Sigmund Freud Biography

Sigmund Freud Photo

Sigmund Freud was the man behind the concept and method of psychoanalysis, which was a means of delving into a person's inner conflicts that lie within the unconscious mind. This method is based on the understanding that people's fantasies and dreams say something about these problems that affect them in their daily lives. Freud also formed several theories that relate to the ego, libido and sexuality of the child, which are only a few of the other topics he studied and specialized on during his lifetime. Hence, Freud was regarded as one of the most influential and controversial personalities of the 20th century.

Background

Sigmund Freud lived most of his years in Vienna, although Freiberg (a town in Austria) was his birthplace. When his family relocated to Vienna, Freud was only four years of age. It was in this city in Austria where he received a degree in the field of medicine, which was in 1881. A year after, he married and decided to practice his profession for a living. His main focus was on treating patients who suffered from psychological disorders, and this started his journey and preoccupation on studying human experience and instincts. He also worked with other scientists and scholars throughout his life, although he eventually formulated his own theories and developed a method for the treatment of psychological conditions among individuals.

Works

Immediately after obtaining a medical degree at the University of Vienna, he decided to work as a physician. He later expanded his knowledge by studying the works of Jean-Martin Charcot, who was a French neurologist. It was during this time that Freud developed an interest in the treatment of hysteria, which is an emotional disorder. Afterwards, Josef Breuer, one of Freud's mentors, introduced him to one patient's case study. The patient's name was Bertha Pappenheim, although she was simply known as "Anna O.". The patient suffered from various symptoms including paralysis, tactile anesthesia and a nervous cough. The two scientists discovered that Anna suffered from various traumatic experiences, which they believed had a significant contribution to her mental illness.

Breuer and Freud encouraged the patient to talk freely about her symptoms and experiences. Since there was no known specific cause for Anna's difficulties, they simply allowed her to express her feelings and thoughts through talking. In 1895, the Studies on Hysteria was published, which was the outcome of their analysis on the improvement on Anna's condition by implementing the so-called "talking cure".

Freud explored deeper into the human mind and sexuality, and this allowed him to publish several works including Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and The Interpretation of Dreams. Both of these written works by Freud became known worldwide, but his study of the psychosexual stages left a more lasting impact on critics and scholars alike. His theory was also met with much controversy and skepticism, yet this has a massive influence on the field of psychology up to this modern era.

Contributions

Freud mainly worked on formulating theories that impact the human mind, mental disorders and sexuality. His works provided a deeper understanding on abnormal and clinical psychology, as well as the stages of human development. Some of his scholarly publications included The Ego and the Id, Moses and Monotheism, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Studies on Hysteria, Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, Civilization and Its Discontents, and The Interpretation of Dreams. He believed that mental disorders were rooted to cultural differences aside from physiological causes, as presented in his case studies.

Although Freud initially worked with Breuer, the two parted ways because the latter believed that much of Freud's preoccupations were on the sexual origins of neuroses. They were unable to settle the differences in their viewpoints, and this triggered Freud to go deeper into his study. He also published his work "The Interpretation of Dreams", and he maintained the belief that a person's dreams reveal so much about the inner conflicts within. While he may have refined his theories and gained popularity with his publications, his contemporaries agreed on the assumption that Freud was more focused on sexuality as one of the topics of his studies. Nevertheless, Freud's fame increased worldwide as he received numerous invitations to deliver lectures in various parts of the United States, beginning 1909.

Legacies

Freud admitted that he had gone through conflicts within himself, which started during his early years. His father's death had an impact on him, and he went through feelings of guilt and shame, as well. He recalled how he viewed his father as his rival to the love and affection of his mother, which caused him to develop negative emotions. He reflected on this experience he had as a child and used it as one of his basis and inspiration in developing the theory on infantile sexuality and the concept of Oedipus Complex.

There were several theories that Freud established, which are still recognized even up to this day. He also inspired several scholars and scientists during his time. For instance, Charles Darwin's theory on the evolution of man had some fascinating links to the study of Freud on human behavior. Then, there was this scientific theory by Helmholtz, which referred to energy and its constant quality in any physical system. This was related to Freud's analysis of the structural components of the human mind. Thus, the theories and scientific works of Freud may have been criticized and praised at the same time by his contemporaries, yet these are evidences of his strong influence in the field of psychology.

Freud battled with a serious illness during the last years of his life. He developed oral cancer, which caused him to struggle physically and emotionally. In 1939, while he was living in exile in England, he requested from his doctor a lethal dose of the drug morphine to end his sufferings. This resulted to the death of this controversial and influential scientist whose works remain with us until this very day.