Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist who is credited to have developed the field of psychoanalysis. He was the first child of Amalia and Jacob, her husband. The family resided in a small rental house situated above a blacksmith’s shopping facility in Freiberg. Freud has traced his development of the sense of self-confidence and destiny to his early years being brought up in a simple provincial area (Gillam, 2011). The family was not well-to-do but had enough money to run the household and get a nanny to look after Sigmund and Anna, his younger sister. Unfortunately, the family had the nanny arrested and jailed when the she was found to be stealing money and toys from home. However, Sigmund was devastated when he found out that his nanny was in jail.
Freud’s father, who was a traveling wool merchant, had two sons already, Phillip and Emmanuel, from his previous marriage (Gillam, 2011). He was 40 years old at Freud’s birth. He usually appeared to have been a relatively authoritarian person. Jacob was also optimistic, and a kind man and Sigmund appreciated these qualities from him. Sigmund Freud had inherited the sense of humor from his father whenever he wanted to bring out moral features and free thought.
Freud was fortunate enough to enjoy the unlimited mother’s love. Her mother usually referred to him as ‘my golden sigi.’ Later as an adult, Sigmund wrote that ‘if a man has been his mother’s undisputed darling, he retains throughout his life the triumphant feeling, the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it’ (Gillam, 2011). Though she could sometimes be demanding, Sigmund was ever thankful for her love and support throughout his life.
Moreover, Sigmund’s parents believed their son was a genius, and they had high aspirations for him. Therefore, in helping him achieve his desires, Sigmund’s parents gave him every chance to study and explore his interests. For instance, a street poet had made a prediction that Sigmund would grow up to serve as a government minister. Consequently, Sigmund decided to study law due to his quest to join the government. To support his son’s new interest, Jacob hung pictures of the Hapsburg government in their house.
Phillip and Emmanuel were Jacob Freud’s two grown sons from his previous marriage. Therefore, as a young Sigmund, he already had a nephew, that is, John, who was a son to his half-brother. While John older than Sigmund, he was among his best childhood playmates in Freiberg. Sigmund’s contact with John formed the model of all his relations with male friends in Sigmund’s life. Moreover, their relationship with was both friendly and aggressive, loving, and at the time, a bit hateful.
Because of their unique familial relationship, a controversy raged regarding who was to be supreme over the other. This contention emanated from the fact that while John was older and muscular, as his uncle, Freud was his senior. In October 1857, a year after Freud was born, Julius was born, thus becoming the second son of Freud’s mother. Freud was extremely jealous of Julius, who was reducing their mother’s attention towards Freud. Consequently, the memory of this experience attributed to the development of his theories about sibling rivalry.
Life was not all well in Freiberg or any other place in Europe during the second half of the 19th century. The industrial revolution had just made the domestic industries to collapse that had earlier thrived in small towns across Europe. An economic slump reduced the demand for wool; thus, Sigmund’s father found it challenging to find work (Gillam, 2011). Moreover, political unrest also had festered during this time among nom-German speaking groups. Therefore, amid these unfavorable economic and political situations, the Freuds resolved to move to Vienna Austria in 1860. Here Jacob hoped to find less prejudice and more work. Freud left Freiburg at the age of four, and for the rest of his life, he was always emotionally disturbed that had lost something. He was to leave behind people he knew and cherished, for instance, his close relatives, and playmates.
Sigmund was given primary education at home by his parents until he was nine. He then joined a gymnasium, which offered an accelerated academic program that prepared one for University education. He later joined the University of Vienna in 1873 at the age of 17 to study medicine. Sigmund worked at the Vienna General Hospital after graduating. He collaborated with Josef Bruer, who was his friend and mentor, in treating a condition known AS hysteria. Bruer introduced Freud to Anna’s case, who was suffering from hysteria (Sandhu, 2015). The ideas that emerged from that case greatly interested Freud. Therefore, he decided to commit the remaining part of his career to develop the ideas in the model of psychoanalysis. These two men later published a book in 1895 known as Studies on Hysteria, which is regarded as the founding text of psychoanalysis.
Sociopolitical and Sociocultural Influences on Psychoanalytical Theory
In the 19th century, Austria witnessed a more severe precise kind of Victorian sexual morality code of conduct than was the case in England. However, the presence of this extreme sexual morality did not hinder Victorians from speaking about sexuality. For instance, most of the urban middle-class people were having an earnest moral obsession regarding sexuality, especially in children and women (Columbia College, n.d). Therefore, their sexual knowledge and interests were perceived to be limited naturally. Despite this perception, in the instances of exceptions, this knowledge and enthusiasm were carefully controlled. Therefore, young women were required to uphold their virginity prior to getting married. On the same note, the private sexual experimentation of adolescents and children, for instance, masturbation was highly restrained. The increasing knowledge of sexual infections such as syphilis formed in people’s minds the connection between having multiple sex partners and a disastrous epidemic. Therefore, sexuality required control by self-morality and careful observation of the family. Because sexuality issues affected the entire population, it was considered to be a political and social aspect.
