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Born: 1856, Freiberg in Moravia (formerly Austria, now Czechoslovakia)

Died: 1939, London England

Major Works: Studies in Hysteria (first German edition, 1895), The Interpretation of Dreams (first German edition published 1899, dated 1900), Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (first English edition, 1910), Beyond the Pleasure Principle (first German edition, 1920), Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (first German edition 1921), The Ego and the Id (first German edition, 1923), The Future of an Illusion (first German edition, 1927), Civilization and its Discontents (first German edition, 1929-30)

Major Ideas

Human behavior is the result of both heredity and environment.

By means of the techniques of free association and analysis of symbols, we may learn about the structure and functioning of self.

The model of self should be constructed in terms of the "id" (which represents drives), the "ego" (which represents reason), and the "superego" (which represents conscience-restraints or self-judgment).

The two principles of mental functioning are survival and pleasure.

Fundamental human drives--eros and thanatos--that arise in the unconscious are expressions of the id; the successful repression of id impulses is called "sublimation," which is a prerequisite of civilization.

Infant behavior exhibits primitive sexuality; the roots of neurosis or intrapsychic conflict lie in infant experience.

Children may feel both jealousy and hostility toward one parent and love for the other (Oedipal complex).

Dreams are disguised representations of repressed wishes; the manifest appearances of dream-images can disguise latent wishes.

Motivations originate from unconscious wishes; conflict between these wishes is expressed in both normal and pathological behavior.

In recent times, Sigmund Freud has been narrowly associated with the concept of human sexuality. Nevertheless he remains one of the most influential twentieth century thinkers of the Western world. His concepts of drive, libido, psychosis, and "psychoanalysis (a term he first used in a paper, published on March 30, 1896) have so pervaded our ways of thinking that it is difficult to imagine interpreting a world that is not structured by these concepts. Yet Freud began to develop his "new science of psychoanalysis" only after the age of thirty.

The Early Years: The Development of Psychoanalysis

During most of Freud's college years, while under the strong influence of a school friend, he intended to study law and to engage in solving societal problems. At the same time, he was attracted to Darwin's theories of nature and evolution, because he believed that they would greatly increase an understanding of the world. It was not until late in his senior year, after he had heard Professor Carl Bruhl read an essay on nature, that Freud decided to enter medical school. Thus in the autumn of 1873, at the age of seventeen, he enrolled in Vienna's university, where, letting his strong curiosity lead his choices whenever possible, he pursued a wide range of courses. Although Freud himself said that he curbed a youthful tendency to speculate, he did attend Franz Brentano's seminar in philosophy and another on Aristotle's logic.

In 1877, Freud joined the Physiological Institute of Ernst Brucke, his professor in a course entitled "The Physiology of Voice and Speech," at the University of Vienna. (Brucke, Freud later said, had been his most important teacher.) While working in the physiology laboratory, Freud engaged in research projects that yielded what were then major discoveries, for example, the demonstration that the cells of the nervous system of lower animals are continuous in nature with those of higher animals. This finding contradicted the accepted view that there exists a fundamental difference in kind and nature between the systems of lower and higher animals. Freud continued his investigations in Brucke's Institute even after graduation from the university.

During the summer of 1879, Freud was called upon to complete a year of obligatory military service. He was able to endure it by translating four essays by John Stuart Mill from his collected works. These writings formed one of the five books by the same author that Freud eventually would render into German. His former professor, Franz Brentano, had recommended Freud to Theodor Gomperz, editor of the German collection of Mill's works.

Two years later, in 1881, Freud graduated from medical school and held the position of demonstrator from May 1881 to July 1882. Because of his poor financial resources and at Professor Brucke's urging Freud then began his training at the Vienna General Hospital. If finances had permitted, however, he would have preferred a career in pure research. Freud's medical internship was in surgery, internal medicine, dermatology, and psychiatry under Theodor Meynert. It was from his study of "Meynert's Amentia" (acute hallucinatory psychosis) that Freud gained the concept of "wish-fulfillment," which he was to apply to dream analysis and to the functioning of the unconscious mind. While at Vienna's General Hospital, Freud continued to study the anatomy of the brain and also wrote papers on diseases of the nervous system.

