Sigmund Freud is without a doubt, one of the most influential figures of psychology to date. Also known as “The Father of Psychology”, or ‘The Father of Psychoanalysis”, Freud is well-renowned for his theories of the brain, behavior, and the consciousness. Freud’s form of therapy, called psychoanalysis, developed from the psychoanalytic theory, is both controversial and dark, yet exciting.
Sigmund Freud was born May 6, 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia. From an early age, Freud showed much intellectual ability. Despite cramped living conditions, Sigmund’s parents did all that they could to foster their son’s talent. He attended high school at “Leopoldstadter Communal-Real-und Obergymnasium”, and showed a particular interest in learning and reading. In the year of 1873, Freud became a professor of medicine at the University of Vienna. Later into his career, he studied with Jean-Martin Charcot. Under Jean-Martin Charcot, Freud practiced and observed hypnosis as a clinical technique, which then caused him to start formulating his ideas for his later theories. He then entered a new era of his findings, as Freud began working on understanding and teaching the concept of hysteria. He published the book Studies on Hysteria with Josef Breuer in the year 1895. Together, Freud and Breuer developed what was known as the “talking cure.” This was the theory that being hypnotized and talking about things hidden in the subconscious could cure symptoms of hysteria. By this time, he had made significant progress in mapping out and defining his own theory of the mind. At the dawn of the 20th century, Freud’s father died. Sigmund used this catastrophic event as a source of inspiration, and thus, the book The Interpretation of Dreams was born. Freud also published Psychopathology of Everyday Life in 1901. By 1902 he finally got the position of associate professor at the University of Vienna. In 1905, Freud published ideas that would shock society. They were groundbreaking and new, though utterly controversial. He concluded that that sexuality was present even in an infant, and that the sexual drive was the most powerful shaper of a person's psychology. During this time period he also published his most well-known theory, the “Oedipus Complex" which is the belief that in boys, there is a sexual attraction towards the mother and a sense of jealousy to the point of hatred of the father. During the eight year of the century Freud established a Psychoanalytic society in Vienna. The next few years were a crucial time for Freud, as his ideas and concepts became more accepted and appreciated by the whole of society. In the year 1923, Freud was diagnosed with jaw cancer, which resulted from smoking a cigar. Over the course of 16 years, Freud underwent over 30 operations to try and slow the progressive disease. Austria was then taken over by the Nazi party in 1938. As a result, Freud and his wife were exiled to England. In the month of September, 1939 Sigmund Freud died from an untreatable outbreak of cancer. Though he will be remembered as a man of controversial and radical ideas, Sigmund Freud will also be remembered as a man who drastically paved the way to modern psychology and the most sophisticated ideas of the conscious, subconscious, and the human psyche.
Although Freud developed many exciting and radical new theories that are a new development to both ancient and modern psychology, his most remembered theory is perhaps his idea of psychoanalysis. To state it simply, psychoanalysis is defined as “a systematic structure of theories concerning the relation of conscious and unconscious psychological processes.”(Dictionary.com ,n.d.) Though what does this mean exactly? Just what is the unconscious and conscious? Also, how is psychoanalysis used as a therapy?
The unconscious mind consists of the “processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not available to introspection”.(Psychology Today, n.d.) Therefore, the unconscious contains information that is rarely available for accessibility by the conscious. The unconscious mind can also be looked at as a “reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness.”(American Psychoanalytic Association, n.d.) Freud often times referred to the conscious and unconscious as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg that is above the water represents our conscious. We can see it and it is accessible to us at all times. We can control our conscious. The remainder of the iceberg, or the portion that is below the surface of the water, is our unconscious. It is hidden from us, and to tap into it, we must consciously delve into what we are not used to thinking about.
Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy in which the patient would lie down on a couch while the therapist, or psychoanalyst, would sit behind them and take notes and listen. The patient would typically talk about their dreams and childhood memories, which would then be analyzed and repeated to the patient by the therapist. The overall goal of a psychoanalysis therapy session was for the patient to gain insight on his/her own consciousness, and furthermore, to help them realize that there “are factors outside of a person's awareness, such as unconscious thoughts, feelings and experiences which influence his or her thoughts and actions.”(American Psychoanalytic Association, n.d.)
When I was a child, I was sexually abused by a neighbor. My memories from those particular experiences haunt me every day, and I often times find myself lingering in the emotions of what I can’t seem to forget. If I were to go see a psychoanalyst who follows the Freudian theory, they would start by having me lie down and talk about a problem that has recently been bothering me. He or she would probably have me talk as much as I could about the problem, and also try to name my emotions that were linked to it. They would be taking notes and after I would say something, they might have me pause and they would repeat what I said back to me, after having reworded my original statement. Then, they would proceed by having me stop thinking about my current problem and instead, try and recount past dreams and childhood experiences. At this point, they would analyze what I am saying and somehow relate it to my abuse. For example: I often times find that I have a hard time with letting my boyfriend get intimate with me. I find that when he starts to kiss and touch me, my palms get sweaty, and my breathing gets heavy. Also, the other night I had a dream that my boyfriend was kissing me and suddenly, he turned into a monster. I was crying, scared and very upset. The psychoanalyst would relate my problem with getting intimate to having been abused as a child. They would say that my fear from the experience is present when I am trying to get close to my boyfriend. He or she would also say that my unconscious thoughts about my abuse are getting in the way of me allowing myself to get intimate with him, thus the sweaty palms and heavy breathing are involuntary results of emotions released when my unconscious self is thinking back to the memories of the abuse.
Sigmund Freud has altered the way in which we look at the human psyche. His contributions to the world of psychology are very important to both the psychologists of today and the psychologists of tomorrow. His theory of psychoanalysis has proved to be a breakthrough for millions of Americans and others from around the globe. We will always remember Sigmund Freud and his radical ideas of the conscious, unconscious, and human brain.
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