It’s a truth universally acknowledged, though often misunderstood:
Our past shapes our present.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, introduced the world to the concept of “fixation”.
It’s a notion that suggests an individual’s emotional development becomes ‘stuck’ at a certain stage due to unresolved issues or unmet needs during childhood.
Do you find yourself driven by impulses that feel inexplicably tied to satisfaction or seeking behaviors that mirror a child’s approach to the world?
These are not merely habits. They might be signs that you’re experiencing a Freudian fixation.
Let me explore 7 behaviors that, through the lens of Freud’s theories, might suggest you’re stuck in one of the psychosexual stages of development.
1) You’re overly obsessed with tidiness
Reflect on your daily habits right now.
The meticulous arrangement of your books, the obsession with aligning your stationery, the need for everything to be in its designated place.
While reading this, you might have already straightened up your surroundings.
Being human, it’s essential to understand that such a fixation could be more than just a penchant for cleanliness.
According to Freud, you might be operating under the influence of an anal fixation.
What does it mean?
Well, in Freud’s view, if you’re overly obsessed with tidiness, it could be a sign that you’re stuck in the anal stage of his psychosexual stages of development.
This stage occurs around the age of 2 when the focus is on controlling bladder and bowel movements.
The theory suggests that how we experience toilet training can significantly impact our personality.
Yes, believe it or not, an overly strict toilet training process might lead to an adult who seeks control and order in all areas of life, finding comfort in the neat and predictable.
It’s a form of resistance, a way to assert control where, perhaps as a toddler, control felt unfairly imposed or taken away.
Takeaway: If it feels like a small act of rebellion to leave a dish unwashed or a book out of place, it might just be that Freud would nod in understanding at your anal retentiveness—a term we owe to his theory.
2) You’re overly independent
Common advice on personal growth often advocates for “being self-reliant” or “independent”.
While this is frequently propagated in our society, it’s not always the psychological truth.
Take a moment to consider how you handle life’s challenges.
Do you insist on doing everything yourself?
Whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet, tackling complex projects at work, or planning every detail of a vacation, the thought of asking for help might seem almost offensive to you.
For some, independence is a badge of honor, a testament to their capability and strength.
But when taken to an extreme, this relentless self-reliance can be indicative of something deeper.
Freud might suggest that such fierce independence stems from fixation at the oral stage, which is characterized by issues revolving around dependency during infancy.
This stage is all about the infant’s experiences with feeding and the comfort derived from nursing.
When you strive to be “overly independent” all the time, you give too much power to this trait.
Now, I pay less heed to my independence. Sometimes I feel the need to do everything on my own. Other times I experience a fear of dependency.
But I don’t fret over this anymore. I understand it might be an unconscious pattern that Freud would call an oral fixation.
Takeaway: If you find it difficult to delegate tasks or to reach out when you’re in need, it might be worthwhile to explore whether your independence is a shield against vulnerability.
3) You’re a perfectionist
The obsession with getting every detail right. The constant strive for perfection in everything you do.
If so, I bet you might be even checking for any errors or inconsistencies while reading this.
Freud might say that this relentless pursuit of perfection is not just about high standards—it’s about control.
It could be a signal that you’re fixated on the psychosexual stage that focuses on mastery and competence, known as the phallic stage.
Consider the following points that might resonate with you as a perfectionist:
- You’re often dissatisfied with your accomplishments.
- Small mistakes can feel overwhelming and lead to self-criticism.
- You may procrastinate on starting projects for fear that the results won’t meet your high standards.
For Freud, the roots of perfectionism could link back to the experiences during the phallic stage, where the pleasure of mastery and fear of inadequacy are in constant conflict.
A child who is either overly praised for their successes or excessively criticized for their failures may grow up feeling that their worth is tied to being flawless.
4) You hold onto relationships excessively
I want to shift the focus to relationships in this section.
