Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is widely considered one of the founding fathers of modern psychology. Freud began his career as a neurologist in Vienna. His 1895 Studies on Hysteria was a groundbreaking work that set the stage for Freud’s future theories. Freud pioneered the practice of psychoanalysis. Many of Freud’s theories, while no longer directly used by psychologists today, influence a variety of fields—from literary criticism to philosophy. Make yourself comfortable on the couch and tell me how learning about Freud makes you feel.
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ID, EGO, AND SUPEREGO
Freud hypothesized that an individual’s psyche, or personality, is composed of three distinct aspects: id, ego, and superego. The id is the impulsive, unconscious aspect of the personality. The id is concerned with maximizing pleasure. The ego is responsible for rational problem-solving to achieve an individual’s desires, with no regard for the moral value of these desires. An individual’s superego encompasses the moral values and beliefs of their society. The superego can reign in the id and the ego with the use of an individual’s conscience.
THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS
The Interpretation of Dreams is one of Freud’s most important works. In this book Freud claimed that dreams exist to bring repressed desires from the unconscious mind to the dreamer’s awareness. In this sense, dreams are a kind of wish fulfilment. Freud analyzed the dreams of both himself and his patients. Some of these famous patients include Sergei Pankejeff, referred to in the book by the pseudonym wolf man due to the content of his dreams. One of Freud’s most famous dreams is referred to as Irma’s Injection within the book and is subject to a lengthy analysis.
The Oedipus Complex is one of the most famous aspects of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development and the starting point of countless psychology jokes. The Oedipus Complex occurs during the Phallic stage of development (ages 3-6). It is characterized by a child having an unconscious feeling of attraction for their opposite-sex parent. Freud discusses the complex in relation to the case study of a patient he refers to as Little Hans.
BEYOND THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
Published in 1920, Beyond the Pleasure Principle expands Freud’s explanatory theories of human behavior. In his earlier works Freud argued that human behavior could be explained mostly by the sexual instinct (libido). Beyond the Pleasure Principle proposes a contrasting death drive (Thanatos) which motivates our repetition compulsion, or desire to repeat traumatic experiences. For Freud, the death drive represents a universal urge to destroy and undo as a means of releasing energy and returning to a kind of primal state.
CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS
Freud continued to develop his theories and in 1930 published Civilization and Its Discontents. This book examines the conflict between the individual and society. Civilization has allowed the individual to flourish. Freud claims that advances of society and technology have made humans “god[s] by means of artificial limbs.” At the same time, however, for society to function the individual must repress their base instincts. According to Freud, this repression causes unhappiness and neuroses.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
As a practicing psychotherapist Freud treated many patients, with varying levels of success.
Freud corresponded with his contemporary, Carl Jung, for years but the pair were not without their disagreements. Learn more about the complex (see what we did there?) relationship between the two here.
Freud was deeply connected to Vienna, and his attachment to the city almost cost him his life. Read about how he survived - and how not all of his family were so fortunate.
Freud has both his detractors and his supporters. Learn more about them in this video!
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