The 19th century was characterized by a new accumulation of sexuality patterns in addition to personal, familiar, and political moderation of sexuality. Similarly, there was an emergence of scientific articles that revealed how sexuality had a significant role in human nature. Therefore, new patterns served as encouraging contexts for Freud to develop the psychoanalytic theory. For instance, he described how all forms of irrational sexual desires influence the mind in healthy adults, neurotic adults, and even children. Moreover, Freud also concerned with how the mind conflicts with its sexuality (Columbia College). During this period, too, the emerging field of sexology was expanding. Several medical researchers provided detailed accounts on the kinds and varieties of sexual identities and behaviors. These scholars also tried to associate class to sexuality; for instance, how criminality relates to sexuality.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist in June 1914 aroused the World War 1(1914-1918); consequently, significant changes took place in the lives of Freud and the people of Europe. At first, Freud was convinced that Austria and its allies could retain their superiority. However, the war continued, and he started developing some senses of despair (Gillam, 2011). The violence that unleashed in World War 1, to no small extent, disturbed Freud. However, he was not surprised. Instead, he reminded the people that humans are born with basic instincts that are difficult to control. Hence, the desire to harm others or to be selfish is among the most ancient inborn tendencies. Therefore, according to Freud, human has always attempted to redirect dark forces by doing well successfully. However, there is still the risk that some occasions will bring evil outcomes (Gillam, 2011). Furthermore, the war of 1914-1918 further attracted the attention of ego drives. It was discovered that the soldiers who became neurotically sick due to war experiences had certain types of dreams. These dreams were triggered by the soldiers’ attempt to recreate recent traumatic experiences of the war.
From the experience of the war, Freud decided to expand his earlier perception of the mind as categorized into the conscious and unconscious. He further denoted that there were three important parts of the brain. He identified these parts as the ego, the id, and the ego, and lastly, the superego. According to Freud, as humans grew to adulthood, they developed these different parts of the brain. The id usually operates in the unconscious part of the brain and is concerned with basic needs for survival and reproduction (Sharf, 2011). Moreover, as the child grows, it develops an ego that can regulate these fundamental needs. Hence, the ego allows the child to reason before acting since the ego controls consciousness. Later the superego is developed by the mind. This part of the brain is used to evaluate actions based on how the family and society judged them. Freud exhibited that these three aspects of the mind may compete among themselves, but in a healthy person, they are always in balance. Later, Freud published his analysis on this investigation in The Ego and the Id 1923.
Freud had high hopes that psychoanalysis would primarily benefit from the war. He was convinced those who experienced the brutal acts of war could successfully reveal the murderous desires of humanity. Therefore, Freud believed that the key to addressing the effects of neurosis was assessing the patient’s tendency to resist remembering the occasion that activated this neurosis. Most patients could not make remembering these events at first. This condition was experienced since the events were located in the unconscious part of the mind, where it was difficult to control (Psychologist World, 2016). Therefore, the procedure of psychoanalysis only became successful through conducting transference. This condition occurs when the patient shifts the emotions previously felt towards an authority figure to the psychoanalyst. Therefore, the harmful impulse is eventually eliminated in the contact between the psychoanalyst and the patient. The elimination of the destructive power is thus possible by conducting a discussion of the event that arouses the harmful impulse.
The war also aroused a new passion in the field of Psychoanalysis as a technique for managing the war-associated afflictions. This disorder is clinically referred to as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A few people claimed that the soldiers could be faking the neuroses to be excluded from the military service. However, Freud believed that the high number of soldiers had experienced real wounds in their minds. Electroshock treatments were used to treat these soldiers before some psychoanalysts suggested a better alternative method. Freud generated a new way of examining the patient’s brain and drawing out his unconscious emotions. This technique was found to be more successful in curing the patients.
Psychoanalysis has continued to expand in recent years. We are currently in a position to achieve what Freud could not achieve then. Besides, it is observed that there are different impacts of different cultures on their practitioners. For instance, it is vital that the analysis, in its limited life, has experienced changes in European culture. From the Victorian era, it has experienced the liberation of women, economic changes, wars, and depression. Besides, there has been a great awakening of the influence of religion. Consequently, these new changes have generated new problems for men, and previous ones have become less critical. However, modification in the psychoanalysis theory has not been entirely accepted by most of the analysts. Today, some see neurosis in terms of libido and perceive the Oedipus complex as the central problem.
- Columbia College. (n.d.). Historical context for the writings of Sigmund Freud. Retrieved from https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/writings-sigmund-freud/context
- Gillam, S. (2011). Famous neurologist. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company.
- Sandhu, P. (2015). Step aside, Freud: Josef Breuer is the true father of modern sychotherapy. Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/step-aside-freud-josef-breuer-is-the-true-father-of-modern-psychotherapy/
- Thompson, C. (1957). Psychoanalysis: Evolution and development. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.