Sigmund Freud(McGillivray, Wagner, Skibinski)


Sigmund Freud

(Image credits:

Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Moravia, an area which is now part of the Czech Republic. He was the son of a Jewish wool merchant. His mother (his father's third wife) was 20 years younger than his father, and Sigmund was her first child of seven. Sigmund's mother doted on him; he was very dear to her. At the age of four or five, his family moved to Vienna, where he lived for most of his life.

Though Freud's parents were Jewish, he was exposed to Catholic teachings as a young child by his nurse. Later, he abandoned all form of religious belief and was a staunch

Sigmund was a very precocious student and
excelled scholastically. He went to medical school in Vienna and studied under Ernst Brucke, who taught a form of reductionsm, which limited all forces at worth within a person to the physical and chemical. Freud was especially interested in studying nerophysiology, and after studing in France, worked in Berlin for a few years before returning to Vienna. There, he married his long-time fiancee Martha Bernays in 1886.

Scholarly Contributions
When the narcotic
cocaine first began to be used, Freud was a great supporter and even published a paper on the benefits of this drug (1884). Freud later regretted this endorsement when the destructive effects of the drug became known. The year after he became a lecturer in neuropathology at the University of Vienna. Over the next few years his treatment of neurotics increased. He treated them at first using hypnosis, but later he developed his own techniques, which were characterized by probing the unconscious mind by allowing his patients to speak freely on any topic. One of Freud's innovative methods that has become a cultural icon was to allow the patient to recline on a couch, while he sat on a chair facing the opposite direction.From 1892 until his death, Freud went on to write and speak prolifically on the topic of neuropsychiatry, which brought him a lot of notoriety. His views were very controversial and tended to polarize those around him. It is from Freud that we recieved the idea of the ego, sibling rivalry, repression, and narcissism, all common ideas today.

Freud emigrated to England when the anti-Semitic Nazi powers came into control in Austria in 1938. Soon after, he died of
cancer of the mouth and jaw, a condition he had suffered under for 20 years. Following his death, his daughter, Anna Freud, became an eminent proponent of psychoanalysis and continued on in his work.

A 20-minute documentary on Freud's life and work is available here


Sigmund Freud's Psychosexual Development Theory

Freud discovered a new theory and named it the Oedipus Complex. Freud explains,
"I found in myself a constant love for my mother, and jealousy of my father. I now consider this to be a universal event in childhood,”
Freud used this theory to explain that people desire incestuous relationships and must control that desire. He believed that the sexual urge progressed in many individuals by changing its object, a progress summarized by the idea of sublimation. Freud said that humans are born “polymorphously perverse”, which means that they seek sexual pleasure from a wide range of sources . In addition, Freud stated that as humans mature, they become attached on different and particular objects through their stages of development.

The Stages of Psychosexual Development are:

  1. Oral Stage- infants find pleasure in nursing.
  2. Anal Stage - a toddler's thrill in emptying his or her bowel.
  3. Phallic Stage - source of pleasure at this stage is the genitals.
  4. Latency Stage - begins during the phallic stage when the child's Oedipus complex begins to fade. The child becomes aware that their wishes and urges for the parent of the opposite sex cannot be attained and will turn away from these urges.
  5. Genital stage and it is when the individual develops a powerful sexual attraction in the opposite sex.
Learn more about each stage here.

Here is a video about Freud’s Psychosexual Development

Freud's Theory of Personality Developement

The Id, Ego and Super-ego

Freud's theories on personality structures have been developed into three separate, yet connected parts of the human mind. The Id, as Freud defines, is essentially the subconscious part of our minds that is obsessed with pleasure. All humans are born with the id fully developed and in control of newborn thinking. The id is often thought to be the "selfishness" part of the brain. It is concerned with fulfilling whatever desire the person may have with no concern for the reality of the situation.

After about 3 years, and given the opportunity to interact with the outside world as much as possible, the
Ego develops in the child's mind. The ego's job is simply to calm the raging id and take the reality of the situation into account. The ego is the part of us that understands that others have needs and wants as well and that fulfilling our own wants at a particular time may just be impossible. The ego essentially acts as the filter for wants and needs, deciding which ones are viable, which are not and what is needed to fulfill those viable wants.

By the end of the child's phallic stage, the
Superego develops. Many believe that the superego is our conscious mind at work. It is fabricated from "the ethical and moral restraints put on us by our caregivers". The superego allows us to determine what is right and wrong or good and bad. Our superego is the test that the ego must pass before any want is fulfilled.

example, a man's id determines that he is hungry and wants food. The ego determines that he has no money but there is an unattended fruit stand nearby. The direction and development of the man's superego will ultimately determine whether or not the want is fulfilled. If the man thinks stealing is wrong or bad, the ego must must work again to determine alternatives.

metaphor of an iceberg is often used to show the relation of the three parts with the mind. The top, visible part is the conscious superego. Occasionally, you may get a glimpse of the free floating ego, but for the most part, remains an unconscious interaction with the environment and deep underneath the water, you find the primal, unconscious id.
external image moz-screenshot.jpg

external image iceberg.gif

Ego Defense Mechanisms
As the ego's job is to mediate between the unconscious id and the conscious superego, it must often employ a series of techniques to effectively deal with a situation. Among others, they include things like

  • denial (not accepting the reality of the situation)
  • rationalization (reasoning that doing an action can be considered "right" or "good")
  • suppression (acknowledging the reality of the situation but refusing to let the conscious mind handle it).
A comprehensive table of more defense mechanisms can be found here.

According to Freud, all of our actions are driven by two distinct drives, sex and aggression. These are often referred to as the Eros (Life) Force and Thanatos (Death) Force. Everything we want and do is because of our underlying need to either
a) Live, prosper, and produce offspring or
b) Stave off all threats to our life, prosperity, and offspring.
The id will always take one of these drives into account when submitting a new want to the ego.

In the Classroom
The theories above allow for a general understanding of a child's psychosexual and personality development. A young boy with an expressive dislike of the other boys in his class may perhaps be struggling with his own Oedipal complex. The child who is always helping others and often disregarding their own wants and needs may have an inflated super ego. It is important to note that none of stages are inherently good or bad signs of human development. Age ranges are based on a generality and should not be taken as a basis for "early" or "late" bloomers.

Freud's Theories Today
Today, psychologists recognize that there is a "lack of substantive scientific foundation" for Freud's theories, as well as a "difficulty, given the ways in which the ideas are formulated, of ever finding such support" (Stevens, 2008). Stevens points out that though Freud looked on psychoanalysis as a science, "it cannot merit that claim -- at least in the orthodox usage of the term". In spite of this, the idea of psychoanalysis has taken hold in many disciplines and has become an accepted way of understanding the human mind.

Sigmund Freud, by Dr. George Boeree
Sigmund Freud

Richard Stevens (2008). Sigmund Freud, Shaper of: The Unconscious Mind. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Richard Nowland (1999). Sigmund Freud Revisited
Michael Jacobs (1992). Sigmund Freud