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Sigmund Freud is the subject of three major films or TV series, the first of which was 1962's Freud: The Secret Passion starring Montgomery Clift as Freud, directed by John Huston from a revision of a script by an uncredited Jean-Paul Sartre. The film is focused on Freud's early life from 1885 to 1890 and combines multiple case studies of Freud ...
May 02, 2021 · Sigmund Freud, (born May 6, 1856, Freiberg, Moravia, Austrian Empire [now Příbor, Czech Republic]—died September 23, 1939, London, England), Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. Freud’s article on psychoanalysis appeared in the 13th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
- Who Was Sigmund Freud?
- Early Life, Education and Career
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Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who developed psychoanalysis, a method through which an analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams and fantasies of the patient. His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego, among other topics, were some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.
Freud was born in the Austrian town of Freiberg, now known as the Czech Republic, on May 6, 1856. When he was four years old, Freud’s family moved to Vienna, the town where he would live and work for most of the remainder of his life. He received his medical degree in 1881. As a medical student and young researcher, Freud’s research focused on neurobiology, exploring the biology of brains and nervous tissue of humans and animals. After graduation, Freud promptly set up a private practice and began treating various psychological disorders. Considering himself first and foremost a scientist, rather than a doctor, he endeavored to understand the journey of human knowledge and experience. Early in his career, Freud became greatly influenced by the work of his friend and Viennese colleague, Josef Breuer, who had discovered that when he encouraged a hysterical patient to talk uninhibitedly about the earliest occurrences of the symptoms, the symptoms sometimes gradually abated. After much...
Freud's psychoanalytic theory, inspired by his colleague Josef Breuer, posited that neuroses had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences that had occurred in the patient's past. He believed that the original occurrences had been forgotten and hidden from consciousness. His treatment was to empower his patients to recall the experience and bring it to consciousness, and in doing so, confront it both intellectually and emotionally. He believed one could then discharge it and rid oneself of the neurotic symptoms. Some of Freud’s most discussed theories included: 1. Id, ego and superego: These are the three essential parts of the human personality. The id is the primitive, impulsive and irrational unconscious that operates solely on the outcome of pleasure or pain and is responsible for instincts to sex and aggression. The ego is the “I” people perceive that evaluates the outside physical and social world and makes plans accordingly. And the superego is the moral voice and conscie...
Freud has published a number of important works on psychoanalysis. Some of the most influential include:
In 1882, Freud became engaged to marry Martha Bernays. The couple had six children — the youngest of whom, Anna Freud, went on to become a distinguished psychoanalyst herself.
Freud fled Austria to escape the Nazis in 1938 and died in England on September 23, 1939, at age 83 by suicide. He had requested a lethal dose of morphine from his doctor, following a long and painful battle with oral cancer. Watch "Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind" on HISTORY Vault
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Freuds innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of cultural artifacts as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has proven to be extraordinarily fruitful, and has had massive implications for a wide variety of fields including psychology, anthropology, semiotics, and artistic creativity and appreciation. However, Freuds most important and frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a successful science of the mind, remains the subject of much critical debate and controversy. Freuds theory of the unconscious, then, is highly deterministica fact which, given the nature of nineteenth century science, should not be surprising. Freud was arguably the first thinker to apply deterministic principles systematically to the sphere of the mental, and to hold that the broad spectrum of human behavior is explicable only in terms of the (usually hidden) mental processes or states which determine it. Thus, instead of treating the behavior of the neurotic as being causally inexplicablewhich had been the prevailing approach for centuriesFreud insisted, on the contrary, on treating it as behavior for which it is meaningful to seek an explanation by searching for causes in terms of the mental states of the individual concerned. Hence the significance which he attributed to slips of the tongue or pen, obsessive behavior and dreamsall these, he held, are determined by hidden causes in the persons mind, and so they reveal in covert form what would otherwise not be known at all. This suggests the view that freedom of the will is, if not completely an illusion, certainly more tightly circumscribed than is commonly believed, for it follows from this that whenever we make a choice we are governed by hidden mental processes of which we are unaware and over which we have no control. Of these, repression is the most important, and Freuds account of this is as follows: when a person experiences an instinctual impulse to behave in a manner which the super-ego deems to be reprehensible (for example, a strong erotic impulse on the part of the child towards the parent of the opposite sex), then it is possible for the mind to push this impulse away, to repress it into the unconscious. Repression is thus one of the central defense mechanisms by which the ego seeks to avoid internal conflict and pain, and to reconcile reality with the demands of both id and super-ego. As such it is completely normal and an integral part of the developmental process through which every child must pass on the way to adulthood. However, the repressed instinctual drive, as an energy-form, is not and cannot be destroyed when it is repressedit continues to exist intact in the unconscious, from where it exerts a determining force upon the conscious mind, and can give rise to the dysfunctional