His medical career began with an apprenticeship (1885-86) under J. M. Charcot in Paris, and soon after his return to Vienna he began his famous collaboration with Josef Breuer on the use of hypnosis in the treatment of hysteria. Their paper, On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena (1893, tr. 1909), more fully developed in Studien über Hysterie (1895), marked the beginnings of psychoanalysis in the discovery that the symptoms of hysterical patients—directly traceable to psychic trauma in earlier life—represent undischarged emotional energy (conversion; see hysteria). The therapy, called the cathartic method, consisted of having the patient recall and reproduce the forgotten scenes while under hypnosis. The work was poorly received by the medical profession, and the two men soon separated over Freud's growing conviction that the undefined energy causing conversion was sexual in nature.
Freud then rejected hypnosis and devised a technique called free association (see association), which would allow emotionally charged material that the individual had repressed in the unconscious to emerge to conscious recognition. Further works, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900, tr. 1913), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904, tr. 1914), and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905, tr. 1910), increased the bitter antagonism toward Freud, and he worked alone until 1906, when he was joined by the Swiss psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler and C. G. Jung, the Austrian Alfred Adler, and others.
In 1908, Bleuler, Freud, and Jung founded the journal Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, and in 1909 the movement first received public recognition when Freud and Jung were invited to give a series of lectures at Clark Univ. in Worcester, Mass. In 1910 the International Psychoanalytical Association was formed with Jung as president, but the harmony of the movement was short-lived: between 1911 and 1913 both Jung and Adler resigned, forming their own schools in protest against Freud's emphasis on infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex. Although these men, and others who broke away later, objected to Freudian theories, the basic structure of psychoanalysis as the study of unconscious mental processes is still Freudian. Disagreement lies largely in the degree of emphasis placed on concepts largely originated by Freud.
He considered his last contribution to psychoanalytic theory to be The Ego and the Id (1923, tr. 1927), after which he reverted to earlier cultural preoccupations. Totem and Taboo (1913, tr. 1918), an investigation of the origins of religion and morality, and Moses and Monotheism (1939, tr. 1939) are the result of his application of psychoanalytic theory to cultural problems. With the National Socialist occupation of Austria, Freud fled (1938) to England, where he died the following year.
Freudian theory has had wide impact, influencing fields as diverse as anthropology, education, art, and literary criticism. His daughter, Anna Freud, was a major proponent of psychoanalysis, developing in particular the Freudian concept of the defense mechanism. Other works include A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1910, tr. 1920) and New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1933).
See his Basic Writings (tr. and ed. by A. A. Brill, 1938, repr., 1977); The Freud-Jung Letters, ed. by W. McGuire (1974, repr. 1988); biographies by E. Jones (3 vol., 1953-57, abr. ed. 1974) and P. Gay (1988); studies by P. Roazen (1975), H. Lewis (2 vol., 1981-83), S. Schneiderman (1987), O. Olson and S. Koppe (1988), I. Gubrich-Simitis (1993, tr. 1997), and L. Breger (2000).
See E. Arnold's Deep in My Heart: A Story Based on the Life of Sigmund Romberg (1949).
In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Volsunga saga. He and his sister, Signy, are the children of Völsung and his wife Ljod. Sigmund is best known as the father of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, though Sigurd's tale has almost no connections to the Völsung cycle.
In the Völsunga saga, Signy marries Siggeir, the king of Gautland (modern Västergötland). Volsung and Sigmund are attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Odin, in the guise of a beggar, plunges a sword into the living tree Barnstokk ("offspring-trunk") around which Volsung's hall is built. The disguised Odin announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword.
Siggeir is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. Siggeir invites Sigmund, his father Völsung and Sigmund's nine brothers to visit him in in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Völsung clan arrive they are attacked by the Gauts; king Völsung is killed and his sons captured. Signy beseeches her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeir thinks that the brothers deserve to be tortured before they are killed, he agrees.
He then lets his shape-shifting mother turn into a wolf and devour one of the brothers each night, until only Sigmund remains. Signy has a servant smear honey on Sigmund's face and when the she-wolf arrives she starts licking the honey off Sigmund's face. She licks and sticks her tongue into Sigmund's mouth whereupon Sigmund bites her tongue off, killing her. Sigmund then hides in the forests of Gautland and Signy brings him everything he needs.
Sigmund escapes his bonds and lives underground in the wilderness on Siggeir's lands. While he is in hiding, Signy comes to him in the guise of a Völva (sorceress) and conceives a child by him, Sinfjötli (the Fitela of Beowulf). Bent on revenge for their father's death, Signy sends her sons to Sigmund in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each fails, Signy urges Sigmund to kill them. Finally, Sinfjötli (born of the incest between Signy and Sigmund) passes the test.
Sigmund and his son/nephew, Sinfjötli, grow wealthy as outlaws. In their wanderings, they come upon men sleeping in cursed wolf skins. Upon killing the men and wearing the wolf skins, Sigmund and Sinfjötli are cursed to a type of lycanthropy. Eventually, Sinfjötli and Sigmund avenge the death of Volsung.
After the death of Signy, Sigmund and Sinfjötli go harrying together. Sigmund marries a woman named Borghild and has two sons, one of them named Helgi. Helgi and Sinfjötli rule a kingdom jointly. Helgi marries a woman named Sigrun after killing her father. Sinfjötli later killes Sigrun's brother in battle and Sigrun avenges her brother by poisoning Sinfjötli.
Later, Sigmund marries a woman named Hjördís. After a short time of peace, Sigmund's lands are attacked by King Lyngi. While in battle, Sigmund matches up against an old man (Odin in disguise). Odin shatters Sigmund's sword, and Sigmund falls at the hands of others. Dying, Sigmund tells Hjördís that she is pregnant and that her son will one day make a great weapon out of the fragments of his sword. That son was to be Sigurd. Sigurd himself had a son named Sigmund who was killed when he was three years old by a vengeful Brynhild.