In 1884, he began his research on cocaine. After a few years of experimentation, Freud became very enthusiastic about its capacity to alleviate depression, fatigue, and even to cure morphine addiction. For a brief period Freud himself ingested cocaine regularly, but apparently never felt its habit-forming powers. Nevertheless, by 1886, widespread cases of such addiction were reported; and the following year Freud felt compelled to respond to criticisms of his earlier recommendation that it be used to treat morphine addiction: First, when he had initiated his experiments there were no known cases of cocaine addiction, and habit formation was assumed due to the patient's character rather than to substances ingested; and second, the variable that determined addiction consisted of the lability of cerebral blood vessels.

One year after he had begun his research on cocaine, Freud was appointed privatdozent. Aided by a small grant, he went to Paris to study under the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot. Freud worked in the Salpetriere hospital, where Charcot was applying hypnotism to the treatment of hysteria as well as other functional diseases. By means of a thorough and systematic study, Charcot showed that hysteria manifests itself in a variety of forms in both the male and female sex. At this time, the proposal that males also exhibit hysterical symptoms was a highly controversial one. Moreover, Charcot held that such physical disorders derive from a psychological origin. Freud remained in Paris for about a year as a pupil and translator of Charcot's works, and this experience strengthened his determination to investigate hysteria from a psychological point of view.

Freud returned to Vienna by way of Berlin and Adolf Baginsky's clinic, where for some weeks he studied children's diseases. Upon resigning from his position at Vienna's General Hospital, he opened a private practice and married Martha Bernays. Subsequently, Josef Breuer, a Viennese physician and internist whom Freud had met while he was working at the Institute of Physiology, told him of his success in curing symptoms of hysteria through recollection and subsequent catharsis. Later Freud would write that from the beginning he employed hypnosis not only to give therapeutic suggestions but also to trace the history of such symptoms. Appropriately, Freud's first book on the aphasias, published in 1891, was dedicated to Breuer. It includes the most valuable of Freud's neurological writings; its excellent organization and clarity resemble his later work. By this time Freud was already thirty-five years old.

The Case of Anna O

In mid-November of 1882, Breuer told Freud about a patient, Anna O (Bertha Pappenheim), whose complaints included paralysis of limbs, disturbances of sound and sight, an inability to ingest food, and a nervous cough. Treatment of her case began in December 1880, and concluded under somewhat unusual circumstances in June of 1882. Freud was disappointed that hypnotic suggestion had not been fully. successful for this patient. On one occasion after she had related in great detail the circumstance under which a symptom first appeared, it suddenly disappeared. The patient then tried what she described as the "talking cure" or "chimney sweeping" with each of her disorders until they all had vanished. Unfortunately, however, Breuer's interest in his patient eventually provoked problems with his wife; perhaps because of guilt and caring for the latter, he ended the treatment. On the very evening after he had terminated his case, Anna O suffered a hysterical childbirth (pseudocyesis). Dr. Breuer temporarily calmed her through hypnosis, but the following day he left for Venice on a vacation with his wife. During the next year she again experienced regressions, but slowly the intelligent and pretty woman began to improve. By the age of thirty, she had become the first social worker in Germany and one of the first in the world. She founded a periodical and devoted her life to humanitarian causes, which included the welfare of women and children.

The case of Anna O constituted the very beginnings of psychoanalysis, and its importance led Freud to describe Breuer as its true founder. The latter, however, did not agree with Freud that sexual disturbances were essential factors in both neurosis and psychoneurosis and thus he did not accept the generalizations about their essential components that Freud had drawn from his diagnosis of the cause of Anna O's symptoms. Nevertheless, Freud was convinced that Breuer's work with this patient, which resulted in the discovery of the "cathartic method," should be published. Finally Breuer consented to such publication with the proviso that the ingredient of sexuality as a determinate of hysteria be downplayed. The book Studies in Hysteria (Studien uber Hysteria, 1895), a joint work, represents the conclusions that Freud and Breuer reached about Anna O, along with four other cases written up by Freud.

