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Re: "anal retentiveness"

Posted by Smokey Stover on June 15, 2005

In Reply to: Re: "Anal retentiveness" posted by ESC on June 15, 2005

: : : Hi, does anyone know what does "anal retentiveness" mean?

: : From the Encyclopedia Britannica: Sigmund Freud believed that in a child's psycho-sexual development there is an anal stage (during the second and third years of life) in which the child's main concerns are with defecation. His responses to his parents' demands for bowel control may have far-reaching consequences. Should a person become fixated in the anal stage he may become a noticeably orderly, frugal, and obstinate adult.

: : Karl Abraham (1877-1925), who came to the ideas of Freud by way of Carl Jung, went Freud one better, in a way, by finding six stages in the development of the libido, dividing Freud's anal stage into anal-expulsive and anal-retentive. Being fixated at that stage can result in the behavioral traits noticed by Freud, including rigidity, obsession with rules and meticulousness. Despite the general decline of interest today in psychoanalysis, "anal personality" is a common locution, and means the same as anal-retentive personality, especially emphasizing rules, order and meticulousness. SS

: ANAL RETENTIVE - "adj., n. (someone) displaying excessive orderliness and parsimony, interpreted by psychoanalysts as the result of fixation at the anal phase of development (see ANAL) . By the end of the century it had become an all-purpose term of abuse for a tidy, mean, or up-tight person. 1984: 'Sue Townsend: My mother said, 'You're an anal retentive, aren't you?' and my father said, 'You're tight-fisted, and you've always got your perfectly groomed head in a book.'"

: ANAL - "adj of the second stage of Freud's suggested process of libidinal development (lasting from about the age of eighteen months to three years), dominated by toilet training; hence, displaying character traits thought to result from fixation at this age, such as obsessive orderliness, parsimony; or obstinacy."

: From "20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).

ESC's summary is excellent. It remains only to be added that "anal" (mostly preferred over anal-retentive) is often used humorously or tongue-in-cheek, even self-deprecatingly, to refer to quite moderate instances of, or tendencies toward, the classic "anal" characteristics. SS