Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (May 6 1856 – September 23 1939), was a Jewish-Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who co-founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind, especially involving the mechanism of repression; his redefinition of sexual desire as mobile and directed towards a wide variety of objects; and his therapeutic techniques, especially his understanding of transference in the therapeutic relationship and the presumed value of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires.

He is commonly referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis" and his work has been highly influential — popularizing such notions as the unconscious, defense mechanisms, Freudian slips and dream symbolism — while also making a long-lasting impact on fields as diverse as literature (Kafka), film, Marxist and feminist theories, literary criticism, philosophy, and psychology. However, his theories remain controversial and widely disputed.


Early life

Sigmund Freud was born to Jewish parents in Příbor (Freiberg in German), Moravia (then Austrian Empire, now Czech Republic), on 6 May 1856. His father Jacob was 41, a wool merchant, and had two children by a previous marriage. His mother Amalia was 21. Owing to his intellect, which was obvious from an early stage of his childhood, his parents favored him over his siblings, and even though they were poor they offered everything to give him a proper education. As a result, Freud did extremely well during his first 8 years of school, but at the age of 17, he had to move to the University in Vienna because of the strong anti-Semitism in Austria at the time, at which time his grades plummeted.

Medical school

In 1874, the concept of "psychodynamics" was seeded with the publication of Lectures on Physiology by German physiologist Ernst von Brücke who, in coordination with physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, one of the formulators of the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy), supposed that all living organisms are energy-systems also governed by this principle. During this year, at the University of Vienna, Brucke was also coincidentally the supervisor for first-year medical student Sigmund Freud who naturally adopted this new “dynamic” physiology. In his Lectures on Physiology, Brücke set forth the radical view that the living organism is a dynamic system to which the laws of chemistry and physics apply.[1] This was the starting point for Freud's dynamic psychology of the mind and its relation to the unconscious.[2][3] The origins of Freud’s basic model, based on the fundmentals of chemistry and physics, according to John Bowlby, stems from Brücke, Meynert, Breuer, Helmholtz, and Herbart.[4]

Later life

Freud married in 1886, after the opening of a private clinic, specializing in nerve and brain damage. After using hypnosis on his neurotic patients for a long period, he abandoned this form of treatment, in favor of a better treatment, where the patient talked through his or her problem.

Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychotherapist, told a colleague about his first visit with Sigmund Freud in the year 1907. Jung had much that he wanted to talk about with Freud, and he spoke with intense animation for three whole hours. Finally Freud interrupted him and, to Jung's astonishment, proceeded to group the contents of Jung's monologue into several precise categories that enabled them to spend their remaining hours together in a more profitable give-and-take. [5]

Freud held the opinion (based on personal experience and observation) that sexual activity was incompatible with the accomplishing of any great work. Since he felt that the great work of creating and establishing psychotherapy was his destiny, he told his wife that they could no longer engage in sexual relations. Indeed from about the age of forty until his death Freud was absolutely celibate “in order to sublimate the libido for creative purposes,” according to his biographer Ernest Jones.

Nonetheless, there has been persistent gossip, which has always been staunchly denied by Freud loyalists, about the possibility that around this time a romantic liaison had blossomed between Freud, and his sister-in-law, who had moved in with the Freuds in 1896. This rumour of an illicit relationship has been most notably propelled forward by C. G. Jung, Freud's disciple and later his archrival, who had claimed that Miss Bernays had confessed the affair to him. (This claim was dismissed by Freudians as malice on Jung's part.) It has been suggested that the affair resulted in a pregnancy and subsequently an abortion for Miss Bernays.

A hotel log dated August 13, 1898 seems to support the allegation of an affair.[6]

In his 40s, Freud "had numerous psychosomatic disorders as well as exaggerated fears of dying and other phobias" (Corey 2001, p. 67). During this time Freud was involved in the task of exploring his own dreams, memories, and the dynamics of his personality development. During this self-analysis, he came to realize the hostility he felt towards his father (Jacob Freud), and "he also recalled his childhood sexual feelings for his mother (Amalia Freud), who was attractive, warm, and protective" (Corey 2001, p. 67). Corey (2001) considers this time of emotional difficulty to be the most creative time in Freud's life.

After the publication of Freud's books in 1900 and 1901, interest in his theories began to grow, and a circle of supporters developed in the following period. Freud often chose to disregard the criticisms of those who were skeptical of his theories, however, and even gained a few direct opponents as a result,Template:Fact the most famous being Carl Jung, who was originally in support of Freud's ideas.

In 1930 Freud received the Goethe Prize in appreciation of his contribution to psychology and to German literary culture. Three years later the Nazis took control of Germany and Freud's books featured prominently amongst those burned by the Nazis. In March 1938, Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss. This led to violent outbursts of anti-Semitism in Vienna, and Freud and his family received visits from the Gestapo. Freud decided to go into exile "to die in freedom". He and his family left Vienna in June 1938 and traveled to London.

A heavy cigar smoker, Freud endured more than 30 operations during his life due to mouth cancer. In September 1939 he prevailed on his doctor and friend Max Schur to assist him in suicide. After reading Balzac's La Peau de chagrin in a single sitting he said, "My dear Schur, you certainly remember our first talk. You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense any more." Schur administered three doses of morphine over many hours that resulted in Freud's death on September 23, 1939.[7] Three days after his death, Freud's body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium during a service attended by Austrian refugees, including the author Stefan Zweig. His ashes were later placed in the crematorium's columbarium. They rest in an ancient Greek urn which Freud had received as a present from Marie Bonaparte and which he had kept in his study in Vienna for many years. After Martha Freud's death in 1951, her ashes were also placed in that urn. Golders Green Crematorium has since also become the final resting place for Anna Freud and her lifelong friend Dorothy Burlingham, as well as for several other members of the Freud family.


Freud has been influential in two related but distinct ways. He simultaneously developed a theory of how the human mind is organized and operates internally, and how human behavior both conditions and results from this particular theoretical understanding. This lead him to favor certain clinical techniques for attempting to help cure psychopathology.

Early work

Sigmund Freud memorial in Hampstead, north London. Sigmund and Anna Freud lived at 20 Maresfield Gardens, directly opposite the statue; the house is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. The building behind the statue is the Tavistock Clinic, a major psychiatric institution.

