Sigmund Freud, a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and father of psychoanalysis, is generally recognized as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century. Freud’s most important and frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a new science of the mind, however, remains the subject of much critical debate and controversy.
Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in Freiberg, Moravia. His father was a wool merchant and his mother was a lively woman, who was twenty years younger than his father and also his second wife. Sigmund was his mother first child of seven and he had two older half brothers. At the age of four, his family moved to Vienna where he lived most of his life.
Sigmund was a brilliant child and eventually went to medical school – which was one of the more viable choices for a Jewish boy in Vienna. He became involved in research under the direction of a physiology professor – Ernst Brucke. Brucke believed in reductionism: “ No other forces that the common physical – chemical ones are active within the organism”. Freud would later spend many years on trying to “reduce” personality to neurology, something he would eventually give up.
Freud was very successful with his research, especially neurophysiology, and invented a special cell staining technique. While he was successful with what he had accomplished, there were limited available positions available and Brucke helped him receive a grant to enable his to study with the great psychiatrist in Charcot in Paris and then late his rival Bernheim in Nancy. Both studied the use of hypnosis with hysterics.
After spending a short time as a resident in neurology in Berlin, he returned home to his fiancee, Martha Bernays, and set up a small practice in neuropsychiatry with the help of Joseph Breuer.
Freud’s books and lectures brought him both fame and criticism from the mainstream of the medical community. He drew a number of very bright supporters who became the core of the psychoanalytic movement. Freud’s biggest flaw although, was the inability to be able to accept criticism and was known for rejecting people that did not agree with him and most went on to find competing schools of thought.
Freud immigrated to England just before World War II, as Vienna became increasing dangerous place for Jews, especially for ones as famous as Freud. September 23,1939, Freud died of cancer of the mouth and jaw that he had suffered from the last 20 years of his life.
Sigmund Freud had numerous theories over the course of his career; the ones that I will be discussing are only a few.
Freud did not create the idea of the conscious versus the conscious mind, however he was responsible for making it popular. The conscious mind in what you are aware of at any particular moment, your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies and feelings. The largest part, however, being the un-conscious. The unconscious includes things that are not easily available to awareness, including out drives or instincts and things that we cannot bear to look at, such as memories and emotions associated with trauma. According to Freud’s theories, the unconscious is the source of our motivations.
The id, the ego and the superego are another well-known theory that plays off of the conscious and un-conscious mind. Freudian psychology begins with a world full of objects. Among them is a very special object, the organism. An extremely important part of the organism is the nervous system. At birth, the nervous system is a little more than of other animals, an “it” or id. The id, or the nervous system, translates the needs of the organism into motivational forces, or otherwise called the primary process. The id works in conjunction with the “pleasure principle”, which is the demand to take care of the immediate need. An example, a screaming newborn does not realize that it needs food; it only understands that it needs something now.
The ego derives from the id, or the “it” to the “I” that takes place during the first year of one’s life. The ego relates the organism to reality by means of its unconscious, and searches for objects to satisfy the wishes that the id creates to represent the organism’s needs. This is called the secondary process. The ego, unlike the id, functions according to the reality principle, which says, “take care of a need as soon as an appropriate object is found.”
The ego then struggles to keep the id, or the organism, happy. The ego keeps record of the obstacles, aids, rewards and punishments, and from there forms the superego. This theory is usually not complete until the age of seven, if ever.
There are two aspects of the superego: conscious and ego ideal. The conscious is an internalization of punishments and warnings. The ego ideal derives from rewards and positive models presented to the child. The conscious and the superego communicate their requirements to the ego with feelings like pride, shame, and guilt. The id, ego and superego lead to the fact that, as if acquired, that a new set of needs and wishes are of social, not biological, at this time.
Freud once said, “Life is not easy.” Anxiety is a familiar part of each day for many; anxiety is another aspect of the mind that Freud investigated. Anxiety sits at the center of powerful forces: reality: society, as represented by the superego; biology, as represented by the id. When conflicting demands are made upon the ego, the feeling is called anxiety. It serves as a signal to the ego that its survival as a whole is in jeopardy. There are three different types of anxiety: realistic, moral and neurotic. Realistic anxiety is considered fear. Moral anxiety is a feeling that comes from the outer world, although could be considered shame, guilt and the fear of punishment. Neurotic anxiety is the fear of being overwhelmed by the impulses of the id. This is the anxiety that intrigued Freud the most.
