Monday, September 26, 2011

Freud And His Controversial Theories

Freud’s studies about the unconscious had deep impact on the 20th century though. He was born in Austria in 1856 and studied medicine in Vienna. 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 1930.

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:


  1. I was always closer to my mother, so I guess freud wouldn't like me :) I never really could understand the whole penis envy idea, I have two boys, so my house is all men and I'm not envious :)

  2. Andreea,
    Human psychology is a wide area of study -different exposures and ways of life, cultures and religion that have strong influence on individuals. I am an Auditor by profession (now running own business), we got to learn a bit in our studies as we need to apply some basic knowledge in the course of our work.

    Very refreshing comment to the "THINK EQUAL" post, The World Bank calls on all to help and get involved and spread the words around @


  3. one thing or another I think he has proven his theories to himself..what you think is what you'll become..he thought of dying at the age of 51..thinking many negative things that made him so depressed..all of our achievements and failures in life always starts in our minds..on my experience ewwwww.. a battle inside my mind not to be insane..that's human psychology in reality hehehe..

    passing by sis..there is a storm here..but we can still smile :) *huuuggggsss*

  4. I have no doubt Freud had some good ideas...I just wonder??? - if he was born as woman, would he still have the same conclusions about women???

  5. great findings of Freud but I think its what the mind conceives, that what our action will be. Our thinking does control our actions, so that right thought is so important.

    See how he ended up his life by trying to shorten his life as his mind did wonders in his actions to make it came through.

  6. A very interesting post. He had the unique and horrifying gift of thinking the unthinkable.

  7. hi andreea, i am certain this Freud guy needed a psychiatrist years before he wandered too far and then find it impossible to return, because his mind refuse to believe he can.

    How on earth can he treat others, when he himself cant believe in treatment or had turned into a psycho. That's scary..
    His complex made him think of death and yearn to die badly.He got sick through self inflicting pain and torture, both mentally and physically.

    I have heard quite a number of cases where psychiatrists commit suicide, when they should be strong.. What a waste of money and valuable time their patients had to go through. There's madness everywhere, thought provoking post...

  8. I do not like his stupid theories. His theory about girl and father is false becauce here girls are equaly close to there mother and father. They be with there mother to learn many things as cooking, handling things, cleaning, etc and with father to learn modern rules, outside world and education. He was to consult a phsycatrist.
    l and father is false becauce here girls are equaly close to there mother and father. They be with there mother to learn many things as cooking, handling things, cleaning, etc and with father to learn modern rules, outside world and education. He was to consult a phsycatrist.

  9. Andreea if you have time kindly visit my site.I have passed an award to you.thank you :)

  10. @ Frugal in WV true, I can’t understand the penis envy idea either, but there’s no science behind it so it’s ok to not understand it :D
    @katrina It’s so great that you have to apply psychology in your work. Thanks for the link, we should all check out that poll.
    @Sie yes, overthinking things can make people insane. He probably became a psychiatrist because he wanted to help himself too. I think we all have a small battle within to avoid insanity. Thanks for your comment, hugs >:D<
    @Jasna Well even though Freud was rational with some of his ideas, his theory about women is absolutely ridiculous from a scientific point of view. So yeah, he was probably biased because he was a man too.
    @Nava.K Right thinking is important but it’s very hard to know what constitutes right thinking and what doesn’t.
    @Jay thanks dear
    @Ann Ha ha, I love how you put it. Yes, was both blessed and cursed.
    @cookingvarieties All psychologists/psychiatrists need therapy themselves because this type of work makes you go insane. Yes he did a lot of harm to himself but let’s not forget that heroine and tobacco’s harmful effects were not known in those times. Actually, heroine was used as an ailment.
    @Sarang Mangi His theories are indeed unfounded and I would really love to see any scientific evidence in his favor. I don’t think that will happen very soon though…
    @Sie Yes, I accepted your award and wrote about it in my latest post :D Thanks you so much, you are such a wonderful person.

  11. I am more into Jung, when I read Jung I stop arguing with the wife.

  12. ego (after Freud)

  13. I'm a psych graduate myself. There is such a thing called penis envy, and castration anxiety only works for little boys. Not girls.

  14. I was referring to the apparent castration little girls feel after the penis envy phase. When they blame their mothers for their castration. I was referring to the Electra complex but forgot to mention its name:

    "The psychodynamic character of the daughter–mother relationship in the Electra complex derives from penis envy, caused by mother, who also caused the girl's castration; however, upon re-aligning her sexual attraction to father (heterosexuality), the girl represses the hostile female competition, for fear of losing the love of her mother." Bullock, A., Trombley, S. (1999) The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought Harper Collins:London pp. 259, 705 (cit. on Wikipedia) but you can probably also find it in any Psychology Dictionary or Basic Psychoanalysis course.


  15. "The psychodynamic character of the daughter–mother relationship in the Electra complex

    "Isn't that his way of saying "if you are nuts in this specific way..." Not to suggest everyone will manifest this complex, at least to any degree that they are aware of. The responses here seem to suggest he was describing phases all or most humans (gender allowing) will experience.

    Anyway gold for me as I am here to mine for his sillier ideas.