Due to Neurology and Psychiatry not being recognized as distinct medical fields at the time of Sigmund Freud's training, the medical degree he obtained after studying for six years at the University of Vienna board certified him in both Neurology and Psychiatry, although he is far more well-known for his work in the latter. As far as neurology went, Freud was an early researcher on the topic of neurophysiology, specifically cerebral palsy, which was then known as "cerebral paralysis." He published several medical papers on the topic, and showed that the disease existed far before other researchers in his day began to notice and study it. He also suggested that William Little, the man who first identified cerebral palsy, was wrong about lack of oxygen during the birth process being a cause. Instead, he suggested that complications in birth were only a symptom of the problem. It was not until the 1980s that Freud's speculations were confirmed by more modern research.Template:Fact

Freud was an early user and proponent of cocaine as a stimulant as well as analgesic. He wrote several articles on the antidepressant qualities of the drug and he was influenced by his friend and confidant Wilhelm Fliess, who recommended cocaine for the treatment of the "nasal reflex neurosis." Fliess operated on Freud and a number of Freud's patients whom he believed to be suffering from the disorder, including Emma Eckstein, whose surgery proved disastrous.

Freud felt that cocaine would work as a cure-all for many disorders and wrote a well-received paper, "On Coca," explaining its virtues. He prescribed it to his friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow to help him overcome a morphine addiction he had acquired while treating a disease of the nervous system. Freud also recommended it to many of his close family and friends. He narrowly missed out on obtaining scientific priority for discovering cocaine's anesthetic properties (of which Freud was aware but on which he had not written extensively), after Karl Koller, a colleague of Freud's in Vienna, presented a report to a medical society in 1884 outlining the ways in which cocaine could be used for delicate eye surgery. Freud was bruised by this, especially because this would turn out to be one of the few safe uses of cocaine, as reports of addiction and overdose began to filter in from many places in the world. Freud's medical reputation became somewhat tarnished because of this early ambition. Furthermore, Freud's friend Fleischl-Marxow developed an acute case of "cocaine psychosis" as a result of Freud's prescriptions and died a few years later. Freud felt great regret over these events, which later biographers have dubbed "The Cocaine Incident."

Freud hoped that his research would provide a solid scientific basis for his therapeutic technique. The goal of Freudian therapy, or psychoanalysis, was to bring to consciousness repressed thoughts and feelings. According to some of his successors, including his daughter Anna Freud, the goal of therapy is to allow the patient to develop a stronger ego; according to others, notably Jacques Lacan, the goal of therapy is to lead the analysand to a full acknowledgment of his or her inability to satisfy the most basic desires.

Classically, the bringing of unconscious thoughts and feelings to consciousness is brought about by encouraging the patient to talk in free association and to talk about dreams. Another important element of psychoanalysis is a relative lack of direct involvement on the part of the analyst, which is meant to encourage the patient to project thoughts and feelings onto the analyst. Through this process, transference, the patient can reenact and resolve repressed conflicts, especially childhood conflicts with (or about) parents.

The origin of Freud's early work with psychoanalysis can be linked to Joseph Breuer. Freud actually credits Breuer with the discovery of the psychoanalytical method. One case started this phenomenon that would shape the field of psychology for decades to come, the case of Anna O. In 1880 a young girl came to Breuer with symptoms of what was then called female hysteria. Anna O. was a highly intelligent 21-year-old woman. She presented with symptoms such as paralysis of the limbs, split personality and amnesia; today these symptoms are known as conversion disorder. After many doctors had given up and accused Anna O. of faking her symptoms, Breuer decided to treat her sympathetically, which he did with all of his patients. He started to hear her mumble words during what he called states of absence. Eventually Breuer started to recognize some of the words and wrote them down. He then hypnotized her and repeated the words to her; Breuer found out that the words were associated with her father's illness and death.

In the early 1890s Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his "pressure technique". The traditional story, based on Freud's later accounts of this period, is that as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse. He believed these stories, but after having heard a patient tell the story about Freud's personal friend being the victimizer, Freud concluded that his patients were fantasizing the abuse scenes.

In 1896 Freud posited that the symptoms of 'hysteria' and obsessional neurosis derived from unconscious memories of sexual abuse in infancy, and claimed that he had uncovered such incidents for every single one of his current patients (one third of whom were men). However a close reading of his papers and letters from this period indicates that these patients did not report early childhood sexual abuse as he later claimed: rather, he arrived at his findings by analytically inferring the supposed incidents, using a procedure that was heavily dependent on the symbolic interpretation of somatic symptoms.

The unconscious

Perhaps the most significant contribution Freud made to Western thought was his argument for the existence of an unconscious mind. During the 19th century, the dominant trend in Western thought was positivism, which subscribed to the belief that people could ascertain real knowledge concerning themselves and their environment and judiciously exercise control over both. Freud, however, suggested that such declarations of free will are in fact delusions; that we are not entirely aware of what we think and often act for reasons that have little to do with our conscious thoughts.

The concept of the unconscious as proposed by Freud was considered by some to be groundbreaking in that he proposed that awareness existed in layers and that some thoughts occurred "below the surface." Nevertheless, as psychologist Jacques Van Rillaer, among others, pointed out, "contrary to what most people believe, the unconscious was not discovered by Freud. In 1890, when psychoanalysis was still unheard of, William James, in his monumental treatise on psychology, examined the way Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, Janet, Binet and others had used the term 'unconscious' and 'subconscious'".[8] Boris Sidis, a Jewish Russian who escaped to the USA in 1887, and studied under William James, wrote The Psychology of Suggestion: A Research into the Subconscious Nature of Man and Society in 1898, followed by ten or more works over the next twenty five years on similar topics to the works of Freud.

Moreover, the historian of psychology Mark Altschule wrote: "It is difficult - or perhaps impossible - to find a nineteenth-century psychologist or psychiatrist who did not recognize unconscious cerebration as not only real but of the highest importance."[9] Freud's advance was not, then, to uncover the unconscious but to devise a method for systematically studying it.

Dreams, which he called the "royal road to the unconscious," provided the best access to our unconscious life and the best illustration of its "logic," which was different from the logic of conscious thought. Freud developed his first topology of the psyche in The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) in which he proposed the argument that the unconscious exists and described a method for gaining access to it. The preconscious was described as a layer between conscious and unconscious thought—that which we could access with a little effort. Thus for Freud, the ideals of the Enlightenment, positivism and rationalism, could be achieved through understanding, transforming, and mastering the unconscious, rather than through denying or repressing it.