behavior characteristic of neuroses. This is one reason why dreams and slips of the tongue possess such a strong symbolic significance for Freud, and why their analysis became such a key part of his treatmentthey represent instances in which the vigilance of the super-ego is relaxed, and when the repressed drives are accordingly able to present themselves to the conscious mind in a transmuted form. The difference between normal repression and the kind of repression which results in neurotic illness is one of degree, not of kindthe compulsive behavior of the neurotic is itself a manifestation of an instinctual drive repressed in childhood. Such behavioral symptoms are highly irrational (and may even be perceived as such by the neurotic), but are completely beyond the control of the subject because they are driven by the now unconscious repressed impulse. Freud positioned the key repressions for both, the normal individual and the neurotic, in the first five years of childhood, and of course, held them to be essentially sexual in nature; since, as we have seen, repressions which disrupt the process of infantile sexual development in particular, according to him, lead to a strong tendency to later neurosis in adult life. The task of psychoanalysis as a therapy is to find the repressions which cause the neurotic symptoms by delving into the unconscious mind of the subject, and by bringing them to the forefront of consciousness, to allow the ego to confront them directly and thus to discharge them. This is a crucially important issue since Freud saw himself first and foremost as a pioneering scientist, and repeatedly asserted that the significance of psychoanalysis is that it is a new science, incorporating a new scientific method of dealing with the mind and with mental illness. There can, moreover, be no doubt but that this has been the chief attraction of the theory for most of its advocates since thenon the face of it, it has the appearance of being not just a scientific theory but an enormously strong one, with the capacity to accommodate, and explain, every possible form of human behavior. However, it is precisely this latter which, for many commentators, undermines its claim to scientific status. On the question of what makes a theory a genuinely scientific one, Karl Poppers criterion of demarcation, as it is called, has now gained very general acceptance: namely, that every genuine scientific theory must be testable, and therefore falsifiable, at least in principle. In other words, if a theory is incompatible with possible observations, it is scientific; conversely, a theory which is compatible with all possible observations is unscientific (see Popper, K. The Logic of Scientific Discovery). Thus the principle of the conservation of energy (physical, not psychic), which influenced Freud so greatly, is a scientific one because it is falsifiablethe discovery of a physical system in which the total amount of physical energy was not constant would conclusively show it to be false. It is argued that nothing of the kind is possible with respect to Freuds theoryit is not falsifiable. If the question is asked: \\"What does this theory imply which, if false, would show the whole theory to be false?,\\" the answer is \\"Nothing\\" because the theory is compatible with every possible state of affairs. Hence it is concluded that the theory is not scientific, and while this does not, as some critics claim, rob it of all value, it certainly diminishes its intellectual status as projected by its strongest advocates, including Freud himself.
Freud was born in Frieberg, Moravia in 1856, but when he was four years old his family moved to Vienna where he was to live and work until the last years of his life. In 1938 the Nazis annexed Austria, and Freud, who was Jewish, was allowed to leave for England. For these reasons, it was above all with the city of Vienna that Freuds name was destined to be deeply associated for posterity, founding as he did what was to become known as the first Viennese school of psychoanalysis from which flowed psychoanalysis as a movement and all subsequent developments in this field. The scope of Freuds interests, and of his professional training, was very broad. He always considered himself first and foremost a scientist, endeavoring to extend the compass of human knowledge, and to this end (rather than to the practice of medicine) he enrolled at the medical school at the University of Vienna in 1873. He concentrated initially on biology, doing research in physiology for six years under the great German scientist Ernst Brücke, who was director of the Physiology Laboratory at the University, and thereafter specializing in neurology. He received his medical degree in 1881, and having become engaged to be married in 1882, he rather reluctantly took up more secure and financially rewarding work as a doctor at Vienna General Hospital. Shortly after his marriage in 1886, which was extremely happy and gave Freud six childrenthe youngest of whom, Anna, was to herself become a distinguished psychoanalystFreud set up a private practice in the treatment of psychological disorders, which gave him much of the clinical material that he based his theories and pioneering techniques on.
In 1885-86, Freud spent the greater part of a year in Paris, where he was deeply impressed by the work of the French neurologist Jean Charcot who was at that time using hypnotism to treat hysteria and other abnormal mental conditions. When he returned to Vienna, Freud experimented with hypnosis but found that its beneficial effects did not last. At this point he decided to adopt instead a method suggested by the work of an older Viennese colleague and friend, Josef Breuer, who had discovered that when he encouraged a hysterical patient to talk uninhibitedly about the earliest occurrences of the symptoms, they sometimes gradually abated. Working with Breuer, Freud formulated and developed the idea that many neuroses (phobias, hysterical paralysis and pains, some forms of paranoia, and so forth) had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences which had occurred in the patients past but which were now forgottenhidden from consciousness. The treatment was to enable the patient to recall the experience to consciousness, to confront it in a deep way both intellectually and emotionally, and in thus discharging it, to remove the underlying psychological causes of the neurotic symptoms. This technique, and the theory from which it is derived, was given its classical expression in Studies in Hysteria, jointly published by Freud and Breuer in 1895.