The point is, how you behave in relationships can often reveal a lot about your subconscious fixations.
For instance, you might find yourself clinging to relationships, even when they’re not serving you well.
You fear the thought of being alone, and that fear becomes a driving force for your actions.
I know your intentions might be pure.
You believe in loyalty and commitment, and that’s commendable, right?
But when this fear of being alone consumes you, it can lead to unhealthy attachment patterns.
You might ignore the toxic traits of your partner or overlook how the relationship is affecting your well-being.
Such behavior could hint at an oral fixation, according to Freud.
If you solely judge yourself based on your intentions, you might overlook these behavioral patterns.
However, if you shift your focus from intentions to actions, you’ll be better able to reflect on your behavior and make necessary changes.
Takeaway: How you navigate relationships matters significantly in revealing unconscious fixations, not the intentions that drive your behavior.
5) You’re a people pleaser
This is something I had to learn the hard way.
For a long time, I found myself constantly going out of my way to keep others happy.
I was always the one to compromise, to say yes when I wanted to say no, to put others’ needs before my own.
Sounds like you?
I thought it was just my nature to be laid-back and accommodating. But trust me, Freud would have disagreed.
He would have suggested that my constant people-pleasing was a sign of an oral fixation — a subconscious pattern stemming from early childhood.
The realization was unsettling.
But acknowledging this allowed me to understand why I behaved the way I did.
Now that I’m aware of this fixation, I’m learning to set boundaries and prioritize my own needs without feeling guilty.
It’s a journey, but each step brings me closer to understanding myself better.
Takeaway: Your value isn’t defined by how much you sacrifice or the yeses you give away when your heart screams no.
6) You’re excessively competitive
Have you ever felt that burning need to come out on top, not just in games or sports, but in practically every aspect of life?
If you can relate to this, you’re not alone.
Interestingly, researchers have found that competitiveness can be linked to certain genetic markers.
But let’s dive into what Freud might say.
In Freud’s framework, an excessive competitive streak could point back to the phallic stage, around ages 3 to 6.
This is where the Oedipus and Electra complexes play out.
What does it mean?
In simple terms, it’s when children identify with the parent of the same sex and subconsciously compete with the parent of the opposite sex for affection and attention.
I know this may sound a little bit strange.
But let’s unpack it a bit:
For those who are exceedingly competitive, Freud might argue that this is a sign of an unresolved rivalry complex from this early developmental stage.
It’s not just a desire to win — it’s an underlying psychological battle for recognition and validation, perhaps echoing a childhood dynamic where love and attention were perceived as prizes to be won.
It’s a mindset where second place feels like last place, and personal worth is measured by victories, no matter how small.
Takeaway: Life isn’t always a competition. Sometimes, the healthiest thing to do is take a step back and appreciate collaboration over rivalry.
7) You’re consistently punctual
There’s something to be said about a person who is never late.
Being on time is a sign of respect, they say, and they’re not wrong.
But if you find that you’re not just on time, but consistently, unfailingly punctual this might be a trait that’s digging a bit deeper than social etiquette.
Imagine always being on time or even early for every occasion – not out of respect or obligation but driven by an unyielding need for order and punctuality.
What would Freud say?
An unconscious attempt to regain control over an environment that was perhaps too controlled in your early years.
Yes, while you might see your punctuality as a virtue, Freud might see it as a fixation on the anal stage.
Takeaway: It’s a gentle reminder that sometimes, what we consider our strengths could be a sign of something deeper at play.
Bottom line: The iceberg of the mind
As we pull back the layers of our day-to-day actions, it’s essential to recognize that behaviors are rarely just as they appear on the surface.
They’re often the icebergs of our psyche, with much more beneath than above the waterline.
Freud, with his complex theories, invited us to look deeper, to question, and to understand that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.
But at other times, it may symbolize something far more significant.
And indeed — as we navigate our unconscious, every behavior can become a clue to understanding the grand mystery of the self.