Crucial to the operation of the unconscious is "repression." According to Freud, people often experience thoughts and feelings that are so painful that they cannot bear them. Such thoughts and feelings—and associated memories—could not, Freud argued, be banished from the mind, but could be banished from consciousness. Thus they come to constitute the unconscious. Although Freud later attempted to find patterns of repression among his patients in order to derive a general model of the mind, he also observed that individual patients repress different things. Moreover, Freud observed that the process of repression is itself a non-conscious act (in other words, it did not occur through people willing away certain thoughts or feelings). Freud supposed that what people repressed was in part determined by their unconscious. In other words, the unconscious was for Freud both a cause and effect of repression.

Later, Freud distinguished between three concepts of the unconscious: the descriptive unconscious, the dynamic unconscious, and the system unconscious. The descriptive unconscious referred to all those features of mental life of which people are not subjectively aware. The dynamic unconscious, a more specific construct, referred to mental processes and contents which are defensively removed from consciousness as a result of conflicting attitudes. The system unconscious denoted the idea that when mental processes are repressed, they become organized by principles different from those of the conscious mind, such as condensation and displacement.

Eventually, Freud abandoned the idea of the system unconscious, replacing it with the concept of the Ego, super-ego, and id (discussed below). Throughout his career, however, he retained the descriptive and dynamic conceptions of the unconscious.

Psychosexual development

Freud hoped to prove that his model was universally valid and thus turned to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative material. Freud named his new theory the Oedipus complex after the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. “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 said. Freud sought to anchor this pattern of development in the dynamics of the mind. Each stage is a progression into adult sexual maturity, characterized by a strong ego and the ability to delay gratification (cf. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality). He used the Oedipus conflict to point out how much he believed that people desire incest and must repress that desire. The Oedipus conflict was described as a state of psychosexual development and awareness. He also turned to anthropological studies of totemism and argued that totemism reflected a ritualized enactment of a tribal Oedipal conflict.

Freud originally posited childhood sexual abuse as a general explanation for the origin of neuroses, but he abandoned this so-called "seduction theory" as insufficiently explanatory, noting that he had found many cases in which apparent memories of childhood sexual abuse were based more on imagination than on real events. During the late 1890s Freud, who never abandoned his belief in the sexual etiology of neuroses, began to emphasize fantasies built around the Oedipus complex as the primary cause of hysteria and other neurotic symptoms. Despite this change in his explanatory model, Freud always recognized that some neurotics had been sexually abused by their fathers, and was quite explicit about discussing several patients whom he knew to have been abused.[10]

Freud also believed that the libido developed in individuals by changing its object, a process designed by the concept of sublimation. He argued that humans are born "polymorphously perverse", meaning that any number of objects could be a source of pleasure. He further argued that, as humans develop, they become fixated on different and specific objects through their stages of development—first in the oral stage (exemplified by an infant's pleasure in nursing), then in the anal stage (exemplified by a toddler's pleasure in evacuating his or her bowels), then in the phallic stage. Freud argued that children then passed through a stage in which they fixated on the mother as a sexual object (known as the Oedipus Complex) but that the child eventually overcame and repressed this desire because of its taboo nature. (The lesser known Electra complex refers to such a fixation on the father.) The repressive or dormant latency stage of psychosexual development preceded the sexually mature genital stage of psychosexual development.

Freud's way of interpretation has been called phallocentric by many contemporary thinkers. This is because, for Freud, the unconscious always desires the phallus (penis). Males are afraid of castration - losing their phallus or masculinity to another male. Females always desire to have a phallus - an unfulfillable desire. Thus boys resent their fathers (fear of castration) and girls desire theirs. For Freud, desire is always defined in the negative term of lack - you always desire what you don't have or what you are not, and it is very unlikely that you will fulfill this desire. Thus his psychoanalysis treatment is meant to teach the patient to cope with his or her unsatisfiable desires.

Ego, super-ego, and id

In his later work, Freud proposed that the psyche could be divided into three parts: Ego, super-ego, and id. Freud discussed this structural model of the mind in the 1920 essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and fully elaborated it in The Ego and The Id (1923), where he developed it as an alternative to his previous topographic schema (conscious, unconscious, preconscious).

Freud acknowledges that his use of the term Id (or the It) derives from the writings of Georg Grodeck. It is interesting to note that the term Id appears in the earliest writing of Boris Sidis, attributed to William James, as early as 1898.

Defense mechanisms

According to Kirrilee Arb, the defense mechanisms are the methods by which the ego can deal with conflicts between the super-ego and the id. The use of defense mechanisms may attenuate the conflict between the id and super-ego, but their overuse or reuse rather than confrontation can lead to either anxiety or guilt which may result in psychological disorders such as depression. His daughter Anna Freud had done the most significant work on this field, yet she credited Sigmund with defense mechanisms as he began the work. The defense mechanisms include denial, reaction formation, displacement, repression/suppression (the proper term), projection, intellectualization, rationalization, compensation, sublimation and regressive emotionality.

  • Denial occurs when someone fends off awareness of an unpleasant truth or of a reality that is a threat to the ego. For example, a student may have received a bad grade on a report card but tells himself that grades don't matter. (Some early writers argued for a striking parallel between Freudian denial and Nietzsche's ideas of ressentiment and the revaluation of values that he attributed to "herd" or "slave" morality.)
  • Reaction formation takes place when a person takes the opposite approach consciously compared to what that person wants unconsciously. For example, someone may engage in violence against another race because, that person claims, the members of the race are inferior, when unconsciously it is that very person who feels inferior.
  • Displacement takes place when someone redirects emotion from a "dangerous" object to a "safe" one, such as punching a pillow when one is angry at a friend.
  • Repression occurs when an experience is so painful (such as war trauma) that it is unconsciously forced from consciousness, while suppression is a conscious effort to do the same.
  • Psychological projection occurs when a person "projects" his or her own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings — basically parts of oneself — onto someone or something else. Since the person is experiencing particular desires, feelings, thoughts, or anxieties, s/he is more prone to attribute those same characteristics to the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of others.
  • Intellectualization involves removing one's self, emotionally, from a stressful event, by focusing on rational and factual components of the situation.
  • Rationalization involves constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process. For example, Jim may drink red wine because he is an alcoholic, but he tells himself he drinks it because it has some health benefits, in order to avoid facing his alcoholism.
  • Compensation occurs when someone takes up one behaviour because one cannot accomplish another behaviour. For example, the second born child may clown around to get attention since the older child is already an accomplished scholar.
  • Sublimation is the channeling of impulses to socially accepted behaviours. For instance, an aggressive or homicidal person may join the military as a cover for their violent behavior.

