Sigmund Freud

1856-1939


freud

Sigmund Freud was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1856.  His family moved to Vienna when he was four, where he spent the majority of his life.  Although his family was Jewish, Freud considered himself an atheist.  Rumor has it that he was his mother’s favorite of the seven children.  As the story goes, he was the only child allowed a nightlight in which to read by at night and was the only child given his own room and extra luxuries to assist his educational pursuits.

Freud was an exceptional student, spoke 8 languages as an adult, and completed medical school by the age of thirty.  Upon graduation, he decided to go into private practice in neurology.   Although research was more his interest, financial concerns severely restricted this goal.  He was married the same year and he and his wife had six children.

In 1900, Freud published the book that started the whole Psychoanalytical rage that still exists today.  His book The Interpretation of Dreams began the complex theory of Psychoanalytic thought with the introduction of the ‘unconscious mind.’  A year later he published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life where the belief that there were no accidents in life was first introduced.  The term ‘Freudian Slip’ (as it is known now) referring to an unconscious slip of the tongue was discussed in this book

In 1902 he was appointed professor at the University of Vienna and his name began to gather world recognition.  He continued developing his theory and in 1905 shocked the world with his theory of psychosexual development, arguing that sexuality is the strongest of all drives and that even infants experience a sense of sexual attraction and neediness.  Well known components of his theory include (1) the Oedipal Complex, where boys become attracted to their mothers and end up identifying with their father to gain her approval; (2) the concept of the id, ego, and superego as the driving structure of the personality, and the idea of ego defense mechanisms such as denial, sublimation, reaction formation, projection, and displacement.

In 1906 the Psychoanalytic Society was formed and from it other major theorists in psychology emerged, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung.  By 1909 he was known throughout the world as he traveled to the US in his first international conference.

Diagnosed with cancer in 1923 due to frequent cigar smoking, Freud underwent over 30 surgeries over the next 16 years.  In a revolt against his theories, the Nazi party in Germany burned his books in 1933, and when they invaded Austria in 1938 his passport was cancelled and he was forced to flee to England with his family.  The emotional, physical, and financial stressors due to cancer, threat from the Nazi party, and his flee from Austria, resulted in his death only a year later.

His theories are alive and well today however, and thousands study him every day in both undergraduate and graduate psychology classes as well as many other disciplines that find his theories philosophical and representative of life.  Some argue his theories remain in place today only due to their inability to be proven wrong, while others hail him as a modern day genius and scholar of the human mind.  Whatever your view, his name and beliefs will be around for a long time to come.