Sigmund Freud And His Contributions To Psychology

Categories: Sigmund Freud

In the 1900s, psychoanalysis was the most distinct theory in psychology literature. ‘‘Behaviorist Manifesto’’ which is found by J. B. Watson, neo-analytic approaches by Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney and also, Gestalt psychology was the influential and prominent theories in that era. However, Sigmund Freud brought the unconscious’ importance to human psychology. His contributions to the field of psychology have caused a significant change in the way of thinking about how the mind works. One of the most important contributions he made is the term unconscious.

He focused on the mind in terms of its components and ended up with the 3 elements which are id, ego, and superego. Besides these components, Freud composed the theories on psychosexuality and its stages and symbols that lay in dreams. He made deep studies and improved his theories while there are so many opposing opinions. He had developed the theory and therapy way which is called psychoanalysis. Going deeper into the mind, searching the connection between conscious and unconscious, and revealing the repressed emotions are the main goals of psychoanalysis.

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Interpreting the symbols of dreams and free association is the main example. In this paper, I will be explaining how Freud’s personality theory is applied to psychoanalytic therapy, how he developed his theories, and what are critiques are made in a detailed way.

Freud who is known as the founder of psychoanalysis had invited by psychologist G. Stanley Hall to Clark University. He gave five lectures about sexuality and the unconscious in terms of abnormal psychology.

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In the first lecture, he mentions hysteria patients. He indicates that the reasons for the hysteria are related to traumatic experiences. To understand its reasons and to cure it, therapists should apply ‘‘talking care’’ treatment to hysterical patients. However, 1900s psychiatrists have applied hypnosis to reveal the suppressed traumatic experience because patients do not remember the traumatic moment. In a hypnoidal state, they try to go back to psychic traumata and they impose the same condition from that time to see symptoms and patients’ emotional situations. In the second lecture, Freud decided to quit using hypnotism in his treatments of hysteria and he went toward cathartic therapy so he works with the patients’ normal state. He sees that the forgotten memory can turn back to the conscious mind by asking them to remember it. In this way, hypnotism is not necessary to see symptoms and trauma effects. Freud mentions the process of suppressing conscious memory into unconscious memory. He entitles it as repression. The emotionally painful events that are disquieting the ‘‘ego’’ are avoided by repression. Hypnosis prevents seeing the resistances and repressions that’s why cathartic treatment makes it possible to learn these repressed experiences. The third lecture states that there are complexes that are shaped by the unconscious. They contain images in the unconscious as the group of memories so letting the patients talk reveals these complexes and the therapist can reach the searching suppressed information. Also, Freud mentions that there are two other methods to get information from the unconscious: interpretation of dreams and evaluation of bungling of acts. He states: ‘‘Interpretation of dreams is in fact the via Regia to the interpretation of the unconscious, the surest ground of psychoanalysis and a field in which every worker must win his convictions and gain his education’’(p.200). Besides, the content of dreams separates into two components: manifest dream content (the part of dreams which is remembered by dreamers) and latent dream thoughts (the part of the dreams which contain hidden meaning in the unconscious). Namely, transforming the latent content into the manifest content provides knowledge to interpret the dreams because latent dreams are more informative than the manifest content. Dreams also represent the sexual complexes of people. Bungling of acts such as speaking, writing, or reading mistakes have meanings that tell about repressed wishes. These are understood by free association and transfer techniques. The fourth lecture emphasizes the importance of erotic impulse components. He indicates that sexual pleasure is the most determinant point of personal development and it starts with auto-erotism which is childhood sexual pleasure related to one’s own body and then libido occurs as a sexual pleasure satisfaction to another person. Besides, sexual development gives rise to the person’s personality formation and any fixation of the sexual development causes an ongoing searching fixated stages’ satisfaction. It also affects one’s personality. In the fifth lecture, Freud adverts that a person can turn back to his/her childhood sexual focus in terms of lack of satisfaction and it is called regression. This regression causes neurosis. He also mentions therapist-patient relationships. Transference is the emotional interaction between patient and therapist and it provides an understanding of the patient’s symptoms. According to Freud, the psychoanalytic approach creates anxiety in the patient because after the unconscious information comes back to consciousness, it causes an emotional reaction.

