Sigmund Freud

From ArticleWorld


Sigmund Freud was the father of psychoanalysis and perhaps the most famous for his emphasis on sexual repression as the cause for many maladaptive behaviours. He was born in 1856 in what is now known as the Czech Republic to a poor family. From boyhood, his intellect was encouraged and at the age of 17, he went to Austria to study at the University of Vienna despite the anti-Semitism flourishing at the time. In 1938, Freud and his family had to flee Austria to France and on to England.

From a young age, Freud smoked a box of cigars a day and was eventually diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. After over 30 operations, he could no longer stand the pain and died in 1939 of physician-assisted morphine overdose.

Psycho-sexual development

Central to Freud’s theory is the idea that there are specific stages of development in which the individual fixates on specific objects – the oral, anal, phallic and mother fixation - each of which must be dealt with in order to reach adult sexual maturity.

The id, ego and superego

The division of the psyche into three parts occurred quite late in Freud’s work. Both the id and the superego are unconscious; the former our most basic gratification oriented needs and the latter its antithesis being our moral and ethical conscience. The ego is conscious and a healthy one functioning as a balance between the id and superego.

The ego enlists the aid of defense mechanisms such as denial, repression and displacement, to solve conflicts between the id and superego. Overuse of these mechanisms as opposed to confronting the issues involved could lead to guilt and anxiety and, ultimately, to depression.

The unconscious

The role of the unconscious is perhaps Freud’s most important contribution to modern psychological theory. Freud maintained that free will was a delusion and our actions are dictated by thoughts we are not always aware we have and have little to do with our conscious thoughts. The best way to access this secret world was through analysis of dreams.

Although Freud had a major impact on psychology at the time, many modern psychological schools of thought such as Behaviouralism, Cognitive and Humanistic psychology reject psychoanalysis as unscientific while others have formed alternative psychoanalytic bases for their work.