Shortly thereafter, however, Breuer found that he could not agree with what he regarded as the excessive emphasis which Freud placed upon the sexual origins and content of neuroses, and the two parted company, with Freud continuing to work alone to develop and refine the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. In 1900, after a protracted period of self-analysis, he published The Interpretation of Dreams, which is generally regarded as his greatest work. This was followed in 1901 by The Psychopathology of Everyday Life; and in 1905 by Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Freuds psychoanalytic theory was initially not well receivedwhen its existence was acknowledged at all it was usually by people who were, as Breuer had foreseen, scandalized by the emphasis placed on sexuality by Freud. It was not until 1908, when the first International Psychoanalytical Congress was held at Salzburg that Freuds importance began to be generally recognized. This was greatly facilitated in 1909, when he was invited to give a course of lectures in the United States, which were to form the basis of his 1916 book Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. From this point on Freuds reputation and fame grew enormously, and he continued to write prolifically until his death, producing in all more than twenty volumes of theoretical works and clinical studies. He was also not averse to critically revising his views, or to making fundamental alterations to his most basic principles when he considered that the scientific evidence demanded itthis was most clearly evidenced by his advancement of a completely new tripartite (id, ego, and super-ego) model of the mind in his 1923 work The Ego and the Id. He was initially greatly heartened by attracting followers of the intellectual caliber of Adler and Jung, and was correspondingly disappointed when they both went on to found rival schools of psychoanalysisthus giving rise to the first two of many schisms in the movementbut he knew that such disagreement over basic principles had been part of the early development of every new science. After a life of remarkable vigor and creative productivity, he died of cancer while exiled in England in 1939.
Although a highly original thinker, Freud was also deeply influenced by a number of diverse factors which overlapped and interconnected with each other to shape the development of his thought. As indicated above, both Charcot and Breuer had a direct and immediate impact upon him, but some of the other factors, though no less important than these, were of a rather different nature. First of all, Freud himself was very much a Freudianhis father had two sons by a previous marriage, Emmanuel and Philip, and the young Freud often played with Philips son John, who was his own age. Freuds self-analysis, which forms the core of his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams, originated in the emotional crisis which he suffered on the death of his father and the series of dreams to which this gave rise. This analysis revealed to him that the love and admiration which he had felt for his father were mixed with very contrasting feelings of shame and hate (such a mixed attitude he termed ambivalence). Particularly revealing was his discovery that he had often fantasized as a youth that his half-brother Philip (who was of an age with his mother) was really his father, and certain other signs convinced him of the deep underlying meaning of this fantasythat he had wished his real father dead because he was his rival for his mothers affections. This was to become the personal (though by no means exclusive) basis for his theory of the Oedipus complex. Secondly, and at a more general level, account must be taken of the contemporary scientific climate in which Freud lived and worked. In most respects, the towering scientific figure of nineteenth century science was Charles Darwin, who had published his revolutionary Origin of Species when Freud was four years old. The evolutionary doctrine radically altered the prevailing conception of manwhereas before, man had been seen as a being different in nature from the members of the animal kingdom by virtue of his possession of an immortal soul, he was now seen as being part of the natural order, different from non-human animals only in degree of structural complexity. This made it possible and plausible, for the first time, to treat man as an object of scientific investigation, and to conceive of the vast and varied range of human behavior, and the motivational causes from which it springs, as being amenable in principle to scientific explanation. Much of the creative work done in a whole variety of diverse scientific fields over the next century was to be inspired by, and derive sustenance from, this new world-view, which Freud with his enormous esteem for science, accepted implicitly. An even more important influence on Freud however, came from the field of physics. The second fifty years of the nineteenth century saw monumental advances in contemporary physics, which were largely initiated by the formulation of the principle of the conservation of energy by Helmholz. This principle states, in effect, that the total amount of energy in any given physical system is always constant, that energy quanta can be changed but not annihilated, and that consequently when energy is moved from one part of the system, it must reappear in another part. The progressive application of this principle led to monumental discoveries in the fields of thermodynamics, electromagnetism and nuclear physics which, with their associated technologies, have so comprehensively transformed the contemporary world. As we have seen, when he first came to the University of Vienna, Freud worked under the direction of Ernst Brücke who in 1873-4 published his Lecture Notes on Physiology (Vorlesungen über Physiologie. Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller), setting out the view that all living organisms, including humans, are essentially energy-systems to which, no less than to inanimate objects, the principle of the conservation of energy applies. Freud, who had great admiration and respect for Brücke, quickly adopted this new \\"dynamic physiology\\" with enthusiasm. From there it was but a short conceptual stepbut one which Freud was the first to take, and on which his claim to fame is largely groundedto the view that there is such a thing as \\"psychic energy,\\" that the human personality is also an energy-system, and that it is the function of psychology to investigate the modifications, transmissions and conversions of psychic energy within the personality which shape and determine it. This latter conception is the very cornerstone of Freuds psychoanalytic theory. It should be evident from the foregoing why psychoanalysis in general, and Freud in particular, have exerted such a strong influence upon the popular imagination in the Western World, and why both the theory and practice of psychoanalysis should remain the object of a great deal of controversy. In fact, the controversy which exists in relation to Freud is more heated and multi-faceted than that relating to virtually any other post-1850 thinker (a possible exception being Darwin), with criticisms ranging from the contention that Freuds theory was generated by logical confusions arising out of his alleged long-standing addiction to cocaine (see Thornton, E.M. Freud and Cocaine: The Freudian Fallacy) to the view that he made an important, but grim, empirical discovery, which he knowingly suppressed in favour of the theory of the unconscious, knowing that the latter would be more socially acceptable (see Masson, J. The Assault on Truth).
