Sigmund Freud is one of the most important figures ever linked to world psychiatry. His theories are among the most studied in the world in psychiatry and psychology. Of his personal events we know that he is of Jewish origin, that he was born in the year 1856 and that he lived in Moravia, in the present Czech Republic. Regarding his training, he graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, becoming a teacher of the subject of neuropsychology.
Freud worked with the greatest neuropsychiatrists of his time, such as Breuer. He was also the “inventor” of the famous psychoanalysis, a science based on the active participation of the patient who is the subject of psychoanalysis. Among the fundamental principles of psychoanalysis we recall, for example, the famous interpretation of dreams, which are the product of the human unconscious in the act of sleep, childhood memories that lead people to deeply investigate their state of mind, etc. Furthermore, to define the human personality Freud had identified three important elements that have these denominations: ego, id and superego.
The name of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is indissolubly linked not only to psychiatry, but in general to the culture of the twentieth century, since his studies on the unconscious induced a revolutionary transformation in the way of conceiving man with respect to the past. But let’s go in order and first see who Freud was, what he did and how his studies influenced the literature of the twentieth century.
Sigmund Freud was born to a modest family of Jewish origin in a Moravian town which is now in the Czech Republic. He studied in Vienna and, after graduating in medicine, obtained a free lecturer in neuropathology. For several years he worked with one of the most important psychiatrists of the time, Josef Breur, who treated cases of hysteria through hypnotic techniques.
The method developed by Breur was based on the assumption that the hysterical symptom was the expression of a deep repressed conflict, which, finding no outlet, manifests itself in a neurotic form. To eliminate the symptom, therefore, it was necessary to go back to its roots, bringing out the inner conflicts that had caused it. Hypnosis proved effective because, by easing the resistances of conscious thought, it allowed the deepest tensions to manifest themselves.
The results obtained with this method prompted Freud to study an alternative therapeutic technique to hypnosis, based on the patient’s active and conscious participation: thus psychoanalysis was born.
The new ways that allowed Freud to access the unconscious to discover the deep motivations of neurotic behaviors are built on the interpretation of dreams, the free association of ideas and the analysis of childhood memories. According to Freud, most of the psychic disorders in adults are caused by childhood trauma.
In the human mind, however, a psychological defense mechanism operates, called repression, which pushes the individual to forget, over the years, the most traumatic and painful episodes of his existence. The repressed memories thus disappear from his existence. The repressed memories thus disappear from consciousness, but continue to exert their negative influence from the unconscious, causing discomfort, feelings of guilt, inhibitions, which result in neurotic behavior.
In order to bring out the repressed material, the psychoanalyst focuses his attention not only on dreams, memories, daydreams and mental associations, but also on apparently insignificant daily gestures: it is precisely in the most banal acts, in fact, such as a forgetfulness or a slip, that the unconscious reveals its presence.
Around 1920 Freud elaborated a theory to explain how the human personality is formed and identified three fundamental components that he called the ego, id and superego.
The id is the darkest and most instinctive part of man, where desires, impulses and drives are manifested in their absolute and unbridled freedom; to stem the arrogance of these unconscious forces that try to impose themselves on conscious life too, the super-ego intervenes, a sort of moral controller or conscience, which imposes precise rules to prevent the id from taking over. At the center of this struggle is the ego, which represents the individual in his daily attempt to mediate between the needs of the id and the imperatives of the superego. We must not think, however, that ego, id and superego are permanently circumscribed and well-defined zones. The boundaries that separate them, in fact, are blurred and are constantly changing. In the child the superego does not exist at all and every behavior is determined by the id and the ‘pleasure principle’, which provides for the immediate satisfaction of every desire; the birth of the superego takes place only later, through the child’s internalization of the prohibitions that his parents impose on him.
The human personality therefore appears to be the product of a profound conflict, which does not only concern neurotic individuals, but all men.
All the most innovative directions of early twentieth century European literature are directly or indirectly linked to Freudian theories, in which attention is placed on the identity crisis and on the discomfort of modern man, on the relative and unknowable character of reality, on life. psychic in all its aspects and on the recovery of the past in the dimension of memory.
Freud and psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a movement that developed above all in the first decades of the 20th century, but which is still alive and operating. It was born in the psychiatric field, thanks to the innovative work of Sigmund Freud, a Viennese doctor, who, outside the academic circuits, had dedicated himself to the treatment of mental illnesses such as hysteria and neurosis. The thought of him is based on the idea of the existence of advanced psychic energies which are the id, the ego and the super-ego. The id is the most instinctive part that resides in our consciousness and it is the task of the ego, the rational part, to curb the biological impulses of the id. The super-ego, on the other hand, is the set of ethical and moral rules that dominate reason and the id. Furthermore, Freud instead of following the then dominant tendency to attribute psychic disorders to biological causes and to treat them with physical therapies (baths, water showers, electric shocks) Freud grafted the idea, already present in the philosophical tradition, into the terrain of psychiatric problems. that the unconscious exists, the irrational side of psychic activity that we are not aware of is that it is responsible for many of our behaviors. He thought that this world of ours present in the psyche could be analyzed and that, if it had been brought to the surface, psychic disorders would have benefited from it. With enthusiasm he devoted himself to trying to understand (especially through free association and dream analysis) how the unconscious works and to cure mental illnesses. Psychoanalysis has developed along these two lines: the theory of the unconscious and psychotherapy. Pupils gathered around Freud, schools of Psychoanalysis were born all over the world. Regarding the psycho-sexual development of the child, Freud distinguishes 5 phases:
1) Oral phase where the child’s sexuality is concentrated in the child’s mouth (e.g. sucking)
2) Anal phase Sexuality and pleasure are concentrated in retaining or expelling feces.
3) Phallic phase The child discovers the pleasure of masturbating his own phallus. In this phase the famous complex of Oedipus (for males) and Electra (for females) is born where the child hates the parent of his same sex because he loves the parent of the opposite sex, wanting to replace the latter.
4) Period of latency in this period the child restrains his sexual impulse.
5) Genital phase the now adolescent boy rediscovers the sexual impulses destined, however, not to the parent of the opposite sex but to one of his peers.
Some pupils continued in his line, but most of them departed from him and founded autonomous schools. Psychoanalysis has contributed to the development of psychology, giving impetus to psychotherapy by drawing the attention of the general public to psychology and by suggesting ideas, hypotheses, models and theories to experimental psychologists. However, it did not turn into strictly empirical science. Recently, the belief that the unconscious exists has been seriously questioned, also because evidence has accumulated that unconscious processimentals are nothing more than reasoning or too simple or too complex for the subject who makes them.
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