The arguments about Anna O hastened a dissolution of Freud's friendship with Breuer, and by 1896 Freud was avoiding contact with his former colleague. As Freud's friendship with Breuer waned, his affection for Dr. William Fliess, an ear, nose, and throat specialist from Berlin, grew. Fliess better understood Freud's theories and supported him both emotionally and intellectually, encouraging attention to the role of jokes as providing hidden psychological material. Indeed, Fliess published his own ideas regarding infant sexuality in the mid-1890s, before Freud had completely absorbed such concepts. Fliess also advocated the notion of human bisexuality, which Freud later was to develop within the framework of psychoanalytic theory.

Free Association

Freud soon replaced hypnotism with the method of free association, which allowed him to isolate the phenomena of the patient's resistance to uncovering repressed emotional traumas and the transference of emotions associated with one person to another, for instance from the analysand to the analyst. He dated the beginning of psychoanalysis from the use of free association as a powerful tool of psychological technique. This method evolved gradually between 1892 and 1895, out of the use of hypnotic suggestion and questioning. Nevertheless, Freud's chapter on psychotherapy in his Studies in Hysteria is usually regarded as the inception of the method, although he still described it as Breuer's cathartic method. Freud then turned the new method on himself, perhaps in July 1895 when he analyzed one of his own dreams. By 1897, self-analysis became part of Freud's regular procedure. Its use yielded further insight into the internal causes of human behavior and led to Freud's suggestion that as part of their training, analysts undergo self-analysis. Through the use of this procedure, Freud hoped to infer the structure of mind and the forces that interact in it.

During the spring of 1895, he planned first "to investigate what form the theory of mental functioning assumes if one introduces the quantitative point of view," that is, to develop a sort of economics of nerve forces; and second to extract from psychopathology information useful for normal psychology. He never finished the project, yet his ideas on human drives, repression and defense, mental economy with its contending forces of energies, and on the person as driven by wish-fulfillment are outlined in his notes. Although Freud was attempting to establish psychology as a natural science based on neurology, he was in fact on the verge of discovering not a psychology for neurologists but a psychology for nonmedical psychologists. The physiological and biological causal ground for behavior was never neglected by Freud, but he increasingly concentrated on exploring the effects of the unconscious mind upon dreams, slips of the tongue, jokes, psychosomatic symptoms, and defense mechanisms. Many years later, Franz Alexander would investigate the physiological origins of psychosomatic illnesses and develop the new concept of mind-body relationship that Freud's theories suggested.

The Interpretation of Dreams

Freud's interest in dream interpretation began with noticing that, while freely associating, patients described their dreams. He also observed that the hallucinatory experience of psychotics lends itself to an interpretation in terms of the concept of wish-fulfillment. On the night of July 23 and 24, 1895, Freud dreamt the "Irma dream," which was used as a paradigm for his early conception of dreams as representations of wish-fulfillments.

It is frequently remarked that Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams is his major work. Indeed, in the preface to its third English edition, Freud himself wrote: "Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime." The writing of this work dovetailed with the development of Freud's own self-analysis, which was greatly stimulated by the death in 1896 of his father, Jacob Freud. Thus, in the preface to the second edition, Freud mentioned that he had come to see his book as "a piece of my self-analysis, my reaction to my father's death, that is, the most significant event, the most decisive loss, of a man's life." This expanded edition also elaborated on the description of a dream by adding that it is the disguised fulfillment of a repressed wish.

Although somewhat shorter than subsequent editions, the first printed version of The interpretation of Dreams does distinguish between manifest and latent dream content, a distinction that serves to explain distortions and conflicts that our dreams embody and disguise. It also describes the "oedipal complex," emphasizes the importance of infantile life for the adult; and provides an epistemological basis for belief in the existence of the unconscious, along with an approach to it by way of dreams. As Freud himself put it, the interpretation of dreams is the via regia, or royal road, to understanding the unconscious mind. All of these notions were to be further illustrated and developed in his subsequent writings. The Interpretation of Dreams offers, moreover, a picture of Freud's own milieu, of the Viennese medical world, and of the position of his fellow Jews in Viennese society.

In the first six chapters, Freud provided a general theory of dreams, suggestions on how to treat varieties of dreams, as well as investigations by other authors. He thus surveyed the existing literature on dreams, including philosophical treatises and psychological monographs. Although he found such work tedious, Freud forced himself to perform this research in order to avoid criticism that the book was unscientific or that it neglected important material. The seventh chapter, highly technical and philosophical, presents a theory of mind. In 1909, when Freud's other theories and concepts had begun to be recognized, a second edition was printed. In all, there were eight editions published during his lifetime, the last in 1919.

