Sigmund Freud - biography
Sigmund Freud (German pronunciation: [ˈsiːɡmʊnd ˈfʁɔʏd]), born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939), was an Austrian neurologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanism of repression, and for creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient, technically referred to as an "analysand", and a psychoanalyst. Freud redefined sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association, created the theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and interpreted dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was an early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy, and a prolific essayist, drawing on psychoanalysis to contribute to the history, interpretation and critique of culture.
While many of Freud's ideas have fallen out of favor or been modified by Neo-Freudians, and modern advances in the field of psychology have shown flaws in some of his theories, Freud's work remains influential in clinical approaches, and in the humanities and social sciences. He is considered one of the most prominent thinkers of the first half of the 20th century, in terms of originality and intellectual influence.
Freud was born on 6 May 1856, to Jewish Galician parents in the Moravian town of Příbor, Austrian Empire, now the Czech Republic. Freud was born with a caul, which the family accepted as a positive omen.
His father, Jacob, was 41, a wool merchant, and had two children by a previous marriage. His mother, Amalié (née Nathansohn), the second wife of Jakob, was 21. He was the first of their eight children and, in accordance with tradition, his parents favored him over his siblings from the early stages of his childhood. Despite their poverty, they sacrificed everything to give him a proper education. Due to the economic crisis of 1857, Freud's father lost his business, and the family moved to Leipzig before settling in Vienna.
In 1865, Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school. He was an outstanding pupil and graduated the Matura in 1873 with honors. After planning to study law, Freud joined the medical faculty at University of Vienna to study under Darwinist Prof. Karl Claus. At that time, the eel life cycle was unknown and Freud spent four weeks at the Austrian zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an unsuccessful search for their male reproductive organs.
Freud began smoking at 24; he smoked cigarettes at first, but later switched exclusively to cigars. Freud believed that smoking enhanced his capacity to work and ability to muster self-control, and continued despite warnings from Wilhelm Fliess.
Development of psychoanalysis
In October 1885, Freud went to Paris on a traveling fellowship to study with Europe's most renowned neurologist and researcher of hypnosis, Jean-Martin Charcot. He was later to remember the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in neurology research. Charcot specialised in the study of hysteria and susceptibility to hypnosis, which he frequently demonstrated with patients on stage in front of an audience. Freud later turned away from hypnosis as a potential cure for mental illness, instead favouring free association and dream analysis. Charcot himself questioned his own work on hysteria towards the end of his life.
After opening his own medical practice, specializing in neurology, Freud married Martha Bernays in 1886. Her father Berman was the son of Isaac Bernays, chief rabbi in Hamburg.
After experimenting with hypnosis on his neurotic patients, Freud abandoned this form of treatment as it proved ineffective for many, he favored treatment where the patient talked through his or her problems. This came to be known as the "talking cure" and the ultimate goal of this talking was to locate and release powerful emotional energy that had initially been rejected or imprisoned in the unconscious mind. Freud called this denial of emotions "repression", and he believed that it was an impediment to the normal functioning of the psyche, even capable of causing physical retardation which he described as "psychosomatic". The term "talking cure" was initially coined by a patient, Anna O., who was treated by Freud's colleague Josef Breuer. The "talking cure" is widely seen as the basis of psychoanalysis.
Carl Jung initiated the rumor that a romantic relationship may have developed between Freud and his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, who had moved into Freud's apartment at 19 Berggasse in 1896. Psychologist Hans Eysenck has suggested that the affair occurred, resulting in an aborted pregnancy for Miss Bernays. The publication in 2006 of a Swiss hotel log, dated 13 August 1898, has been regarded by some Freudian scholars (including Peter Gay) as showing that there was a factual basis to these rumors.
In his 40s, Freud "had numerous psychosomatic disorders as well as exaggerated fears of dying and other phobias" (Corey 2001, p. 67). In that time, Freud was exploring his own dreams, memories, and the dynamics of his personality development. During this self-analysis, he came to realize a hostility he felt towards his father, Jacob Freud, who had died in 1896. He also recalled "his childhood sexual feelings for his mother, Amalia Freud, who was attractive, warm, and protective" (Corey 2001, p. 67). Freud considered this time of emotional difficulty to be the most creative time in his life.
After the publication of Freud's books in 1900 and 1905, interest in his theories began to grow, and a circle of supporters developed in the following period. However, Freud often clashed with those supporters who critiqued his theories, the most famous being Carl Jung, who had originally supported Freud's ideas. Part of the disagreement between the two was in Jung's interest and commitment to religion, which Freud saw as unscientific.
