Disillusioned but not disenchanted…
Even though some twenty years before the Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud began his shift from the physiological to the psychological the practice of Psychology was growing its first roots with the establishment of the first psychological laboratory by Wilhelm Wundt, few psychologists have had quite the influence on psychology or culture in general as has Sigmund Freud. His theories were innovative and new to their time, provided a new way of going about psychology and continue to strive even after many of his theories have been said to be disproven. His legacy ranges from the development of psychoanalysis and the divisions of the mind to the interpretation of dreams and the stages of childhood development.
Upon moving from the profession of a neurologist to that of a psychologist, Freud came to the conclusion that the symptoms of his patients were mental rather than physical. Even more, he concluded that these problems generally originated in early childhood and had to do with memories, often which were repressed. In order to aide him in the understanding of the minds of his patients Freud developed a way of analyzing the mind of his patients that was new, a process which came to be known as psychoanalysis. Freud’s psychoanalysis performed many aspects of psychology ranging from relief from ills to interpretation of society (Freud). Through such processes as free association Freud believed that he would then gain insight into his patient’s unconsciousness (Wade p6).
As Freud developed his theories and gained more insight into what he determined to be the unconscious mind he expanded upon preset theories of psychology even further. This came with Freud’s division of the human mind into the consciousness, the preconscious, and the unconscious. Furthermore he created a division between what he called the id, the ego and the superego. The id is the first of these to develop and is the unconscious seat of all instinct. Next comes the ego, which develops from the id, and serves as a buffer against the id’s purely instinctual motives. Lastly, with the coming of a full consciousness, the superego forms. Together, Freud used these in his studies to give him a better understanding of his patient’s minds and also gave future generations insight into his understanding as well (Erwin p3-6).
Furthering Freud’s theories on the unconscious mind he delved into the symbolism contained with dreams. He believed that dreams had an interpretable meaning which would in turn give insight in the patient’s mind (Frieden p113). Freud also developed theories which related the current circumstance of patients back to memories and childhood events, even going so far as creating a set of stages for childhood development in which the child would learn to focus on different things and in which the child had the most potential to develop the beginnings of complexes later in life. Of the primary complexes which Freud hypothesized was the Oedipus complex which professed that male children inherently developed a sexual desire for their mother and hatred toward their father, named after the ancient tale of Oedipus Rex (Erwin p6).
Freud’s legacy to the realm of Psychology and culture of modern times is great. He created a way of interpretation based almost wholly on the drives for sex and power which rattled the norms of his day. Furthermore he created innovative ways of looking a the science ranging from the development of psychoanalysis to the formulation of the Oedipus complex. His theories are still controversial and this controversy in and of itself shows that Freud is still impacting society today.