Question: What would you say has been Freudâ€™s greatest contribution to our understanding of ourselves and our world?
Loved or loathed, Sigmund Freud, perhaps more than any other explorer of the psyche, has shaped our thinking on the mind in the 20th century. We see this in the way his ideas have woven themselves into the tapestry of our culture, with words such as â€˜repressedâ€™ â€˜analâ€™ and â€˜denialâ€™ appearing regularly in everyday language. The ongoing venom of his detractors is a living testament to the staying power of Freud's concepts. Even the psychiatrist Dr. Edwin Fuller Torrey, although he has been a fierce opponent of Freud, conceded that the common link within all ...view middle of the document...
Freud began experimenting with hypnosis and encouraged his patients to freely speak while being hypnotized. Eventually, he began to dislike the use of hypnosis and preferred instead to have the client merely in a relaxed state. In this fashion he began to explore the existence of an unconscious and its part in our development. While listening to his patients he recognised their unconscious minds were releasing memories, sometimes painful ones, which had been trapped within their minds since childhood. These suppressed memories, he discovered, were often the root cause of the symptoms his client had presented with, too traumatic for the mind to deal with, they were locked away in the unconscious as a defence mechanism.
Freud encouraged the clients to recall their dreams as he felt that dreams were a direct reflection of the workings of the unconscious thought process. He famously referred to dreams asâ€™ the royal roadâ€™ to understanding the unconscious. In his 1900 book, "The Interpretation of Dreams," Freud wrote that the purpose of dreams is to express primitive, sexual and aggressive wishes. These wishes, according to Freud, have their foundation in early childhood experiences but are too taboo or likely to provoke anxiety to break the surface of consciousness. He theorized that whilst dreaming these forbidden impulses are disguised in bizarre imagery, and it is the job of the psychoanalyst to uncover dreams' latent meaning thus releasing the unconscious thought process.
In order to better understand personality and behaviour, Freud developed â€˜modelsâ€™ to explain the forces at work within us. In particular, in "The Interpretation of Dreams" (1900) he identified three different parts of the mind, based on our level of awareness. His proposed topography of the mind is as follows:
The Conscious mind:
The conscious mind includes only our current thinking processes and objects of attention and constitutes a very large part of our current awareness.
The Preconscious mind:
The preconscious includes those things of which we are aware, but where we are not particularly paying attention. It is the repository of easy access memory. We can choose to deliberately and easily bring these thoughts into the conscious mind.
We can control our awareness to a certain extent, from focusing in very closely on one conscious act to a wider awareness that seeks to expand consciousness to include as much of preconscious information as possible. We can verbalise our conscious experience and think about it in a logical fashion.
Freud felt that this part of the mind was not directly accessible to awareness. Here at the unconscious level, the processâ€™s and content are out of direct reach of our conscious mind. Freud saw the unconscious as the repository for urges, feelings and ideasÂ that are likely to bring anxiety, conflict and pain. These feelings and thoughts have not disappeared and according to Freud, they are...