Sigmund Freud: Father of Psychoanalysis


“The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great sub-subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.”

–Sigmund Freud


Born May 6th 1856, Sigmund Schlomo Freud was born in Freiberg, Moravia, now modern day Czech Republic. Son of a wool merchant, Freud would one day graduate from the University of Vienna where he planned to study law, instead joining the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy, physiology and zoology and later graduating with an MD in 1881.

By the 1990s Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis started receiving serious attention, developed through the use of hypnosis. For those who don’t know, psychoanalysis is a psychological therapy in which free association, dream interpretation and analysis of resistance and transference are used to explore repressed impulses, anxieties and internal conflicts. Freud believed that by having his patient laying in a comfortable position (like on a couch) and by encouraging them to say whatever was on their mind (free association) he would be able to analyze and determine the traumatic event in the past that was responsible for the patients current suffering. In the span of 5 years he released many influential books that would impact psychology for generations, such as “The Interpretation of Dreams”, and “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” where he theorized that slips of the tongue (later known as Freudian slips) were actually significant comments made by the “dynamic unconscious”.

Another of Freud’s many controversial ideas was his theory of psycho-sexual development. He believed that an entirety of a persons personality was, for the most part, developed by the age of six. Also coming up with a sequence of stages of development which were based on the erogenous zones (sensitive parts of the body that arouses sexual desire and stimulation). Freud also believed that failure to complete the stages would result in a person over/under indulging themselves as result.

Freud’s stages of psycho-sexual development:

Oral Stage (birth-eighteen months):
This includes a childs focus on oral pleasure like sucking creating a sense of comfort and trust. Freud believed that if there is too little or too much gratification in this stage the child will develop oral fixations as an adult such as biting your nails, smoking, drinking.

Anal Stage (eighteen months-three years):
During this stage, a childs main focus turns towards bladder and bowel control. A child gains pleasure from controlling these activities. failure to complete this stage would lead to destructive, messy and wasteful tendencies.

Phallic Stage (three-six years):
at this stage Freud believed the pleasure zones turns toward the genitals, giving rise to one of his most famous ideas, that of the Oedipus complex.

Latency Stage (six years-puberty):
Here sexual urges are suppressed and the sexual energy of the child is directed towards other activities such as social interactions and intellectual activities.

Genital Stage (puberty-adulthood):
The last stage in Freud’s model involves the reawakening of sexual urges and a sexual interest in the opposite sex. If all stages are completed successfully the individual will be a well-balanced and happy individual.

Of course Freud’s theories have their critics, with many arguing because his research was not based on the behavior of children but rather, what he was told by adults. Not to mention that because of the long delay in between the child(cause) and the adult(effect), many of his theories were incredibly difficult to measure or test.

Another of Freud’s many contributions to the study of psychology was Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind. This being the portion of the mind which the individual is not aware. Freud says that the unconscious exposes the true feelings, emotions, and thoughts of the individual. The Id, Ego and Super Ego he explained comprised the unconscious mind.


The Id being responsible for having a newborn child’s needs met. Freud theorized that the id is largely based on the “pleasure principle”, which essentially means the id wants whatever feels good at that precise moment and disregards any ramifications. Ego starts developing around the first 3 years as a result of the childs interaction with the world around it. Based on the “reality principle”. It is the part of the sub-conscious that deals with identifying negative outcomes such as a child thinking twice about doing an inappropriate action because of foreseeable negative outcomes. The last area of the unconscious being the superego which is developed around the age of 5 which most would call a persons conscious that being the part of the personality that determines right from wrong.

Although many of Freud’s ideas are quite controversial with many people criticizing his work as “sexist” or simply wrong, many would still agree that his theories have made major impacts to the word of psychology as well as revolutionizing the western worlds idea of the mind and human behavior. With the development of dream interpretation and free association, Freud is rightly called the Father of Psychoanalysis.


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