“I can say that I have made many beginnings and thrown out many suggestions. Something will come of them in the future, though I cannot myself tell whether it will be much or little. I can, however, express a hope that I have opened up a pathway for an important advance in our knowledge” – Sigmund Freud (Freud, Strachey and Gay, 1989). Sigmund Freud, also known as the father of modern psychology, has postulated many theories and concepts that are now part of what we know as the study of the mind and human behavior.
From his work and studies in neurology and psychoanalysis to his concepts of the unconscious, narcissism and repression, from his views on the philosophy of life to his ideas such as oedipal complex and Freudian slips and from his insights on dreams to love and the death instinct, Freud has made himself known all throughout the world- with and without controversies because of his ideas, which chiefly came from the analyses of his patients and of himself (Library of Congress, 2002). His ideas during his time were, however, regarded with skepticism but eventually became accepted over time (MS Encarta, 2008).
His ideas and theories have also even been applied in other fields, where he has influenced many, though Freud was wary not to claim expertise outside his work of Neurology and what eventually became Psychology, those who have followed him freely used his concepts to history and society that Freud may not have supported (Marxist Org, n. d. ). Freud’s theories were the first materialist theory of the psyche and like his contemporary Pavlov, “Freud was a philosophical materialist of the old school” (ibid). In his own field, he has influenced a few great psychologists such as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung (ibid).
“He opened a window on the unconscious-where, he said, lust, rage and repression battle for supremacy – and changed the way we view ourselves” (Gay, 1999). The biography of Freud particularly his childhood, family background, studies, beliefs and life experiences will be given to show the influences from his life that may have shaped his ideas, theories and concepts on the human mind and behavior. Some of his philosophies and concepts will also be mentioned and explained to gain insight into the person that has helped shaped modern psychology. The Early Years
“In my youth I felt an overpowering need to understand something of the riddles of the world in which we live and perhaps even to contribute something to their solution. ” –Sigmund Freud, 1927 (Library of Congress, 2002). Sigismund “Sigmund” Schlomo Freud was born on May 6, 1856 in the small Moravian town of Freiberg, which is now part of the Czech Republic (Library of Congress [LOC], 2002; Freud, Strachey & Gay, 1989). He was born into a Jewish family; his father, Jacob Freud, was a Jewish merchant and was married twice before marrying Freud’s mother, Amalia who was 20 years younger (LOC, 2002; Freud et al. , 1989; Marxist Org, n. d. ).
Freud’s father had two sons from a previous marriage, Emanuel and Philip, who were both older than his mother (SparkNotes, 2006; LOC, 2002; Freud et al, 1989). Emanuel had children of his own and his son John was a year older than his uncle Sigmund Freud (LOC, 2002; Freud et al, 1989). John was Freud’s favorite playmate in Freiberg and “his relationship with John had set the pattern for all his later relationships with male friends…it was both friendly and confrontational, both loving and a little hateful” since it was never clear for the two who should take charge since Freud was the uncle but John was older and stronger (SparkNotes, 2006).
“Freud’s family constellation, then, was intricate enough to puzzle the clever and inquisitive” (Freud et al. , 1989) young Freud, who was particularly curious even at a very young age (ibid). In October 1857, Amalia gave birth to her second son Julius; Freud remembers being extremely jealous of Julius and this may have contributed to his theories about sibling rivalry, which is the competition between siblings for parental attention and love (SparkNotes, 2006).
When Julius died less than a year later, Freud “suggested that his unexpected and tragic fulfillment of his wish – for the disappearance of the little brother who was monopolizing his mother’s attention – was the source of some lingering guilt that pursued him throughout his life” (ibid). Other siblings followed: Anna was the first daughter, then Rosa, Mitzi, Dolfi, Paula and Alexander came along and lived into adulthood (ibid).
In 1859, when Freud was three years old, his family moved to Liepzig to escape the anti-Semitic riots in his hometown and then they settled down in Vienna in 1860, where Freud remained for the most of his life (MS Encarta, 2008; SparkNotes, 2006; Freud et al. , 1989) until the Nazi invasion in 1939 (Marxist org, n. d. ). It is in Vienna where Freud received an education emphasizing classical literature and philosophy, which served him well in developing his theories and conveying them to a wide audience (Library of Congress, 2002).
