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Famous May Psychologist: Sigmund Freud

Life of Sigmund Freud

Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born into a family of Jews on 6 May 1856, in the Austrian Empire. He had childhood difficulties due to the financial problems the family had to face. However, Freud showed his intelligence from an early age and the family did their utmost to give him a proper education. His mother was the one who was highly interested in investing in Freud’s education, something that he mentioned on the few occasions when he talked about his personal life.

In 1859, Freud moved with his family to Leipzig, Germany, and in 1860 to Vienna, where he remained until 1938. In 1877 he changed his name to Sigmund Freud. In 1873 he began his studies in medical research at the University of Vienna, focusing mainly on the central nervous system, under the direction of Ernst von Brücke and graduated in 1881. He worked at Theodor Meynert Psychiatric Clinic between 1882-1883, then studied with Charcot, at the Salpetriere clinic in Paris (1885). In 1886 he married Martha Bernays and had six children.

Freud’s Academic Development

Sigmund Freud began his research into psychoanalysis in the 1880s at the end of a century when both Europe and America had numerous asylum reforms for people with mental disabilities, showing an interest in abnormal psychological disorders. As a reuslt, Freud began studying psychoanalysis after reading articles about Breuer’s method of treating hysteria by hypnosis. Subsequently, Freud together with Breuer published the “Hysteria Studies” in 1895. In the same year, Freud managed to analyze one of his dreams. Over the next five years (1895-1900), he developed most of the concepts that were then included in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. The term “psychoanalysis” was proposed by Freud himself in 1896. After his separation from Breuer and after the shock suffered by his father’s death, Freud began self-analysis in 1897, focusing on his own dreams and fantasies, supported by his friend, Wilhelm Fliess.

Additionally, he became a professor at the University of Vienna. The theories of Freud generated contradictory reactions until a group of young doctors began to accompany him to Vienna in 1902. There he founded the “Psychological Society of Wednesday”, a weekly meeting where they were discussing his new discoveries and which became the Vienna Society of Psychoanalysis in 1908, and the International Society of Psychoanalysis in 1910.

“The interpretation of dreams ” has revolutionised the medical world

” The Interpretation of Dreams ”, which Freud regarded as his most important book, was published in 1899, but he wrote the year 1900 as the date of the first edition because the author wanted his great discovery to be associated with the beginning of a new century. The medical world was sceptical about this work, so Freud continued his studies alone, isolated from the rest of the researchers. He started working with Dora, one of his patients and published, in 1901, the “Psychopathology of Everyday Life”.

In 1905 he published three essays on the theory of sexuality, the connection between them and the subconscious mind, and fragments of the analysis of Dora’s hysteria. In 1908, the first congress of Freudian psychology took place in Salzburg. In 1909, Freud was invited by Stanley Hall to hold five courses at Clark University. This visit to the United States marked his career, drawing the world’s attention to his theories.

Dimensions of personality

Another aspect of Freud’s theories is the study of personality. The personality structure has 3 dimensions. Freud divided it into id, ego and superego. Only the ego is visible, but all three have their own effects on personality.

Id is defined by the psychological expression of human biological necessities such as hunger and thirst. Id is present at birth and is more or less the same in all of us and does not make our personality unique.

Ego is the second aspect of humans’ personality that develops as a result of the experiences that an individual has throughout his life, his frustrations and his successes. As a result, the ego follows the principles of reality because it allows us to cope with current situations.

Superego is a result of the values we learn from family and society. If we accept these values, superego becomes an integral part of our personality. Part of the superhero is the consciousness that makes us feel guilty when we do something that is against the superego. So superego is the moral guide that makes us conform to the social values that we have accepted from the society.

Last Years

A heavy cigar smoker, Freud’s health begins to deteriorate after the discovery of mouth cancer. From 1923 until the end of life, Freud will undergo multiple surgeries (over 20). But his glory continued. In 1930, he was awarded the Goethe Award in Frankfurt, proposed by the poet Alfred Döblin. Five years later, he is elected member of the Royal Society of Medicine, and in 1936, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, he receives a homage address signed by 200 writers and artists, including Thomas Mann, R. Rolland, S Zweig and V. Woolf.

In the spring of 1938 German troops invaded Vienna. The Nazis destroyed his house, burned his books and persecuted his family. With the support of Ernest Jones, Princess of Greece Maria Bonaparte, and President Roosevelt, on June 4, 1938, Freud managed to leave Vienna and moved to London. Unfortunately, his four sisters found their end in the Nazi camps. In London,​ he will offer few consultations, being visited by outstanding personalities, including the painter Salvador Dali.

Freud died on September 23, 1939, at 3 o’clock in the morning.

For more information on Freud’s theories, please read https://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html 

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