The life and death instincts

Freud believed that humans were driven by two conflicting central desires: the life drive (Eros) (incorporating the sex drive) and the death drive (Thanatos). Freud's description of Eros and Libido included all creative, life-producing drives. The death drive (or death instinct) represented an urge inherent in all living things to return to a state of calm, or, ultimately, of non-existence. The presence of the Death Drive was only recognized in his later years, and the contrast between the two represents a revolution in his manner of thinking. The death instinct is also referred to as the Nirvana Principle.

It should be added that these ideas owe a great deal to both Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy, expounded in The World as Will and Representation, describes a renunciation of the will to live that corresponds on many levels with Freud's Death Drive. The life drive clearly owes much to Nietzsche's concept of the Dionysian in The Birth of Tragedy. Freud was an avid reader of both philosophers and acknowledged their influence.

Social psychology

Freud boarding a Lufthansa flight in the 1930s. (Memorial to the German Resistance, Berlin)

Freud gave explanations of the genesis of religion in his writings, included in a reflection on crowd psychology. In Totem and Taboo (1913), he proposed that humans originally banded together in “primal hordes”, consisting of a male, a number of females and the offspring of this polygamous arrangement. According to Freud’s psychoanalytical theory, a male child early in life has sexual desires for his mother – the Oedipus Complex – which he held to be universal. Ethnologists would later criticize this point, leading to ethno-psychoanalytic studies. According to Freud, the father is protective, so his sons love him, but they are also jealous of their father for his relationship with their mothers. Finding that individually they cannot defeat the father-leader, they band together, kill and eat him in a ritual meal, thereby ingesting the substance of the father’s hated power – but their subsequent guilt leads the sons to elevate their father's memory and to worship him. The super-ego then takes the place of the father as the source of internalized authority. A ban was then put upon incest and upon marriage within the clan, and symbolic animal sacrifice was substituted for the ritual killing of a human being.

In Moses and Monotheism (1939) Freud reconstructed biblical history in accord with his general theory, but many biblical scholars and historians would not accept his account since it defied commonly accepted views on the history of Judaism and of dynastic Egypt. However, this book remains interesting as an interpretation of leadership based on charisma and mass psychology, using the Prophetic figure of Moses. His ideas about religion were also developed in The Future of an Illusion (1927). When Freud spoke of religion as an illusion, he maintained that it is a fantastic structure from which a man must be set free if he is to grow to maturity; and in his treatment of the unconscious he moved toward atheism. In this sense, Freud approached the Marxist theory of alienation. Freud isolated two main principles: Thanatos is the drive towards the dissolution of all life, whereas Eros is to strive towards stopping that drive. When one goal is reached, the other becomes out-of-reach, and vice versa.

In "Group Psychology and Ego Analysis" (Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analysis, 1920), Freud explored crowd psychology, continuing Gustave Le Bon's early work. When the individual joins a crowd, he ceases repressing his instincts, and thus relapses into primitive culture, according to Freud's analysis. However, crowds must be distinguished into natural and organized crowds, following William McDougall's distinction. Thus, if intellectual skills (the capacity to doubt and to distance oneself) are systematically reduced when the individual joins a mass, he may eventually be "morally enlightened". Prefiguring Moses and Monotheism and The Future of an Illusion, he states that the love relationship between the leader and the masses, in the Church or in the Army, are only an "idealist transformation of the conditions existing in the primitive horde". Freud then compares the leader's relationship with the crowd to a relation of hypnosis, a force to which he relates Mana. Pessimistic about humanity's chances of liberty, Freud writes that "the leader of the crowd always incarnates the dreaded primitive father, the crowd always wants to be dominated by an unlimited power, it is grasping at the highest degree for authority or, to use Le Bon's expression, it is hungry for subservience".

According to Freud, self-identification to a common figure, the leader, explained the phenomenon of masses' obedience. Each individual connected themselves vertically to the same ideal figure (or idea), each one thus has the same self-ideal, and hence identify together (horizontal relation). Freud also quoted Wilfred Trotter's The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1914). Along with Moses and Monotheism, Massenpsychologie... would be one of the articles most quoted by Wilhelm Reich and the Frankfurt School in its Freudo-Marxist synthesis.

Freud's legacy

Freud on the Austrian 50-Schilling Note


Freud's theories and research methods were controversial during his life and still are so today, but few dispute his huge impact on psychologists and the academically inclined.

Most importantly, Freud popularized the "talking-cure"—an idea that a person could solve problems simply by talking over them, something that was almost unheard of in the 19th century. Even though many psychotherapists today tend to reject the specifics of Freud's theories, this basic mode of treatment comes largely from his work.

Most of Freud's specific theories—like his stages of psychosexual development—and especially his methodology, have fallen out of favor in modern experimental psychology.

Some psychotherapists, however, still follow an approximately Freudian system of treatment. Many more have modified his approach, or joined one of the schools that branched from his original theories (see Neo-Freudian). Still others reject his theories entirely, although their practice may still reflect his influence.

Psychoanalysis today maintains the same ambivalent relationship with medicine and academia that Freud experienced during his life.


While he saw himself as a scientist, yet failed to employ any aspect of the scientific method, he greatly admired Theodor Lipps, a philosopher and main supporter of the ideas of the subconscious and empathy.[11] Freud's theories have had a tremendous impact on the humanities--especially on the Frankfurt school and critical theory. Freud's model of the mind is often criticized as an unsubstantiated challenge to the enlightenment model of rational agency, which was a key element of much modern philosophy.

  • Rationality. While many enlightenment thinkers viewed rationality as both an unproblematic ideal and a defining feature of man, Freud's model of the mind drastically reduced the scope and power of reason. In Freud's view, reasoning occurs in the conscious mind--the ego--but this is only a small part of the whole. The mind also contains the hidden, irrational elements of id and superego, which lie outside of conscious control, drive behavior, and motivate conscious activities. As a result, these structures call into question humans' ability to act purely on the basis of reason, since lurking motives are also always at play. Moreover, this model of the mind makes rationality itself suspect, since it may be motivated by hidden urges or societal forces (e.g. defense mechanisms, where reasoning becomes "rationalizing").
  • Transparency of Self. Another common assumption in pre-Freudian philosophy was that people have immediate and unproblematic access to themselves. Emblematic of this position is René Descartes' famous dictum, "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"). For Freud, however, many central aspects of a person remain radically inaccessible to the conscious mind (without the aid of psychotherapy), which undermines the once unquestionable status of first-person knowledge.