The postulate that there are such things as unconscious mental states at all is a direct function of Freuds determinism, his reasoning here being simply that the principle of causality requires that such mental states should exist, for it is evident that there is frequently nothing in the conscious mind which can be said to cause neurotic or other behavior. An unconscious mental process or event, for Freud, is not one which merely happens to be out of consciousness at a given time, but is rather one which cannot, except through protracted psychoanalysis, be brought to the forefront of consciousness. The postulation of such unconscious mental states entails, of course, that the mind is not, and cannot be, either identified with consciousness, or an object of consciousness. To employ a much-used analogy, it is rather structurally akin to an iceberg, the bulk of it lying below the surface, exerting a dynamic and determining influence upon the part which is amenable to direct inspectionthe conscious mind.
This, Freud believed, is the sequence or progression implicit in normal human development, and it is to be observed that at the infant level the instinctual attempts to satisfy the pleasure drive are frequently checked by parental control and social coercion. The developmental process, then, is for the child essentially a movement through a series of conflicts, the successful resolution of which is crucial to adult mental health. Many mental illnesses, particularly hysteria, Freud held, can be traced back to unresolved conflicts experienced at this stage, or to events which otherwise disrupt the normal pattern of infantile development. For example, homosexuality is seen by some Freudians as resulting from a failure to resolve the conflicts of the Oedipus complex, particularly a failure to identify with the parent of the same sex; the obsessive concern with washing and personal hygiene which characterizes the behavior of some neurotics is seen as resulting from unresolved conflicts/repressions occurring at the anal stage.
Freuds account of the unconscious, and the psychoanalytic therapy associated with it, is best illustrated by his famous tripartite model of the structure of the mind or personality (although, as we have seen, he did not formulate this until 1923). This model has many points of similarity with the account of the mind offered by Plato over 2,000 years earlier. The theory is termed tripartite simply because, again like Plato, Freud distinguished three structural elements within the mind, which he called id, ego, and super-ego. The id is that part of the mind in which are situated the instinctual sexual drives which require satisfaction; the super-ego is that part which contains the \\"conscience,\\" namely, socially-acquired control mechanisms which have been internalized, and which are usually imparted in the first instance by the parents; while the ego is the conscious self that is created by the dynamic tensions and interactions between the id and the super-ego and has the task of reconciling their conflicting demands with the requirements of external reality. It is in this sense that the mind is to be understood as a dynamic energy-system. All objects of consciousness reside in the ego; the contents of the id belong permanently to the unconscious mind; while the super-ego is an unconscious screening-mechanism which seeks to limit the blind pleasure-seeking drives of the id by the imposition of restrictive rules. There is some debate as to how literally Freud intended this model to be taken (he appears to have taken it extremely literally himself), but it is important to note that what is being offered here is indeed a theoretical model rather than a description of an observable object, which functions as a frame of reference to explain the link between early childhood experience and the mature adult (normal or dysfunctional) personality.
Freud also followed Plato in his account of the nature of mental health or psychological well-being, which he saw as the establishment of a harmonious relationship between the three elements which constitute the mind. If the external world offers no scope for the satisfaction of the ids pleasure drives, or more commonly, if the satisfaction of some or all of these drives would indeed transgress the moral sanctions laid down by the super-ego, then an inner conflict occurs in the mind between its constituent parts or elements. Failure to resolve this can lead to later neurosis. A key concept introduced here by Freud is that the mind possesses a number of defense mechanisms to attempt to prevent conflicts from becoming too acute, such as repression (pushing conflicts back into the unconscious), sublimation (channeling the sexual drives into the achievement socially acceptable goals, in art, science, poetry, and so forth), fixation (the failure to progress beyond one of the developmental stages), and regression (a return to the behavior characteristic of one of the stages).
Freuds account of the sexual genesis and nature of neuroses led him naturally to develop a clinical treatment for treating such disorders. This has become so influential today that when people speak of psychoanalysis they frequently refer exclusively to the clinical treatment; however, the term properly designates both the clinical treatment and the theory which underlies it. The aim of the method may be stated simply in general termsto re-establish a harmonious relationship between the three elements which constitute the mind by excavating and resolving unconscious repressed conflicts. The actual method of treatment pioneered by Freud grew out of Breuers earlier discovery, mentioned above, that when a hysterical patient was encouraged to talk freely about the earliest occurrences of her symptoms and fantasies, the symptoms began to abate, and were eliminated entirely when she was induced to remember the initial trauma which occasioned them. Turning away from his early attempts to explore the unconscious through hypnosis, Freud further developed this \\"talking cure,\\" acting on the assumption that the repressed conflicts were buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind. Accordingly, he got his patients to relax in a position in which they were deprived of strong sensory stimulation, and even keen awareness of the presence of the analyst (hence the famous use of the couch, with the analyst virtually silent and out of sight), and then encouraged them to speak freely and uninhibitedly, preferably without forethought, in the belief that he could thereby discern the unconscious forces lying behind what was said. This is the method of free-association, the rationale for which is similar to that involved in the analysis of dreamsin both cases the super-ego is to some degree disarmed, its efficiency as a screening mechanism is moderated, and material is allowed to filter through to the conscious ego which would otherwise be completely repressed. The process is necessarily a difficult and protracted one, and it is therefore one of the primary tasks of the analyst to help the patient recognize, and overcome, his own natural resistances, which may exhibit themselves as hostility towards the analyst. However, Freud always took the occurrence of resistance as a sign that he was on the right track in his assessment of the underlying unconscious causes of the patients condition. The patients dreams are of particular interest, for reasons which we have already partly seen. Taking it that the super-ego functioned less effectively in sleep, as in free association, Freud made a distinction between the manifest content of a dream (what the dream appeared to be about on the surface) and its latent content (the unconscious, repressed desires or wishes which are its real object). The correct interpretation of the patients dreams, slips of tongue, free-associations, and responses to carefully selected questions leads the analyst to a point where he can locate the unconscious repressions producing the neurotic symptoms, invariably in terms of the patients passage through the sexual developmental process, the manner in which the conflicts implicit in this process were handled, and the libidinal content of the patients family relationships. To effect a cure, the analyst must facilitate the patient himself to become conscious of unresolved conflicts buried in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind, and to confront and engage with them directly.
