This is an overview of the life of Sigmund Freud and his influential contributions to psychology. His early life and education are discussed, as well as his thoughts, beliefs, theories and research interests. Sigmund Freud’s major contribution to psychology has been his creation of the psychoanalysis and the psychodynamic approach to psychology. Sigmund Freud believed that with psychoanalysis he invented the science of the mind. Despite repeated criticisms, attempted refutations, and qualifications of Freud’s work, it has remained powerful well after his death.
Life, Theories & Contributions to Psychology
Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) is an Austrian neurologist, founder of psychoanalysis. Freud obtained a medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1881. Within a year, he became a clinical assistant at the General Hospital in Vienna and trained with psychiatrist Theodor Meynert and Hermann Nothnagel, a professor of internal medicine. Freud was a respected physician who performed a research on the brain’s medulla and was appointed lecturer in neuropathology (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). In 1886 Freud left Vienna to continue his studies of neuropathology at a clinic in Paris, where he worked under the guidance of Jean-Martin Charcot. Charcot’s worked with patients that suffered with “Hysterics” through her studies she demonstrated of a link between hysterical symptoms, such as paralysis of a limb, and hypnotic suggestion implied the power of mental states rather than nerves in etiology of disease. This experience introduced Freud to advance research he had not yet explored (Rennison, 2001).
Theories & Contributions to Psychology
His colleague, friend and mentor Josef Breuer inspired Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Freud hypothesized that neuroses had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences that had occurred in the patient’s past. He believed that the original occurrences had been forgotten and hidden from consciousness. His treatment was to empower his patients to recall the experience and bring it to consciousness, and in doing so, confront it both intellectually and emotionally. He believed one could then discharge it and rid oneself of the neurotic symptoms. (Encyclopedia of world biography, 2010). Freud’s method of having his patients lie down and speak on whatever is on their mind, during session several times a week proved to be effective. Psychologists in the 21-century, perform this practice only with less frequent sessions. In this modern day, there’s limited medical coverage and meeting with a psychologist multiple times a week would be extremely costly and impossible for the middle class to afford. With all of the mental health concerns in our modern day, it would be of great benefit to the population that struggles with mental health disorders, if the states offered coverage for at least one-hour sessions minimum three times a week.
Some of Freud’s most influential and for others controversial theories included:
Id, Ego, and Superego; Freud believed that these three are the most essential parts of the human personality. The id he defined as the primitive, impulsive and irrational unconscious that operates solely on the outcome of pleasure or pain and is responsible for instincts to sex and aggression (Biography.com, 2017). The ego is the “I” people perceive that evaluates the outside physical and social world and makes plans accordingly. And the superego is the moral voice and conscience that guides the ego; violating it results in feelings of guilt and anxiety. Freud believed the superego was mostly formed within the first five years of life based on the moral standards of a person’s parents; it continued to be influenced into adolescence by other role models (Biography.com, 2017).
Psychic energy; Freud postulated that the id was the basic source of psychic energy, or the force that drives all mental processes. In particular he believed that libido, or sexual urges, was a psychic energy that drives all of human actions; the libido was countered by thanatos, the death instinct that drives destructive behavior (Biography.com, 2017).
Oedipus complex; Between the ages of three and five, Freud suggested that as a normal part of the development process all kids are sexually attracted to the parent of the opposite sex and in competition with the parent of the same sex. The theory is named after the Greek legend of Oedipus, who killed his father so he could marry his mother (Biography.com, 2017).
Dream analysis: In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud believed that people dreamed for a reason: to cope with problems the mind is struggling with subconsciously and can’t deal with consciously. Dreams were fueled by a person’s wishes. Freud believed that by analyzing our dreams and memories, we could understand them, which can subconsciously influence our current behavior and feelings (Biography.com, 2017).
Freud’s work has been both praised and criticized; yet no one in his days has influenced the science of psychology as intensely as Sigmund Freud. It is safe for me to say that Sigmund Freud was advanced for his times. Even after his death decades later his contribution is utilized for educational purposes and is admired even by those who does not agree nor accept his theories.
- Elias, Marilyn. (2006). “Freud: So wrong and yet so right.” p10D USA Today. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A145358350/AONE?u=cuny_baruch&sid=AONE&xid=c02528a4. Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.
- Nick Rennison. (2001). Sigmund Freud. Pocket Essentials; E-book
- Jones, E. (1953). The life and work of Sigmund Freud. Oxford, England: Basic Books.
- K. Krapp. (2005). Vol. 1. p145-173. Psychologists and Their Theories for Students. Gale. Detroit.
- J. Longe. (2016). Vol. 1. 3rd p440-442. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. Gale Publishing, Farmington Hills.
- Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Translated by A. A. Brill. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2015.
- Burns, Tom, and Burns-Lundgren, Eva. Psychotherapy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
- Psychology (2014) p10. Rice University. Houston, Texas
- com. Sigmund Freud (2017). URL: https://www.biography.com/people/sigmund-freud-9302400 A&E Television Networks Publisher.
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