Call Us to Find a Therapist
Sigmund Freud was born in Freiberg, Moravia in 1856, the oldest of eight children. His family moved to Vienna when Freud was just four years old. He studied at a preparatory school in Leopolds tadt where he excelled in Greek, Latin, history, math, and science. His academic superiority gained him entry into the University of Vienna at the age of seventeen. Upon completion, he went on to pursue his medical degree and studied for seven years to earn his doctorate.
Freud became a resident at the medical center of Vienna, where he studied psychiatry under Theodor Meynert. Although behavior was recognized as a symptom of the construct of the brain, Freud later changed the way behaviors were viewed. Eventually he redirected his residency focus to the pursuit of neurology, studying hypnosis under Jean-Martin Charcot. In 1886, soon after he wed Martha Bernays, Freud opened his first medical practice and began specializing in the field of neurology. Freud soon determined that hypnosis was an ineffective method to achieve the results he desired, and began to implement a form of talking therapy with his patients. This method became recognized as a “talking cure” and the goal was to encourage the patient to tap into the unconscious mind and let go of the repressed energy and emotions therein. Freud called this function “repression” and felt that this action hindered the development of emotional and physical functionality, which he referred to as “psychosomatic.” The element of using talk therapy eventually became the foundation of psychoanalysis.
Contribution to Psychology
Freud further developed his theory of psychoanalysis by analyzing and interpreting his own unconsciousness through his dreams. The compilation of his findings was published in 1901 as The Interpretation of Dreams. Soon after, Freud abandoned the use of hypnosis and began treating patients with the method of free association. Freud followed that work up with a series of publications exploring the process of the unconscious mind and how it affected behavior. He identified the sexual impulses in childhood as the strongest unconscious influence that could lead to mental disorders. This theory was explained in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Although the publication was at first controversial, it was eventually acknowledged and accepted by most schools in the field of psychology. During his mid-forties, Freud battled with depression. He became aware of an intense animosity he held toward his father, and believed he himself had repressed sexual desires for his mother from his youth. Although other experts of the time saw this as nothing more than repressed memories of perhaps seeing his mother unclothed, Freud struggled with these thoughts that eventually led him to examine his own dreams. He was convinced this was the most creative point in his professional career.
Freud, who had been a smoker for most of his life, developed cancer in 1923, which eventually took his life sixteen years later. During that time, Freud continued to develop and publish several psychological theories related to aggression and sexual desires. He explored the unconscious and the conscious mind in his publication The Ego and the Id, and revisited his previous analogies of the source of anxiety, stating that the symptoms were derived from the unconscious rather than repressed sexual urges. Freud’s theories on dreams, free association, and the unconscious mind influenced the face of psychology throughout the world. His ideas are still debated today, and his techniques and interpretations are widely accepted as the basis of modern psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud is considered one of the most influential people in the history of psychology.
Books by Sigmund Freud