Sigmund Freud born Sigismund Shlomo Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939), was an Austrian psychiatrist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanism of repression and for creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis for curing psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Freud is also renowned for his redefinition of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, as well as his therapeutic techniques, including the use of free association, his theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires.
In October 1885 Freud went to Paris on a travelling fellowship to study with Europe's most renowned neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot. He was later to remember the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in research neurology. Charcot specialised in the study of hysteria and its susceptibility to hypnosis which he frequently demonstrated with patients on stage in front of an audience. Freud later turned away from hypnosis as a potential cure, favouring free association and dream analysis. Charcot himself questioned his own work on hysteria towards the end of his life.
After opening his own medical practice, specializing in neurology, Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886. Her father Berman was the son of Isaac Bernays, chief rabbi in Hamburg. After experimenting with hypnosis on his neurotic patients, Freud abandoned this form of treatment as it proved ineffective for many, in favor of a treatment where the patient talked through his or her problems. This came to be known as the "talking cure", as the ultimate goal of this talking was to locate and release powerful emotional energy that had initially been rejected, and imprisoned in the unconscious mind. Freud called this denial of emotions "repression", and he believed that it was often damaging to the normal functioning of the psyche, and could also retard physical functioning as well, which he described as "psychosomatic" symptoms. (The term "talking cure" 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.
There has long been dispute about the possibility that a romantic liaison blossomed between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, who had moved into Freud's apartment at 19 Berggasse in 1896. 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 has been suggested 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), who had died in 1896, and "he also recalled his childhood sexual feelings for his mother (Amalia Freud), who was attractive, warm, and protective" (Corey 2001, p. 67) 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 1902, 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, which earned him the animosity of a number of individuals, the most famous being Carl Jung, who originally supported Freud's ideas. Part of the reason for their fallout was due to Jung's growing commitment to religion and mysticism, which conflicted with Freud's atheism.
A heavy cigar smoker, Freud endured more than 30 operations during his life due to oral cancer. In September 1939 he prevailed on his doctor and friend Max Schur to assist him in suicide. After reading Balzac's La Peau de chagrin in a single sitting he said, "My dear Schur, you certainly remember our first talk. You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense any more." Schur administered three doses of morphine over many hours that resulted in Freud's death on September 23, 1939. Three days after his death, Freud's body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in England during a service attended by Austrian refugees, including the author Stefan Zweig. His ashes were later placed in the crematorium's columbarium. They rest in an ancient Greek urn which Freud had received as a present from Marie Bonaparte and which he had kept in his study in Vienna for many years. After Martha Freud's death in 1951, her ashes were also placed in that urn. Golders Green Crematorium has since also become the final resting place for Anna Freud and her lifelong friend Dorothy Burlingham, as well as for several other members of the Freud family.
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 in order to free the patient from the suffering caused by the repetitive return of distorted forms of these thoughts and feelings.
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 credited 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, dissociation, and amnesia; today this set of 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" and his newly-developed analytic technique of interpretation and reconstruction. According to the traditional story, based on Freud's later accounts of this period, 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 then came to realize that they were fantasies. He explained these at first as having the function of "fending off" memories of infantile masturbation, but in later years he wrote that they represented Oedipal wishful fantasies. A different version of events starts with Freud's first positing that unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse were at the root of the psychoneuroses in letters to Wilhelm Fliess in October 1895 before he reported that he had actually discovered such abuse among his patients. In the first half of 1896 Freud published three papers stating that he had uncovered, in all of his current patients, deeply repressed memories of sexual abuse in early childhood. In these papers Freud recorded that with his patients the imputed memories were not conscious, and that on his theory they must be present as unconscious memories if they were to result in hysterical symptoms or obsessional neurosis. The patients were subjected to considerable pressure to "reproduce" infantile sexual abuse "scenes" that Freud was convinced had been repressed into the unconscious. However they generally were unconvinced that what they experienced under the influence of his clinical procedures indicated that they had actually been subjected to early childhood sexual abuse: he reported that even after the supposed "reproduction" of sexual scenes the patients assured him emphatically of their unbelief.
As well as his "pressure technique," Freud's clinical procedures involved analytic inference and the symbolic interpretation of symptoms to "trace back" to infantile sexual abuse "scenes". His claim of one hundred percent confirmation of his theory only served to reinforce previously expressed reservations from his colleagues about the validity of findings obtained by means of the suggestive techniques he was using.
