The Neo-Freudians

29.04.2020 |

Episode #9 of the course The theories of Sigmund Freud by Psychology Insights Online


“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” ―Sigmund Freud

Welcome back! In the final two lectures of the course, I am going to focus on the legacy of Freud. In today’s lecture, we will discuss the people that he directly influenced. Usually referred to as the Neo-Freudians, these individuals were initially supporters of Freud’s version of psychoanalysis but later branched off and created their own versions of psychoanalysis. There were many notable neo-Freudians; however, three in particular would have a profound influence on the future of psychoanalysis: Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, and Karen Horney.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Alfred Adler was born in Vienna in 1870, graduated from medical school in 1895, and would go on to become an internationally respected theorist and lecturer. In 1907, Adler first met Freud at a weekly meeting of psychoanalytic theorists, and this group would eventually form the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. It is said that Freud initially viewed Adler as one of his followers, yet Adler did not see himself this way and actually found Freud to be intolerant to different opinions. In fact, the two were quite hostile toward each other and would remain so until Adler’s death 30 years later.

In contrast to Freud, Adler believed that sexuality is not what motivates people, but rather it is intense feelings of inferiority. He coined the term inferiority complex to describe a state of deep-seated feelings of inferiority that results in a pessimistic outlook on life and poor mental health. In 1911, Adler introduced his own psychoanalytic theory called individual psychology. At its heart, this theory suggests that individuals are inherently good, seek harmony with other people, and work toward meaningful goals. These ideas largely contrasted those of Freudian psychoanalysis. For treatment, Adler believed that it was essential to identify the childhood source of the inferiority complex by studying the family situation and childhood memories and interpreting dreams.

Carl Jung (1875-1961). Carl Jung grew up in Switzerland and was a lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Zürich. Jung initially became interested in Freud’s theories after reading the Interpretation of Dreams. The two men began corresponding by mail and met in person in 1907. Although commonly viewed as his protégé, in reality, Jung was already publishing some of his own ideas prior to meeting Freud. Freud believed that Jung would carry the mantle of psychoanalysis and referred to him as the “Crown Prince.” Yet, this was not to be, as Jung and Freud had an infamous falling out in 1913.

Early in their friendship, Jung shared many of Freud’s ideas on the unconscious and psychoanalysis. However, they began to disagree on the importance of sexuality, the libido concept in particular. Freud argued that the libido was the key element in understanding motivation, whereas Jung believed that this focus was too narrow and instead, argued for a greater “life force.” Furthermore, Jung put forward the idea of a collective unconscious, whereby humanity shares a common unconscious containing archetypes (universal symbols that are inherited). Jung would ultimately propose his own analytical psychoanalysis as an outgrowth of Freudian psychoanalysis. Many would argue that Jung’s influence as a theorist rivals that of Freud.

Karen Horney (1885-1952). Karen Horney was born in Germany and earned her medical degree in 1915. She was one of the first female psychoanalysts and the first women professor at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. Early in her career, Horney prescribed to most of Freud’s theories and his version of psychoanalysis; however, she would eventually come to disagree with several key tenets. In particular, she was highly critical of how women were perceived by male psychoanalysts and challenged sexual concepts such as penis envy. Unlike Freud, Horney also believed that social factors play an important role in personality development. She would go on to establish her own version of psychoanalysis that would emphasize the importance of relationships for resolving inner conflict and overcoming neuroses.

Today’s task: Do you agree with the Neo-Freudians, or would you side with Freud? Take a minute to think about these different perspectives. Which one (if any) do you gravitate toward?

In tomorrow’s lesson, we will discuss the critiques of Freud, as well as his impact on psychology. See you soon!


Recommended book

The Portable Jung by Joseph Campbell


Share with friends