Freud begins the work by mounting a defense for the rights of laymen to practice psychoanalysis. Later in the book, he gives short explanations about the conscious and the unconscious. The doctor explains in detail and simple language the concept of the ego and the id. He explained that the desires of the id would always remain unconscious, that is, the person would never even be aware he had these needs. He proceeds to explain that the needs of the human unconscious mind must be fulfilled in some form. When these needs are not fulfilled, it can lead to violent reactions. However, he points out that there is a possibility for even large portions of the conscious mind, which are accessible to a person to remain unconscious. In this section, he may be referring to the super ego. It is important to note that Freud was writing this work in an attempt to address a hypothetical lay audience.
Later he goes into more detail about the id. He explains to the hypothetical layperson that the id's wishes are fulfilled by the ego. The ego, according to him is the only contact point that the id has with the outside world. Furthermore, according to him, the id is an instinctual part of the mind, which has no restraint. It has care for consequences that may befall the person in an attempt to fulfill its desires. Freud explains that this is where the id comes into play. It acts as a safeguard against the unrestrained desires of the human id. Without the control of the ego, the id would bring the person into harm's way, all this in an attempt to fulfil its desires.
Later in the work, Freud goes to explain his theories on sexuality. He explains that for females the sex organ has no role to play in their development. Consequently, only in the boy does the presence of the male organ have a role. He explains that the females lack of a sex organ causes them to develop an inferior complex. Thus, this lack of a male organ causes what he describes as penis envy'. This envy for the boys' organ is what shapes the females relation to society, according to Freud. In addition, Freud momentarily summarizes the issue of anal pleasure that a child derives from the act of excretion. For evidence, he points out that the feeling of being disgusted only develops later in life. He further stresses the significance of this point by giving a real world observation. He explains that even people who claim children are pure of mind without sexual thought cannot deny this fact. That is, that disgust develops only later in life.
Freud later on discusses in simplified format the felling of incest. This was one of the greatest causes of controversy even during this time. Freud explains that a girl first directs her sexual desires at birth to her father. He also explains that a boy's first sexual feelings are directed to the father. Later on, these feelings are displaced from the parents and onto siblings. Because of these feelings, he explains that children tend view the other parent as a bitter rival. Consequently, the child develops an ambivalence attitude of both hate and love to the parent. In an attempt to placate the parent, this child ends up imitating the parent.
He clarifies that the child is not simply looking for a friendly relationship with the parent. The child desires to establish a sexual relationship with the parent to the extent of their knowledge. He explains that because of this, the child may express their desires in another way. For instance, he notes that girls have a tendency to want to have little babies of their own. He explains that this desire to give birth to a child is simply a child expressing their desire to have sexual relations with the father.
However, he explains that this period of mental struggle disappears quite early in the child's life. According to him, this stage is important in shaping a child for a role in society. However, he explains that this feeling of sexual desire towards the parents appear later on in the child's life. Primarily, this happens during the teenage years and can have some very ominous repercussions according to Feud.
He addresses his imaginary companion by asking him why he appears to be shocked. He explains that although this revelation does appear to contradict human belief it is still true. He argues that the myth of Oedipus must have been drawn up from this finding. In addition, he references to significance historical events to justify this theory. For instance, he gives the examples of how most genealogy among royals is typically incestuous. Consequently, he wonders if the people's intention was to portray the nobilities in bad light. He explains that the reason these stories persist is that incest is innate in the human race. He further criticizes the unlearned masses for their beliefs. He explains that their belief in the laws of God putting natural inhibitions on man against incest were simply wishful thinking.
Freud wrote this work in a time when he felt that the field of psychoanalysis was under constant criticism that bordered attack. In addition, he was firmly against the incorporation of psychoanalysis into medicine. He viewed this as extremely limiting. According to him, although psychoanalysis was in the short term, useful for treating neuroses, it could later grow to have a myriad of applications to improving society.