In this sense, then, the object of psychoanalytic treatment may be said to be a form of self-understandingonce this is acquired it is largely up to the patient, in consultation with the analyst, to determine how he shall handle this newly-acquired understanding of the unconscious forces which motivate him. One possibility, mentioned above, is the channeling of sexual energy into the achievement of social, artistic or scientific goalsthis is sublimation, which Freud saw as the motivating force behind most great cultural achievements. Another possibility would be the conscious, rational control of formerly repressed drivesthis is suppression. Yet another would be the decision that it is the super-ego and the social constraints which inform it that are at fault, in which case the patient may decide in the end to satisfy the instinctual drives. But in all cases the cure is effected essentially by a kind of catharsis or purgationa release of the pent-up psychic energy, the constriction of which was the basic cause of the neurotic illness.
A related (but perhaps more serious) point is that the coherence of the theory is, at the very least, questionable. What is attractive about the theory, even to the layman, is that it seems to offer us long sought-after and much needed causal explanations for conditions which have been a source of a great deal of human misery. The thesis that neuroses are caused by unconscious conflicts buried deep in the unconscious mind in the form of repressed libidinal energy would appear to offer us, at last, an insight in the causal mechanism underlying these abnormal psychological conditions as they are expressed in human behavior, and further show us how they are related to the psychology of the normal person. However, even this is questionable, and is a matter of much dispute. In general, when it is said that an event X causes another event Y to happen, both X and Y are, and must be, independently identifiable. It is true that this is not always a simple process, as in science causes are sometimes unobservable (sub-atomic particles, radio and electromagnetic waves, molecular structures, and so forth), but in these latter cases there are clear correspondence rules connecting the unobservable causes with observable phenomena. The difficulty with Freuds theory is that it offers us entities (for example repressed unconscious conflicts), which are said to be the unobservable causes of certain forms of behavior But there are no correspondence rules for these alleged causesthey cannot be identified except by reference to the behavior which they are said to cause (that is, the analyst does not demonstratively assert: \\"This is the unconscious cause, and that is its behavioral effect;\\" rather he asserts: \\"This is the behavior, therefore its unconscious cause must exist\\"), and this does raise serious doubts as to whether Freuds theory offers us genuine causal explanations at all. It does not follow that, if Freuds theory is unscientific, or even false, it cannot provide us with a basis for the beneficial treatment of neurotic illness because the relationship between a theorys truth or falsity and its utility-value is far from being an isomorphic one. (The theory upon which the use of leeches to bleed patients in eighteenth century medicine was based was quite spurious, but patients did sometimes actually benefit from the treatment!). And of course even a true theory might be badly applied, leading to negative consequences. One of the problems here is that it is difficult to specify what counts as a cure for a neurotic illness as distinct, say, from a mere alleviation of the symptoms. In general, however, the efficiency of a given method of treatment is usually clinically measured by means of a control groupthe proportion of patients suffering from a given disorder who are cured by treatment X is measured by comparison with those cured by other treatments, or by no treatment at all. Such clinical tests as have been conducted indicate that the proportion of patients who have benefited from psychoanalytic treatment does not diverge significantly from the proportion who recover spontaneously or as a result of other forms of intervention in the control groups used. So, the question of the therapeutic effectiveness of psychoanalysis remains an open and controversial one.
At a less theoretical, but no less critical level, it has been alleged that Freud did make a genuine discovery which he was initially prepared to reveal to the world. However, the response he encountered was so ferociously hostile that he masked his findings and offered his theory of the unconscious in its place (see Masson, J. The Assault on Truth). What he discovered, it has been suggested, was the extreme prevalence of child sexual abuse, particularly of young girls (the vast majority of hysterics are women), even in respectable nineteenth century Vienna. He did in fact offer an early \\"seduction theory\\" of neuroses, which met with fierce animosity, and which he quickly withdrew and replaced with the theory of the unconscious. As one contemporary Freudian commentator explains it, Freuds change of mind on this issue came about as follows:
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- The Case of Anna O
- The Unconscious Mind
- The Psyche
- Psychosexual Stages
- Dream Analysis
- Freud's Followers
- Critical Evaluation
The Case of Anna O
The case of Anna O (real name Bertha Pappenheim) marked a turning point in the career of a young Viennese neuropathologist by the name of Sigmund Freud. It even went on to influence the future direction of psychology as a whole. Anna O. suffered from hysteria, a condition in which the patient exhibits physical symptoms (e.g., paralysis, convulsions, hallucinations, loss of speech) without an apparent physical cause. Her doctor (and Freud's teacher) Josef Breuer succeeded in treating Anna by h...
