This paper provides an overview of psychoanalysis, including its history and examples of Freud’s own work in this field. It highlights Freud’s revolutionary ideas that have become the basis for modern psychoanalysis and explains how his studies on topics such as unconsciousness, dreams, sexuality, the Oedipus complex, and sexual maladjustments have shaped future research. By delving into these topics, readers can gain a better understanding of the subtle influences that shape our lives (Jung).
Psycho-Analysis is the name of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes that are difficult to access through other means. It is also a method for treating neurotic disorders and a collection of psychological information obtained through this investigation, which is being accumulated into a new scientific discipline (Freud). Psychoanalysis continues to be utilized today, thanks to its recognition by numerous influential psychologists. From 1885 to 1886, Freud spent nineteen weeks with Jean Martin.
Charcot, the renowned director of a Paris asylum, introduced Freud to the concept of hysteria and hysterics. Freud became fascinated by the potential of hypnotism as a therapy method, but he was informed that only those diagnosed with hysteria could be treated with it. It was widely believed that only women were susceptible to hysteria, and that hypnotism had no impact on men or non-hysteric women (Appignanesi). However, Freud recognized that hysteria could occur in both genders due to brain degeneration, and that hypnotism could have an effect on individuals without any abnormality (Jung). Freud’s insights led him to develop his own ideas and techniques.
In 1896, Jung named his subsequent writings “psychoanalysis” and dedicated them entirely to that field (Jung). He initially presented his work in 1893 as a preliminary paper and later expanded it in 1895 as “Studies on Hysteria” (Appignanesi). In this publication, Freud proposed that the symptoms of hysteria were caused by unresolved emotional energy linked to forgotten psychological traumas (Freud). The therapeutic approach involved inducing a hypnotic state in which patients could recall and reenact their traumatic experiences to facilitate resolution (Freud). As a result of this work, psychoanalytic theory emerged based on clinical observations.
During the period from 1895 to 1900, Freud developed several concepts that were later incorporated into psychoanalytic practice and doctrine (Jung). After publishing studies on hysteria, he stopped using hypnosis as a cathartic procedure and instead used free association to uncover unconscious mental processes underlying neurotic disturbances (“Freud Archives”). This method involved the patient expressing random thoughts, promoting a “stream of consciousness” that accessed the unconscious mind (Freud).
According to the patient’s stream of consciousness, they revealed material that connected to the unconscious mind, which is typically concealed or forgotten and not accessible to conscious reflection, as stated by Freud. In contrast to Charcot, Freud believed that certain mental disorders, such as hysteria, were rooted in sexual matters based on his clinical studies. Freud associated the origin of neurotic symptoms with the conflict between a sexual feeling or urge and the psychological defenses against it. He emphasized the importance of discussing these issues openly to aid in the patient’s healing process. Furthermore, he considered free association as the most effective approach to confront and treat these emotions.
Freud’s clinical observations revealed evidence of repression and resistance as mental mechanisms. According to Freud, repression is an unconscious device that prevents the conscious mind from accessing painful or threatening memories. Similarly, resistance is defined as an unconscious defense mechanism to avoid anxiety caused by repressed experiences. Freud utilized patients’ free associations to interpret dreams and slips of speech, tracing the operation of unconscious processes.
Jung’s theory of transference explains the transferring of emotional attitudes from parental figures in childhood to others in later life. The culmination of this period in Freud’s career was his significant work in 1900, “The Interpretation of Dreams.” In this book, Freud analyzed his own dreams from the 3-year period of self-analysis that he started in 1897. “The Interpretation of Dreams” explores the fundamental concepts that form the basis of psychoanalytic technique and doctrine.
In 1902, the University of Vienna appointed Freud as a full professor. This appointment was not due to recognition of his contributions but rather because of the efforts of an influential patient. Despite facing hostility from the medical community, Freud continued to work on his own. He referred to this period as “splendid isolation.” In 1904, Freud published The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, a book that examined errors in speech and their interpretable significance. These errors, known as “Freudian slips,” differ from dreams as they can be influenced by hostile, jealous, or egotistic factors. Just one year later, Freud published Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.
Freud’s book compared jokes to dreams, highlighting their double-sided meaning and connection to the unconscious mind. These ideas are intriguing due to their relevance to human nature (“Freud”). Alongside his work on jokes, Freud also published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1905. This publication, which featured contributions from his colleagues Richard von Kraft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Albert Moll, and Iwan Bloch, solidified their positions as pioneering experts in the field of sexology (“Gay”). The book focused on sexual development in children and the potential challenges that could arise from it (“Freud”). Freud emphasized the importance of sexuality in human behavior (“Freud”).
