Life And Achievements Of Sigmund Freud, The Father Of Psychoanalysis

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Science gradually encroached upon religion in the twentieth century, especially in the field of Psychology. Psychoanalytic theories were part of the secularization of Western culture and later developed into the first form of psychotherapy (Samuel, 2013, p. 2).

Sigmund Freud, known as the “father of psychoanalysis,” served as the primary figure in its development. As a result of Freud’s significant influence, psychoanalytic therapy is also referred to as Freudianism. When analyzing the historical timeline of psychoanalytic therapy, it is important to discuss the before and after period of Sigmund Freud as well as influential individuals and events that contributed to psychoanalysis’ development. Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 into a Viennese family in Freiberg. Throughout Freud’s life, his father was very authoritarian, and his family’s financial situation was limited. However, “his parents made every effort to foster his obvious intellectual capacities” (Corey, 2017, p. 58).

Freud’s career options were narrow because of his Jewish heritage, but he decided to use his intelligence by studying medicine. After earning his medical degree from the University of Vienna, he acquired a position as a lecturer there. Freud gained insight from many of his own experiences with emotional problems, such as phobias and fears, and used them to extend his theories throughout his life (Corey, 2017, p. 58). In 1902, Freud began promoting his theories from home where many students gathered around to listen (Samuel, 2013, p. 5). Although Sigmund Freud’s philosophies are the basis of psychoanalytic therapy, other leading figures formed their own theories, collaborated and inspired Freud, and challenged him at times.

Throughout Freud’s education and career, multiple physicians such as Franz Anton Mesmer, Jean-Martin Charcot, and Joseph Breuer played a huge role in the outcome of psychoanalytic therapy in the past and today. “In some respects, the story of psychoanalysis was foreshadowed a century earlier when another Viennese physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, recast the concept of “vital force” as a new scientific term—magnetism” (Samuel, 2013, p. 3). It was referred to as magnetism in the 18th century but is now called hypnosis or mesmerism after Franz Mesmer (Tartakovsky, 2018). At the time, Mesmer’s disreputable experiments led to his expulsion from the Austrian Empire, but he later gained support from other physicians in Paris in which he founded a school. Jean-Martin Charcot, following Mesmer’s ideologies, contributed to the development of psychoanalysis through his treatment of hysteria with hypnosis (Samuel, 2013, p. 4). Charcot held clinics in Paris in which a physician named Joseph Breuer attended. From this, Breuer and Freud began discussing what would later become psychoanalysis.

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As Sigmund Freud stated in his book, The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis, “Granted that it is a merit to have created psychoanalysis, it is not my merit. I was a student, busy with the passing of my last examinations, when another physician of Vienna, Dr. Joseph Breuer, made the first application of this method to the case of an hysterical girl” (1910). The woman Freud refers to is a woman with a severe case of hysteria, in which Breuer saw positive results by talking things over with her. Freud is credited with naming this process as the “talking cure” (Samuel, 2013, p. 4). Freud and Breuer collaborated on their research and in 1895, they published Studies in Hysteria which became known as the first contribution to psychoanalytic literature (Good Therapy, 2017). In 1885, Freud furthered his research in Paris in the areas of hypnosis, where his mentors were Charcot and Pierre Janet. Breuer and Charcot’s hysteria cases inspired Freud to focus on the causes of mental illness and study beyond simply understanding them.

After shifting his focus, Freud concluded that the unconscious mind is the source of all of our emotions and dreams. In 1895, when the term psychoanalysis was first used by Sigmund Freud, renown students of his such as Carl Jung and Alfred Adler entered into the field along with many other psychologists (Samuel, 2013, p. 6). Sigmund Freud’s establishment of the International Psychoanalytical Association was a huge step forward for psychoanalytic therapy. Freud gradually expanded his theories and research for years before presenting them publicly (Samuel, 2013, p. 5). However, Freud continually spent time furthering his research on psychoanalysis until the day he passed. “The field made a major leap forward when two men from Zurich with hospital appointments—Eugen Bleuler and Carl Jung—began to apply his theories, and another when Freud and Jung were invited to lecture and receive honorary doctorate degrees at Clark University in Massachusetts in 1909” (Samuel, 2013, p. 5).

As a result, the first real academic achievement of psychoanalysis was when the president of Clark University asked Freud to write the preamble of his 1920 A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis English translation (Samuel, 2013, p. 5). In 1909, Freud traveled to the United States with Carl Jung and they presented a series of lectures together (Samuel, 2013, p. 6). Over time, Jung began challenging some of Freud’s theories, causing a split between them. Aside from Freud and Jung’s disagreements, Carl Jung was highly influential in the development of psychoanalytic therapy. According to some, Jung’s ideas are considered separate from Sigmund Freuds and referred to as the Jungian development of psychoanalysis. Although the roots of his knowledge came from Freud’s concepts, some feel that Jung’s insights are too entrenched in Western traditions and can be confusing (Schwartz, 2003). Jung was not the first to question Freud’s theories and he essentially aided in the expansion of psychoanalysis as a whole. Psychologists from then on would form their own theories from Freud’s ideologies, which is why different therapy methods exist today.

World War I also caused psychoanalysis to become increasingly popular. Specifically, soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and shell shock were in desperate need of help. Therefore, because the field of psychiatry had not been fully developed or understood during this time, psychoanalysis proved to be the most beneficial in treating soldiers (Good Therapy, 2017). However, the war caused Freud to question human behavior as it relates to aggression. “Instead of focusing on sexual instincts as the primary motivating force, he adjusted his original theory to include emphasis on what he termed the death instinct” (Good Therapy, 2017). Therefore, World War I not only inspired Freud to expand his studies, but it also spread psychoanalytic theories and treatments to many.

Overall, Freud’s theories consisted of free association, dream analysis, unconscious motivation, and transference analysis. Over time, Freud’s theories have remained at the root of psychoanalysis and led to the first real breakthrough in the field of psychology. However, just as the world changes and evolves every day, psychoanalysis and therapeutic methods do as well.

After all, “Freud was one person writing in a particular historical era in a specific culture” (Safran, 2018). Similar to technology, Sigmund Freud laid the foundation for psychotherapy, but progress has been made over time. Although some of his research remains true still, some are not accurate and do not prove to be the best method for everyone. Freud’s key concepts will always hold value in psychology and psychologists today use psychoanalysis in their own way.

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