Dive into the world of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, and explore the 10 defining characteristics that made him one of the most influential figures in the field of psychology.
Learn about his life, theories, and contributions to the study of human behavior, and gain a deeper understanding of his lasting impact on the world of mental health.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian psychiatrist who researched the structure and behavior of the mind, as well as the pathologies associated with it.
His main contribution to human knowledge was the creation of psychoanalysis. This discipline is both a research method and a therapeutic technique.
His theory was based on the study of patients, and his cases have been published, supporting his theories. His works and discoveries were published in the late nineteenth century, revolutionizing twentieth-century thinking, for its main innovations:
The possibility of treating psychic conditions with an alternative therapy to drugs: psychoanalysis
The discovery of a sector of thought alien to our own knowledge: the unconscious.
Next, and as a summary of Freud’s theory, we expose the most important characteristics.
Characteristics Of Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. He is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century and his ideas have had a significant impact on fields such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and literature.
Freud was born in Freiberg, Moravia (now Pribor, Czech Republic), and later moved to Vienna where he spent most of his life. After studying medicine at the University of Vienna, he worked in several hospitals and clinics, specializing in the treatment of nervous disorders.
In the late 1800s, Freud began developing his theories about the human psyche, including the concept of the unconscious, which he believed was the source of human motivation and behavior. He also introduced the idea of the Oedipus complex, which suggests that children have unconscious sexual desires for their opposite-sex parent and view their same-sex parent as a rival.
Freud’s work in psychoanalysis was met with both praise and criticism during his lifetime, but it has since become one of the most widely used approaches to mental health treatment. Freud’s other notable contributions to psychology include the concept of the ego, the superego, and the id, as well as the use of dream analysis in understanding the unconscious mind.
Freud died of cancer in London in 1939, but his legacy lives on in the many contributions he made to the field of psychology and his lasting impact on modern culture.
Psychoanalysis is a method of treating psychological disorders and understanding the human mind. It was founded by Sigmund Freud in the late 1800s and has since been developed and expanded upon by many other psychologists and psychoanalysts.
The core idea behind psychoanalysis is that many psychological problems are rooted in unconscious conflicts, desires, and emotions. By exploring these unconscious processes, psychoanalysis aims to help individuals gain insight into their own behaviors and feelings, and ultimately to achieve greater self-awareness and emotional healing.
Psychoanalytic therapy typically involves a long-term, in-depth exploration of the patient’s thoughts, feelings, memories, and dreams. The patient lies on a couch while the therapist listens and encourages the patient to speak freely about whatever comes to mind, without censoring or editing their thoughts. The therapist then interprets the patient’s words and associations, looking for patterns, conflicts, and hidden meanings.
While psychoanalysis has been criticized for being time-consuming, expensive, and lacking empirical evidence, it has also been praised for its ability to provide deep and lasting insights into the human psyche. It has influenced many other schools of psychology and psychotherapy, and has had a lasting impact on our understanding of mental health and well-being.
3. The unconscious
It is probable that Freud’s greatest discovery was the existence of unconscious contents in the human mind. The unconscious are all contents that are not accessible to consciousness and that nevertheless are part of thought.
The unconscious is organized in the system of thought, alien to the structure of the word. That is to say that in the unconscious, the concepts are not separated from each other but that nearby thoughts can be fused and confused.
We only have access to the contents of the unconscious when they become preconscious, in the form of dreams, fantasy and art. The unconscious affects all our conscious life, from our musical preferences to our choice of partner.
Psychoanalytic techniques consist of making the unconscious conscious to avoid the psychic suffering of mental illness.
Repression is the process by which the mind converts an event (a fact, person or emotion) into an unconscious content. This is an involuntary defense mechanism that we perform when we find something that becomes intolerable.
However, no content can be repressed completely successfully, but the repressed returns, manifesting itself in the form of jokes, dreams or cultural productions, or, in the worst cases, originating psychic pathologies (such as hysteria, compulsion, hypochondria, etc.). When the psychic pathologies appear, psychoanalysis maintains that the most effective way to cure them is to make the repressed contents conscious.
5. Oedipus complex
The Oedipus complex is a psychological concept introduced by Sigmund Freud, based on the Greek myth of Oedipus. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is a normal stage of psychosexual development in which a child has unconscious sexual desires for the parent of the opposite sex and sees the parent of the same sex as a rival for the parent’s affection.