Critical reactions

Although Freud's theories were quite influential, they came under widespread criticism during his lifetime and afterward. A paper by Lydiard H. Horton, read in 1915 at a joint meeting of the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Sciences, called Freud's dream theory "dangerously inaccurate" and noted that "rank confabulations...appear to hold water, psycho analytically". A. C. Grayling, writing in The Guardian in 2002, said "Philosophies that capture the imagination never wholly fade....But as to Freud's claims upon truth, the judgment of time seems to be running against him." Peter D. Kramer, a psychiatrist and faculty member of Brown Medical School, said "I'm afraid [Freud] doesn't hold up very well at all. It almost feels like a personal betrayal to say that. But every particular is wrong: the universality of the Oedipus complex, penis envy, infantile sexuality." A 2006 article in Newsweek magazine called him "history's most debunked doctor."[12]

According to Richard Webster, author of Why Freud Was Wrong (1995):

Freud made no substantial intellectual discoveries. He was the creator of a complex pseudo-science which should be recognized as one of the great follies of Western civilisation. In creating his particular pseudo-science, Freud developed an autocratic, anti-empirical intellectual style which has contributed immeasurably to the intellectual ills of our own era. His original theoretical system, his habits of thought and his entire attitude to scientific research are so far removed from any responsible method of inquiry that no intellectual approach basing itself upon these is likely to endure.[13]

Other critics, like Dr. Frederick C. Crews, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of The Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute (1995), are even more blunt:

He was a charlatan. In 1896 he published three papers on the ideology of hysteria claiming that he had cured X number of patients. First it was thirteen and then it was eighteen. And he had cured them all by presenting them, or rather by obliging them to remember, that they had been sexually abused as children. In 1897 he lost faith in this theory, but he'd told his colleagues that this was the way to cure hysteria. So he had a scientific obligation to tell people about his change of mind. But he didn't. He didn't even hint at it until 1905, and even then he wasn't clear. Meanwhile, where were the thirteen patients? Where were the eighteen patients? You read the Freud - Fleiss letters and you find that Freud's patients were leaving at the time. By 1897 he didn't have any patients worth mentioning, and he hadn't cured any of them, and he knew it perfectly well. Well, if a scientist did that today, of course he would be stripped of his job. He would be stripped of his research funds. He would be disgraced for life. But Freud was so brilliant at controlling his own legend that people can hear charges like this, and even admit that they're true, and yet not have their faith in the system of thought affected in any way.[14]

Another frequently criticized aspect of Freud's theories is his model of psychosexual development. Some have attacked Freud's claim that infants are sexual beings, and, implicitly, Freud's expanded notion of sexuality. Others have accepted Freud's expanded notion of sexuality, but have argued that this pattern of development is not universal, nor necessary for the development of a healthy adult. Instead, they have emphasized the social and environmental sources of patterns of development. Moreover, they call attention to social dynamics Freud de-emphasized or ignored, such as class relations. This branch of Freudian critique owes a great deal to the work of Herbert Marcuse.

Freud has also come under fire from many feminist critics. Freud was an early champion of both sexual freedom and education for women (Freud, "Civilized Sexual Morality and Modern Nervousness"). Some feminists, however, have argued that at worst his views of women's sexual development set the progress of women in Western culture back decades, and that at best they lent themselves to the ideology of female inferiority. Believing as he did that women are a kind of mutilated male, who must learn to accept their "deformity" (the "lack" of a penis) and submit to some imagined biological imperative, he contributed to the vocabulary of misogyny. Terms such as "penis envy" and "castration anxiety" contributed to discouraging women from entering any field dominated by men, until the 1970s. Some of Freud's most criticized statements appear in his 'Fragment of Analysis' on Ida Bauer such as "This was surely just the situation to call up distinct feelings of sexual excitement in a girl of fourteen" in reference to Dora being kissed by a 'young man of prepossessing appearance'[15] implying the passivity of female sexuality and his statement "I should without question consider a person hysterical in whom an occasion for sexual excitement elicited feelings that were preponderantly or exclusively unpleasurable"[15]

On the other hand, feminist theorists such as Juliet Mitchell, Nancy Chodorow, Jessica Benjamin, Jane Gallop, and Jane Flax have argued that psychoanalytic theory is essentially related to the feminist project and must, like other theoretical traditions, be adapted by women to free it from vestiges of sexism. Freud's views are still being questioned by people concerned about women's equality. Another feminist who finds potential use of Freud's theories in the feminist movement is Shulamith Firestone. In "Freudianism: The Misguided Feminism", she discusses how Freudianism is essentially completely accurate, with the exception of one crucial detail: everywhere that Freud wrote "penis", the word should be replaced with "power".

Dr. Jurgen von Scheidt speculated that most of Freud's psychoanalytical theory was a byproduct of his cocaine use.[16] Cocaine enhances dopaminergic neurotransmission increasing sexual interest and obsessive thinking. Chronic cocaine use can produce unusual thinking patterns due to the depletion of dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex.

Finally, Freud's theories are often criticized for not being real science.[17] This objection was raised most famously by Karl Popper, who claimed that all proper scientific theories must be potentially falsifiable. Popper argued that no experiment or observation could ever falsify Freud's theories of psychology (e.g. someone who denies having an Oedipal complex is interpreted as repressing it), and thus they could not be considered scientific.[18] Some proponents of science conclude that this standard invalidates Freudian theory as a means of interpreting and explaining human behavior.

However, despite the aforementioned criticisms, scientific research has provided some support for Freudian theories. Indeed, recent research on the neuropsychology of dreaming indicates that Freud's dream theory (long thought to be discredited) is consistent with what is currently known about the dreaming brain. These findings have lead to the development of a new discipline, neuropsychoanalysis, which seeks to discover the neurological foundation of psychoanalytic theories.

Freudian theory has given way to dozens of other theories during the 20th century. As a "for instance," notable Christian theorists such as Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. Bill McDonald, who practice a more modern cognitive-behavioral approach, have experienced extremely good results over the course of several decades.