Freud felt that cocaine would work as a panacea for many disorders and wrote a well-received paper, "On Coca," explaining its virtues. He prescribed it to his friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow to help him overcome a morphine addiction he had acquired while treating a disease of the nervous system. Freud also recommended it to many of his close family and friends. He narrowly missed out on obtaining scientific priority for discovering cocaine's anesthetic properties (of which Freud was aware but on which he had not written extensively), after Karl Koller, a colleague of Freud's in Vienna, presented a report to a medical society in 1884 outlining the ways in which cocaine could be used for delicate eye surgery. Freud was bruised by this, especially because this would turn out to be one of the few safe uses of cocaine, as reports of addiction and overdose began to filter in from many places in the world. Freud's medical reputation became somewhat tarnished because of this early ambition. Furthermore, Freud's friend Fleischl-Marxow developed an acute case of "cocaine psychosis" as a result of Freud's prescriptions and died a few years later. Freud felt great regret over these events, which later biographers have dubbed "The Cocaine Incident." However, he managed to move on, and even continued to use cocaine.
Jurgen von Scheidt speculated that most of Freud's psychoanalytical theory was a byproduct of his cocaine use.
Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud made to Western thought were his arguments concerning the importance of the unconscious mind in understanding conscious thought and behavior. However, as psychologist Jacques Van Rillaer pointed out, "contrary to what most people believe, the unconscious was not discovered by Freud. In 1890, when psychoanalysis was still unheard of, William James, in his monumental treatise on psychology, examined the way Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, Janet, Binet and others had used the term 'unconscious' and 'subconscious'". Boris Sidis, a Russian Jew who emigrated to the United States of America in 1887, and studied under William James, wrote The Psychology of Suggestion: A Research into the Subconscious Nature of Man and Society in 1898, followed by ten or more works over the next twenty five years on similar topics to the works of Freud. Historian of psychology Mark Altschule concluded, "It is difficult - or perhaps impossible - to find a nineteenth-century psychologist or psychiatrist who did not recognize unconscious cerebration as not only real but of the highest importance. Freud's advance was not to uncover the unconscious but to devise a method for systematically studying it.
Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious". This meant that dreams illustrate the "logic" of the unconscious mind. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it. The preconscious was described as a layer between conscious and unconscious thought; its contents could be accessed with a little effort.
One key factor in the operation of the unconscious is "repression." Freud believed that many people "repress" painful memories deep into their unconscious mind. 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 repression varies among individual patients. Freud also argued that the act of repression did not take place within a person's consciousness. Thus, people are unaware of the fact that they have buried memories or traumatic experiences.
Later, Freud distinguished between three concepts of the unconscious: the descriptive unconscious, the dynamic unconscious, and the system unconscious. The descriptive unconscious referred to all those features of mental life of which people are not subjectively aware. The dynamic unconscious, a more specific construct, referred to mental processes and contents which are defensively removed from consciousness as a result of conflicting attitudes. The system unconscious denoted the idea that when mental processes are repressed, they become organized by principles different from those of the conscious mind, such as condensation and displacement.
Eventually, Freud abandoned the idea of the system unconscious, replacing it with the concept of the Ego, super-ego, and id. Throughout his career, however, he retained the descriptive and dynamic conceptions of the unconscious.
Freud originally posited childhood sexual abuse as a general explanation for the origin of neuroses, but he abandoned this so-called "seduction theory" as insufficiently explanatory, noting that he had found many cases in which apparent memories of childhood sexual abuse were based more on imagination than on real events. During the late 1890s Freud, who never abandoned his belief in the sexual etiology of neuroses, began to emphasize fantasies built around the Oedipus complex as the primary cause of hysteria and other neurotic symptoms. Despite this change in his explanatory model, Freud always recognized that some neurotics had been sexually abused by their fathers, and was quite explicit about discussing several patients whom he knew to have been abused.
Freud also believed that the libido developed in individuals by changing its object, a process codified by the concept of sublimation. 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 develop, they become fixated on different and specific objects through their stages of development—first in the oral stage (exemplified by an infant's pleasure in nursing), then in the anal stage (exemplified by a toddler's pleasure in evacuating his or her bowels), then in the phallic stage. Freud argued that children then passed through a stage in which they fixated on the mother as a sexual object (known as the Oedipus Complex) but that the child eventually overcame and repressed this desire because of its taboo nature. (The term 'Electra complex' is sometimes used to refer to such a fixation on the father, although Freud did not advocate its use.) The repressive or dormant latency stage of psychosexual development preceded the sexually mature genital stage of psychosexual development.