Struggle with cancer
In February 1923, Freud detected a leukoplakia, a benign growth associated with heavy smoking, on his mouth. Freud initially kept this secret, but in April 1923 informed Ernest Jones, telling him that the growth had been removed. Freud consulted the dermatologist Maximilian Steiner, who advised him to quit smoking but lied about the growth's seriousness, minimizing its importance. Freud later saw Felix Deutsch, who saw that the growth was cancerous; he identified it to Freud using the euphemism "a bad leukoplakia" instead of the technical diagnosis epithelioma. Deutsch advised Freud to stop smoking and have the growth excised. Freud was treated by Marcus Hajek, a rhinologist whose competence he had previously questioned; Hajek performed an unnecessary cosmetic surgery in the his clinic's outpatient department. Freud bled during and after the operation, and may narrowly have escaped death. Freud subsequently saw Deutsch again; Deutsch saw that further surgery would be required, but refrained from telling Freud that he had cancer because he was worried that Freud might wish to commit suicide.
Escape from Austria and final years
In 1932, Freud received the Goethe Prize in appreciation of his contribution to psychology and to German literary culture. One year later (on 30 January 1933), the Nazis took control of Germany, and Freud's books were prominent among those burned and destroyed by the Nazis. Freud quipped:
“ What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books. ”
Freud's four sisters perished in Nazi Concentration Camps. In March 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss. This led to violent outbursts of anti-Semitism in Vienna, and Freud and his family received visits from the Gestapo. Freud decided to go into exile "to die in freedom". In this goal, he was fortuitously assisted by Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi official given control over all Freud's assets in Austria. Sauerwald, however, was not an ordinary Nazi; while "he had made bombs for the Nazi movement, he had also studied medicine, chemistry and law."
At the University of Vienna, Sauerwald had been a student of Professor Josef Herzig, who often visited Freud to play cards. Sauerwald did not disclose to his Nazi superiors that Freud had many secret bank accounts and disobeyed a Nazi directive to have Freud's books on psychoanalysis destroyed. Instead, Sauerwald and an accomplice smuggled them to the Austrian national library, where they were hidden. Finally, dismayed by a Nazi order to transform Freud's home into an institute for the study of Aryan superiority, Sauerwald signed Sigmund Freud's exit visa. In June 1938, Freud left Vienna aboard the Orient Express train and settled in London. While Freud told a local newspaper that "all my money and property in Vienna is gone", he did not mention his secret bank accounts. When Anton Sauerwald went to trial on charges of absconding with Freud’s secret wealth after the war, Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud's daughter, intervened to protect Sauerwald. She disclosed to Harry Freud, a US army officer who had had Sauerwald arrested, that:
“ "[The] truth is that we really owe our lives and our freedom to ,... [Sauerwald]. Without him we would never have got away." ” Sauerwald was then released from U.S. custody.
After arriving in Britain, Freud and his family settled in 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, London. There is a statue of him at the corner of Belsize Lane and Fitzjohn's Avenue, near Swiss Cottage.
In September 1939, Freud, who was suffering from cancer and in severe pain, persuaded his doctor and friend Max Schur to help him commit suicide. After reading Balzac's La Peau de chagrin in a single sitting, he said, "Schur, you remember our 'contract' not to leave me in the lurch when the time had come. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense." When Schur said that he had not forgotten, Freud said, "I thank you." and then "Talk it over with Anna, and if she thinks it's right, then make an end of it." Anna Freud wanted to postpone Freud's death, but Schur convinced her it was pointless to keep him alive, and on September 21 and 22 administered doses of morphine that resulted in Freud's death on 23 September 1939.
Three days after his death, Freud's body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium in England during a service attended by Austrian refugees, including the author Stefan Zweig. His ashes were later placed in the crematorium's columbarium. They rest in an ancient Greek urn that Freud received as a present from Marie Bonaparte, and which he had kept in his study in Vienna for many years. After Martha Freud's death in 1951, her ashes were also placed in the urn.
Freud has been influential in two related but distinct ways: he simultaneously developed a theory of the human mind's organization and internal operations and a theory that human behavior both conditions and results from how the mind is organized. This led him to favor certain clinical techniques for trying to help cure mental illness. He theorized that personality is developed by a person's childhood experiences. In his philosophical writings he advocated an atheistic world view; he was eulogized as "'the atheist's touchstone' for the 20th century."
