Sigmund Freud Biography Essay, Research Paper
Sigmund Frued, Austrian physician, neurologist, and founder of psychoanalysis.
Freud was born in Freiberg (now Pr?bor, Czech Republic), on May 6, 1856, and educated
at the University of Vienna. When he was three years old his family, fleeing from the
anti-Semitic riots then raging in Freiberg, moved to Leipzig. Shortly thereafter, the family
settled in Vienna, where Freud remained for most of his life.
Although Freud’s ambition from childhood had been a career in law, he decided to
become a medical student shortly before he entered the University of Vienna in 1873.
Inspired by the scientific investigations of the German poet Goethe, Freud was driven by
an intense desire to study natural science and to solve some of the challenging problems
confronting contemporary scientists.
In his third year at the university Freud began research work on the central
nervous system in the physiological laboratory under the direction of the German
physician Ernst Wilhelm von Br?cke. Neurological research was so engrossing that Freud
neglected the prescribed courses and as a result remained in medical school three years
longer than was required normally to qualify as a physician. In 1881, after completing a
year of compulsory military service, he received his medical degree. Unwilling to give up
his experimental work, however, he remained at the university as a demonstrator in the
physiological laboratory. In 1883, at Br?cke’s urging, he reluctantly abandoned
theoretical research to gain practical experience.
Freud spent three years at the General Hospital of Vienna, devoting himself
successively to psychiatry, dermatology, and nervous diseases. In 1885, following his
appointment as a lecturer in neuropathology at the University of Vienna, he left his post
at the hospital. Later the same year he was awarded a government grant enabling him to
spend 19 weeks in Paris as a student of the French neurologist Jean Charcot. Charcot,
who was the director of the clinic at the mental hospital, the Salp?tri?re, was then
treating nervous disorders by the use of hypnotic suggestion. Freud’s studies under
Charcot, which centered largely on hysteria, influenced him greatly in channeling his
interests to psychopathology.
In 1886 Freud established a private practice in Vienna specializing in nervous
disease. He met with violent opposition from the Viennese medical profession because of
his strong support of Charcot’s unorthodox views on hysteria and hypnotherapy. The
resentment he incurred was to delay any acceptance of his subsequent findings on the
origin of neurosis.
Freud’s first published work, ?On Aphasia?, appeared in 1891; it was a study of
the neurological disorder in which the ability to pronounce words or to name common
objects is lost as a result of organic brain disease. His final work in neurology, an article,
?Infantile Cerebral Paralysis,? was written in 1897 for an encyclopedia only at the
insistence of the editor, since by this time Freud was occupied largely with psychological
rather than physiological explanations for mental disorders. His subsequent writings were
devoted entirely to that field, which he had named psychoanalysis in 1896.
Freud’s new orientation was heralded by his collaborative work on hysteria with
the Viennese physician Josef Breuer. The work was presented in 1893 in a preliminary
paper and two years later in an expanded form under the title ?Studies on Hysteria?. In
this work the symptoms of hysteria were ascribed to manifestations of undischarged
emotional energy associated with forgotten psychic traumas. The therapeutic procedure
involved the use of a hypnotic state in which the patient was led to recall and reenact the
traumatic experience, thus discharging by catharsis the emotions causing the symptoms.
The publication of this work marked the beginning of psychoanalytic theory
formulated on the basis of clinical observations. During the period from 1895 to 1900
Freud developed many of the concepts that were later incorporated into psychoanalytic
practice and doctrine. Soon after publishing the studies on hysteria he abandoned the use
of hypnosis as a cathartic procedure and substituted the investigation of the patient’s
spontaneous flow of thoughts, called free association, to reveal the unconscious mental
processes at the root of the neurotic disturbance.
In his clinical observations Freud found evidence for the mental mechanisms of
repression and resistance. He described repression as a device operating unconsciously to
make the memory of painful or threatening events inaccessible to the conscious mind.
Resistance is defined as the unconscious defense against awareness of repressed
experiences in order to avoid the resulting anxiety. He traced the operation of
unconscious processes, using the free associations of the patient to guide him in the
interpretation of dreams and slips of speech. Dream analysis led to his discoveries of
infantile sexuality and of the so-called Oedipus complex, which constitutes the erotic
attachment of the child for the parent of the opposite sex, together with hostile feelings
toward the other parent. In these years he also developed the theory of transference, the
process by which emotional attitudes, established originally toward parental figures in
childhood, are transferred in later life to others. The end of this period was marked by the
appearance of Freud’s most important work, ?The Interpretation of Dreams? (1900). Here
Freud analyzed many of his own dreams recorded in the 3-year period of his self-analysis,
begun in 1897. This work expounds all the fundamental concepts underlying
psychoanalytic technique and doctrine.
In 1902 Freud was appointed a full professor at the University of Vienna. This
honor was granted not in recognition of his contributions but as a result of the efforts of a
highly influential patient. The medical world still regarded his work with hostility, and
his next writings, ?The Psychopathology of Everyday Life? (1904) and ?Three
Contributions to the Sexual Theory? (1905), only increased this antagonism. As a result
Freud continued to work virtually alone in what he termed ?splendid isolation.?
By 1906, however, a small number of pupils and followers had gathered around Freud,
including the Austrian psychiatrist William Stekel and Alfred Adler, the Austrian
psychologist Otto Rank, the American psychiatrist Abraham Brill, and the Swiss
psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler and Carl Jung. Other notable associates, who joined the
circle in 1908, were the Hungarian psychiatrist S?ndor Ferenczi and the British
psychiatrist Ernest Jones.
Increasing recognition of the psychoanalytic movement made possible the
formation in 1910 of a worldwide organization called the International Psychoanalytic
Association. As the movement spread, gaining new adherents through Europe and the
U.S., Freud was troubled by the dissension that arose among members of his original
circle. Most disturbing were the defections from the group of Adler and Jung, each of
whom developed a different theoretical basis for disagreement with Freud’s emphasis on
the sexual origin of neurosis. Freud met these setbacks by developing further his basic
concepts and by elaborating his own views in many publications and lectures.
After the onset of World War I Freud devoted little time to clinical observation and
concentrated on the application of his theories to the interpretation of religion,
mythology, art, and literature. In 1923 he was stricken with cancer of the jaw, which
necessitated constant, painful treatment in addition to many surgical operations. Despite
his physical suffering he continued his literary activity for the next 16 years, writing
mostly on cultural and philosophical problems.
When the Germans occupied Austria in 1938, Freud, a Jew, was persuaded by
friends to escape with his family to England. He died in London on September 23, 1939.
Freud created an entirely new approach to the understanding of human personality by his
demonstration of the existence and force of the unconscious. In addition, he founded a
new medical discipline and formulated basic therapeutic procedures that in modified
form are applied widely in the present-day treatment of neuroses and psychoses.
Although never accorded full recognition during his lifetime, Freud is generally
acknowledged as one of the great creative minds of modern times.Among his other works are ?Totem and Taboo? (1913), ?Ego and the Id? (1923),
?New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis? (1933), and ?Moses and Monotheism?