Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of
psychoanalysis, a movement that popularized the theory that
unconscious motives control much behavior. He became interested
in hypnotism and how it could be used to help the mentally ill.
He later abandoned hypnotism in favor of free association and
dream analysis in developing what is now known as "the
talking cure." These became the core elements of psychoanalysis.
Freud was especially interested in what was then called hysteria,
and is now called conversion syndrome.
Freud's theories, and his treatment of patients, were controversial
in 19th century Vienna, and remain hotly debated today. Freud's
ideas are often discussed and analyzed as works of literature,
philosophy, and general culture in addition to continuing debate
around them as scientific and medical treatises.
He was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud in Freiberg, Moravia, the
Austrian Empire (now Pribor in the Czech Republic). In 1877,
he abbreviated his name from Sigismund Schlomo Freud to Sigmund
following the Nazi German Anschluss of Austria, Freud escaped
with his family to England. He died there the next year.
daughter Anna Freud was also a distinguished psychologist, particularly
in the fields of child and developmental psychology. Sigmund
is the grandfather of painter Lucian Freud and comedian and
writer Clement Freud, and the great-grandfather of journalist
Emma Freud, fashion designer Bella Freud and PR man Matthew
Freud was a smoker of Churchill-style cigars for most of his
life; even after having his jaw removed due to malignancy, he
continued to smoke until his death. It is said that he would
smoke an entire box of cigars daily, also in spite of his theory
that those who smoke cigars are actually orally fixated.
Sigmund Freud has been influential in two related, but distinct
ways. He simultaneously developed a theory of the human mind
and human behavior, and clinical techniques for attempting to
help unhappy (i.e. neurotic) people. Many people claim to have
been influenced by one but not the other.
the most significant contribution Freud has made to modern thought
is his conception of the unconscious. During the 19th century
the dominant trend in Western thought was positivism, the claim
that people could accumulate real knowledge about themselves
and their world, and exercise rational control over both. Sigmund
Freud, however, suggested that these claims were in fact delusions;
that we are not entirely aware of what we even think, and often
act for reasons that have nothing to do with our conscious thoughts.
The concept of the unconscious was groundbreaking in that he
proposed that awareness existed in layers and there were thoughts
occurring "below the surface." Dreams, called the
"royal road to the unconscious", provided the best
examples of our unconscious life, and in The Interpretation
of Dreams Freud both developed the argument that the unconscious
exists, and described a method for gaining access to it.
was described as a layer between conscious and unconscious thoughtthat
which we could access with a little effort. (The term "subconscious"
while popularly used, is not actually part of psychoanalytical
terminology.) Although there are still many adherents to a purely
positivist and rationalist view, most people, including many
who reject other elements of Freud's work, accept the claim
that part of the mind is unconscious, and that people often
act for reasons of which they are not conscious. In a lecture
at Clark University in 1910, he explains his new conception
of the workings of the human mind and its rejection by fellow
professionals and the public. "The arrogance of consciousness
which for example rejects dreams so lightly, belongs quite generally,
to the strongest protective apparatus which guards us against
the breaking through of the unconscious complexes, and as a
result it is hard to convince people of the reality of the unconscious,
and to teach them anew what their conscious knowledge contradicts."
to the operation of the unconscious is "repression."
According to Sigmund Freud, people often experience thoughts
and feelings that are so painful that people cannot bear them.
Such thoughts and feelingsand associated memoriescould
not, Freud argued, be banished from the mind, but could be banished
from consciousness. Thus they come to constitute the unconscious.
Although Freud later attempted to find patterns of repression
among his patients in order to derive a general model of the
mind, he also observed that individual patients repress different
things. Moreover, Freud observed that the process of repression
is itself a non-conscious act (in other words, it did not occur
through people willing away certain thoughts or feelings). Freud
supposed that what people repressed was in part determined by
their unconscious. In other words, the unconscious was for Freud
both a cause and effect of repression.
Freud sought to explain how the unconscious operates by proposing
that it has a particular structure. He proposed that the unconscious
was divided into three parts: Id, Ego, and Superego. The Id
(Latin, = "it" = es in the original German) represented
primary process thinking our most primitive need gratification
type thoughts. The Superego (überich in German) represented
our conscience and counteracted the Id with moral and ethical
thoughts. The Ego (ich) stands in between both to balance our
primitive needs and our moral/ethical beliefs. A healthy ego
provides the ability to adapt to reality and interact with the
outside world in a way that accommodates both Id and Superego.
The general claim that the mind is not a monolithic or homogeneous
thing continues to have an enormous influence on people outside
especially concerned with the dynamic relationship between these
three parts of the mind. Freud argued that the dynamic is driven
by innate drives. But he also argued that the dynamic changes
in the context of changing social relationships. Some have criticized
Freud for giving too much importance to one or the other of
these factors; similarly, many of Freud's followers have focused
on one or the other.
