Freud’s studies about the unconscious had deep impact on the 20th century though. He was born in
in 1856 and studied medicine in .
He revolutionized psychiatry by developing psychoanalysis and this “speech
therapy” replaced some medicine and electric shocks that were used as
treatment. Freud was also an exceptional writer, winning the Goethe Prize in
Freud’s basic idea was the fact that human behavior is greatly influenced by sexual desire, which he considered present in humans from early childhood. He argued that dreams, like neurosis, were a disguised desire and the key to understanding behavior.
He is also known for dividing the human mind into: id, ego, and superego. The id is the primitive part of our mind, where instincts like sexual desire or hunger exist. Ego is the rational self and superego is the moral element that tries to inhibit the ego with culpability.
Sublimation, Oedip’s complex or “guilt complex” are just a few of the concepts Freud came up with and are still used in psychology today.
One idea that managed to make feminists really angry was the one regarding childhood molesting. Freud argued that his molested female patients were imagining everything. He also had the Penis Envy theory which was about the envy women felt because they had castration anxiety. He suggested that when they are 3-5 years old, girls distance themselves from their mothers and devote their affections to their fathers because they realize that they have no penis. Unconsciously, girls believe that their mothers are responsible for their missing penis.
Another controversial idea was the one regarding religion. For Freud, religion was an expression of neuroses and distress and also a way to control the Oedipal complex, feel fulfillment, and an attempt to gain control over the outside world. He believed that all religions were mass deceit but also added that no religious person would ever recognize that. This was probably one of his most controversial statements and it brought him even more fame.
He wrote: “A religion, even if it calls itself a religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it."
His idea about death was also very unusual for that time. He considered that humans have an instinct of death that manifests itself through a need to destroy oneself.
There were no experimental studies proving that Freud’s methods worked better than the ones used by other psychiatrists at the time and soon he became less and less popular. This was a dramatic experience for Freud and he was convinced that his adversaries were mentally ill. He wrote to his friend Carl Jung that he was treating his reluctant colleagues the same way as he treated his patients.
When he reached his forties, Freud started believing that he would die at the age of 51. He started being depressed and having more and more medical problems, so he began self analysis. The major breakthrough of his self analysis was the fact that he felt a lot of hostility towards his father and that he had sexual feelings towards his mother when he was about two or two and a half years old. He experimented with cocaine and considered it to be a great treatment. He also smoked a lot and believed that it helped him concentrate more, which eventually gave him cancer; he committed suicide with the help of a fellow doctor when his pain was unbearable.
Freud might have been an unusual character but his concepts and ideas are still widely used today and his “speech therapy” is the basis of many psychological approaches.
Further reading and references:
Further reading and references: