Sigmund Freud holds a special place among the most known psychiatrists of the twentieth century. Freud was the father of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. His works marked a new era and changed the development of psychological science in the last century. His theories helped to find the answers on the most important questions about human personality, unconscious, emotions, behavior, self-perception, inner conflicts, the reasons of spiritual imbalances and illusory imagination about own self, and so on.
Born in May 1856 in Moravia to a family of wool merchants, Sigmund Freud was the first and the most talented child of his parents’ eight children. His mother, Amalia Nathanson, always favored him over other children and did everything possible to provide the boy with a good education. In 1860 the Freuds moved to Vienna, where the young intellectual finished the humanistic gymnasium with honors and, despite his serious plans to study law, entered the University of Vienna’s Medical School at the age of 17.
During his first years in the university Freud was interested in scientific part of medicine spending a lot of time in doing various experiments in medical labs. But later on he switched on physiological researches, working together with his mentor Ernst von Brücke. Due to anti-Semitic attitudes, it seemed to be quite hard for Freud to develop a career as a medical scientist. That is why he entered into clinical practice and worked in several hospitals in Europe treating the patients with mental and neurological disorders.
In the mid-1880s Freud met Josef Breuer, a specialist who was practicing hypnosis (“cathartic” treatment) to treat hysteria. This idea greatly inspired Freud for continuing experiments and looking for alternative methods of treating this disorder. In 1893 he published his paper On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena, which is considered to be a pioneering work on psychoanalysis. Then, Freud went on developing psychoanalytic thinking using a concept of self-analysis based on studying his own dreams.
This work of analyzing unconscious resulted in publishing one of the main works of Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), as well as in formation of the key elements of his system of psychoanalysis. Also, Freud offered using the method of free association instead of hypnosis to treat mental disorders. After a series of further researches, he came up with the hypothesis that psychological shocks causing such disorders usually have sexual context. He presented his ideas in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), where he summarized his findings on childhood sexuality and formation of human sexual instincts.
Although Freud’s theories did not receive wide recognition in scientific circles, there were several promoters of Freud’s school of psychoanalysis. C. G. Jung, Eugen Bleuler and other members of the Vienna Psychological Society helped Freud in his studies of human mental processes and unconscious, as well as assisted in popularizing Freud’s doctrines of psychoanalysis among the higher reaches of academic life. In 1909, after delivering a brilliant speech at Clark University in Worcester, Freud was honored with a doctorate.
In 1915-1917 Freud was lecturing in the University of Vienna. His researches of that period were focused on the concepts of human drives (the life drive and the death drive), instincts and desires. In The Ego and the Id (1023) Freud publicized his psychodynamic theory of the structure of human psyche. According to Freud, the psyche of every individual has three components: the id (primitive aspects of personality), the ego (personal efforts directed on satisfying the needs) and the superego (the system of personal values).
In the last years of his life, Freud worked on modifying his early theories and therapeutic methods (the work Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, 1926) and also attempted to apply his psychoanalytic concepts to social, moral, religious and cultural aspects (Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930, etc.). In 1939 he died in England after 16 years of fighting with jaw cancer. Freud’s theories and concepts had an unprecedented impact on future development of psychology and psychiatry, as well as other social sciences.