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The epochal significance
of Sigmund Freud's work

In his function as a neuropathologist Freud came to realize that he had no clear understanding of neurotic patterns despite his thorough studies of the human brain. From 1895 onwards he associated intensely with the Viennese internist Josef Breuer. Both discovered that hypnosis removed neurotic symptoms. The case of patient Anna O. became famous.

By applying this method, Freud came to understand the correlation between emotional disorders and the formation of mental (at that time mainly hysterical) symptoms. Through hypnosis as a method of "mental catharsis" the patient recalls and relives repressed traumatic situations and is eventually relieved and healed. Freud was now convinced that functional diseases had a mental cause. In the following he discovered how mental energies may cause physical symptoms.

After breaking with Breuer Freud found out that the abnormal emotional state of neurotics was almost invariably associated with conflicts involving the sexual impulse. Based on these findings he developed his theory on repression and defense as well as the sexual aspect of neurotic behavior.

Freud was unjustly blamed with "pansexualism". His theories created a storm in medical circles and were often and heavily rejected. However, what Freud had theoretically taught most of his life was rather a "dialectic of the sexual impulse" than its omnipotence. After breaking with Breuer Freud carried on his research work alone. Instead of hypnosis he applied the method of "free association" with his patients and soon recognized the traumatic impact of early sexual experience during childhood, seductions on the part of adults, above all the parents.

In 1887, suffering from his own neurotic crisis, Freud discovered in a brave self-analysis that patients' phantasies and wishful thinking rather than real experiences play an unconscious role in the onset of neuroses.

Freud's findings broke new ground in often misinterpreted areas like infantile sexuality and led to a completely new and expanded understanding of sexuality. His epochal achievement was to help prove the existence of the psyche as an independent system.

In "Traumdeutung"/"The Interpretation of Dreams" published in 1900 Freud unveiled the dream as a disguised fulfillment of repressed wishes. Within the European culture and civilization this was a sensational disclosure of Freud's (sometimes also personal) fight for self-realization and truth.

The term "the Unconscious" was introduced by C.G. Carus before Freud. However, Freud is the true discoverer of the regular dynamics of the Unconscious.

In 1920 Freud came out with "Jenseits des Lustprinzips" describing a new dualistic theory of the sexual impulse based on the concept of the death impulse and aggression as explanations for destructive sexual behavior.

According to Freud the Unconscious is not a static system as memory was presumed to be by psychologists then but the bearer of hidden, unfaced conflicts and biographical data. It thus consists of repressed, disguised truths that want to be revealed by the conscious mind.

The so-called "Oedipus complex" is part of this subject matter too. It manifests itself in infantile sexuality causing the child to seek to possess for himself the parent of the opposite sex and hate the one of the same sex. Thus an unconsious conflict arises. The "Oedipus complex" is one of the most famous and most significant of Sigmund Freud's discoveries.

With his thoughts Freud not only influenced psychology but also modern time's conception of the world. His trail-blazing principles advanced the technique of psychoanalysis, with himself as his first patient. He was successful in overcoming inhibitions as to the logics of his own thoughts as well as to the general prudery of his time.

Without blaming other people he succeeded in finding clear solutions for many human problems with the help of psychoanalysis.

According to his motto "Where Id was Ego will develop" he succeeded in creating harmony to the individual person - the precondition for a relatively free life. According to Freud failing to achieve self-awareness was not so much caused by the natural impulses as by the bad conscience accumulated.

And so Sigmund Freud was also a great critic of many parameters of Europe's cultural traditions. He himself never saw psychoanalysis as a dogmatic but rather as an empiric method.

Freud was always open for new insights and theoretical explanations for mental processes- without doubt the central theme of psychoanalysis.



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