An Introduction to the Life of Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud was an Australian physician who revolutionized ideas on how the human mind works. Freud established the theory that unconscious motives control many behaviors. He advanced the fields of psychiatry and psychology. Freud was born on May 6, 1856, In Freiberg, Moravia. He was the oldest of eight children, and his father was a wool merchant. He graduated from the medical school of the University of Vienna in 1881. Freud later decided to specialize in neurology, the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. Freud began to work extensively with hysterical patients. He gradually formed ideas about the origin and treatment of mental illness; Freud used the term psychoanalysis for both his theories and his method of treatment. When he first presented his ideas in the 1890s, other physicians reacted with hostility. Freud was constantly modifying his own ideas, and in 1923, he published a revised version of many of his earlier theories. That same year, he learned he had cancer of the mouth. In 1938, the Nazis gained control of Austria. Freud, who was Jewish, went to England with his wife and children to escape persecution. He died there of cancer in 1939. Freuds most important writings include the Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Totem and Taboo (1913), Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1917), The Ego and the Id (1923), and Civilization and it Discontents (1930).

His Theories

Freud observed that many patients behaved according to drives and experiences of which they were not consciously aware. He thus concluded that the unconscious plays a major role in shaping behavior. He also concluded that the unconscious is full of memories of events from early childhood. He used the term defense mechanisms for the methods by which individuals handled painful memories. Freud believed that patients used the vast amounts of energy in forming defense mechanisms. Tying up energy could affect a persons ability to lead a productive life, causing an illness that Freud called neurosis. Freud also concluded that many childhood memories dealt with sex. He theorized that sexual functioning begins at birth, and that a person goes through several psychological stages of sexual development. Freud believed the normal pattern of psychosexual development is interrupted in some people.

On the mind

Freud divided the mind into three parts: (1) the id, (2) the ego, and (3) the superego. He recognized that each person is born with various natural drives that he called instincts, such as the need to satisfy sexual desires and the need to be aggressive. The id is the source of such instincts. At first, Freud treated neurotic patients by using the hypnotic techniques he had learned. But he later modified this approach and simply had patients talk about whatever was on their minds. He called this free association.

Freud was one of the worlds most influential thinkers. Freuds theories on sexual development led to an open discussion and treatment of sexual matters and problems. His stress on the importance of childhood helped teach the value of giving children an emotionally nourishing environment. He showed the crucial importance of unconscious thinking to all human though and activity. But Freuds strongest impact occurred in psychiatry and psychology.

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