Vienna at that time was a city that both resisted and promoted experimentation in politics and culture (ibid). “The city was a hothouse for radical innovations in politics, philosophy, the arts, and sciences” (ibid) and the cultural ferment, ethnic tensions, and class conflicts of the city were part of Freud’s normal everyday life (ibid). It was the time when Jews were freed from onerous taxes and humiliating restriction on their property rights, professional choices, and religious practices; it was a time according to Freud when “every industrious Jewish school boy carried a Cabinet Minister’s portfolio in his satchel” (Freud et al.
, 1989). Freud grew up at a time when high ambitions were cultivated, and with his marked intelligence he became a family favorite- he was the only one to get a room of his own, and to get a gas lamp for light instead of candles when the family moved to a new house (ibid; SparkNotes, 2006). Freud’s parents were also Orthodox Jews but they gave their children a relatively non-religious upbringing (SparkNotes, 2006) and Freud would live a secular life and become an atheist but would still continue to identify himself as a Jew and remain true to Jewish culture (ibid; LOC, 2002).
He saw religion as illusory and he was non-practicing; he became a determinist and viewed the world and human experience as understandable in terms of cause and effect (MS Encarta, 2008). The University Years “I can say that I have made many beginnings and thrown out many suggestions. Something will come of them in the future, though I cannot myself tell whether it will be much or little. I can, however, express a hope that I have opened up a pathway for an important advance in our knowledge. ” — Sigmund Freud (Freud et al, 1989).
When Freud was 17 he entered the University of Vienna planning to study law, which was his childhood ambition (ibid); however, he became intrigued by the fast developing sciences of that time after reading the work of Charles Darwin he decided to become a medical student and embark on philosophical and scientific investigations (ibid; MS Encarta, 2008). In the own words of Freud in 1925, he said that he “felt no particular partiality for the position and activity of a physician in those early years, nor, by the way, later. Rather, I was moved by a sort of greed for knowledge” (LOC, 2002).
He was also inspired by the scientific investigations of German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and this drove Freud to study natural science and solve some challenging problems that confronted scientists at that time (MS Encarta, 2008). In his third year of study, Freud began to work on the central nervous system in the physiological laboratory of German physician Ernest von Brucke (MS Encarta, 2008). It was in his neurological research that Freud became so engrossed he neglected other prescribed courses and remained in medical school for eight years (MS Encarta, 2008; SparkNotes, 2006).
After completing his mandatory military service in 1880, Freud got his medical degree in 1881 (MS Encarta, 2008) since he was less diligent about his medical studies and focused more on his research; studying first the sexual organs of eels, which foreshadowed the psychoanalytic theories that would follow two decades later, and then moving to the laboratory of Brucke, who was his first and most important role model in science (SparkNotes, 2006). Freud wrote in his Autobiography that medicine had never been his passion, and that he was glad to have returned to the research that had first drawn him to the field (ibid; Freud et al, 1989).
Freud chose early to concentrate on research in neurology (LOC, 2002) and in Brucke’s laboratory he worked on brain anatomy and histology (SparkNotes, 2006). His most important project was determining whether a certain kind of nerve cell in frogs was the same kind found in humans and whether there were essential differences between the nerve cells of humans and other animals (ibid). Freud found that humans and frog spinal neuron had the same type and “in a small way, Freud thus contributed to Darwin’s quest to show that humans were genetically and historically linked to all other animals on earth” (ibid).
His study and discovery of psychoanalysis later on would also lead Freud to claim that it was the next step after Darwin’s in bringing humans down from the top and connecting them to lower animals (ibid). Freud, however, abandoned the physicality of Brucke’s position as a physiologist, wherein physical laws and vital forces governed life, when he formulated his theories of psychoanalysis but he still maintained the search for universal laws and the emphasis on processes or dynamics (ibid).