Freud began his study of medicine at the University of Vienna. He took nine years to complete his studies, due to his interest in neurophysiological research, specifically investigation of the sexual anatomy of eels and the physiology of the fish nervous system. He entered private practice in neurology for financial reasons, receiving his M.D. degree in 1881 at the age of 25. He was also an early researcher in the field of cerebral palsy, which was then known as "cerebral paralysis." He published several medical papers on the topic, and showed that the disease existed long before other researchers of the period began to notice and study it. He also suggested that William Little, the man who first identified cerebral palsy, was wrong about lack of oxygen during birth being a cause. Instead, he suggested that complications in birth were only a symptom.
Freud hoped that his research would provide a solid scientific basis for his therapeutic technique. The goal of Freudian therapy, or psychoanalysis, was to bring repressed thoughts and feelings into consciousness in order to free the patient from suffering repetitive distorted emotions.
Classically, the bringing of unconscious thoughts and feelings to consciousness is brought about by encouraging a patient to talk in free association and to talk about dreams. Another important element of psychoanalysis is lesser direct involvement on the part of the analyst, which is meant to encourage the patient to project thoughts and feelings onto the analyst. Through this process, transference, the patient can discover and resolve repressed conflicts, especially childhood conflicts involving parents.
The origin of Freud's early work with psychoanalysis can be linked to Josef Breuer. Freud credited Breuer with opening the way to the discovery of the psychoanalytical method by his treatment of the case of Anna O. In November 1880 Breuer was called in to treat a highly intelligent 21-year-old woman (Bertha Pappenheim) for a persistent cough which he diagnosed as hysterical. He found that while nursing her dying father she had developed a number of transitory symptoms, including visual disorders and paralysis and contractures of limbs, which he also diagnosed as hysterical. Breuer began to see his patient almost every day as the symptoms increased and became more persistent, and observed that she entered states of absence. He found that when, with his encouragement, she told fantasy stories in her evening states of absence her condition improved, and most of her symptoms had disappeared by April 1881. However, following the death of her father in that month her condition deteriorated again. Breuer recorded that some of the symptoms eventually remitted spontaneously, and that full recovery was achieved by inducing her to recall events that had precipitated the occurrence of a specific symptom. In the years immediately following Breuer's treatment, Anna O. spent three short periods in sanatoria with the diagnosis "hysteria" with "somatic symptoms," and some authors have challenged Breuer's published account of a cure. (A contrary view has been published by Richard Skues.)
In the early 1890s Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his "pressure technique" and his newly developed analytic technique of interpretation and reconstruction. According to Freud's later accounts of this period, as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse. He believed these stories, but then came to believe that they were fantasies. He explained these at first as having the function of "fending off" memories of infantile masturbation, but in later years he wrote that they represented Oedipal fantasies.
Another version of events focuses on Freud's proposing that unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse were at the root of the psychoneuroses in letters to Wilhelm Fliess in October 1895, before he reported that he had actually discovered such abuse among his patients. In the first half of 1896 Freud published three papers stating that he had uncovered, in all of his current patients, deeply repressed memories of sexual abuse in early childhood. In these papers Freud recorded that his patients were not consciously aware of these memories, and must therefore be present as unconscious memories if they were to result in hysterical symptoms or obsessional neurosis. The patients were subjected to considerable pressure to "reproduce" infantile sexual abuse "scenes" that Freud was convinced had been repressed into the unconscious. Patients were generally unconvinced that their experiences of Freud's clinical procedure indicated actual sexual abuse. He reported that even after a supposed "reproduction" of sexual scenes the patients assured him emphatically of their disbelief.
As well as his pressure technique, Freud's clinical procedures involved analytic inference and the symbolic interpretation of symptoms to trace back to memories of infantile sexual abuse. His claim of one hundred percent confirmation of his theory only served to reinforce previously expressed reservations from his colleagues about the validity of findings obtained through his suggestive techniques.
As a medical researcher, Freud was an early user and proponent of cocaine as a stimulant as well as analgesic. He wrote several articles on the antidepressant qualities of the drug and he was influenced by friend and confidant Wilhelm Fliess, who recommended cocaine for the treatment of "nasal reflex neurosis". Fliess operated on the noses of Freud and a number of Freud's patients' whom he believed to be suffering the disorder, including Emma Eckstein, whose surgery proved disastrous.
