Can you explain Sigmund Freud's theory?

Sigmund Freud - beginning of psychoanalysis

The technique of "free association"

Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born in Freiberg in Moravia, today's Přibor in the Czech Republic, in 1856. His father Jacob, a Jewish cloth merchant, already has two children from his first marriage, and Sigismund's mother Amalia is his third wife.

When the father's textile business was ruined by an economic crisis, the family moved to Vienna in 1860. There Sigismund goes to high school, studies medicine and does his habilitation in neuropathology.

Thanks to a scholarship, Freud can spend a guest semester with the famous Parisian psychiatrist Jean-Martin Charcot. He deals with the then fashionable disease hysteria, in which women scream and rage, and wants to cure it with hypnosis.

Back in Vienna, Freud marries Martha Bernays, daughter of a Jewish family from Hamburg, and opens a neurological practice. Together with the doctor Joseph Breuer, he presented the case of Anna O. in the "Studies on Hysteria" in 1895.

The case prompts Freud to refrain more and more from hypnosis when treating hysteria and to use the technique of "free association" instead.

With this method, the patient should let his thoughts run free on various topics. Because Freud believes that this is the only way to get to the unconscious. In the same year, Freud's sixth child, Anna Freud, was born, who later became his research assistant and successor.

In 1900, "The Interpretation of Dreams" appeared, Freud's first major account of psychoanalysis: According to Freud's theory, the drive of human behavior arises from subconscious sexual fantasies that are opposed to social norms. Dreams are coded references to the conflict between human wishes and prohibitions.

Two years after this publication, Freud became a professor and founded the Wednesday Psychological Society. This group meets weekly in Freud's waiting room and discusses his teaching.

The id, the ego and the superego

In 1909 Freud accepted an invitation to Clark University in the USA to give lectures there. Freud's psychoanalysis is attracting increasing attention and he tries to prevent deviations from it. This leads to a break with some of his students, including Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav Jung.

In 1923 Sigmund Freud published his work "Das Ich und das Es". The model described there, which has become famous, assumes that the human psyche consists of the id, the ego and the superego.

The id stands for the unconscious, that is, for drives, needs and affects. When a person is born, they initially only consist of the id: a baby is only concerned with enforcing its innate urges, for example ingesting food and being touched.

The ego corresponds to one's own conscious thinking and gives a person the image they have of themselves. The ego acts according to the reality principle instead of the pleasure principle of the id.

The super-ego, on the other hand, according to Freud, is the psychological structure in which social norms and values ​​are anchored, i.e. everything that has been brought to man through education and from outside.

Escape from the Nazis

Even at the beginning of National Socialist rule, Freud's writings were publicly burned in Germany in 1933. When German troops march into Austria on May 12, 1938, Freud flees.

With the help of friends, he arrives in London via Paris, where he is enthusiastically received. Freud can continue to practice there as far as his state of health allows.

For as early as 1922 Freud had developed palatal cancer - probably because of his heavy smoking - and had been operated on several times over the years. On the night of September 23, 1939, Freud died at the age of 83 of the consequences of his cancer.

Freud's daughter Anna lived and worked in his domicile until her death in 1982. The house in London with the famous analysis couch, like the apartment and practice rooms in Vienna, is now set up as the Freud Museum.