Sigmund Freud identified three stages of children’s sexual development: the oral phase, the anal phase, and the phallic stage. In the oral phase, the child forms a love object attachment to the mother through breastfeeding. The anal phase occurs next, as toilet training introduces the concept of self-control. During this stage, the child learns to control pleasurable defecation. The phallic stage is the final stage, influenced by the Greek myth of Oedipus Rex. This stage involves the fear of punishment for desiring their mothers with castration as a threat. Boys quickly overcome the Oedipus Complex and develop new love interests, identifying with their fathers.
Freud’s insightful development of the three-stage process by which children form their sexual identities provides parents with a better understanding of their children’s experiences. It highlights the significance of seemingly insignificant aspects of life, like toilet training, and how they relate to the regulation of everyday pleasures (Jung). In his studies on sexology, Freud contemplated why some individuals become homosexuals. His findings suggested that traumatic experiences during childhood, such as sexual abuse, can push individuals towards a different sexual orientation (Gay). This misalignment leads to a distortion in the individual, wherein the mind’s energy and sexual drive, known as libido, become consumed by an obsession. After completing his final inquiries into sexuality, Freud moved on.
By 1906, Freud had attracted a small group of pupils and followers, which included William Stekel and Alfred Adler from Austria, Otto Rank from Austria, Abraham Brill from America, and Eugen Bleuler and Carl Jung from Switzerland (Appignanesi). In 1908, two notable additions to the group were Sándor Ferenczi from Hungary and Ernest Jones from Britain (“Freud”). The growing recognition of the psychoanalytic movement led to the establishment of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1910 (Freud). They became known as the Freudians in political circles (“Freud”).
As the movement spread, gaining new followers throughout Europe and the U.S., Freud became concerned about the divisions that arose among the original members of his circle, particularly Jung. Freud noted, “Most unsettling were the departures of Adler and Jung, who each developed their own theoretical grounds for disagreement with my emphasis on the sexual origin of neurosis.” To confront these setbacks, Freud expanded on his fundamental concepts and further articulated his own perspectives through numerous publications and lectures.
Following the outbreak of World War I, Freud focused less on clinical observation and instead applied his theories to understanding religion, mythology, art, and literature (Appignanesi). However, he later returned to psychoanalysis. In 1923, Freud published The Ego and the Id, wherein he divided the human psyche into three distinct entities (Leland). The first entity, known as the Id, represents the primal urges of children and is primarily driven by the pursuit of pleasure (Leland). The ego serves as a guide for understanding reality and adapts to different situations. Meanwhile, the super-ego is connected to the Id as it is rooted in past experiences and provides a channel for a person’s aggressive impulses (Freud).
According to Jung, Freud revolutionized the understanding of human personality by unveiling the power and existence of the unconscious. Additionally, he established a new medical field and developed therapeutic procedures that are widely used today in the treatment of neuroses and psychoses. Freud’s expertise in sexology was another significant contribution to society, offering people insights into their upbringing and guidance on raising their own children. His research on sexual problems and perversions also provided a deeper understanding of human behavior. Therefore, Sigmund Freud’s work has the potential to impact everyone’s lives if they are aware of his contributions and take the time to analyze their own experiences.
Sigmund Freud established the groundwork for contemporary psychoanalysis, enabling psychology students to explore and develop his concepts (“APSAA”). His concepts were revolutionary and unlike anything previously known. Despite not receiving complete acknowledgment during his lifetime, Freud is widely recognized as one of the brilliant minds of our era (Leland). All his theories are directly applicable to individuals and can be used in everyday life. Thanks to Freud, individuals can introspect and decipher the meanings behind their thoughts and comprehend the messages their minds are conveying.
Freud followed a specific system in all of his psychoanalytic examples, skillfully manipulating each psychological maneuver. Similarly, every psychologist has their own approach in dealing with those who struggle, having dedicated many years to refining their curriculum. Consequently, psychologists employ their own unique methods of psychoanalysis. As Freud stated, “I am actually not a man of science at all … I am nothing but a conquistador by temperament, an adventurer.”
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- Leland, John. “Ego’s and ID’s: What Does It All Mean?” Newsweek 12 October 1998.