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Imagine: John Lennon's Life In Freudian Theory

Updated on October 29, 2015

On the 9th of October, 1940, the world received John Winston Lennon, artist and a musical genius. He was born in Liverpool, England, to Julia and Freddie Lennon with the tune of air raid sirens sounding in the background. There is a touch of irony in the fact that John Lennon, a pacifist, was born during the land mine raids that were happening in England at that time. The first five years of John’s life were turbulent and traumatic. His father, a sailor, was away at sea much of the time, while his mother, leaving John alone, spent many evenings drinking at assorted pubs. Some evening, John would awaken to find himself alone in a dark house, and he would scream and cry loud enough to cause the neighbors to investigate. When Julia tired of having John around, she passed him off from relative to relative, finally settling on her older sister, Mimi, as John’s substitute mother.

Although his Aunt Mimi succeeded in giving John a fairly stable home, she was not really suited to be a mother. John was denied normal childhood activities, such as watching television, reading comic books and seeing movies. In addition, any friends were handpicked by Mimi, thus John spent much of his time alone. John’s early childhood experiences explain much about his development as a man. Even before the rise of the Beatles’s fame, John was the rebellious one. Beginning in adolescence, John showed his resentment of Mimi’s controlling nature in his dress, with his famous sarcasm, and even in the music he chose to create. John Lennon was a complex, creative and talented individual, but he was also a disturbed and troubled man (Goldman, 1988).


Birthplace Of John Lennon

Liverpool, England:
Liverpool, Merseyside, UK

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In Freudian theory, neurosis is a result of unresolved inner conflict, and if John Lennon’s songs and lifestyle are any indication, he was full of inner conflict. According to Freud’s theory, “normal” personality development would constitute successful resolution and integration of the pyschosexual stages of development, whereas, inadequate resolution of one or more of these stages would cause maladaptive personality development. Basic conflicts would then be repressed and anxiety would result. Finally, ego defenses would be developed to control the anxiety (Phillips, 1995).

John Lennon seemed to have made good use of of a few of Freud’s ego defenses, patterns of behavior that protect the ego from unacceptable and repressed emotions, such as displacement, denial, and overcompensation. It is unclear what type of individual John Lennon would have become if he had not chosen to channel his energies into the lyrics and music that he created. It is ironic that he was loved and even worshipped by so many when all he wanted was to be loved by his mother. Unfortunately, it was the adoration that belonged to John Lennon that Mark Chapman coveted and could not have, the adoration of millions. It was for this reason that Chapman took the life of John Lennon on December 8th, 1980, and with the death of John Lennon, came the end of an era (Heatley, 1992).

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Goldman, A. (1988). The Lives Of John Lennon. New York, N.Y: William Morrow and Company.

Heatley, M. (1992). The Immortal John Lennon. Stamford, CT: Longmeadow Press.

Phillips, A. (1995). Terrors And Experts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

© 2012 Mary Krenz


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