Freud felt that cocaine would work as a panacea and wrote a well-received paper, "On Coca", explaining its virtues. He prescribed it to his friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow to help him overcome a morphine addiction acquired while treating a disease of the nervous system. Freud also recommended cocaine to many of his close family and friends. He narrowly missed out on obtaining scientific priority for discovering its anesthetic properties of which he was aware but had not written extensively. Karl Koller, a colleague of Freud's in Vienna, received that distinction in 1884 after reporting to a medical society the ways cocaine could be used in delicate eye surgery. Freud was bruised by this, especially because this would turn out to be one of the few safe uses of cocaine, as reports of addiction and overdose began to filter in from many places in the world. Freud's medical reputation became somewhat tarnished because of this early ambition. Furthermore, Freud's friend Fleischl-Marxow developed an acute case of "cocaine psychosis" as a result of Freud's prescriptions and died a few years later. Freud felt great regret over these events, dubbed by later biographers as "The Cocaine Incident". He managed to move on although some speculate that he continued to use cocaine after this event. Some critics have suggested that most of Freud's psychoanalytical theory was a byproduct of his cocaine use.
Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud made to Western thought were his arguments concerning the importance of the unconscious mind in understanding conscious thought and behavior. However, as psychologist Jacques Van Rillaer pointed out, "contrary to what most people believe, the unconscious was not discovered by Freud. In 1890, when psychoanalysis was still unheard of, William James, in Principles of Psychology his monumental treatise on psychology, examined the way Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, Janet, Binet and others had used the term 'unconscious' and 'subconscious'". Boris Sidis, a Russian Jew who emigrated to the United States of America in 1887, and studied under William James, wrote The Psychology of Suggestion: A Research into the Subconscious Nature of Man and Society in 1898, followed by ten or more works over the next twenty five years on similar topics to the works of Freud. Historian of psychology Mark Altschule concluded, "It is difficult—or perhaps impossible—to find a nineteenth-century psychologist or psychiatrist who did not recognize unconscious cerebration as not only real but of the highest importance." Freud's advance was not to uncover the unconscious but to devise a method for systematically studying it.
Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious". This meant that dreams illustrate the "logic" of the unconscious mind. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it. The preconscious was described as a layer between conscious and unconscious thought; its contents could be accessed with a little effort.
One key factor in the operation of the unconscious is "repression". Freud believed that many people "repress" painful memories deep into their unconscious mind. Although Freud later attempted to find patterns of repression among his patients in order to derive a general model of the mind, he also observed that repression varies among individual patients. Freud also argued that the act of repression did not take place within a person's consciousness. Thus, people are unaware of the fact that they have buried memories or traumatic experiences.
Later, Freud distinguished between three concepts of the unconscious: the descriptive unconscious, the dynamic unconscious, and the system unconscious. The descriptive unconscious referred to all those features of mental life of which people are not subjectively aware. The dynamic unconscious, a more specific construct, referred to mental processes and contents that are defensively removed from consciousness as a result of conflicting attitudes. The system unconscious denoted the idea that when mental processes are repressed, they become organized by principles different from those of the conscious mind, such as condensation and displacement.
Eventually, Freud abandoned the idea of the system unconscious, replacing it with the concept of the ego, super-ego, and id. Throughout his career, however, he retained the descriptive and dynamic conceptions of the unconscious.
Freud hoped to prove that his model was universally valid and thus turned to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative material. Freud named his new theory the Oedipus complex after the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. "I found in myself a constant love for my mother, and jealousy of my father. I now consider this to be a universal event in childhood," Freud said. Freud sought to anchor this pattern of development in the dynamics of the mind. Each stage is a progression into adult sexual maturity, characterized by a strong ego and the ability to delay gratification (cf. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality). He used the Oedipus conflict to point out how much he believed that people desire incest and must repress that desire. The Oedipus conflict was described as a state of psychosexual development and awareness. He also turned to anthropological studies of totemism and argued that totemism reflected a ritualized enactment of a tribal Oedipal conflict. Freud originally posited childhood sexual abuse as a general explanation for the origin of neuroses, but he abandoned this so-called "seduction theory" as insufficiently explanatory. He noted finding many cases in which apparent memories of childhood sexual abuse were based more on imagination than on real events. During the late 1890s Freud, who never abandoned his belief in the sexual etiology of neuroses, began to emphasize fantasies built around the Oedipus complex as the primary cause of hysteria and other neurotic symptoms. Despite this change in his explanatory model, Freud always recognized that some neurotics had in fact been sexually abused by their fathers. He explicitly discussed several patients whom he knew to have been abused.
