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Psychoanalyizing Mike Tyson

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By polodog01
Words 2104
Pages 9
August 26, 2014

I chose for my subject Michael Gerard “Mike” Tyson. Mike Tyson is an American retired professional boxer. What attracted me to pick Mike Tyson was that I felt that he was a gentle giant that has been misunderstood in this life. So with this psychoanalytic study we are going to break down the myths that people think about him. I know this is not supposed to be a biography about the life of Mike Tyson; but to give some insight on which of the 7 psychology’s major perspectives I chose you have to know a little about his background. At an early age Tyson’s parent separated, leaving him to be raised by a single mother, he witnessed a horrific and gruesome atmosphere of crime, drugs, and violence. He had never had a physical altercation at that point in his life, but after continually being bullied Tyson finally stood up for himself when another boy grabbed his pet pigeon and broke its neck. Tyson describes that as his first fight, and it was the one that started his continual fighting in the streets and also the development of his criminal behavior. I think that the early stages of his life fall under the Socioculture perspective level. The values and beliefs transmitted from his social and cultural environment played a huge part in all of the trouble that he got into as a child and as adolescent. John Locke once proposed that humans are born with a blank slate (tabula rasa) into the world, filling in the slate as time goes on by letting their experiences in life shape the person they become. Locke’s theory opened up the possibility for the field of Behaviorism, and years later B.F. Skinner developed the Skinner Box, developing a theory of operant conditioning that is perfect for identifying important aspects of the personality of Mike Tyson. (Friedman, 2009) Operant conditioning claims that an individual’s behavior is shaped by the consequences of that behavior, as those rewarded for a certain behavior will be reinforced to repeat the behavior and those punished for doing a particular behavior will be less likely to perform that behavior in the future. The process by which an individual (or in Skinner’s case, an animal) learned to respond in accordance with positive and negative consequences was part of ‘shaping’ the individual. By this method, individuals learn to better emulate the target behavior in order to reach the consequences of that behavior. In the eyes of Skinner, Tyson is not to be blamed for his actions, as he is merely a byproduct of determinism. There is no free will by this perspective, and as a result, Tyson’s personality has developed as a result of reinforcement throughout his life. The second theorist theory that I used was that of Sigmund Freud.
Psychoanalytic theory of personality of Sigmund Freud states that the personality of every human being is composed of 3 essential parts. These three essentials are called the ego, the superego and the id. They function jointly to generate multifaceted human behaviors. The id is the only one constituent of human’s personality that is present since his/her birth. This feature of personality is completely insentient and includes the inborn and primordial conduct. According to Freud S., the id is a basis of the human energy, and this makes it the most important element of the personality. The ego is the second constituent of the human’s personality. It is responsible for building relationship with reality. According to psychoanalysis, the ego is developing from the id and makes sure that it (the id) can be used in a manner tolerable in the real life.

Mike Tyson was born on the 30th of June 1966, in Cumberland Hospital in Brooklyn, the city of New York. His father was a pimp, whom he never met or even knew. His mother died when he was 16 years old. His sister died early as well. His father abandoned the family while he was two years old. These endless losses bred a feeling of non-belonging to a family, as it is known that no man is an island and everyone needs someone to love. The fact that he had no father figure in his life made a feeling of frustration and lacking of something important in his life. Mike Tyson had always been outgoing and an “in-your-face” person. This, together with all the rage that was slowly boiling in him, would quickly push him to extents of violence in his neighborhood. Jealousy and envy would also creep up as he would see his neighbors having both parents. He would wonder why he never had any. This would lead him to overcompensating by making himself better by performing negative acts towards his neighbors. All these would happen in the superego mind; as none of the victims of theft and violence were merely random.

After the death of his sister, this would just make the situation happening in his mind even worse. The continuous losses in his family would make him lose hope of having a normal life. This would make him drift away from his family even more. He would continue to get sucked into the streets of Brooklyn. These streets were full of violence, sex, drugs, and pure revulsion. All of these would soon take over in his life. This became his new life. Violence and use of force became engrained in him. Because of being a single parent, so many financial problems, and the loss of the daughter/sister, Mike’s mother finally lost control over the boy. He became fully fledged in his own life His ego was infected with the virus of violence and theft, so much that it shaped his personality, and the way he perceived himself in his superego and conscious mind (McLaughlin, & Muncie, 2006).

