ANAL CHARACTER

A psychoanalytic term for a group of personality traits believed to stem from the anal stage of psychosexual development.Between the ages of two and three, the child’s libido is thought to be focused on defecation, and his process therefore provides him with a primary source of pleasure (“anal erotism”). Moreover, his response to his parents’ requirements for bowel control are believed to determine many of his future character traits. But there are two aspects involved in the control of elimination—retention and expulsion—and according to the theory, the child’s character may be influenced more by one than the other. The child who associates pleasure with expulsion tends to become ambitious, conceited, and generous. The ambitiousness and conceit are attributed to feelings of confidence generated by successful elimination, and the generosity is associated with willingness to “give” when he is expected to do so.On the other hand, the child who derives particular satisfaction from retention tends to develop the more common “anal character,” characterized by orderliness, frugality, and obstinacy, which are sometimes termed the “anal triad.” The orderliness, which also includes punctuality and propriety, results from obedience to the mother’s demand to be clean. The frugality is regarded as a continuation of anal retentiveness—just as the child cannot give up his feces, so the adult saves carefully, has a strong “collecting instinct,” and may even become a miser or hoarder. The obstinacy is a carryover of the child’s rebellion against the mother’s demand to eliminate. Adults who exhibit these traits in extreme degree are described by psychoanalysts as “fixated” at the anal stage. Compulsive characters are frequently termed anal characters, since they tend to be meticulous, controlled, rigid, overconscientious individuals.

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "ANAL CHARACTER," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/anal-character/ (accessed October 14, 2019).
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