Freud believed that the Oedipus complex begins in the phallic stage of psychosexual development, typically around the age of 3-6 years. During this stage, children become aware of their own genitals and begin to explore their own bodies. They also develop a strong attachment to their opposite-sex parent and may feel jealous or hostile toward the same-sex parent.
According to Freud, the resolution of the Oedipus complex involves the child identifying with the same-sex parent and internalizing the parent’s values and attitudes. This process allows the child to develop a sense of morality and socialization, and to eventually form healthy adult relationships.
While the concept of the Oedipus complex has been criticized by some modern psychologists for being too focused on early childhood development and too narrow in its scope, it has also been praised for its contributions to our understanding of human sexuality and family dynamics. It remains an important concept in the field of psychology and continues to be studied and debated by scholars and clinicians alike.
6. The interpretation of dreams
The Interpretation of Dreams is a book written by Sigmund Freud, published in 1899, and it is considered one of the most influential books in the history of psychology. In this book, Freud outlines his theory of dreams and their significance for understanding the human psyche.
According to Freud, dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious,” providing insight into the unconscious thoughts, desires, and conflicts that shape our waking lives. Dreams, he believed, are symbolic expressions of our unconscious wishes and fears, and they are often distorted and disguised to protect us from anxiety and other negative emotions.
Freud argued that dreams have both a manifest content (what is actually experienced in the dream) and a latent content (the hidden, symbolic meaning of the dream). He believed that the process of dream interpretation involved uncovering the latent content by analyzing the symbols and associations that appear in the dream.
The Interpretation of Dreams has had a lasting impact on the field of psychology, particularly in the areas of psychoanalysis and dream analysis. While some of Freud’s ideas about dreams and their interpretation have been criticized and revised by later scholars, his work has influenced many other psychologists and clinicians, and it continues to be studied and debated today.
7. The pleasure principle
Psychoanalytic theory holds that the psyche always seeks to achieve pleasure and avoid displeasure. That is to say that the main motivating force for the functioning of the unconscious is pleasure. That is why the thoughts that produce excessive pain are repressed. However, the conscious mind does not operate under the pleasure principle, but under the reality principle, which is its opposite: the need to adapt to one’s environment. Therefore, that repressed manifests again in the form of a symptom.
8. Structures of the mind
Sigmund Freud developed a model of the mind that he believed consisted of three distinct structures: the id, ego, and superego. Each of these structures represents different aspects of human consciousness and plays a unique role in shaping behavior and personality.
- The Id: The id is the most primitive and instinctual part of the mind, containing all of the unconscious desires and impulses that motivate behavior. It operates according to the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification of these desires without regard for social norms or consequences.
- The Ego: The ego is the conscious, rational part of the mind that mediates between the id and the external world. It operates according to the reality principle, seeking to satisfy the desires of the id in ways that are socially acceptable and realistic. The ego helps individuals navigate the demands of reality and maintain a sense of identity and self-control.
- The Superego: The superego represents the internalized values and ideals of society, including morality, ethics, and cultural norms. It operates as a kind of internal judge or censor, regulating behavior and imposing feelings of guilt or shame for actions that violate these ideals. The superego develops over time as individuals internalize the values and expectations of their culture and social environment.
According to Freud, conflicts between the id, ego, and superego are a normal part of human development and can lead to psychological problems if not resolved. Psychoanalytic therapy aims to help individuals gain insight into these conflicts and develop greater self-awareness and emotional resilience.
Sigmund Freud wrote several influential books during his lifetime. Here are some of his most well-known works:
- The Interpretation of Dreams (1899)
- Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)
- The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901)
- Totem and Taboo (1913)
- Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920)
- The Ego and the Id (1923)
- Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
- Moses and Monotheism (1939)
These books cover a range of topics related to psychoanalytic theory, including the nature of the unconscious mind, the role of sexuality in human behavior, and the relationship between culture and mental health. They continue to be studied and debated by psychologists and scholars around the world, and have had a profound impact on the field of psychology and the broader culture.
Sigmund Freud is known for his many insightful and thought-provoking quotes about human psychology and the human condition. Here are some of his most popular quotes:
- “The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.”
- “Where id was, there ego shall be.”
- “The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.”
- “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
- “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.”
- “We are never so defenseless against suffering as when we love.”
- “The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.”
- “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
- “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”
- “A civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence.”