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Sigmund Freud

1856-1939

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. He was born on 6 May, 1856, in Freiburg, Moravia, but his family moved to Vienna while he was still very young. After studying medicine at the University of Vienna, he entered the Vienna General Hospital in 1882, specializing in neurology, and was appointed lecturer in neuropathology in 1885. Later that year he went to study under Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière clinic in Paris. By the time he returned to Vienna in early 1886, the seeds of his future work were already sown: his collaboration with Charcot on hysteria had introduced him to the idea that psychological problems may have their causes not in a physical malady of the brain, but rather in the mind itself. This same year also saw Freud's marriage to Martha Bernays, and the start of his partnership with Austrian neurologist, Josef Breuer.

While running his clinical practice in neuropsychology at Berggasse 19, Freud developed his technique of free association (the spontaneous articulation of associations by a patient in order to uncover unconscious or repressed thoughts, emotions, or conflicts) and released his ideas in 1895 in a work published jointly with Breuer: Studien über Hysterie (Studies in Hysteria). In 1896, Freud coined the term psychoanalysis for his developing theory of the mind and corresponding treatment of psychological disorders. Controversially, he maintained that most of the repressed material uncovered by free association had a sexual basis. His patients often recalled experiences of early, usually incestuous, sexual encounters, which Freud was initially inclined to accept at face value. By 1897, though, he had decided that these events were not actual memories, but rather sexual fantasies in children that were the causes of internal conflict in adulthood. These theories of infantile sexuality caused an irreparable rift with Breuer.

In July 1897, Freud began investigating dream analysis as a means of accessing repressed material; and in his attempts to refine his theories of the mind, he decided to extrapolate from the case he could study most fully: himself. The impetus for this came from the repressed emotions that surfaced after the death of his father in October 1896. His seminal work, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) was published in 1900, and posited the idea that dreams as well as neuroses are the disguised expressions of repressed, usually sexual, desires. Freud provided a framework by which he believed the hidden meaning of a dream could be uncovered and understood.

In 1902, Freud was appointed extraordinary professor of neuropathology at the University of Vienna, and in 1904 published Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (The Psychopathology of Everyday Life). In this, he considered ostensibly trivial errors, such as slips of the tongue or misreadings, as being symptomatic and having a deeper meaning amenable to interpretation. These ideas eventually entered the language under the term 'Freudian slip'.

1905 saw the publication of Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten (Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious) and Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie ('Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory', more commonly known as 'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality'). The latter met with instant opposition, and held that sexuality was the driving force behind a very wide range of human behavior at all stages of life. Freud split psychosexual development into the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages, introducing such controversial concepts as penis envy and the Oedipus complex (a term derived from Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Rex).

In 1908, what had begun in 1902 as the Psychological Wednesday Circle, was rechristened the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. In 1910, this became the international Psychoanalytical Association, with Carl Gustav Jung as its first president. Jung broke with Freud in 1913 to develop his own analytic psychology.

Freud continued to develop his theories, publishing other important works like Totem and Tabu (1913), Ego and Id (1923), and a discussion of religion called The Future of an Illusion (1927). A collaboration with Albert Einstein, Why War?, was published in 1933. In 1938, after the annexation of Austria by the Nazis, Freud moved to Hampstead in London with his family. He died of cancer in 1939.



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