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Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was the first major social scientist to propose a unified theory to understand and explain human behavior. No theory that has followed has been more complete, more complex, or more controversial. Some psychologists treat Freud's writings as a sacred text - if Freud said it, it must be true. On the other hand, many have accused Freud of being unscientific, proposing theories that are too complex ever to be proved true or false. He revolutionized ideas on how the human mind works and the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. "He applied himself to a new field of study...and struggled with an environment whose rejection of his work endangered his livelihood and that of his family" (Freud 3). His work greatly improved the fields of psychiatry and psychology and helped millions of mentally ill patients.

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg,

Moravia, a region now in the Czech Republic. His father was a wool merchant and was forty when he had Sigmund, the oldest of eight children (Gay 78). When Freud turned four, his family moved to Vienna, Austria. After graduating from the Spree Gymnasium, Freud was inspired by an essay written by Goethe on nature, to make medicine as his career. After graduating from the medical school of the University of Vienna in 1881, Freud decided to specialize in neurology, the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system (Gay 79).

In 1885, Freud went to Paris to study under Jean Martin Charcot, a famous neurologist. Charcot was working with patients who suffered from a mental illness called hysteria. Some of these people appeared to be blind or paralyzed, but they actually had no physical defects. Charcot found that their physical symptoms could be relieved through hypnosis (Garcia 209). Freud returned to Vienna in 1886 and began to work extensively with hysterical patients. While discussing the case history of one patient, Freud said, "In the study of hysteria, local diagnosis and electrical reactions do not come into picture, while an exhaustive account of mental processes, of the kind we were accustomed to having from imaginative writers, enables me, by the application of a few psychological formulas, to obtain a kind of insight into the origin of a hysteria" (Freud 15).

He gradually formed ideas about the origin and treatment of mental illness. He used the term psychoanalysis for both his theories and methods of treatment. When his ideas were first presented in the 1890's, other physicians reacted with hostility. But Freud eventually attracted followers, and by 1910 he had gained international recognition. During the next ten years, Freud's reputation continued to grow, with the exception of two of his earliest followers and close friends, Alfred Alder and Carl Jung (Garcia 132). This is because they were developing their own theories of psychology and personnel conflicts were getting in the way. Freud was always changing and modifying his ideas, and in 1923 published a revised version of his earlier ideas. Freud married and had a daughter named Anna, who grew up and became a leader in the fields of child psychoanalysis (Gay 67). Freud was a cocaine user and a cigar smoker for a big part of his life. In 1923, he learned that he had cancer of the mouth from the cigars. He continued his work, though the cancer made it difficult, along with him not being able to quit the habit of smoking cigars (Gay 67).

In 1938, the Nazi's gained control of Austria, and under their rule, Jews were persecuted. Freud, who was Jewish, moved to England with his wife and children, to escape being arrested and persecuted (Clark 122). There, he died of cancer in 1939.

Freud observed that many patients behaved according to drives and experiences of which they were not consciously aware. He then concluded that the unconscious plays a major role in shaping one's behavior. He also concluded that the unconscious is full of memories of events from early childhood. Freud noted that if these memories were especially painful, people kept them out of conscious awareness. He used the term defense mechanism for the methods by which individuals handled painful memories. Freud believed that patients used mass amounts of energy to form defense mechanisms (Gay 97). Tying up energy could affect a person's ability to lead a productive life, causing an illness called neurosis.

Sigmund Freud also believed that many childhood memories dealt with sex. He believed that his patients' reports of sexual abuse by a parent were fantasies reflecting unconscious desires (Freud 19). He theorized that sexual functioning begins at birth, and that a person goes through several psychological stages of sexual development. He thought that all children were born with powerful sexual and aggressive urges that must be tamed. In learning to control these impulses, children acquire a sense of right

and wrong. They become "civilized." The process and the results are different for boys and girls. Freud believed the normal pattern of psychosexual development is interrupted in some people. These people become fixated at an earlier, immature stage. He felt such fixation could contribute to mental illness in adulthood.

Another theory that Freud had was that the brain is divided into three parts. The id, the ego, and the superego (Freud 49). He recognized that each person is born with various natural drives that he called natural drives that he called instincts, such as the need to satisfy sexual desires and the need to be aggressive (Freud 49). The id is the source of such instincts. The desire for sexual pleasure, for example, comes from the id. The ego resolves conflicts between instincts and eternal reality. For example, it determines socially appropriate ways to obtain physical satisfaction or to express aggression. The superego is a person's conscience. A person's ideas of right and wrong, learned from parents, teachers, and other people in authority, became part of the person's superego.

All people have some conflict among the three parts of the mind, but certain people have more

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