This is a partial list of patients whose case studies were published by Freud, with pseudonyms substituted for their names:

File:Freud Sofa.JPG
Freud's couch used during psychoanalytic sessions

Other patients:

People on whom psychoanalytic observations were published but who were not patients:

In the work of Slavoj Žižek

In a passage Žižek does not seem to cite, Freud links philosophy and the joke:

“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”, said Prince Hamlet contemptuously. Lichtenberg knew that this condemnation is not nearly severe enough, for it does not take into account all the objections that can be made to philosophy. He therefore added what was missing: “But there is much, too, in philosophy that is not to be found in heaven or earth”. (Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, SE VIII: 72)

Philosophy – says the joke – misses its target, always falling short or carrying on too far. The one thing it does not do in its relations to heaven and earth is coincide with them. Freud also uses that phrase, without irony, as a piece of wisdom, in at least three other places. Two of them speak to his fascination with the possibility of telepathy: the 1921 paper on “Psychoanalysis and Telepathy” (SE XVIII: 178), and the lecture on “Dreams and Occultism” from the 1933 New Introductory Lectures (SE XXII: 31). He concludes his introductory remarks to the Wolf Man case history with the admission that even though the case is a good fit for current psychoanalytic knowledge (as indeed he needs it to be, for this is the case he wants to be the watershed for the various heresies that had been arising within the psychoanalytic camp), many of the details of it are “so extraordinary and incredible that I felt some hesitation in asking other people to believe them”. After that, “there was nothing left for me but to remember the wise saying that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy” (SE XVII: 34). In all three of those later invocations, it is not used as a way of claiming a superior knowledge for psychoanalysis, but of saying that psychoanalysis does not know either. Psychoanalysis meets philosophy on this excess, this point that is both too much to fit into the knowledge either provides, and the too-little explanation either can off er. Psychoanalysis does not so much abandon philosophy as take in philosophy as its symptom.

Freud will usually say that he has no use for philosophy, which is in no “position to tell you anything serviceable of the relation between body and mind or to provide you with a key to an understanding of possible disturbances of the mental function” (Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, SE XV: 20). What he is interested in is the particular. That is at the heart of his rejection of the popular “dream books” (The Interpretation of Dreams, SE IV: 97–9): instead of decoding the dream according to universal equivalences, the analyst needs to look for the “residues of the day”, those traces of the specific and complex contingencies of a life that make psychoanalysis into something like a science of biography. The Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality some five years later (SE VII: 123–245) will extend this focus on contingency to the drives themselves, whose aims and objects are similarly contingent and incalculable in advance. Drive, as Žižek will insist repeatedly (e.g. LA: 32, 37; TS: 293; PV: 110; LN: 495–6), is even the name for this perpetual discord. “It is here”, Žižek suggests, “that we should perhaps look for the basic premise of the Freudian theory of culture” (LA: 37).

And it is here, again, that we meet philosophy on this point of excess. The remnants of the day and the discord of drive are for Žižek versions of the Hegelian refrain, “The Spirit is a bone”, that runs through his work (e.g. SO: 207–12; TN: 34–5, 51, 62, 85; TS: 88–9, 92–3; OB: 143; PV: 5, 33, 77, 84; ET: 26). Following this logic of the general in the particular and the genus in the species, we could say that (1) the subject is the contingent; (2) but this is nonsense, there is an absolute contradiction between the two terms; and (3) that very contradiction is precisely the subject (see, for example, ET: 534).We could say something similar of the relationship between psychoanalysis and philosophy: it is not that they are just versions of each other, at heart saying the same thing, but that in the deep and insistent contradictions between them each finds that extimacy of what is in it more than it. Freud is a thinker of the Real, and in that an anti-philosopher in the same sense as Lacan: “Not ‘I am not a philosopher’, but ‘I am a not-philosopher’, that is, I stand for the excessive core of philosophy itself, for what is in philosophy more than philosophy” (PV: 389).

For Žižek, as for Badiou, “The basic motif of anti-philosophy is the assertion of a pure presence (the Real Life of society for Marx, Existence for Kierkegaard, Will for Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, etc.), irreducible to and excessive with regard to the network of philosophical concepts or representations” (LN: 841). Žižek finds in Freud that concern with the figure of rupture and event that runs through Benjamin to Badiou. The Freudian subject is one whose time is out of joint with itself, and that exists only in this inconsistency (LN: 380), shot through with those chips of what Benjamin calls Messianic time (Benjamin 1973: 254– 5). We see this in the much-debated “Wo es war, soll ich werden” of the New Introductory Lectures, and which Žižek along with Lacan translates as “Where it was, I shall come into being” (Freud, New Introductory Lectures, SE XXII: 80; Žižek uses this translation in the editorial description of books in Verso’s Wo Es War series, which he edits): one clause is in the past tense and the other in the future, as if that “it” and “I” were out of phase with each other. In the same lectures, Freud famously suggests that “One gets an impression that a man’s love and a woman’s are a phase apart psychologically” (New Introductory Lectures, SE XXII: 134). But Freud’s is an incomplete anti-philosophy, for he cannot think the radical exteriority of trauma (ET: 295) and thus its purely political dimension. Žižek finds that dimension in Lacan’s claim to replace Freudian energetics with political economy (PV: 50), and in his insistence on the matheme as Real.

One of Žižek’s most frequent sets of references to this inconsistency and excess of the subject and the symbolic comes directly or indirectly from Freud’s great cultural myth of the primordial father in the 1913 Totem and Taboo (SE XIII: 1–161). Žižek spends far more time here than with that other great Freudian myth, Oedipus, which he describes as the obverse of the primordial father: if Oedipus is about how one deals with the agent of the Law’s prohibition, the killing of the primordial father is what gives rise to that Law (TS: 315). As the Hegelian logic of “the Spirit is a bone” suggests, though, it does this not by providing an impossible narrative of the transition between nature and culture, but by suggesting the way in which what is unrepresentable in such a narrative is the very (and impossible) conditions of possibility for both terms, and of the clarity of the Law that gives shape to both of them (OB: 74). It is not that the symbolic and its Law are inhabited by an untellable and unnarratable mystery, but that the trauma of the Real of the constitutive act inhabits the symbolic as the Name of the Father (LA: 23).