The Unconscious Mind
Freud (1900, 1905) developed a topographical modelof the mind, whereby he described the features of the mind’s structure and function. Freud used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the three levels of the mind. On the surface is consciousness, which consists of those thoughts that are the focus of our attention now, and this is seen as the tip of the iceberg. The preconscious consists of all which can be retrieved from memory. The third and most significant region is the unconscious. Here...
Freud (1923) later developed a more structural model of the mind comprising the entities id, ego, and superego(what Freud called “the psychic apparatus”). These are not physical areas within the brain, but rather hypothetical conceptualizations of important mental functions. The id, ego, and superego have most commonly been conceptualized as three essential parts of the human personality. Freud assumed the id operated at an unconscious level according to the pleasure principle (gratification...
In the highly repressive “Victorian” society in which Freud lived and worked women, in particular, were forced to repress their sexual needs. In many cases, the result was some form of neurotic illness. Freud sought to understand the nature and variety of these illnesses by retracing the sexual history of his patients. This was not primarily an investigation of sexual experiences as such. Far more important were the patient’s wishes and desires, their experience of love, hate, shame, guilt an...
Freud (1900) considered dreams to be the royal road to the unconscious as it is in dreams that the ego's defenses are lowered so that some of the repressed material comes through to awareness, albeit in distorted form. Dreams perform important functions for the unconscious mind and serve as valuable clues to how the unconscious mindoperates. On 24 July 1895, Freud had his own dream that was to form the basis of his theory. He had been worried about a patient, Irma, who was not doing as well i...
Freud attracted many followers, who formed a famous group in 1902 called the "Psychological Wednesday Society." The group met every Wednesday in Freud's waiting room. As the organization grew, Freud established an inner circle of devoted followers, the so-called "Committee" (including Sàndor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs (standing) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones). At the beginning of 1908, the committee had 22 members and renamed themselves the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.
Is Freudian psychology supported by evidence? Freud's theory is good at explaining but not at predicting behavior (which is one of the goals of science). For this reason, Freud's theory is unfalsifiable- it can neither be proved true or refuted. For example, the unconscious mind is difficult to test and measure objectively. Overall, Freud's theory is highly unscientific. Despite the skepticism of the unconscious mind, cognitive psychology has identified unconscious processes, such as procedur...
- Childhood in Austria-Hungary
- Attending University and Finding Love
- Freud The Researcher
- Hysteria and Hypnosis
- Private Practice and "Anna O"
- The Unconscious
- The Analyst's Couch
- Self-Analysis and The Oedipus Complex
- The Interpretation of Dreams
- Freud and Jung
Sigismund Freud (later know as Sigmund) was born on May 6, 1856, in the town of Frieberg in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (present-day Czech Republic). He was the first child of Jacob and Amalia Freud and would be followed by two brothers and four sisters. It was the second marriage for Jacob, who had two adult sons from a previous wife. Jacob set up business as a wool merchant but struggled to earn enough money to take care of his growing family. Jacob and Amalia raised their family as culturally Jewish, but were not especially religious in practice. The family moved to Viennain 1859, taking up residence in the only place they could afford -- the Leopoldstadt slum. Jacob and Amalia, however, had reason to hope for a better future for their children. Reforms enacted by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1849 had officially abolished discrimination against Jews, lifting restrictions previously placed upon them. Although anti-Semitism still existed, Jews were, by law, free to enjoy the privileges...
As his mother's undisputed favorite, Freud enjoyed privileges that his siblings did not. He was given his own room at home (they now lived in a larger apartment), while the others shared bedrooms. The younger children had to maintain quiet in the house so that "Sigi" (as his mother called him) could concentrate on his studies. Freud changed his first name to Sigmund in 1878. Early in his college years, Freud decided to pursue medicine, although he didn't envision himself caring for patients in a traditional sense. He was fascinated by bacteriology, the new branch of science whose focus was the study of organisms and the diseases they caused. Freud became a lab assistant to one of his professors, performing research on the nervous systems of lower animals such as fish and eels. After completing his medical degree in 1881, Freud began a three-year internship at a Vienna hospital, while continuing to work at the university on research projects. While Freud gained satisfaction from his...
Intrigued by the theories on brain function that were emerging during the late 19th century, Freud opted to specialize in neurology. Many neurologists of that era sought to find an anatomical cause for mental illness within the brain. Freud also sought that proof in his research, which involved the dissection and study of brains. He became knowledgeable enough to give lectures on brain anatomy to other physicians. Freud eventually found a position at a private children's hospital in Vienna. In addition to studying childhood diseases, he developed a special interest in patients with mental and emotional disorders. Freud was disturbed by the current methods used to treat the mentally ill, such as long-term incarceration, hydrotherapy (spraying patients with a hose), and the dangerous (and poorly-understood) application of electric shock. He aspired to find a better, more humane method. One of Freud's early experiments did little to help his professional reputation. In 1884, Freud publ...
