Sigmund Freud

Freud, Sigmund, b. Přabor, Czech Republic (then Freiberg), May 6, 1856, d. London (United Kingdom), Sept. 23, 1939, neurologist, physician; founder of psychoanalysis, the theory of the unconscious mind. Father of Anna Freud. From 1876-1882 worked at the Vienna Physiological Institute of E. W. von Brucke and under T. Meynert and became lecturer of neuropathology in 1885. Conducted research on the narcotic and anaesthetizing properties of cocaine and thus initiated further developments in the field of local anaesthesia. In 1885/86 he studied the technique of hypnosis and problems originating from hysteria under J. M. Charcot in Paris, and under Liebault and Bernheim in Nancy in 1889. Became associate professor in 1902 and was awarded the Goethe Prize in 1930. Had to emigrate to London in 1938.

In Vienna F.'s research was at first based on J. Breuer's "cathartic-therapeutic" method. However, he soon replaced Breuer's method of cure based on hypnosis by his own psychoanalytic method of treatment, known as the technique of free association (repressed unpleasant experiences and memories are brought into consciousness). He focused on the general idea that experiences during childhood constitute the reason for the development of certain mental illnesses.

Fs psychoanalytic theory provided the basis for modern depth psychology and psychotherapy and led to the evolution of further concepts, such as A. Adler's individual psychology, C. G. Jung's complex psychology, W. Stekel's theory. Psychoanalysis, which started as a theory of drives, developed into a comprehensive theory of the overall personality of the human being. His ideas and work not only influenced modern psychology, particularly in the Anglo-American world, but also had effects on other fields of cultural life, such as aesthetics, theology, literature and ethnology. F. was also a notable author.

In 1971 a museum was established in his home in the 9th district of Vienna, Berggasse 19.

Freud and Psychoanalysis

Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886, after opening his own medical practice, specializing in neurology. After experimenting with hypnosis on his neurotic patients, Freud abandoned this form of treatment, in favor of a treatment where the patient talked through his or her problems. This came to be known as the "talking cure". (The term was initially coined by the patient Anna O. who was treated by Freud's colleague Josef Breuer.) The "talking cure" is widely seen as the basis of psychoanalysis.

Freud held the opinion (based on personal experience and observation) that sexual activity was incompatible with the accomplishing of any great work. Since he felt that the great work of creating and establishing psychotherapy was his destiny, he told his wife that they could no longer engage in sexual relations. Indeed from about the age of forty until his death Freud was absolutely celibate "in order to sublimate the libido for creative purposes," according to his biographer Ernest Jones.

Nonetheless, there has been persistent gossip, which has always been staunchly denied by Freud loyalists, about the possibility that around this time a romantic liaison had blossomed between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, who had moved into Freud's apartment at 19 Berggasse in 1896. This rumour of an illicit relationship has been most notably propelled forward by Carl Jung, Freud's disciple and later his archrival, who had claimed that Miss Bernays had confessed the affair to him. It has been suggested that the affair resulted in a pregnancy and subsequently an abortion for Miss Bernays. A hotel log dated August 13, 1898 seems to support the allegation of an affair.

In his 40s, Freud "had numerous psychosomatic disorders as well as exaggerated fears of dying and other phobias" (Corey 2001, p. 67). During this time Freud was involved in the task of exploring his own dreams, memories, and the dynamics of his personality development. During this self-analysis, he came to realize the hostility he felt towards his father (Jacob Freud), and "he also recalled his childhood sexual feelings for his mother (Amalia Freud), who was attractive, warm, and protective" (Corey 2001, p. 67). Corey (2001) considers this time of emotional difficulty to be the most creative time in Freud's life.

After the publication of Freud's books in 1900 and 1901, interest in his theories began to grow, and a circle of supporters developed in the following period. Freud often chose to disregard the criticisms of those who were skeptical of his theories, however, and even gained a few direct opponents as a result, the most famous being Carl Jung, who was originally in support of Freud's ideas.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychotherapist, told a colleague about his first visit with Sigmund Freud in the year 1907. Jung had much that he wanted to talk about with Freud, and he spoke with intense animation for three whole hours. Finally Freud interrupted him and, to Jung's astonishment, proceeded to group the contents of Jung's monologue into several precise categories that enabled them to spend their remaining hours together in a more profitable give-and-take.

