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Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)

freudFreud developed psychoanalysis, a method through which an analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams and fantasies of the patient. His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego, among other topics, were some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.

Sigmund Freud, physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist, was an influential thinker of the twentieth century. Freud’s innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of cultural object s as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has proven to be extraordinarily productive, and has had immense implications for a wide variety of fields, including anthropology, semiotics, and artistic creativity and appreciation in addition to psychology. However, Freud’s most important and frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a new science of the mind, remains the subject of much disapproval and controversy.

Sigmund Freud was born in Pribor, Czechoslovakia, in 1856. Although Freud was a gifted student, it took him eight years to finish his medical degree at the University of Vienna, partly because he was interested in so many topics. Freud first pursued a career as a neurologist, but financial concerns forced him into general medical practice.

In cooperation with his friend Joseph Breuer, Freud began to treat hysterical women. This is unusual, because at the time there was no known cure for hysteria, which is now known as a conversion disorder. Through trial and error and feedback from his clients, Breuer and Freud developed the technique known as psychoanalysis. Its fundamental rule is honesty; clients must relay all thoughts and feelings uncensored to the analyst. Clients then follow their stream of thought wherever it may lead, a process known as free association. In the course of free association, clients often uncover traumatic events in the past, and, upon reliving these events, often experience relief from their symptoms.

Freud’s first major work, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), detailed the process of dream interpretation, which he felt was the “royal road to the unconscious.” Although it took six years to sell the first 600 copies printed, this work was reprinted eight times during Freud’s lifetime. Although the technique of psychoanalysis is perhaps Freud’s most important legacy, he made many other substantial contributions to psychology. These include the recognition of the importance of sexuality and unconscious processes, a fully developed system of personality, and an appreciation for the conflict between individual desires and the constraints of society.

Cicarelli, S.K., & White, J.N. (2015).

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