Freud also believed that the libido developed in individuals by changing its object, a process codified by the concept of sublimation. He argued that humans are born "polymorphously perverse", meaning that any number of objects could be a source of pleasure. He further argued that, as humans develop, they become fixated on different and specific objects through their stages of development—first in the oral stage (exemplified by an infant's pleasure in nursing), then in the anal stage (exemplified by a toddler's pleasure in evacuating his or her bowels), then in the phallic stage. Freud argued that children then passed through a stage in which they fixated on the mother as a sexual object (known as the Oedipus Complex) but that the child eventually overcame and repressed this desire because of its taboo nature. (The term 'Electra complex' is sometimes used to refer to such a fixation on the father, although Freud did not advocate its use.) The repressive or dormant latency stage of psychosexual development preceded the sexually mature genital stage of psychosexual development.
Freud's views have sometimes been called phallocentric. This is because, for Freud, the unconscious desires the phallus (penis). Males are afraid of losing their masculinity, symbolized by the phallus, to another male. Females always desire to have a phallus—an unfulfillable desire. Thus boys resent their fathers (fear of castration) and girls desire theirs.
Id, ego, and super-ego
In his later work, Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into three parts: Id, ego, and super-ego. Freud discussed this model in the 1920 essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and fully elaborated upon it in The Ego and the Id (1923), in which he developed it as an alternative to his previous topographic schema (i.e., conscious, unconscious, and preconscious). The id is the impulsive, child-like portion of the psyche that operates on the "pleasure principle" and only takes into account what it wants and disregards all consequences.
The term ego entered the English language in the late 18th century; Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) described the game of chess as a way to "...keep the mind fit and the ego in check". Freud acknowledged that his use of the term Id (das Es, "the It") derives from the writings of Georg Groddeck. The term Id appears in the earliest writing of Boris Sidis, in which it is attributed to William James, as early as 1898.
The super-ego is the moral component of the psyche, which takes into account no special circumstances in which the morally right thing may not be right for a given situation. The rational ego attempts to exact a balance between the impractical hedonism of the id and the equally impractical moralism of the super-ego; it is the part of the psyche that is usually reflected most directly in a person's actions. When overburdened or threatened by its tasks, it may employ defense mechanisms including denial, repression, and displacement. The theory of ego defense mechanisms has received empirical validation, and the nature of repression, in particular, became one of the more fiercely debated areas of psychology in the 1990s.
Life and death drives
Freud believed that humans were driven by two conflicting central desires: the life drive (libido/Eros) (survival, propagation, hunger, thirst, and sex) and the death drive (Thanatos).
Freud's description of Cathexis, whose energy is known as libido, included all creative, life-producing drives. The death drive (or death instinct), whose energy is known as anticathexis, represented an urge inherent in all living things to return to a state of calm: in other words, an inorganic or dead state.
Freud recognized the death drive only in his later years and developed his theory of it in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Freud approached the paradox between the life drives and the death drives by defining pleasure and unpleasure. According to Freud, unpleasure refers to stimulus that the body receives. (For example, excessive friction on the skin's surface produces a burning sensation; or, the bombardment of visual stimuli amidst rush hour traffic produces anxiety.)
Conversely, pleasure is a result of a decrease in stimuli (for example, a calm environment the body enters after having been subjected to a hectic environment). If pleasure increases as stimuli decreases, then the ultimate experience of pleasure for Freud would be zero stimulus, or death.
Given this proposition, Freud acknowledged the tendency for the unconscious to repeat unpleasurable experiences in order to desensitize, or deaden, the body. This compulsion to repeat unpleasurable experiences explains why traumatic nightmares occur in dreams, as nightmares seem to contradict Freud's earlier conception of dreams purely as a site of pleasure, fantasy, and desire. On the one hand, the life drives promote survival by avoiding extreme unpleasure and any threat to life. On the other hand, the death drive functions simultaneously toward extreme pleasure, which leads to death. Freud addressed the conceptual dualities of pleasure and unpleasure, as well as sex/life and death, in his discussions on masochism and sadomasochism. The tension between life drive and death drive represented a revolution in his manner of thinking.
These ideas resemble aspects of the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy, expounded in The World as Will and Representation, describes a renunciation of the will to live that corresponds on many levels with Freud's Death Drive. Similarly, the life drive clearly parallels much of Nietzsche's concept of the Dionysian in The Birth of Tragedy. However, Freud denied having been acquainted with their writings before he formulated the groundwork of his own ideas.