Sigmund Freud, The Father Of Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud. Source: (thenation.com)
Known for his development of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist. Due to his radical theories on child sexuality, libido, and the ego, he was one of the most influential, and yet most controversial, academics of the twentieth century.
He was born Sigismund Freud on May 6, 1856, in the Austrian town of Frieberg, Moravia, which is now known as Pribor of the Czech Republic. His father was a merchant and the family moved to Leipzig before settling in Vienna when Freud was four years old. Freud stayed in Vienna and, in 1873, began studying medicine at the University of Vienna, earning his medical degree in 1881. The majority of his student research was focused on neurobiology. Upon graduation, he began working at Vienna General Hospital. There, alongside Josef Breuer, he experimented with the treatment of hysteria by having patients reflect on traumatic experiences while under hypnosis. Breuer eventually ended this working relationship due to Freud’s overemphasis on the sexual origins of the patient’s afflictions.
In 1885, Freud spent several months in Paris as the student of neurologist Jean Charcot. Upon his return to Vienna, he married Martha Bernays, with whom he would have six children. His daughter, Anna Freud, would follow in her father’s footsteps as a psychoanalyst. In 1886, Freud set up his own practice in Vienna, specializing in neurological disorders. In 1895, he and Breuer published the results of their hysteria trials in a book entitled Studies in Hysteria.
In 1897, Freud began to psychoanalyze himself and in 1900, he published a second book, The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he theorized that analyzing a person’s dreams could reveal unconscious impulses. It was in this book that he introduced many of his more controversial ideas, including the Oedipus complex which suggested that children between the ages of three and six were sexually attracted to the parent of the opposite sex and in competition with the parent of the same sex. He considered this to be a normal part of the developmental process. Despite its controversial nature, the book is credited with inspiring modern psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis.
In 1901, Freud published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, which introduced the “Freudian slip.” This is the idea that when a person accidentally used the wrong word or phrase, it is an indication of a hidden desire. He gained an appointment as Professor of Neuropathology at the University of Vienna in 1902 and began to amass a following of students despite the fact that many of his ideas were a bit too unorthodox for the medical community. In 1905, he published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, in which he once again explored the nature of sexual development, this time without the application of the Oedipus complex.
In 1923, Freud published The Ego and the Id in which he suggested that the mind was made up of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the most basic component, driven by pleasure or pain impulses. Meanwhile, the ego is more sophisticated, able to process the demands of society. The superego is basically the conscience, guiding the ego to make decisions based upon a person’s moral standards.
After the annexation of Austria by the Nazis in 1938, Freud was forced to leave his post at the University of Vienna and flee with his family to London. Having been diagnosed with cancer of the jaw in 1923, he died in England on September 23, 1939, after requesting a lethal dose of morphine to ease his suffering.