Sigmund Freud Essay

1932 words - 8 pages

Sigmund Freud was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist, and influential thinker of the 20th century. Working in close collaboration with Joseph Breuer, Freud elaborated the theory that the mind is a complex energy-system, the investigation of which is the base of psychology. He articulated and refined the concepts of the unconscious, infantile sexuality and repression, and he proposed a three part account of the mind’s structure, which was all part of a radically new therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions. Psychoanalysis, in almost all fundamental respects can be traced directly back to ...view middle of the document...

He received his medical degree in 1881, and having become engaged to be married in 1882, he rather hesitantly took up more secure and financially rewarding work as a doctor at Vienna General Hospital. Shortly after his marriage in 1886, which was extremely happy and gave Freud six children (the youngest of whom, Anna, was to herself become a distinguished psychoanalyst), Freud set up a private practice in the treatment of psychological disorders, which gave him much of the clinical material that he based his theories and pioneering techniques on.
In 1885 through 1886, Freud spent the greater part of a year in Paris, where he was deeply impressed by the work of the French neurologist Jean Charcot who was at that time using hypnotism to treat hysteria and other abnormal mental conditions. When he went back to Vienna, Freud experimented with hypnosis but found that its greater effects did not last. At this point he decided to adopt a method suggested by the work of an older Viennese colleague and friend, Josef Breuer, who had discovered that when he encouraged a hysterical patient to talk without restraint about the earliest occurrences of the symptoms, they sometimes gradually abated. Working with Breuer, Freud formulated and developed the idea that many neuroses (phobias, hysterical paralysis and pains, some forms of paranoia, and so on) had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences which had occurred in the patient’s past but were not forgotten. The treatment was to enable the patient to remember the experience to consciousness, to confront it in a deep way both intellectually and emotionally, and in thus discharging it, to remove the underlying psychological causes of the neurotic symptoms. This technique, and the theory from which it is derived, was given its classical expression in Studies in Hysteria, jointly published by Freud and Breuer in 1895.
Although a highly original thinker, Freud was also deeply influenced by a number of diverse factors which overlapped and interconnected with each other to shape the development of his thought. As indicated above, both Charcot and Breuer had a direct and immediate impact upon him, but some of the other factors, though no less important than these, were of a rather different nature. Freud’s self-analysis, which forms the core of his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams, originated in the emotional crisis which he suffered on the death of his father and the series of dreams to which this gave rise. This analysis revealed to him that the love and admiration which he had felt for his father were mixed with very contrasting feelings of shame and hate (such a mixed attitude he termed ‘ambivalence’). Particularly revealing was his discovery that he had often fantasized as a youth that his half-brother Philip (who was of an age with his mother) was really his father, and certain other signs convinced him of the deep underlying meaning of this fantasy–that he had wished his real father dead...

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