It could be said that Sigmund Freud made us human, with all the foibles and idiosyncrasies that entails. Born in Moravia (Czech Republic) to a Jewish family, he had an exceptional intellect from a child.
Indulged by his mother over his other siblings, he studied medicine at Vienna and later studied hypnosis under Charcot before going into private practice in Vienna, devising psychoanalysis and treating mainly upper middle class, middle-aged women.
At his birth in 1865 the human mind seemed well mapped out. However, when Freud was in his 30s his father died, and it led to deep self-analysis. What he discovered during this phase of his life were a host of impulses he couldn’t understand. Freud had discovered the unconscious mind. In 1900 ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ was published, and a whole new outlook of humanity was born.
Later, Freud gathered a circle of psychoanalysts around him, including Adler and Jung, who later fell out with him, and for many years his theories were pored over, developing a form of therapy called ‘free association’ to allow a patient to bring impulses to consciousness from the unconscious; Freud’s great success was in realising that unconscious forces drive our conscious life. Splitting the unconscious into the id, ego and super ego, he thought repression of infantile sexuality lay behind most neurosis. Best seen in the Oedipus Complex, where a son can have erotic feelings for his mother, most of his later ideas are shunned today.
Accused of being unscientific, Freud decided the template for deciding what was normal and abnormal was his own mind. Bearing in mind the ideas that surfaced from this self-analysis, we get a picture of a man who was not normal at all, but full of his own frustrations and desires.
In 1938 he left Vienna, fleeing the Nazis, and came to London. Married with six children, he had had cancer of the jaw for many years, and in 1939 he died. But it was a very different world he left behind. It was a world where unconscious forces crept into reality, with people no longer in control of their ‘self.’ As well as heralding a more open attitude to sexuality, such ideas prompted Surrealism and form a central element in today’s ideas of Postmodernism
Click link, below, to return