Sigmund Freud is perhaps the most well-known figure in all of psychology and psychiatry. He is the founder of psychoanalysis, and is responsible for developing the concepts of the id, the ego, and the superego. He is credited with exploring the role of repressed memories and conflict between members of the family unit. At the time of his life and work, he was in a field that used mostly physical methods for the cure of mental illnesses. He nearly single-handedly created the field of “talking” therapy. On his birthday, we take time to appreciate and attempt to understand the incredible role of Sigmund Freud in the field of psychology.
Dr. Freud was born to a poor family, to a father that was twenty years older than this mother, with two older half brothers in the home as well. His mother birthed a second child when he was five years old, who died six months later. A local townsperson predicted that young Sigmund was some sort of “chosen” or “golden” child, and his family honored this prediction for the rest of his life. Even as the family grew, and he had many siblings, he was given special space, time, and quiet to study and read. As a child, he kept extensive dream journals, and would skip meals or take them in private to avoid wasting any studying time. HIs early life and unique experiences in his family of origin certainly played a role in his future studies.
He became a doctor, studied psychiatry, but always considered himself a scientist and researcher first. He published many works and practiced psychotherapy with his contemporary, Josef Breuer. However, after his publication of controversial works that placed a great deal of importance on sexual desire and repressed urges, he parted ways with Breuer. In his native Austria, most of his contemporaries distanced themselves from Freud, and felt that his theories were too controversial. He only gained fame and recognition after giving several lectures in the United States. His influence on the field of psychiatry was not recognized until later in life.
To this day, Sigmund Freud is a controversial figure in the field of psychology and counseling. There are many that passionately believe in the methods of psychoanalysis and believe they cannot overstate Sigmund Freud’s contributions to the field. The study of “hysteria,” the use of cocaine in treatment, and emphasis on sexual desires in childhood, are some of the less praised areas of his work. However, the use of talking in therapy and counseling, the analysis of dreams, and the uncovering of repressed memories, are part of his lasting legacy in the field. Whether you are a person that adheres to the methods of Freud, or consider him to be a unique and controversial figure, his research and work forever changed the field. He was passionately dedicated to his work, and we salute his contributions to psychology. Happy Birthday, Dr. Freud.