Although there are many theories surrounding Freud that could be discussed, the last one, and the most controversial one that I’d like to discuss us the Oedipal crisis. The Oedipal crisis is named after the ancient Greek story of King Oedipus, who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother.
The theory works in this manner: the fist love-object for humans is out mother. We want her affection, her caresses and her in a broadly sexual way. In earlier readings, I found that Freud defined “sexual” as not just intercourse, but all pleasurable sensations of the skin. In theory, the young boy has a rival for his mother’s charms: his father. His father is bigger, stronger, and smarter and gets to sleep in his mother’s bed. Dad is the enemy. At this point in his life, the by had recognized that that he differs from girls as there is a difference in hair length and clothing style. From his perspective there is one major difference, he has a penis and girls do not. This is the beginning of “castration anxiety” or a slight fear of loosing one’s penis. To return to the original issue, the boy recognizes the father’s superiority and engages in some of his ego defenses: he displaces his sexual impulses on from his mother to girls, later women, and identifies with the aggressor, his father. He attempts to be more like him, or more like a man. The boy will then enter adolescences and then the world of heterosexuality. Freud also believes that women experience the same.
The only thing more common that blatant admiration for Freud is the equally blind hatred that people feel towards him. Out of the theories previously discussed, the Oedipal complex and the associated ideas behind castration anxiety and penis envy is the least favorite. It has been discovered that these rules mostly apply in world in which the families are dysfunctional and are not working in the means intended. These circumstances include parents unhappy with each other that may use their children against each other, or in instances in which girls are ridiculed or forced to think that there are not an equal to men. These symptoms may also be found in circumstances in which parents may threaten to “castrate” a boy for certain behaviors. Ultimately, these circumstances apply in dysfunctional situations. If the Oedipal complex was viewed in a metaphoric and not a literal fashion the concepts could be considered useful. Children love their parents. Children learn the standards of a relationship through the images that parents portray in their relationships. Children also imitate the behaviors on the opposite-sex parent therefore playing back into the Oedipal complex.
Freud’s emphasis on sexuality is another area that is highly criticized. When exploring Freud’s theories further, I was amazed at the emphasis on just the word “sex” alone. In further researching the meaning, I found that Freud defined “sexuality” as a sensation to the skin. This definition put the theories in perspective for me. Human beings crave sensations to the skin: a hug, a kiss, and a caress. These types of affections are non-verbal forms of love that humans need to survive. I think that another extremely important factor is the time period in which Freud presented his theories. His theories were based on the intense avoidance of sexuality, especially among the middle and upper classes, and especially among women. Society today, forgets that “sexuality” was something that was looked down upon. Women who felt sexual desires were automatically considered a prostitute, and a new bride would be taken by surprise on her wedding night (or could faint at the thought). I strongly think that Freud helped to open a window of understanding regarding the topic of human sexuality. Freud was strong enough to step from the norm and voice his opinions regarding this highly controversial issue and helped to navigate the way the future would view sexuality. I think that it is admirable that he had a strong enough character to discuss a subject potentially this disastrous to himself and his career.
Freud made people aware of the fact that human behavior was based on biology and rationale. Freud showed the impact that human behavior had on society when it was realized that each individual is responsible for his/ her own actions. Freud proved the importance of family dynamics in a time where society believed that God determined the roles of men and women. The id and the superego will be a part of modern psychology from here on out.
The ego defenses are something that I feel is anther important part of Freud’s theories. Many criticize Freud’s idea of the “unconscious”, however it seems to be clear that people in general will manipulate reality and our memories to suit our own needs. There are several situations from my past that I know have manipulated to suit what my needs were during those transitions. I also strongly believe that we all have “ghosts in the closet” from past experiences, some that we are even unaware of. These are two specific situations that play into the theory of the “unconscious”.
Finally, if not the most useful, is Freud’s creation of basic therapy. Most therapists today still adopt the “ talking cure” and provide a relaxed, physical and social, atmosphere in which they treat their patients. I feel that this will be another theory that will stick to psychology now and for times to come.
I think that many people tend to disregard all of Freud’s ideas because they do not agree with a few. I think that many of Freud’s ideas are tied to his times, although I think that there is a few that play an important role in today’s society and will continue to play a strong role in the times to come. Freud was excellent at research and was an excellent observer of human conditions. Freud is a name that you can find regarding psychology today and will be a part of psychology in the future.
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