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Sigmund Freud, Women and Child Abuse

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Autor:   •  January 3, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,720 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,205 Views

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Sigmund Freud and His Views

Sigmund Freud has been called the father of psychotherapy. His studies and views on how personality develops and is affected by different experiences or exposures to stimuli have been disputed and discussed for over 100 years. This paper will highlight Freud's life and theories as well as answer two questions. These two questions are; did Freud sexually abuse children and did Freud have a personal vendetta against women?

Life and Times

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 to a Jewish Family and grew up in Freiberg, Moravia which is now a part of the Czech Republic. Freud was the eldest of eight children from his mother and had older half-brothers from his father's previous marriage. The family was very poor, but realizing Freud's outstanding intellect, every effort was made to ensure that Sigmund obtain the best education possible. As a result, Freud was able to graduate from the University of Vienna at the age of 17 (Wikipedia, 2007).

Attempts to learn of Freud's early life have been ineffective and evidence to support that Freud destroyed all personal affects of his early life and family life has been found. In 1886, after studying medicine in France, Freud returned to Vienna and began the study of brain disorders and nervous conditions. This is where Freud developed his theory of "free association". He would sometimes hypnotize his patients, but most often he would put the patients on his couch and encourage them to speak of whatever was in their heart and mind (Wikipedia, 2007).

While in his 40s Freud, himself, experienced many phobias and fears that he attempted to diagnosis on his own. He had a strong fear of dying and found his dreams may give the answers to his thoughts and feelings. Attempting self-analysis, Freud found that his anger towards his father was because of his sexual attraction to his mother. This time has been thought, by many experts, to be Freud's most creative and visual part of his life (Wikipedia, 2007).

Freud published several books on the unconscious mind in 1900 and 1901 which led to his appointment as a full professor at the University of Vienna. He had a large group of followers who taught and supported his psychoanalytic doctrines. He stayed in Vienna, and taught and developed more theories on psychoanalysis until the annexation of Austria or Anchluss, by Nazi Germany in 1938 (Wikipedia, 2007). At this time, Freud and his family fled to France and on to England where Freud continued his practice and studies. Freud died on September 23, 1939 from complications of mouth cancer due to his practice of smoking upwards of one box of cigars a day. Theories that his death was due to physician-assisted morphine overdose have been furthered after reviews of his diary and writings were conducted (Wikipedia, 2007).

Children and Freud

Freud's theories on psychosexual development have been challenged for many years. Freud maintained that all humans are sexual from birth and the exposure of the infant to differing types of treatment from the mother and father dependent on the sex of the child can affect the child's development for years (Wikipedia, 2007). Freud believed that many adult neurosis or hysteria was the result of things that had happened to the adult when younger.

Failure of the mother to provide the proper nurturing influence and the father to be the stronger role model, many children found ways to fantasize relationships with the parent of the opposite sex as a part of their sexual growth and development. One of Freud's famous cases was that of Little Hans. Little Hans was a patient of Freud's during the ages of three to five years of age. Freud only met with Hans one time and remaining information was given to Freud from Hans' father. Freud found a relationship between Hans' fear of horses to a fear of castration and an "Oedipal" relationship with Hans' mother (, 2007). Freud's paper, Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, published in 1926 detailed this case study and defined Freud's theory of anxiety. Included in the paper were the details of Hans' experience with masturbation, fear of horses with black bits (thought to represent Hans' father) and his mother's statement that she would cut off the child's penis if she caught him playing with it again (, 2007).

Many people believe Freud engaged in sexual abuse of children as a part of his studies. His studies on the theories of personality are based upon five stages of development in a child from birth until adulthood. All the theories are centered on specific erogenous zones or particular body parts that are sensitive to sexual stimulation (Stevenson, 1996). Needs, as noted by Freud, which need to be met during each of these stages of development are present from the moment of birth. If the needs are not met or if the needs are overly met, the child will experience frustration or overindulgence issues (Stevenson, 1996). In addition to the issues of frustration or overindulgence, should the child become fixated upon a particular stage the methods the child uses to obtain satisfaction for that stage will affect the child throughout adulthood (Stevenson, 1996).

How did Freud identify these theories? Did Freud sexually assault his young patients? From studies that have been conducted on Freud's research the findings show that Freud abandoned his seduction theory when he began to realize that the accounts of sexual abuse by parents were not true. In fact, Freud noted that these accounts were most probably due to the patient's repressed sexual desires for the parent accused of the abuse, as a part of his five states of childhood development (, 2007).

There was a study published in 1984, however, that shows evidence to the contrary. Jeffrey Masson challenged Freud's findings based on research of letters between Freud and a friend Wilhelm Fliess. Masson stated that the letters show without a doubt that Freud knew that many of the examples of sexual abuse detailed by his patient's were real and he chose to ignore the reality. No doubt, Freud's reluctance to expose the abusers was due to the lack of acceptance of his theories on seduction and secondly his unwillingness to further hurt his career as a psychoanalyst (, 2007).

In addition to these thoughts evidence was uncovered that proved Fliess had abused his own son. Because of the realization of his friend's heinous acts, Freud was forced to banish any evidence of childhood seduction from his own consciousness. Even if Freud was not a child abuser himself, his failure to stand up for what


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