Sigmund Freud

Many believe Freud to be the father of modern psychiatry and psychology and the only psychiatrist of any worth. He is certainly the most well known figure, perhaps because sex played such a prominent role in his system. There are other psychologists, however, whose theories demand respectful consideration. Erik Erickson, born Eric Homburger, whose theories while not as titillating as Freud's, are just as sound. This paper will compare the two great men and their systems. In addition, this paper will argue that Freud offers the more useful foundation for understanding the Jenny Masterson's confused psyche.

Sigmund Freud showed signs of independence and brilliance well before entering the University of Vienna in 1873. He had a prodigious memory and loved reading to the point of running himself into debt at various bookstores. Among his favorite authors were Goethe, Shakespeare, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche. To avoid disruption of his studies, he often ate in his room.

After medical school, Freud began a private practice, specializing in nervous disorders. He was soon faced with patients whose disorders made no neurological sense. For example, a patient might have lost feeling in his foot with no evidence to any sensory nerve damage. Freud wondered if the problem could be psychological rather than physiological.

Dr. Freud evolved as he treated patients and analyzed himself. He recorded his assessment and expounded his theories in 24 volumes published between 1888 and 1939. Although his first book, The Interpretation of Dreams, sold only 600 copies in its first eight years of publication, his ideas gradually began to attract faithful followers and students - along with a great number of critics.

While exploring the possible psychological roots of nervous disorders, Freud spent several months in Paris, studying with Jean Charcot, a French neurologist from whom he learned hypnosis. On return to Vienna, Freud began to hypnotize patients and encouraging them while under hypnosis to speak openly about themselves and the onset of their symptoms. Often the patients responded freely, and upon reviewing their past, became quite upset and agitated. By this process, some saw their symptoms lessened or banished entirely.

It was in this way that Freud discovered what he termed the "unconscious." Piecing together his patients' accounts of their lives, he decided that the loss of feeling in one's hand might be caused by, say, the fear of touching one's genitals; blindness or deafness might be caused by the fear of hearing or seeing something that might arouse grief or distress. Over time, Freud saw hundreds of patients. He soon recognized that hypnosis was not as helpful as he had first hoped. He thus pioneered a new technique termed "free association." Patients were told to relax and say whatever came to mind, no matter how mortifying or irrelevant. Freud believed that free association produced a chain of thought that was linked to the unconscious, and often painful, memories of childhood. Freud called this process psychoanalysis.

Underlying Freud's psychoanalytic perception of personality was his belief that the mind was akin to an iceberg - most of it was hidden from view. The conscious awareness is the part of the iceberg that is above the surface but below the surface is a much larger unconscious region that contains feelings, wishes and memories of which persons are largely unaware.

Some thoughts are stored temporarily in a preconscious area, from where they can be retrieved at will. However, Freud was more interested in the mass of thought and feeling that are repressed - forcibly blocked from conscious thought because it would be too painful to acknowledge. Freud believed that these repressed materials unconsciously exert a powerful influence on behavior and choices.

Freud believed that dreams and slips of tongue and pen were windows to his patient's unconscious. Intrusive thoughts or seemingly trivial errors while reading, writing and speaking suggested to Freud that what is said and done reflects the working of the unconscious. Jokes especially were an outlet for expressing repressed sexual and aggressive tendencies. For Freud, nothing was accidental.

Freud believed that human personality, expressed emotions, strivings, and beliefs arise from a conflict between the aggressive, pleasure-seeking, biological impulses and the social restraints against their expression. This conflict between expression and repression, in ways that bring the achievement of satisfaction without punishment or guilt, drives the development of personality.

Freud divided the elements of that conflict into three interacting systems: the id, ego and superego. Freud did not propose