Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic
school of psychology.
theories distinctive of this school generally included the following
hypotheses: (1) that human development is best understood in terms
of changing objects of sexual desire, (2) that the psychic apparatus
habitually represses wishes, usually of a sexual or aggressive
nature, whereby they become preserved in one or more unconscious
systems of ideas, (3) that unconscious conflicts over repressed
wishes have a tendency to express themselves in dreams, parapraxes
("Freudian slips"), and symptoms, (4) that unconscious
conflicts are the source of neuroses, and (5) that neuroses can
be treated through bringing the unconscious wishes and repressed
memories to consciousness in psychoanalytic treatment.
He is commonly referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis."
Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born into an Ashkenazi Jewish family
in Freiberg (Príbor), Moravia, the Austrian Empire (now
the Czech Republic). In 1877, at the age of 21, he abbreviated
his given name to "Sigmund." Although he was the first-born
of three brothers and five sisters among his mother's children,
Sigmund had older half-brothers from his father's previous marriage.
His family had limited finances and lived in a crowded apartment,
but his parents made every effort to foster his intellect (often
favoring Sigmund over his siblings), which was apparent from an
early age. Sigmund was ranked first in his class in six of eight
years of schooling. He went on to attend the University of Vienna
at 17, in 1873–1881 despite intense anti-Semitism in Austria.
little is known of Freud's early life, as he destroyed his personal
papers at least twice, once in 1885 and again in 1907. Additionally,
his later papers were closely guarded in the Sigmund Freud Archives
and only available to his official biographer Ernest Jones and
a few other members of the inner circle of psychoanalysis.
1886, Freud returned to Vienna and, after opening a private practice
specializing in nervous and brain disorders, he married. He experimented
with hypnotism with his most hysteric and neurotic patients, but
he eventually gave up the practice. He found that he could get
his patients to talk by putting them on a couch and encouraging
them to say whatever came into their minds (a practice termed
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.
publishing some successful books on the unconscious mind in 1900
and 1901, Freud was appointed to a professorship at the University
of Vienna and began to develop a loyal following. Freud had little
tolerance for colleagues who diverged from his psychoanalytic
doctrines, however. For example, he attempted to expel those who
disagreed with the movement or even refused to accept certain
aspects of his theory which he considered central (Corey, 2001):
the most notable examples are Carl Jung and Wilhelm Reich.
the Nazi German Anschluss, Freud fled Austria with his family
with the financial help of his patient and friend Princess Marie
Bonaparte. On June 4th, 1938, they were allowed across the border
into France and then they traveled from Paris to Hampstead, London,
England, where they lived at 20 Maresfield Gardens (now the Freud
Museum). As he was leaving Germany, Freud was required to sign
a statement that he had been treated respectfully by the Nazis.
smoked cigars for most of his life; even after having his jaw
removed due to malignancy, he continued to smoke until his death
on September 23, 1939. He smoked an entire box of cigars daily.
After contracting cancer of the mouth in 1923 at the age of 67,
he underwent over 30 operations to treat the disease. In the end,
Freud could no longer tolerate the pain associated with his cancer.
He requested that his personal physician visit him at his London
home. Freud's death was by a physician-assisted morphine overdose.
Sigmund Freud's 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,
politician and writer Clement Freud, and the great-grandfather
of journalist Emma Freud, fashion designer Bella Freud and media
magnates Matthew Freud and Ria Willems.
Freud was also both a blood uncle and an uncle-in-law to public
relations and propaganda wizard Edward Bernays. Bernays's mother,
Anna Freud Bernays, was sister to Sigmund. Bernays's father, Ely
Bernays, was brother to Sigmund's wife, Martha Bernays Freud.
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 neurotics.
A lesser 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 that his speculations
were confirmed by more modern research.
was an early user and proponent of cocaine as a stimulant. He
wrote several articles on the antidepressant qualities of the
drug, and he was influenced by his friend and confidant, Wilhelm
Fliess, who recommended cocaine for the treatment of the "nasal
reflex neurosis." Fliess operated on Freud and a number of
Freud's patients whom he believed to be suffering from the disorder.
Emma Eckstein underwent disastrous nasal surgery by Fliess.
felt that cocaine would work as a cure-all 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 beat 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.
was bruised by this, especially because this would turn out to
be one of the only 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 for his early
enthusiasm. 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".
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
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.
Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud has made to modern
thought is his conception of the dynamic unconscious. During the
19th century, the dominant trend in Western thought was positivism,
the belief that people could ascertain real knowledge concerning
themselves and their environment and judiciously exercise control
over both. Freud, however, suggested that such declarations of
free will are in fact delusions; that we are not entirely aware
of what we think and often act for reasons that have little to
do with our conscious thoughts. The concept of the unconscious
was groundbreaking in that he proposed that awareness existed
in layers and that there were thoughts occurring "below the
surface." Dreams, which he called the "royal road to
the unconscious", provided the best access to our unconscious
life and the best illustration of its "logic", which
was different than the logic of conscious thought. Freud developed
his first topology of the psyche in The Interpretation of Dreams
where he proposed the argument 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—that
which we could access with a little effort. Thus for Freud, the
ideals of the Enlightenment, positivism, and rationalism could
be achieved through understanding, transforming, and mastering
the unconscious, rather than through denying or repressing it.
to the operation of the unconscious is "repression."
According to Freud, people often experience thoughts and feelings
that are so painful that people cannot bear them. Such thoughts
and feelings—and associated memories—could 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
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 we are not subjectively
aware. The dynamic unconscious, a more specific construct, referred
to mental process and contents which are defensively removed from
consciousness as a result of conflictual forces or "dynamics".
The system unconscious denoted the idea that when mental processes
are repressed, they become organized by principles different than
those of the conscious mind, such as condensation and displacement.
Freud abandoned the idea of the system unconscious, replacing
it with the concept of the id (discussed below). Throughout his
career, however, he retained the descriptive and dynamic conceptions
of the unconscious.
Freud also believed that the libido developed in individuals by
changing its object, a process designed 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 developed, 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
controlling 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 lesser known Electra
complex refers to such a fixation upon the father.)
hoped to prove that his model was universally valid and thus turned
to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative
material. Freud named his new theory the Oedipus Complex after
the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.“I found
in myself a constant love for my mother, and jealousy of my father.
I now consider this to be a universal event in childhood,”
Freud said. 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 gratification. (see Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.)
He used the Oedipus conflict to point out how much he believed
that people 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 a
tribal Oedipal conflict.
discussion of Sigmund Freud is complete without some mention of
his highly influential and controversial views on the role and
psychology of women. Freud was an early champion of both sexual
freedom and education for women (Freud, "Civilized Sexual
Morality and Modern Nervousness"). Some feminists, however,
have argued that at worst his views of women's sexual development
set the progress of women in Western culture back decades, and
that at best they lent themselves to the ideology of female inferiority.
Believing as he did that women were a kind of mutilated male,
who must learn to accept her deformity (the lack of a penis) and
submit to some imagined biological imperative, he contributed
to the vocabulary of misogyny. Terms such as "penis envy"
and "castrating" (both used to describe women who attempted
to excel in any field outside the home) contributed to discouraging
women from obtaining education or entering any field dominated
by men, until the 1970s.
the other hand, feminist theorists such as Juliet Mitchell, Nancy
Chodorow, Jessica Benjamin, Jane Gallop, and Jane Flax have argued
that psychoanalytic theory is essentially related to the feminist
project and must, like other theoretical traditions, be adapted
by women to free it from vestiges of sexism. Freud's views are
still being questioned by people concerned about women's equality.
Another feminist who finds potential use of Freud's theories in
the feminist movement is Shulamith Firestone. In "Freudianism:
The Misguided Feminism", she discusses how Freudianism is
essentially completely accurate, with the exception of one crucial
detail: everywhere that Freud writes "penis", the word
should be replaced with "power".
is interesting to note that originally Freud believed childhood
sexual abuse to be the cause of hysteria—but he then recanted
this so-called "seduction theory" ("The Index of
Sexual Abuse"), claiming that he had found many cases in
which apparent memories of childhood sexual abuse were based more
on imagination than on real events. Instead he began to emphasize
the Oedipus Theory, which asserts that everyone unconsciously
wishes to possess their parents.
In his later work, Freud proposed that the psyche was divided
into three parts: Id, Ego, and Superego. The
unconscious Id (Latin, = "it" = es in the original German)
represented primary process thinking—our most primitive
need gratification type thoughts. The Superego ( also unconscious)
represented our socially-induced morals and ethics and counteracted
the Id. Freud based the term Id on the work of Georg Groddeck.
The Ego (conscious and ego ideal )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
of psychology. Freud was especially concerned with the dynamic
relationship between these three parts of the mind, in particular,
how they enter into conflict with each other.
