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Useful Notes / Sigmund Freud

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"Flawed as it may be, Freud’s is still a coherent and intellectually satisfying view of the mind. You can’t have a meaningful science of the brain without having a meaningful science of the mind."
Eric Kandel

Not just The Shrink but the Shrink.

Sigmund Freud (born Sigismund Schlomo Freud, May 6, 1856 - September 23, 1939) was an Austrian neurologist credited as the Father of Psychoanalysis and the single most influential voice in the development of psychology from a fringe discipline to one of the essential pillars of understanding modern society and people within it.

He was controversial in his day, and remains controversial several decades later, with many commentators, within the field of mental health as well as commentators outside it, debating what they considered his overemphasis on the sex drive and the supposed universality of his chosen model of the Oedipus Complex in identity formation. Some of Freud's methods and conclusions, such as his early stuff drawn from his treatment of patients suffering from hysteria led him, in the views of some, to promote Single-Issue Psychology to the extent that one could cure one's ailments by delving into past memories. Likewise, Freud's relationship with his disciples and fellow practitioners (such as Carl Jung, Otto Rank and others) have drawn criticism for his somewhat acerbic and domineering control of his own approach to psychology over other alternatives. Freud's insistence on the scientific foundation for his theories have also drawn criticism from the likes of Karl Popper and others.

On the other hand, Freud is considered by many to be one of the great thinkers of modernity, for being the first major thinker to coherently argue that sexuality was a fundamental aspect of human society and critiquing the effects of repression and censorship. Some important chemists and scientists such as Henri Laborit and Eric Kandel note that what Freud lacked in proper methodology (mostly on account of the weak technology and machinery at the time he began his studies) he compensated for with amazing intuition and insight and that his papers are still valuable (albeit properly annotated and qualified) for practitioners in neuroscience and mental health. Within the humanities and the liberal arts, Freud is also praised for his considerable talents as a writer and essayist, with his famous books and essays inspiring several philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists and literary theorists to this very day.

So influential are his ideas and concepts, that via Pop-Cultural Osmosis, several aspects of his ideas and theories have more or less become Common Knowledge. This includes his psychoanalytical method of "the talking cure" which pretty much defined Hollywood Psych and to an extent modern day psychotherapy; the concept of the Unconscious Mind, dream interpretations as a source for character insight, the mechanism of repression, the focus on childhood experiences in the shaping of the individual, Psychological Projection etc. A lot of modern films, literature and even plays, are made differently on account of his influence. He was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize thirteen separate times as a result of his achievements in psychiatry and psychoanalysis (but never won).

In addition to his own towering career, Freud is also The Patriarch of a notable family. His daughter Anna Freud became a famous psychologist in her own right who greatly expanded upon his original theories. His grandson Lucian Freud came to be regarded as one of the greatest British painters of the 20th Century. His niece Tom Seidmann-Freud was also a famous illustrator and graphic artist. His American double-nephew, Edward Bernays is well known in the field of modern public relationsnote  As a secular Jew born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and after World War I, in Austria itself, Freud faced a number of problems with the rise of Nazi Germany and the Anschluss. His daughter was briefly arrested by the Gestapo, and it took much high-profile diplomatic manoeuvering to get Freud and some of his family to emigrate to England. The Nazis only granted permission on account of Freud's great international fame and prestige. His other relatives however were not given permission to emigrate, and many of them perished in The Holocaust.

Freud spent his final days exiled in England, and died in September 1939 at Hampstead, England, which today is a museum containing much of his memorabilia (including his famous couch). His home and office in Vienna was subsequently converted into a museum in 1971 as well.

See also Id, Superego, & Ego for an overview of one of his other popular theories regarding personalities.

Selected Bibliography

  • Studies on Hysteria (co-authored with Joseph Breuer) (1895)
  • The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) — His landmark book which explores his technique of dream-interpretation and introduces the Oedipus Complex.
  • The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904) — A book which explores mistakes and slips of tongues.
  • Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905)
  • Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)
  • The Uncanny (1919) — Probably his most influential essay on 20th Century literary criticism and in the arts.
  • Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) — Considered the break between early and late Freud, introduced the death drive and it's pretty hard to read.
  • Civilization and its Discontents (1930) — An attempt to apply his theories and analyzes at society as a whole.
  • Moses and Monotheism (1939) — A collection of three essays that are properly in the realm of historical speculation on the origins of Judaism, controversial and largely rejected by theologians, historians and even psychologists. However when considered that one of Freud's working titles subtitled it as "a novel", then it becomes interesting to read as a thought experiment. His last work.

    Tropes named and/or codified by Freud 

Sigmund Freud is portrayed in the following media:

Comic Books



Live-Action TV

  • Frasier Crane is a Freudian psychiatrist, something that often earns him mockery from his brother (a Jungian) and ex-wife (who studies Behaviourism) for adhering to discredited theories. In one episode of his titular show Dr. Freud appears to him in a dream to congratulate him on a breakthrough about a recurring dream... and then hops into bed with him.
  • Appears to Pierce in Perception (2012) while he is undercover at a mental hospital. He is played by Judd Hirsch.
  • In Student Bodies, whenever Cody uses a psychologist in his cartoons, it's always Freud. Flash references this when she sarcastically asks him, "why do you always use Freud? Is it because he's the only one you can draw?"
  • The 2020 series Freud follows Freud in his early years when his theory about the "Unconscious" was still ridiculed.


Video Games

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Gets brought up in the theme song of Freakazoid!.
  • Appears in several episodes of Histeria!, playing both an Adaptational Baddie and, in a very odd turn, Alexander the Great's shrink.
  • Shows up as a minor recurring character in Clone High. Most memorably, he's the only person able to figure out from Joan of Arc's arthouse movie that she has a crush on Abraham Lincoln.