His mother had a boyfriend who would often live at their house. This confused Mike, however, he was excited about finally having a father figure in his life. This would cause conflicting emotions and experiences for him. This is because he was so used to having things his way, and since his mother decided to somewhat give up on him. His mother’s boyfriend would often get into scuffles with young Mike, and used to beat him most of the times. His mother was saddened by all this, but had no psychological control as she had already gone through so much. Mike was, therefore, exposed to this brutality. He lost trust in all men, who had any resemblance to his mother’s boyfriend. This continual loss of trust and faith in anything had a negative impact on his psychological wellbeing. This was slowly causing the formation of a monster. His superego was slowly being morphed in a spectacle of hatred, anger, and regret. This continual battering and his mother doing nothing about it made him lose some self esteem. He felt like less of a person. Although, in some cases, this would lead to developing a meek human, in Mike’s situation it was quite different. His fate was mixed with a lot of resentment, and low self-esteem issues just fuelled his rage (Heller, 1995).

Too many events were happening in Mike’s life. He was arrested quite a few times; however, he did not seem to care much. He had reached the point at which he had no regard for his own wellbeing. This was a result of the significant drop in self-esteem after the brutality he experienced in the hands of a person, whom he was meant to trust. He would, therefore, try to prove his power to the people around him forcefully, through violence. This would, of course, land him into problems with the law. He was feeding the superego with these actions. It also served to give him some kind of sense of belonging to the streets. He joined a gang in his neighborhood. In his eyes, it was a great achievement, as someone finally saw something in him. He felt very important for someone for the first time in his life. He became radically involved in various destructive gang activities. In his eyes, being apprehended was an achievement. This is because his psychological being had been tampered by many negative things going on in his life (Cloninger, 2000).

He had a very distant relationship with his mother. This could be attributed to various reasons, like the fact that his mother was always working in order to have money to feed her family. This gave Mike ample time to spend with “the streets” to get soaked by them. His brother already had a job by this time. He was a bit more focused than Mike in his age. Mike did not have any guidance by any kind of parental figure. He would then make his decisions, very important decisions, yet he was still too young to do so. The lack of guidance made him feel unwanted and independent at a very tender age. In interviews conducted in his adulthood stage, Mike stated that he was not close with his family and relatives. They were like strangers living in the same house, and they had no kind of effect on him. This is not good as it is rare that a child who lacked guidance managed to develop good morals. This was the very case with Mike.

The death of his mother also devastated him so much despite the nature of their relationship. In an interview, he said that it had a significant emotional effect on him. He had lost the next closest person to him. She was his only hope for an ordinary life even if he did not acknowledge it when he was meant to. She was his life. He had lost that, in his mind it was as if he had lost a part of him. His frustration and confusion about life would continue to grow immensely and cause an attack of emotions that could not be regulated and at times would register negatively in his mind causing rage to be conducted to his conscious mind. This became a part of him (Cashmore, 2005).

Mike Tyson’s sworn enemy in the ring was Evander Holyfield. He was the only person between him and the award and the glory that his superego had been pushing him to get and discover. This naturally became his sole goal. Without caring about his own being, he would embark on it every day, the build up to the moment. During a number of pre-match conferences, some of the statements Holyfield might have said triggered a memory that reminded Tyson about his earlier life that he wished to forget. At least his ego wanted him to forget that. This, hence, led to the brutality against Holyfield. For his superego, it signified crushing the past that was haunting him so badly. The third theorist that I chose was Carl Rogers. Rogers believed that the most important component of personality is the self-what a person comes to identify as “I” or “me”. The self- concept refers to all the information and beliefs you have regarding your own nature, unique qualities and typical behaviors. Rogers believed that we should trust our feelings to guide us toward mental health and happiness. Rogers also believed that the outcomes of low self-concepts and poor mental health generally result from early childhood experiences with parents and other adults who make their love and acceptance conditional and contingent on behaving in certain ways and expressing only certain feelings. Mike Tyson grew up not feeling love from his father and being abused by his mom’s boyfriend, that over time his negative feelings and behaviors are totally unacceptable and unlovable, that his self-concept and self-esteem became distorted. Mike Tyson, doubted the love and approval of others because he didn’t know the real person hiding inside. As a child Mike never was able to develop his full personality and life potential, due to not having an adult who created an atmosphere of unconditional positive regard-a warm and caring environment in which a child is never disapproved of as a person.


Friedman, H.S., & Schustack, M. W. (2009). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research, 4th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Muncie, J., & McLaughlin, E. (ed) (2006), Youth Justice: Critical Readings. 4th edition London: Sage Publications
Heller, Peter. (1995). Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story, Da Capo Press. August 1, 1995
Cashmore, Ernest (2005). Mike Tyson: Nurture-of-the-beast; Oxford; Malden , MA: Polity 2005

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