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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Sigmund Freud - Seminar Paper

Sigmund Freud

Freud was an atheist that thought of himself as a scientist, and he felt that his ideas on psychoanalysis were the invention of a new science.
He was born in Moravia in 1856 into an Austrian family, but the family moved to Vienna in 1860 and this was where he trained as a doctor before moving to Paris 3 years later to study under neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.
Jean-Martin was very interested in ‘hysteria’, what seemed to be a mental disorder with physical manifestation, and he believed it was hereditary and caused by a weak neurological system. He felt that a hypnotised state had similarities to hysteria, and therefore used it to study his patient’s symptoms. However, this wasn’t to help cure them, merely to study. This to have some early influence on Freud’s ideas, as he published a book on Hysteria in 1895, but it had his own original analysis of mental illness. He also used hypnosis, but in comparison to Jean-Martin, he used it as a method of treatment.
He slowly stopped using hypnosis, and instead started using psychoanalysis, which is simply the patient and doctor exchanging words. He would encourage his patients to speak their mind while on the couch. The reason for this method was that Freud believed hysterical symptoms came from repressed psychological trauma.
Freud was also very obsessed with sex, and particularly (when it came to repressed trauma) infantile sex. It became the centre of his theories. He felt that psychological traumas dated back to infancy.
Freud believed in psychosexual development which consists of multiple stages during infancy where we should satisfy our sexual drive.
The stages are as follows-
-          The Oral stage - This is linked to the mouth.  Breast feeding is seen as the first human relationship both biologically and psychologically.
Oral Stage fixation can result in you chewing a lot of gum or the end of your pencils, and can make you immature, gullible and manipulative according the Freud.

-          The Anal stage - This is the time when you are toilet trained and represents a conflict with the id, ego and superego. Freud believed that if a parent is praising of their child in this stage and rewarding them, then they will pass through this stage. However, punishment or ridicule then they can become both really neat and organized (anal retentive) or reckless and careless (anal expulsive).

-          Phallic – This is between ages 3-6 when we develop physical curiosity, and learnt the physical gender differences. These experiences can alter parent/child dynamics and can lead to the Oedipus complex.

-          Genital – Once a child reaches puberty the sexual urges reawaken. Failure to get past an earlier stage can have an effect on this stage. Freud felt it could lead to impotence and unsatisfactory relationships.

There is also Latency, but Freud didn’t think this stage needed much attention as it contains no new stages of sexual development. It had relative stability. Freud was always fixated on human sexuality.
This theory was controversial for many reasons. One being that he said the female sexual desire was that they developed ‘penis envy’.
One of Freud’s most famous works was ‘Introduction to Psychoanalysis’. Freud states there are three signs of the unconscious – trivial everyday mistakes, reports of dreams and neurotic symptoms.
Freud also wrote about ‘parapraxes’ which are things such as ‘a slip of the tongue’, struggling to remember names and misplacing objects. He believed that these weren’t necessarily accidental, and could have hidden motives. He believed that sometimes you may express your unconscious views in the sense that you may not mean to express it publicly.
Sigmund Freud was in isolation from medical colleagues, and continued his practice in Vienna. By 1900 he had published what would be considered one of his most important pieces of work – ‘Interpretation of Dreams’.
Once again, he focused on sexuality, saying that dreams are a coded expression of repressed sexual desires. He saw dreaming as route to the unconscious, and contained our wish fulfilments. Although, Freud didn’t believe that everything in a dream was a symbol that had a specific significance.
A year later he published ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ and started to gain some pupils such as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung. He also worked with Wilhelm Reich. Reich felt that humans were overall good people and saw sexuality as good, and that sex was a measure of happiness. He did agree with Freud that sexuality was important to our unconscious and that we had no control over some areas of our mind.

Sigmund Freud
Source - Flickr: mansionwb
In 1923, ‘The Ego and the ID’ was published, and was seen as presenting a new view on the anatomy of the unconscious mind. It highlights internal tensions between the id, the ego and the super ego, as well as between love and death.
Freud believes that the mind has three processes – the ID, the Ego and the Super Ego.
The ID is there from birth, and is a number of instincts aimed at gaining pleasure and avoiding pain. Although Freud didn’t like to consider himself a philosopher, the idea of getting pleasure and avoiding pain was a big philosophical viewpoint.  Sex and aggression are the dominant part of the personality and are fused in the ID.
The ego (also known as the ‘self’) is the least powerful part of the personality – the voice of reason. It is where we get our common sense but is often overpowered.
The Super Ego is the ‘policeman in your head’, and is totally irrational. Freud believed that it develops after birth through socialising. It also makes you have irrational hopes and unreachable expectations.
Sigmund Freud saw the answer to psychological problems as analysis. He felt his method of psychoanalysis (with his patient on the couch) is needed to access the ID and in some ways to control it. It is also needed to strengthen the super ego.
In January 1933, the Nazis took control of Germany and Freud’s books were among those that were destroyed. Psychoanalysis was banned and Freud was forced to migrate to England in 1938 when Austria was taken over by Germany. His time in England was short as he died a year later when he got his physician to give him a lethal injection of morphine.
While Freud is unlikely to be studied by todays psychologists, his ideas can’t be completely ignored. Psychoanalysis is still a common way of finding out what is troubling someone unconsciously, and very often problems date back to childhood. However, people such as Wilhelm Reich could expect more praise for their less negative approach to the unconscious and human desires. Often referred to as ‘the father of psychoanalysis’, he made popular the idea of the unconscious and symbolism in dreams.


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