Freud's ideas

Freud has been influential in two related but distinct ways. He simultaneously developed a theory of how the human mind is organized and operates internally, and how human behavior both conditions and results from this particular theoretical understanding. This led him to favor certain clinical techniques for attempting to help cure psychopathology.

Early work

Since neurology and psychiatry were not recognized as distinct medical fields at the time of Freud's training, the medical degree he obtained after studying for six years at the University of Vienna board certified him in both fields, although he is far more well-known for his work in the latter. As far as neurology went, Freud was an early researcher on the topic of neurophysiology, specifically cerebral palsy, which was then known as "cerebral paralysis." He published several medical papers on the topic, and 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 that Freud's speculations were confirmed by more modern research.

Freud hoped 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. According to some of his successors, including his daughter Anna Freud, the goal of therapy is to allow the patient to develop a stronger ego; according to others, notably Jacques Lacan, the goal of therapy is to lead the analysand to a full acknowledgment of his or her inability to satisfy the most basic desires.

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, transference, the patient can reenact and resolve repressed conflicts, especially childhood conflicts with (or about) parents.

The origin of Freud's early work with psychoanalysis can be linked to Joseph Breuer. Freud actually credits Breuer with the discovery of the psychoanalytical method. One case started this phenomenon that would shape the field of psychology for decades to come, the case of Anna O. In 1880 a young girl came to Breuer with symptoms of what was then called female hysteria. Anna O. was a highly intelligent 21-year-old woman. She presented with symptoms such as paralysis of the limbs, split personality and amnesia; today these symptoms are known as conversion disorder. After many doctors had given up and accused Anna O. of faking her symptoms, Breuer decided to treat her sympathetically, which he did with all of his patients. He started to hear her mumble words during what he called states of absence. Eventually Breuer started to recognize some of the words and wrote them down. He then hypnotized her and repeated the words to her; Breuer found out that the words were associated with her father's illness and death.

In the early 1890s Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his "pressure technique". The traditional story, based on Freud's later accounts of this period, is that as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse. He believed these stories, but after having heard a patient tell the story about Freud's personal friend being the victimizer, Freud concluded that his patients were fantasizing the abuse scenes.

In 1896 Freud posited that the symptoms of 'hysteria' and obsessional neurosis derived from unconscious memories of sexual abuse in infancy, and claimed that he had uncovered such incidents for every single one of his current patients (one third of whom were men). However a close reading of his papers and letters from this period indicates that these patients did not report early childhood sexual abuse as he later claimed: rather, he arrived at his findings by analytically inferring the supposed incidents, using a procedure that was heavily dependent on the symbolic interpretation of somatic symptoms.

Ego, super-ego, and id

In his later work, Freud proposed that the psyche could be divided into three parts: Ego, super-ego, and id. Freud discussed this structural model of the mind in the 1920 essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and fully elaborated it in The Ego and the Id (1923), where he developed it as an alternative to his previous topographic schema (conscious, unconscious, preconscious).

Freud acknowledges that his use of the term Id (or the It) derives from the writings of Georg Grodeck. It is interesting to note that the term Id appears in the earliest writing of Boris Sidis, attributed to William James, as early as 1898.

Psychotherapy

Freud's theories and research methods were controversial during his life and still are so today, but few dispute his huge impact on psychologists and the academically inclined.

Most importantly, Freud popularized the "talking-cure" an idea that a person could solve problems simply by talking over them, something that was almost unheard of in the 19th century. Even though many psychotherapists today tend to reject the specifics of Freud's theories, this basic mode of treatment comes largely from his work.

Most of Freud's specific theories like his stages of psychosexual development and especially his methodology, have fallen out of favor in modern experimental psychology.

Some psychotherapists, however, still follow an approximately Freudian system of treatment. Many more have modified his approach, or joined one of the schools that branched from his original theories. Still others reject his theories entirely, although their practice may still reflect his influence.

Psychoanalysis today maintains the same ambivalent relationship with medicine and academia that Freud experienced during his life.

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