In the myth of the primordial father, we have the beginnings of Lacan’s various and ongoing formalizations of this impasse. The four discourses of Seminar XVII (The Other Side of Psychoanalysis), which he insists are cultural structures, provide the matrix of the possibilities of address. Their permutations circle the Name of the Father, inflecting the struggle of the sons with the father into the daughter’s struggle: the Master names the Event, but it is the hysteric who challenges the master (TS: 164). In the mathemes of sexuation, we have the primordial father as the exception to the Law founded by that very exceptionality, and the excessive and non-phallic jouissance it generates. The myth lends itself also in Žižek to a fertile theorization of politics, one that seeks to avoid the disavowals of Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (SE XVIII: 65–143), in which the political dimension is reduced to the figure of the “crowd” (TS: 191–2). Freud, Žižek argues, misses the sheer fanaticism that results from the undoing of the social bond (LN: 452), and the way in which the decline in Oedipal symbolic authority that characterizes late-capitalist liberal democracies is the obverse of the return of the primordial father as the agent of an obscene enjoyment (e.g. ME: 206; TS: 315; OB: 101; PD: 130), from the “totalitarian” leader to Hannibal Lecter. From his first formulation of the superego, Freud is aware of its inherent and necessary contradiction, and the double bind in which it demands both that “You ought to be like this” and that “You may not be like this” (The Ego and the Id, SE XIX: 34). Žižek sharpens this into the single contradiction, “Enjoy!”; this superego imperative of late capitalist liberal democracy thus provides a radical re-interpretation of Althusser’s well-known theory of ideology as interpellation (e.g. TK:108–9; TN 73–7; ME: 59–62; TS: 257–60).


  1. Hall, Calvin, S. (1954). A Primer in Freudian Psychology. Meridian Book. ISBN 0452011833.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Hall
  3. Freud's Psycho Dynamic Theory and Thermodynamics [1873-1923] - Institute of Human Thermodynamics
  4. Bowlby, John (1999). Attachment and Loss: Vol I, 2nd Ed., 13-23, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00543-8.
  5. Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, edited and abridged by Lionell Trilling and Steven Marcus (New York: Basic Books, 1961), p. 253.
  6. Template:Cite news
  7. Gay, Peter (1988). Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  8. Meyer (2005, 217).
  9. Altschule, M (1977). Origins of Concepts in Human Behavior, 199, New York: Wiley., cited in Allen Esterson, Freud returns?
  10. Freud: A Life for Our Time, p.95.
  11. Template:Cite journal
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. Template:Cite web
  15. 15.0 15.1 S.E. 7. pp28
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  17. Ludwig, 1973, pg. 93
  18. Karl Popper, “Philosophy of Science: A Personal Report,” in British Philosophy in the Mid-Century: A Cambridge Symposium, ed. C. A. Mace (1957), 155-91; reprinted in Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963; 2d ed., 1965), 33-65.
  • Corey, Gerald (2000). Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 6th ed. ISBN: 0534348238


Major works by Freud

Books about Freud and psychoanalysis

  • Ernest Jones : "The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud.", Publisher: Basic Books, 1981, ISBN 0-465-04015-2
  • "The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones, 1908-1939, R. Andrew Paskauskas (Editor), Riccardo Steiner (Introduction), Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition 1995, ISBN 0-674-15424-X
  • "The Language of Psycho-Analysis" , Jean Laplanche et J.B. Pontalis, Editeur: W. W. Norton & Company, 1974, ISBN 0-393-01105-4
  • "Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salome" : Letters" Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 1985), ISBN 0-393-30261-X
  • Lou Andreas-Salome : "The Freud Journal" , Publisher: Texas Bookman, 1996, ISBN 0-7043-0022-2
  • Sabina Spielrein : "Destruction as cause of becoming", 1993, Template:OCLC
  • Marthe Robert : "The Psychoanalytic Revolution", Publisher: Avon Books; Discus ed edition, 1968, Template:OCLC
  • Bruno Bettelheim : "Freud and Man's Soul: An Important Re-Interpretation of Freudian Theory" Publisher: Vintage; Vintage edition, 1983, ISBN 0-394-71036-3
  • André Green: "The Work of the Negative" by Andre Green, Andrew Weller (Translator), Publisher: Free Association Books, 1999, ISBN 1-85343-470-1
  • André Green: "On Private Madness", Publisher: International Universities Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8236-3853-7
  • André Green: "The Chains of Eros", Publisher: Karnac Books, 2002, ISBN 1-85575-960-8
  • André Green: "Psychoanalysis: A Paradigm For Clinical Thinking" Publisher: Free Association Books, 2005, ISBN 1-85343-773-5
  • John Farrell. Freud's Paranoid Quest: Psychoanalysis and Modern Suspicion (NYU Press, 1996). A vigorous account of the relations between Freud's logic, rhetoric, and personality, as well as his relations with literary sources like Cervantes, Goethe, and Swift.
  • Rieff, Philip. Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).
  • Roazen, Paul. Freud and His Followers (Random House, 1975). A rich study of the development of psychoanalysis, based upon many personal interviews.
  • Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth (1992). Freud on Women: A Reader. Norton. ISBN 0-393-30870-7.
  • Anthony Bateman and Jeremy Holmes, Introduction to Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Theory & Practice (London: Routledge, 1995)
  • Isbister, J. N. "Freud, An Introduction to his Life and Work" Publisher: Polity Press: Cambridge, Oxford. (1985)
  • Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory, Ballantine Books (November 2003), ISBN 0-345-45279-8

Conceptual critiques

  • Robert Aziz, The Syndetic Paradigm:The Untrodden Path Beyond Freud and Jung (2007), a refereed publication of The State University of New York Press. ISBN-13:978-0-7914-6982-8.
  • Adler, Mortimer J., What Man Has Made of Man: A Study of the Consequences of Platonism and Positivism in Psychology (New York: Longmans, Green, 1937). (A philosophical critique from an Aristotelian/Thomistic point of view.)
  • Cioffi, Frank. Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 1998.
  • Esterson, Allen, "Seductive Mirage: An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud." Chicago: Open Court, 1993.
  • Eysenck, H. J. and Wilson, G. D. The Experimental Study of Freudian Theories, Methuen, London (1973).
  • Eysenck, Hans, Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1986).
  • Hobson, J. Allan Hobson, Dreaming: An Introduction to the Science of Sleep (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). ISBN 0-19-280482-0. (Critique of Freud's dream theory in terms of current neuroscience)
  • Johnston, Thomas, Freud and Political Thought (New York: Citadel, 1965). (One of the more accessible accounts of the import of Freudianism for political theory.)
  • Kofman, Sarah, The Enigma of Woman: Woman in Freud's Writings (Ithaca, NY, & London: Cornell University Press, 1985).
  • Marcuse, Herbert, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1974). (Mentioned above. For a good review, see Stirk, Peter M. R., ‘Eros and Civilization revisited’, History of the Human Sciences, 12 (1), 1999, pp. 73–90.)
  • Mitchell, Juliet. Psychoanalysis and Feminism: A Radical Reassessment of Freudian Psychoanalysis Originally published in 1974; Basic Books reissue (2000) ISBN 0-465-04608-8
  • Chasseguet-Smirgel, Janine & Grunberger, Béla. Freud or Reich? Psychoanalysis and Illusion. (London: Free Association Books, 1986)
  • Neu, Jerome (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Freud (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). (A good conceptual overview.)
  • Ricoeur, Paul, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972).
  • —, The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics, ed. Don Ihde (London: Continuum, 2004). (A critical examination of the import of Freud for philosophy.)
  • Roazen, Paul. Freud and His Followers (New York: Random House, 1975).
  • Szasz, Thomas. Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus's Criticism of Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry, Syracuse University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8156-0247-2.
  • Torrey, E. Fuller (1992). Freudian Fraud: The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on American Thought and Culture. New York, NY : HarperCollins.
  • Voloshinov, Valentin. Freudianism: A Marxist critique, Academic Press (1976) ISBN 0-12-723250-8
  • Wollheim, Richard, Freud, 2nd edn. (London: Fontana, 1991). (A good starting point.)


