Episode #2 of the course “Influential Psychologists Throughout History”
Sigmund Freud is best known for being the father of psychoanalysis. However, he was also a medical doctor, psychologist, and physiologist. Psychoanalysis therapy is supposed to release repressed emotions and circumstances, thereby making the unconscious conscious. Today, it is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression.
His work on the unconscious (or subconscious) is perhaps the most well-known of his theories. Freud’s viewpoint was unique in that it questioned causes for behavior, not just the behavior itself. He thought that someone’s unpurposeful behavior was the most telling of their inner thoughts, or the unconscious. He took a great deal of stock in things like slips of the tongue or pen (now sometimes referred to as a “Freudian slip”), obsessive behavior, and dreams. He thought that these exhibited the innermost thoughts of the individual—thoughts that individuals often do not realize that they have. Freud believed that people were guided by these inner thoughts, and they had virtually no control over them. His work in this area implied that free will was either an illusion or a bit more controlled than many may think. He also associated these ideas with things like internal motivations, drive, and instincts.
Freud is also well-known for his model of the structure of the mind or personality (to be distinguished from the brain). His model had three parts, which he called the id, ego, and superego. The id has instinctual drives, like sex and aggression. The ego is the conscious self that mediates the id and superego, and the superego is the conscience with its moral compass.
In Freud’s psychoanalysis sessions, he would have the patient lie on a couch to get them to relax. He would ask them to tell him about their dreams and childhood memories. This was a long process that often involved multiple sessions per week over a year or more. There is clearly a strong association with Freud’s technique and modern-day therapy sessions. Even after decades of development, psychoanalysis is still practiced today in a similar format.
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