In 1885, Freud traveled to Paris, having received a grant to study with pioneering neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. The French physician had recently resurrected the use of hypnosis, made popular a century earlier by Dr. Franz Mesmer. Charcot specialized in the treatment of patients with "hysteria," the catch-all name for an ailment with various symptoms, ranging from depression to seizures and paralysis, which mainly affected women. Charcot believed that most cases of hysteria originated in the patient's mind and should be treated as such. He held public demonstrations, during which he would hypnotize patients (placing them into a trance) and induce their symptoms, one at a time, then remove them by suggestion. Although some observers (especially those in the medical community) viewed it with suspicion, hypnosis did seem to work on some patients. Freud was greatly influenced by Charcot's method, which illustrated the powerful role that words could play in the treatment of mental il...
Returning to Vienna in February 1886, Freud opened a private practice as a specialist in the treatment of "nervous diseases." As his practice grew, he finally earned enough money to marry Martha Bernays in September 1886. The couple moved into an apartment in a middle-class neighborhood in the heart of Vienna. Their first child, Mathilde, was born in 1887, followed by three sons and two daughters over the next eight years. Freud began to receive referrals from other physicians to treat their most challenging patients -- "hysterics" who did not improve with treatment. Freud used hypnosis with these patients and encouraged them to talk about past events in their lives. He dutifully wrote down all that he learned from them -- traumatic memories, as well as their dreams and fantasies. One of Freud's most important mentors during this time was Viennese physician Josef Breuer. Through Breuer, Freud learned about a patient whose case had an enormous influence upon Freud and the development...
Inspired by the case of Anna O, Freud incorporated the talking cure into his own practice. Before long, he did away with the hypnosis aspect, focusing instead upon listening to his patients and asking them questions. Later, he asked fewer questions, allowing his patients to talk about whatever came to mind, a method known as free association. As always, Freud kept meticulous notes on everything his patients said, referring to such documentation as a case study. He considered this his scientific data. As Freud gained experience as a psychoanalyst, he developed a concept of the human mind as an iceberg, noting that a major portion of the mind -- the part that lacked awareness -- existed under the surface of the water. He referred to this as the “unconscious.” Other early psychologists of the day held a similar belief, but Freud was the first to attempt to systematically study the unconscious in a scientific way. Freud's theory -- that humans are not aware of all of their own thoughts,...
Freud conducted his hour-long psychoanalytic sessions in a separate apartment located in his family's apartment building at Berggasse 19 (now a museum). It was his office for nearly half a century. The cluttered room was filled with books, paintings, and small sculptures. At its center was a horsehair sofa, upon which Freud's patients reclined while they talked to the doctor, who sat in a chair, out of view. (Freud believed that his patients would speak more freely if they were not looking directly at him.) He maintained a neutrality, never passing judgment or offering suggestions. The main goal of therapy, Freud believed, was to bring the patient's repressed thoughts and memories to a conscious level, where they could be acknowledged and addressed. For many of his patients, the treatment was a success; thus inspiring them to refer their friends to Freud. As his reputation grew by word of mouth, Freud was able to charge more for his sessions. He worked up to 16 hours a day as his li...
After the 1896 death of his 80-year-old father, Freud felt compelled to learn more about his own psyche. He decided to psychoanalyze himself, setting aside a portion of each day to examine his own memories and dreams, beginning with his early childhood. During these sessions, Freud developed his theory of the Oedipal complex (named for the Greek tragedy), in which he proposed that all young boys are attracted to their mothers and view their fathers as rivals. As a normal child matured, he would grow away from his mother. Freud described a similar scenario for fathers and daughters, calling it the Electra complex (also from Greek mythology). Freud also came up with the controversial concept of "penis envy," in which he touted the male gender as the ideal. He believed that every girl harbored a deep wish to be a male. Only when a girl renounced her wish to be a male (and her attraction to her father) could she identify with the female gender. Many subsequent psychoanalysts rejected th...
Freud's fascination with dreams was also stimulated during his self-analysis. Convinced that dreams shed light upon unconscious feelings and desires, Freud began an analysis of his own dreams and those of his family and patients. He determined that dreams were an expression of repressed wishes and thus could be analyzed in terms of their symbolism. Freud published the groundbreaking study The Interpretation of Dreamsin 1900. Although he received some favorable reviews, Freud was disappointed by sluggish sales and the overall tepid response to the book. However, as Freud became better known, several more editions had to be printed to keep up with popular demand. Freud soon gained a small following of students of psychology, which included Carl Jung, among others who later became prominent. The group of men met weekly for discussions at Freud's apartment. As they grew in number and influence, the men came to call themselves the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The Society held the first...
Freud maintained a close relationship with Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist who embraced many of Freud's theories. When Freud was invited to speak at Clark University in Massachusetts in 1909, he asked Jung to accompany him. Unfortunately, their relationship suffered from the stresses of the trip. Freud did not acclimate well to being in an unfamiliar environment and became moody and difficult. Nonetheless, Freud's speech at Clark was quite successful. He impressed several prominent American physicians, convincing them of the merits of psychoanalysis. Freud's thorough, well-written case studies, with compelling titles such as "The Rat Boy," also received praise. Freud's fame grew exponentially following his trip to the United States. At 53, he felt that his work was finally receiving the attention it deserved. Freud's methods, once considered highly unconventional, were now deemed accepted practice. Carl Jung, however, increasingly questioned Freud's ideas. Jung didn't agree that all...