Freud developed the concept of overdetermination to account
for the multiple determining causes in the interpretation of
dreams rather than rely on a simple model of one-to-one correspondence
between causes and effects.
that humans were driven by two instinctive drives, libidinal
energy/Eros and the death instinct/Thanatos. Freud's description
of Eros/Libido included all creative, life-producing instincts.
The Death Instinct represented an instinctive drive to return
to a state of calm, or non-existence and was based on his studies
of protozoa. (See: Beyond the Pleasure Principle).
believed that the libido developed in individuals by changing
its object. He argued that humans are born "polymorphously
perverse," meaning that any number of objects could be
a source of pleasure. He further argued that, as humans developed,
they fixated on different and specific objects through their
stages of developmentfirst in the oral stage (exemplified
by an infant's pleasure in nursing), then in the anal stage
(exemplified by a toddler's pleasure in controlling his or her
bowels), then in the phallic stage. Freud argued that children
then passed through a stage where they fixated on the parent
of the opposite sex and thought the same-sexed parent a rival.
Freud sought to anchor this pattern of development in the dynamics
of the mind. Each stage is a progression into adult sexual maturity,
characterized by a strong ego and the ability to delay need
gratification. (see Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.)
to prove that his model, based primarily on observations of
middle-class Viennese, was universally valid. He thus turned
to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative
material. Freud used the Greek tragedy by Sophocles Oedipus
Rex to point out how much we (specifically, young boys) desire
incest, and must repress that desire. The Oedipus conflict was
described as a state of psychosexual development and awareness.
He also turned to anthropological studies of totemism and argued
that totemism reflected a ritualized enactment of an tribal
Oedipal conflict (see Totemism and Taboo).
that his research would provide a solid scientific basis for
his therapeutic technique. The goal of Freudian therapy, or
psychoanalysis, was to bring to consciousness repressed thoughts
and feelings, in order to allow the patient to develop a stronger
ego. Classically, the bringing of unconscious thoughts and feelings
to consciousness is brought about by encouraging the patient
to talk in "free-association" and to talk about dreams.
Another important element of psychoanalysis is a relative lack
of direct involvement on the part of the analyst, which is meant
to encourage the patient to project thoughts and feelings onto
the analyst. Through this process, called "transference,"
the patient can reenact and resolve repressed conflicts, especially
childhood conflicts with (or about) parents.
Freud was an early user and proponent of cocaine and also a
developer of the nasal reflex neurosis theory and practice with
Wilfed Fliess. Emma Eckstein underwent disastrous nasal surgery
known interest of Freud's was neurology. He was an early researcher
on the topic of cerebral palsy, then known as "cerebral
paralysis". He published several medical papers on the
topic. He also showed that the disease existed far before other
researchers in his day began to notice and study it. He also
suggested that William Little, the man who first identified
cerebral palsy, was wrong about lack of oxygen during the birth
process being a cause. Instead, he suggested that complications
in birth were only a symptom of the problem. It was not until
the 1980s when his speculations were confirmed by more modern
theory and practice have been challenged by the lack of empirical
findings over the years. Some people continue to train in, and
practice, traditional Freudian psychoanalysis, but a large number
of psychiatrists today reject the large majority of Freud's
work as unsupported by evidence and best used for inspiration
or historical study. Note however, that apart from psychoanalysis,
there exists no general framework for the understanding of the
mind, and psychiatrists are left with no substitute when they
reject it. Although Freud developed his method for the treatment
of neuroses, some people today seek out psychoanalysis not as
a cure for an illness, but as part of a process of self-discovery.
Freudian psychoanalysis, psychology, and psychiatry
Freud trained as a medical doctor, and consistently claimed
that his research methods and conclusions were scientific. Nevertheless,
his research and practice were condemned by many of his peers.
Moreover, both critics and followers of Freud have observed
that his basic claim, that many of our conscious thoughts and
actions are motivated by unconscious fears and desires, implicitly
challenges universal and objective claims about the world.
psychologists, who seek to treat mental illness, relate to Freudian
psychoanalysis in different ways. Some clinical psychologists
have modified this approach and have developed a variety of
"psychodynamic" models and therapies. Other clinical
psychologists reject Freud's model of the mind, but have adapted
elements of his therapeutic method, especially his reliance
on patients' talking as a form of therapy. Experimental psychologistswho
normally belong to the behaviorism campgenerally reject
Freud's methods and theories. Like Freud, Psychiatrists train
as medical doctors, butlike most medical doctors in Freud's
timemost reject his theory of the mind, and generally
rely more on drugs than talk in their treatments. There are,
however, Psychiatrists that are also trained in psychoanalysis
and treat their patients using a mixture of both treatments.
Sigmund Freud Quotes