and it seeks to make that happen. That also incorporates
- The Super-Ego – Freud believed that our Super-ego is developed in the first five years of our life out of punishment and reward from our parents.
- The Ego– the ego is part of personality that arbitrates the demands of the id, the superego and what is real. The ego inhibits us from responding irresponsibility to our basic human compulsions (the id), while correspondingly working to achieve a stability with our moral and idealistic values (the superego). Even though the ego operates in both the preconscious and conscious, the strong relationship that the ego has to the id means that it correspondingly functions in the unconscious as well. (Coon, 2004)
Employing Sigmund Freud’s concept of the human psyche (personality), in which he theorized that the human psyche organized into three parts the id, ego and superego, this paper will demonstrate the negative effects Eurocentric dominate society on the psyche of African American women.
The concept is that according the Freud the superego encompasses the values and morals of society which are imposed on them through their parents and others outside influence. It develops during the phallic stage of psychosexual development between the ages of 3 – 5. The superego’s function is to CONTROL the id’s impulses, especially those which society forbids, such as sex and aggression. It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection. Based on this concept, religion and society at large has been an adversarial to the mental development of African people in this country.