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Sigmund Freud

Born: 6 May 1856

Died: 23 September 1939

Nationality: Austrian

Sigmund Freud was born as Sigismund Schlomo Freud to Jewish parents in Freiberg, Austrian Empire. Sigmund was born in caul and since medieval times it has been considered as a sign of luck and that the child is destined for greatness. So believed his mother too. His father was a wool merchant who struggled financially and the whole family was forced to move to Vienna. Sigmund proved to be a very bright student and at the age of 17 he was finishing a gymnasium and translating the ‘Myth of Oedipus’ from Ancient Greek. Before entering the University of Vienna he was already proficient in English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin and Spanish. Nevertheless, he could not choose what to study next – law, medicine or politics. Eventually he joined the medical faculty at the university, where he studied philosophy under Franz Brentano, physiology under Ernst Brücke, and zoology under Darwinist professor Carl Claus.

In 1884 Freud wrote an article ‘On Coca’ where he praised it as a stimulant as well as analgesic and suggested it to all his friends and relatives. It was a time when drug testing became very popular between scientists. An episode was especially critiqued by most doctors – when Freud suggested cocaine as a cure for addiction to morphine to his friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow. Freud was also curing himself with cocaine and soon developed pain in nose and severe headaches. Therefore, his next friend is Wilhelm Fliess – an otolaryngologist.

In 1886 Freud started up a private practice specializing in “nervous disorders”, where he began using hypnosis in his clinical work. Hypnosis that he used was different from that of the famous Jean-Martin Charcot in that that he did not use suggestion. The same year he married Martha Bernays and the couple had six children. By 1896 Freud abandoned hypnosis as a method and introduced the term “psychoanalysis” to refer to his new clinical method as known as “free association” or “talking cure” and the theories on which it was based in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (Die Traumdeutung, 1896). In the autumn 1902 Freud and his likeminded friends - Alfred Adler, Max Kahane, and Rudolf Reitler started meeting every Wednesday at his apartment and became known as ‘Wednesday Psychological Society’ (Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft). By 1906 the group had grown to sixteen members as Otto Rank, Ludwig Binswanger, Carl Gustav Jung and others joined it. The Wednesday group was renamed the ‘Vienna Psychoanalytic Society’ that later grew to The International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) which nowadays is an association of 12,000 members worldwide with 70 constituent organizations.

In January 1933, the Nazis took control of Germany, and Freud's books were prominent among those they burned and destroyed. Freud flew from Nazi regime to London where he continued to see patients until the last stages of his cancer of jaw.

Some of his most prominent ideas are: introduction of ‘unconscious’ in psychology; theory of Oedipus complex; model of human psyche: Id, ego and super-ego; feminine castration complex and penis envy. Sigmund Freud is a Great Utopian as he is a founder of psychoanalysis as a science (or pseudo-science) and his ideas are still influential and widely used in psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy and in humanities overall, although his ideas also generate a highly contested debate whether they lack scientific merit, objectivity or are corrupt.

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