- Freud's Life
- Key Theories
- Freud and Psychoanalysis
- Freud's Patients
- Major Works by Freud
- Freud's Perspectives
- Psychologists Influenced by Freud
- Contributions and Influence
- A Word from Verywell
In order to understand his legacy, it is important to begin with a look at his life. His experiences informed many of his theories, so learning more about his life and the times he lived incan lead to a deeper understanding of where his theories came from. He was born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1856 as the oldest of eight children. He went on to earn a medical degree and began practice as a doctor in Vienna, Austria. It was while treating patients that he developed his famous theories of the id, ego, and superego, the libido, the life and death instincts, and psychoanalysis.
Freud's theories were enormously influential, but subject to considerable criticism both now and during his own life. However, his ideas have become interwoven into the fabric of our culture, with terms such as "Freudian slip," "repression," and "denial" appearing regularly in everyday language. He also proposed that personality was made up of three key elements, the id, the ego, and the superego. Some other important Freudian theories include his concepts of life and death instincts, the theory of psychosexual development, and the mechanisms of defense.
Freud's ideas had such a strong impact on psychology that an entire school of thought emerged from his work. While it was eventually replaced by behaviorism, psychoanalysis had a lasting impact on both psychology and psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis sought to bring unconscious information into conscious awareness in order to bring about catharsis. This catharsis was an emotional release that could bring about relief from psychological distress. Research has found that psychoanalysis can be an effective treatment for a number of mental health conditions. The self-examination that is involved in the therapy process can help people achieve long-term growth and improvement.1
Freud based his ideas on his case studiesof patients or other individuals who he corresponded with other doctors and psychiatrists about. These patients helped shape his theories and many have become well known in their own right. Some of these individuals included 1. Anna O. (aka Bertha Pappenheim) 2. Little Hans (Herbert Graf) 3. Dora (Ida Bauer) 4. Rat Man (Ernst Lanzer) 5. Wolf Man (aka Sergei Pankejeff) 6. Sabina Spielrein Anna O was never actually a patient of Freud's. She was, however, a patient of Freud's colleague Josef Breuer. The two men corresponded often about Anna O's symptoms, eventually publishing a book exploring her case, "Studies on Hysteria." It was through their work and correspondence that the technique known as talk therapy emerged.2
Freud's writings detail many of his major theories and ideas, including his personal favorite, "The Interpretation of Dreams." "[It] contains...the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime," he explained.3 Some of his major books include: 1. "The Interpretation of Dreams" 2. "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life" 3. "Totem and Taboo" 4. "Civilization and Its Discontents" 5. "The Future of an Illusion"
Outside of the field of psychology, Freud also wrote and theorized about a broad range of subjects. He also wrote about and developed theories related to topics including sex, dreams, religion, women, and culture.
In addition to his grand and far-reaching theories of human psychology, he also left his mark on a number of individuals who went on to become some of psychology's greatest thinkers. Some of the eminent psychologistswho were influenced by Sigmund Freud include: 1. Anna Freud 2. Alfred Adler 3. Carl Jung 4. Erik Erikson 5. Melanie Klein 6. Ernst Jones 7. Otto Rank While Freud's work is often dismissed today as non-scientific, there is no question that he had a tremendous influence not only on psychology but on the larger culture as well.
In 1999, Time Magazine referred to Freud as one of the most important thinkers of the last century.5 Another article dubbed him "history's most debunked doctor."6 Perhaps Freud's most important contribution to the field of psychology was the development of talk therapy as an approach to treating mental health problems. In addition to serving as the basis for psychoanalysis, talk therapy is part of many psychotherapeutic interventions designed to help people overcome psychological distress and behavioral problems.
While Freud's theories have been the subject of considerable controversy and debate, his impact on psychology, therapy, and culture is undeniable. As W.H. Auden wrote in his 1939 poem, "In Memory of Sigmund Freud,"7 "if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd, to us he is no more a person now but a whole climate of opinion."
Sigmund Freud - The Father of Psychoanalysis A renowned psychologist, physiologist and great thinker during the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud is referred to as the father of psychoanalysis. He formulated several theories throughout his lifetime including the concepts of infantile sexuality, repression and the unconscious mind.
- Freud’s death may have been a physician-assisted suicide. By the summer of 1939, Freud was frail and suffering intense pain from terminal, inoperable mouth cancer.
- His chain-smoking led to more than 30 cancer surgeries. Freud became addicted to tobacco after lighting up his first cigarettes in his twenties. His daily constitutionals always included stopovers at a local tobacco store, and after graduating to cigars, he often smoked more than 20 of them a day.
- Freud once thought cocaine was a miracle drug. In the 1880s, Freud grew interested in a little-known, legal drug being used by a German military doctor to rejuvenate exhausted troops—cocaine.
- He turned down $100,000 from a Hollywood mogul. By 1925, Freud’s fame had spread so widely that movie producer Samuel Goldwyn offered the Viennese psychoanalyst, whom he called the “greatest love specialist in the world,” $100,000 to write or consult on a film script about “the great love stories of history.”
- related to: Sigmund Freud
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