According to Freud, the defense mechanisms are the method by which
the ego can solve the conflicts between the superego and the id.
The use of the mechanisms required Eros (named after the Greek
god of love; Cupid in Roman mythology), and they are helpful if
moderately used. The use of defense mechanisms may attenuate the
conflict between the id and superego, but their overuse or reuse
rather than confrontation can lead to either anxiety or guilt
which may result in psychological disorders such as depression.
His daughter Anna Freud had done the most significant work on
this field, yet she credited Sigmund with defense mechanisms,
as he began the work. The defense mechanisms include: denial,
reaction formation, displacement, repression/suppression (the
proper term), projection, intellectualisation, rationalisation,
compensation, sublimation and regressive emotionality.
occurs when someone fends off awareness of an unpleasant truth
or of a reality that is a threat to the ego. For example, a student
may have received a bad grade on a report card but tells himself
that grades don't matter. (Some early writers argued for a striking
parallel between Freudian denial and Nietzsche's ideas of ressentiment
and the revaluation of values that he attributed to "herd"
or "slave" morality.)
Reaction formation takes place when a person takes the opposite
approach consciously compared to what that person wants unconsciously.
For example, someone may engage in violence against another race
because, that person claims, the members of the race are inferior,
when unconsciously it is that very person who feels inferior.
Displacement takes place when someone redirects emotion from a
"dangerous" object to a "safe" one, such as
punching a pillow to avoid hitting a friend.
Repression occurs when an experience is so painful (such as war
trauma) that it is subconsciously forced from consciousness, while
suppression is a conscious effort to do the same.
Psychological projection occurs when a person "projects"
his or her own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings—basically
parts of oneself—onto someone or something else. An example
of this would be to say that Alice doesn't like Bob, but rather
than to admit she doesn't like Bob, she will project her sentiment
onto Bob, saying that Bob doesn't like her.
Intellectualisation involves removing one's self, emotionally,
from a stressful event. Intellectualisation is often accomplished
through rationalisation rather than accepting reality, one may
explain it away to remove one's self.
Rationalization involves constructing a logical justification
for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different
mental process. For example, Jim may have bought a tape player
to listen to self-help tapes, but he tells his friends he bought
it so that he can listen to classic rock mixes for fear of his
actual reason being rejected.
Compensation occurs when someone takes up one behavior because
one cannot accomplish another behavior. For example, the second
born child may clown around to get attention since the older child
is already an accomplished scholar.
Sublimation is the channeling of impulses to socially accepted
behaviours. For instance, the use of a dark, gloomy poem to describe
life by such poets as Emily Dickinson.
The life and death instincts
Freud believed that humans were driven by two conflicting central
desires: libidinal energy (Eros) and the death drive (Thanatos).
Freud's description of Eros/Libido included all creative, life-producing
drives. The Death Drive (or death instinct) represented an urge
inherent in all living things to return to a state of calm, or,
ultimately, of non-existence. The presence of the Death Drive
was only recognized in his later years, and the contrast between
the two represents a revolution in his manner of thinking.
Freud gave explanations of the genesis of religion in his writings.
In “Totem and Taboo”, he proposed that humans originally
banded together in “primal hordes”, consisting of
a male, a number of females and the offspring of this polygamous
arrangement. According to Freud’s psychoanalytical theory,
a male child early in life has sexual desires for his mother –
the Oedipus Complex – which he held to be universal. The
father is protective, so the males love him, but they are also
jealous of their father because of his relationship with their
that individually they could not defeat the father-leader, they
banded together to kill him. After the murder, they ate him in
a ritual meal, thereby taking into themselves the substance of
the father’s hated power – but the subsequent guilt
of the sons leads them to elevate his memory and to worship him.
The super-ego then takes the place of the father as the source
of internalised authority. A ban was then put upon incest and
upon marriage within the clan, and a symbolic animal sacrifice
was substituted for the ritual killing of a human being.
Moses and Monotheism Freud reconstructed biblical history in accord
with his general theory, but biblical scholars and historians
would not accept his account since it was in opposition to the
point of view of the accepted criteria of historical evidence.
His ideas were also developed in The Future of an Illusion. When
Freud spoke of religion as an illusion, he maintained that it
is a fantasy structure from which a man must be set free if he
is to grow to maturity; and in his treatment of the unconscious
he moved toward atheism.
