Sigmund Freud Essay, Research Paper
Freud was born in Freiberg, 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 inFreiberg, moved to Leipzig. Shortly thereafter, the family settled in Vienna, where Freudremained for most of his life. Although Freud’s ambition from childhood had been a career in law, he decided tobecome a medical student shortly before he entered the University of Vienna in 1873. Inspiredby the scientific investigations of the German poet Goethe, Freud was driven by an intensedesire to study natural science and to solve some of the challenging problems confrontingcontemporary scientists. In his third year at the university Freud began research work on the central nervoussystem in the physiological laboratory under the direction of the German physician ErnstWilhelm von Br cke. Neurological research was so engrossing that Freud neglected theprescribed courses and as a result remained in medical school three years longer than wasrequired normally to qualify as a physician. In 1881, after completing a year of compulsorymilitary 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. In1883, at Br cke’s urging, he reluctantly abandoned theoretical research to gain practicalexperience. Freud spent three years at the General Hospital of Vienna, devoting himselfsuccessively to psychiatry, dermatology, and nervous diseases. In 1885, following hisappointment as a lecturer in neuropathology at the University of Vienna, he left his post at thehospital. Later the same year he was awarded a government grant enabling him to spend 19weeks in Paris as a student of the French neurologist Jean Charcot. Charcot, who was thedirector of the clinic at the mental hospital, the Salp tri re, was then treating nervous disordersby the use of hypnotic suggestion. Freud’s studies under Charcot, which centered largely onhysteria, 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 strongsupport of Charcot’s unorthodox views on hysteria and hypnotherapy. The resentment heincurred 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 theneurological disorder in which the ability to pronounce words or to name common objects islost as a result of organic brain disease. His final work in neurology, an article, InfantileCerebral Paralysis, was written in 1897 for an encyclopedia only at the insistence of theeditor, since by this time Freud was occupied largely with psychological rather thanphysiological explanations for mental disorders. His subsequent writings were devoted entirelyto that field, which he had named psychoanalysis in 1896. Freud’s new orientation was heralded by his collaborative work on hysteria with theViennese physician Josef Breuer. The work was presented in 1893 in a preliminary paper andtwo years later in an expanded form under the title Studies on Hysteria. In this work thesymptoms of hysteria were ascribed to manifestations of undischarged emotional energyassociated with forgotten psychic traumas. The therapeutic procedure involved the use of ahypnotic state in which the patient was led to recall and reenact the traumatic experience, thusdischarging by catharsis the emotions causing the symptoms. The publication of this workmarked 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 werelater incorporated into psychoanalytic practice and doctrine. Soon after publishing the studieson hysteria he abandoned the use of hypnosis as a cathartic procedure and substituted theinvestigation 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 ofrepression and resistance. He described repression as a device operating unconsciously tomake the memory of painful or threatening events inaccessible to the conscious mind.Resistance is defined as the unconscious defense against awareness of repressedexperiences in order to avoid the resulting anxiety. He traced the operation of unconsciousprocesses, using the free associations of the patient to guide him in the interpretation ofdreams and slips of speech. Dream analysis led to his discoveries of infantile sexuality and ofthe so-called Oedipus complex, which constitutes the erotic attachment of the child for theparent of the opposite sex, together with hostile feelings toward the other parent. In theseyears 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, TheInterpretation of Dreams (1900). Here Freud analyzed many of his own dreams recorded in the3-year period of his self-analysis, begun in 1897. This work expounds all the fundamentalconcepts underlying psychoanalytic technique and doctrine. In 1902 Freud was appointed a full professor at the University of Vienna. This honorwas granted not in recognition of his contributions but as a result of the efforts of a highlyinfluential 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 inwhat 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 psychologistOtto Rank, the American psychiatrist Abraham Brill, and the Swiss psychiatrists Eugen Bleulerand Carl Jung. Other notable associates, who joined the circle in 1908, were the Hungarianpsychiatrist S ndor Ferenczi and the British psychiatrist Ernest Jones. Increasing recognition of the psychoanalytic movement made possible the formation in1910 of a worldwide organization called the International Psychoanalytic Association. As themovement spread, gaining new adherents through Europe and the U.S., Freud was troubled bythe dissension that arose among members of his original circle. Most disturbing were thedefections from the group of Adler and Jung, each of whom developed a different theoreticalbasis for disagreement with Freud’s emphasis on the sexual origin of neurosis. Freud metthese setbacks by developing further his basic concepts and by elaborating his own views inmany publications and lectures. After the onset of World War I Freud devoted little time to clinical observation andconcentrated 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 hecontinued his literary activity for the next 16 years, writing mostly on cultural and philosophicalproblems. When the Germans occupied Austria in 1938, Freud, a Jew, was persuaded by friendsto 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 byhis demonstration of the existence and force of the unconscious. In addition, he founded a newmedical discipline and formulated basic therapeutic procedures that in modified form areapplied widely in the present-day treatment of neuroses and psychoses. Although neveraccorded full recognition during his lifetime, Freud is generally acknowledged as one of thegreat creative minds of modern times.Among his other works are Totem and Taboo (1913), Ego and the Id (1923), New IntroductoryLectures on Psychoanalysis (1933), and Moses and Monotheism (1939).