The area of biography has been especially contentious in the historiography of psychoanalysis, for two primary reasons: first, following his death, significant portions of his personal papers were for several decades made available only at the permission of his biological and intellectual heirs (his daughter, Anna Freud, was extremely protective of her father's reputation); second, much of the data and theory of Freudian psychoanalysis hinges upon the personal testimony of Freud himself, and so to challenge Freud's legitimacy or honesty has been seen by many as an attack on the roots of his enduring work.

The first biographies of Freud were written by Freud himself: his On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement (1914) and An Autobiographical Study (1924) provided much of the basis for discussions by later biographers, including "debunkers" (as they contain a number of prominent omissions and potential misrepresentations). A few of the major biographies on Freud to come out over the 20th century were:

  • Helen Walker Puner, Freud: His Life and His Mind (1947) — Puner's "facts" were often shaky at best but she was remarkably insightful with regard to Freud's unanalyzed relationship to his mother, Amalia.
  • Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud, 3 vols. (1953–1958) — the first "authorized" biography of Freud, made by one of his former students with the authorization and assistance of Anna Freud, with the hope of "dispelling the myths" from earlier biographies. Though this is the most comprehensive biography of Freud, Jones has been accused of writing more of a hagiography than a history of Freud. Among his questionable assertions, Jones diagnosed his own analyst, Ferenczi, as "psychotic." In the same breath, Jones also maligned Otto Rank, Ferenczi's close friend and Jones's most important rival for leadership of the movement in the 1920s.
  • Henri Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) — was the first book to, in a compelling way, attempt to situate Freud within the context of his time and intellectual thought, arguing that he was the intellectual heir of Franz Mesmer and that the genesis of his theory owed a large amount to the political context of turn of the 19th century Vienna. (Swiss link:
  • Frank Sulloway, Freud: Biologist of the Mind (1979) — Sulloway, one of the first professional/academic historians to write a biography of Freud, positioned Freud within the larger context of the history of science, arguing specifically that Freud was, in fact, a biologist in disguise (a "crypto-biologist", in Sulloway's terms), and sought to actively hide this.
  • Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988) — Gay's impressively scholarly work was published in part as a response to the anti-Freudian literature and the "Freud Wars" of the 1980s (see below). Gay's book is probably the best pro-Freud biography available, though he is not completely uncritical of his hero. His "Bibliographical Essay" at the end of the volume provides astute evaluations of the voluminous literature on Freud up to the mid-1980s.
  • Breger, Louis. "Freud: Darkness in the Midst of Vision." (New York: Wiley, 2000). Though written from a psychoanalytic point of view (the author is a former President of the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis), this is a "warts and all" life of Sigmund Freud. It corrects, in the light of historical research of recent decades, many (though not quite all) of several disputed traditional historical accounts of events uncritically recycled by Peter Gay.

The creation of Freud biographies has itself even been written about at some length—see, for example, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, "A History of Freud Biographies," in Discovering the History of Psychiatry, edited by Mark S. Micale and Roy Porter (Oxford University Press, 1994).

Biographical critiques

  • Bakan, David. Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958; New York, Schocken Books, 1965; Dover Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-486-43767-1
  • Crews, F. C. Unauthorized Freud : doubters confront a legend, New York, Viking 1998. ISBN 0-670-87221-0
  • Dolnick, Edward. Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis ISBN 0-684-82497-3
  • Dufresne, T. Killing Freud, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.
  • Esterson, Allen, "Seductive Mirage: An Exploration of the Work of Sigmund Freud." Chicago: Open Court, 1993.
  • Eysenck, H. J. The Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, Scott-Townsend Publishers, Washington D. C., (1990)
  • Jurjevich, R. M. The Hoax of Freudism: A study of Brainwashing the American Professionals and Laymen Dorrance (1974) ISBN 0-8059-1856-6
  • LaPiere, R. T. The Freudian Ethic: An Analysis of the Subversion of Western Character Greenwood Press (1974) ISBN 0-8371-7543-7
  • MacDonald, Kevin B. The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements Authorhouse (2002) ISBN 0-7596-7222-9
  • Macmillan, Malcolm. Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc MIT Press, 1996 ISBN 0-262-63171-7 [originally published by New Holland, 1991]
  • Scharnberg, Max. The non-authentic nature of Freud's observations, Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1993 ISBN 91-554-3122-4
  • Stannard, D. E. Shrinking History: On Freud and the Failure of Psychohistory Oxford University Press, Oxford (1980) ISBN 0-19-503044-3
  • Thornton, E. M. Freud and Cocaine: The Freudian Fallacy, Blond & Briggs, London (1983) ISBN 0-85634-139-8
  • Webster, Richard. Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science, and Psychoanalysis BasicBooks, 1995. ISBN 0-465-09579-8
  • Sonia Montero Padilla contributed to this page.

See also



External links

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Freud was born in Moravia in 1856 but his family moved to Vienna in 1860.

The city remained his home until 1938 when the Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into the Nazi Reich, obliged him to make a reluctant departure for London.


Freud graduated as a doctor of medicine in 1881, and his early research and publications dealt with anatomy and physiology.


  • Freud, S., 3n, 11n, 15, 37n, 50, 53, 55, 61-62, 66, 77, 80, 89, 91, 96, 100, 105, 108-9, 112, 115, 120, 121, 126
Lacan and, 41, 47, 97
on perversion, 86-87
on reality, 55-56
women and, 72, 74-75, 80, 86-87, 99, 127