Freud's views have sometimes been called phallocentric. This is because, for Freud, the unconscious desires the phallus (penis). Males are afraid of losing their masculinity, symbolized by the phallus, to another male. Females always desire to have a phallus - an unfulfillable desire. Thus boys resent their fathers (fear of castration) and girls desire theirs.
Given this proposition, Freud acknowledged the tendency for the unconscious to repeat unpleasurable experiences in order to desensitize, or deaden, the body. This compulsion to repeat unpleasurable experiences explains why traumatic nightmares occur in dreams, as nightmares seem to contradict Freud's earlier conception of dreams purely as a site of pleasure, fantasy, and desire. On the one hand, the life drives promote survival by avoiding extreme unpleasure and any threat to life. On the other hand, the death drive functions simultaneously toward extreme pleasure, which leads to death. Freud addressed the conceptual dualities of pleasure and unpleasure, as well as sex/life and death, in his discussions on masochism and sadomasochism. The tension between Eros and Thanatos represented a revolution in his manner of thinking.
These ideas resemble aspects of the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy, expounded in The World as Will and Representation, describes a renunciation of the will to live that corresponds on many levels with Freud's Death Drive. Similarly, the life drive clearly parallels much of Nietzsche's concept of the Dionysian in The Birth of Tragedy. However, Freud denied having been acquainted with their writings before he formulated the groundwork of his own ideas.
Freud's theories and research methods have always been controversial. However, Freud has had a tremendous impact on psychotherapy. Many psychotherapists follow Freud's approach to a greater or lesser extent, even if they reject his theories. One influential post-Freudian psychotherapy has been the primal therapy of the American psychologist Arthur Janov.
Freud's contributions to psychotherapy have been extensively criticised by some scholars and historians, and defended by others.
Critics include H. J. Eysenck, who wrote that Freud 'set psychiatry back one hundred years', consistently mis-diagnosed his patients, fraudulently misrepresented case histories and that "what is true in Freud is not new and what is new in Freud is not true".
Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen wrote in a review of Han Israëls's book Der Fall Freud published in The London Review of Books that, "The truth is that Freud knew from the very start that Fleischl, Anna O. and his 18 patients were not cured, and yet he did not hesitate to build grand theories on these non-existent foundations...he disguised fragments of his self-analysis as ‘objective’ cases, that he concealed his sources, that he conveniently antedated some of his analyses, that he sometimes attributed to his patients ‘free associations’ that he himself made up, that he inflated his therapeutic successes, that he slandered his opponents.
Jacques Lacan saw attempts to locate pathology in, and then to cure, the individual as more characteristic of American ego psychology than of proper psychoanalysis. For Lacan, psychoanalysis invovled "self-discovery" and even social criticism, and it succeeded insofar as it provided emancipatory self-awareness.
Freud did not consider himself a philosopher, although he greatly admired Franz Brentano, known for his theory of perception, as well as Theodor Lipps, who was one of the main supporters of the ideas of the subconscious and empathy. In his 1932 lecture on psychoanalysis as "a philosophy of life" Freud commented on the distinction between science and philosophy:
Freud's model of the mind is often considered a challenge to the enlightenment model of rational agency, which was a key element of much modern philosophy. Freud's theories have had a tremendous effect on the Frankfurt school and critical theory. Freud had an incisive influence on some French philosophers following the "return to Freud" of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.
Freud used pseudonyms in his case histories. Many of the people identified only by pseudonyms were traced to their true identities by Peter Swales. Some patients known by pseudonyms were Anna O. (Bertha Pappenheim, 1859–1936); Cäcilie M. (Anna von Lieben); Dora (Ida Bauer, 1882–1945); Frau Emmy von N. (Fanny Moser); Fräulein Elisabeth von R. (Ilona Weiss); Fräulein Katharina (Aurelia Kronich); Fräulein Lucy R.; Little Hans (Herbert Graf, 1903–1973); Rat Man (Ernst Lanzer, 1878–1914); and Wolf Man (Sergei Pankejeff, 1887–1979). Other famous patients included H.D. (1886–1961); Emma Eckstein (1865–1924); Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), with whom Freud had only a single consultation; and Princess Marie Bonaparte.
People on whom psychoanalytic observations were published, but who were not patients, included Daniel Paul Schreber (1842–1911); Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), on whom Freud co-authored an analysis with primary writer William Bullitt; Michelangelo, whom Freud analyzed in his essay, "The Moses of Michelangelo"; Leonardo da Vinci, analyzed in Freud's book, Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood; Moses, in Freud's book, Moses and Monotheism; and Josef Popper-Lynkeus, in Freud's paper, "Josef Popper-Lynkeus and the Theory of Dreams."