Freud trained as a medical doctor, and as such, he believed his
research methods and conclusions were scientific. However, his
research and practice were condemned by many of his peers, as
well as later psychologists and academics. Some, like Juliet Mitchell,
have suggested that this is because 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. Some proponents of science conclude that
this invalidates Freudian theory as a means of interpreting and
explaining human behavior. Psychoanalysis today maintains the
same ambivalent relationship with medicine and academia that Freud
experienced during his life.
psychotherapists, who seek to treat mental illness, relate to
Freudian psychoanalysis in different ways. Some psychotherapists
have modified this approach and have developed a variety of "psychodynamic"
models and therapies. Other therapists 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 psychologists generally reject Freud's methods and
theories. Psychiatrists train as medical doctors, but—like
most medical doctors in Freud's time—most reject his theory
of the mind, and generally rely more on psychoactive drugs than
talk in their treatments.
psychological theories are hotly disputed today and many leading
academic and research psychiatrists regard him as a charlatan,
but there are also many leading academic and research psychiatrists
who agree with the core of his work. Psychiatric disorders are
often considered purely diseases of the brain, the etiology of
which is principally genetic. This view emphasizes constitutional
factors in mental illness. Freud believed that the vast majority
of disorders result from a combination of constitutional and environmental
factors, the relative importance of each varying from one person
recognized a political dimension to the psyche and to psychotherapy.
He closed his 1929 book, Civilization and Its Discontents, with
a reflection that not only individuals, but entire societies,
may be proper subjects for psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.
Freud introduced three concepts that represent a break with prior
Western philosophy, whatever the value of psychoanalysis as a
form of psychotherapy.
created a model of mental processes that breaks with the Cartesian
cogito. For Freud, thought emerges from processes that are not
accessible to the subject itself through direct introspection.
In a more historicized sense, Karl Marx's analysis of ideology
precedes Freud's, but Freud makes non-transparency of subjectivity
more fundamental. Psychosexual history (in Freud's view) and membership
in a social class (in Marx's view) lie at the core of the goals
people have and the ideas they use to justify them.
examined the "rationality" to be found even in material
regarded as thoroughly inscrutable, irrational and meaningless,
such as dreams, slips, neurotic symptoms, and the verbal productions
of psychotics. Conversely, he discovered "irrationality"
(i.e., purely arbitrary and idiosyncratic elements) even in material
that is manifestly "rational" (i.e., work activities,
political philosophy, conventional social behavior).
Freud introduced a novel discursive technique in the talking cure.
Psychoanalysis enables people to mitigate distress through the
indirect revelation of unconscious content. The process of psychoanalysis
reveals retrospectively how individuals unconsciously contribute
to problems they encounter, according to specific logics of condensation
Freud's model of psychosexual development has been criticized
from different perspectives. Some have attacked Freud's claim
that infants are sexual beings (and, implicitly, Freud's expanded
notion of sexuality). Others have accepted Freud's expanded notion
of sexuality, but have argued that this pattern of development
is not universal, nor necessary for the development of a healthy
adult. Instead, they have emphasized the social and environmental
sources of patterns of development. Moreover, they call attention
to social dynamics Freud de-emphasized or ignored (such as class
relations). This branch of Freudian critique owes a great deal
to the work of Herbert Marcuse.
criticize Freud's rejection of positivism. The philosopher of
science Karl Popper formulated a method to distinguish science
from non-science. For Popper, all proper scientific theories are
potentially falsifiable. If a theory is incapable of being falsified,
then it cannot be considered scientific. Popper pointed out that
Freud's theories of psychology can always be "verified",
since no type of behaviour could ever falsify them. Although Popper's
demarcation between science and non-science is widely accepted
among scientists, it remains a controversial one itself within
philosophy of science and philosophy in general. In academic psychology,
a distinction is generally made between theories (which are considered
too abstract to be falsifiable) and specific hypotheses (which
derive from a theory and may be tested by research).
This is a partial list of patients whose case studies were published
by Freud, with pseudonyms substituted for their names:
Cäcilie M. = Anna von Lieben
Dora = Ida Bauer (1882–1945)
Frau Emmy von N. = Fanny Moser
Fräulein Elizabeth von R.
Fräulein Katharina = Aurelia Kronich
Fräulein Lucy R.
Little Hans = Herbert Graf (1903–1973)
Rat Man = Ernst Lanzer (1878–1914)
Wolf Man = Sergei Pankejeff (1887–1979)
Daniel Paul Schreber (1842–1911)
Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)