In December of 1908, G. Stanley Hall, the founder of experimental psychology in the United States and president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, invited Freud to deliver a series of lectures on the occasion of that university's celebration of the twentieth year of its foundation. Freud presented the five lectures in German the next year. His honorary doctorate was the first academic recognition of his work Soon thereafter, the English version of his talks entitled Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis, along with his psychobiographical essay, "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood," were published. In 1909 two other important papers by Freud also appeared in print. One was entitled " 'Little Hans'--Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy." This essay treated the first psychoanalysis of a child; the other presented the famous case of the Rat Man, or "Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis." The following year, the so-called Wolf-Man, a Russian aristocrat, entered analysis with Freud . This case was completed in 1914 and Freud published its results four years later under the title "From the History of an Infantile Neurosis After 1919, attacks on psychoanalysis waned somewhat, as the fame of Freud's methods grew.

In 1920, 1921, and' 1923, three relatively short works that express Freud's mature views were also published. Beyond the Pleasure Principle states the first revision in print of his drive theory. From the 1880s on, Freud had quoted Schiller's line that hunger and love move the world. For Freud these terms meant self-preservation and sexual satisfaction. In short, drives are self-protecting or sexual. As early as 1915 Freud had admitted that he needed to redefine his conception of these forces. Nevertheless, he then simply restated the definition that he had published ten years earlier in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality A drive is the "psychical representative" of "stimuli originating within the body," that is the demand for work imposed on the mind by its connection with the body." Two basic principles of mental functioning had already been described in 1911 as reality and pleasure. It was not, however until Beyond the Pleasure Principle that Freud reclassified the drives into those of life (eros ) and those of death (thanatos). The compulsive repetition of a trauma, Freud believed, "went beyond the pleasure principle" and could be an expression of the death drive.

Two other major works by Freud were Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, his most significant venture into social psychology, and The Ego and the Id, which further elaborated the concept of mind outlined in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Earlier, in The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud had equated the unconscious with repressed material, and the conscious with the function of mind that represses, that is, with the ego. Later, however, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud wrote that part of the ego itself is unconscious. In The Ego and the Id Freud asserted, moreover, that the superego results from the child's earliest object-relations. In 1924 he published "The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex," the first paper that investigates the differences between the sexual evolution of boys and girls. This work would be continued later by Erik Erikson, an analysand of Freud's daughter, Anna, and published in his Childhood and Society as well as in other works.

At the age of seventy, Freud published a revised theory of neurosis and his response to Otto Rank's conception of the birth trauma in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926). During the year that followed, Freud's psychoanalytic critique of religion appeared under the title of The Future of an Illusion. This work was followed by Civilization and its Discontents (1929), which gives a very pessimistic view of the human ability to sublimate aggressive drives. Civilization also includes a detailed treatment of the use of "superego," "conscience," "sense of guilt," "need for punishment," and "remorse" in understanding human behavior. In 1938, the year that Moses and Monotheism was published, Freud moved to England to escape Nazi persecution of Jews. The next year he closed his practice and died of the cancer that had plagued him for many years.

Further Reading

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York and London: W. W Norton, 1988. This is the best biography of Freud from the perspective of a humanist. Gay has had the advantage of Jones's work, along with recent scholarship. Freud includes an excellent up-to-date bibliography.

Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. 3 vols. New York: Basic Books; London: Hogarth Press, 1953-57. Jones's work is still one of the best biographies of Freud, especially from the perspective of his scientific and medical achievements. Jones, a physician, was friend and confidant of Freud. Life and Work has been edited and abridged in one volume by Lionel Trilling and Steven Marcus (New York: Basic Books, 1961).

Masson, Jeffrey. The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory. New York: Penguin, 1985. Masson's view that Freud suppressed that theory because of the criticism of the Vienna medical community has been the subject of much controversy Gay, for example, dismisses it and refers the reader to the Ernest Jones's account of what happened.

Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. Translated by Denis Savage. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1970. This is a philosophical analysis of Freud's concepts from the perspective of philosophical hermeneutics. A difficult but worthwhile book.
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Author:MOSS, M. E.
Publication:Great Thinkers of the Western World
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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