Before him bringing the term unconscious into psychology, the Western way of thinking was positivism which thought that people can know everything about themselves and the environment and they are in control of both of them. Freud, in contrast, stated that this type of knowledge is actually “delusions” explaining that we cannot be aware of what we think and we frequently represent reasons against the thoughts which do not relate with our conscious thoughts. In this case, the state of awareness is the key point. He proposed the term unconscious about being aware is capable of being stratified and contemplations were happening 'beneath the surface.' In this phase, Freud explained, “the preconscious” which means the layer between conscious and unconscious. From this layer, it is easy to recall and access the information. Freud was interested mostly in the mind’s parts which he divided into 3; id, ego, and superego. The id is unconscious, it concurs with the essential procedure, and instigates the life form to take experience pleasure by taking part in need-fulfilling, pressure decreasing exercises. While the superego spoke to conscious and is against the id through moral considerations, the ego is placed between id and superego to create the balance for the primitive needs that our id tries to fulfill and moral considerations which is in relation with the superego. The ego takes on several capacities. It directions deliberate development. It has the errand of self-safeguarding, and should along these lines ace both interiors (id) and outside boosts. The sense of self experts outside improvements by getting to be 'mindful,' by saving recollections, by evasion through flight, and by dynamic adjustment. As to drive upgrades, it endeavors to control the requests of the senses by reasonably choosing the method of fulfillment, or if fulfillment is to be had by any stretch of the imagination. Undoubtedly, the inner self endeavors to tackle instinctual libidinal drives with the goal that they submit to the truth standard. If the id is a cauldron of interests, the self-image is the specialist of reason, realistic, and safeguard. However, the self-image is never forcefully separated from the id. Freud contends that the 'lower divide' of the sense of self reaches out all through the id, and it is by methods for the id that quelled material speaks with (presses 'up' against the protections of) the ego. The superego stays near the id 'and can go about as its delegate' (as opposed to the self-image, which speaks to the real world).

Sigmund Freud had written a book which is called ‘‘The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis’’. He explained his theory of psychoanalysis as the major theory in personality psychology. His most important point of view is the unconsciousness’s influence on human personality. He believes that people act and behave based on the unconscious mind. Namely, when they move toward a behavior, it doesn’t materialize by consciousness because there is always an unconscious’ impact on occurred decision or behavior. Freud states: ‘‘…in the unconscious the suppressed wish still exists, only waiting for its chance to become active, and finally succeeds in sending into consciousness…’’(p.196). His other basic approach to understanding personality is psychosexual stages. He mentions that sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction are the most important points in human development as well as the formation of personality. He emphasizes completion of these stages or repression of sexual impulses creates different kinds of features in humans’ characteristics. According to Freud, sexual impulses occur inherently but in different ages, it appears in different ways as he mentioned: ‘‘The child has his sexual impulses and activities from the beginning, he brings them with him into the world, and from these, the so-called normal sexuality of adults emerges by a significant development through manifold stages’’(p. 207). Besides, fixation on psychosexual stages has a significant impact on personality. As every stage has a different effect on personality, fixation on every distinct stage has a valuable influence on one’s development of human behavior.

In addition to these theories, detailed explanations and new techniques about the mind, conscious and unconscious had been made. Psychoanalysis mostly emphasizes unconsciousness’s importance in his studies. Unconscious is a difficult field to investigate because it is not a concrete argument. Freud has so many techniques to find out unconscious experiences and knowledge from one’s mind by transferring them into consciousness. However, so many psychologists and scientists don’t accept his discrete approaches to human personality. Some of them don’t accept his theory as a scientific approach and some of them reject his intangible observations. Thus, behaviorism is one of these opposite approaches to Freud’s theory. Behaviorism which is a learning approach to psychology investigates observable and external behaviors and the relationship between person and environment. It sees behavior and personality formation as a response to external stimuli. John B. Watson is known as an introducer of behaviorism. He directs his approach to science and rejects introspection. He investigates observable behaviors rather than feelings or thoughts. According to Watson, Freud and other supporters of psychoanalysis cannot prove their theories based on science. Freud’s main point was a mind to understand human personality but Watson’s main point was behavior. According to Watson behavior and personality are learned and shapes by the virtue of response to external stimuli. He makes her observations in a laboratory environment by applying Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory. Watson sees a child as a blank state shapes by environmental cues, in contrast, Freud emphasizes sexual pleasure’s importance in childhood. Namely, Freud supports that human personality forms through psychosexual development while Watson supports the connection between human beings, at the beginning, and stimulus that comes from the environment. According to Watson, personality develops by external factors and maintains by a reward and punishment system. However, Freud thinks that human personality consists of sexual satisfaction and when a sexual stage cannot complete, there occurs a fixation on that stage so it shapes the personality.

Besides the contrast between Watson’s thoughts, as mentioned, Freud focuses on psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is one of those uncommon scholarly accomplishments that had the impact of drastically changing human self-comprehension. Sigmund Freud has put an end to the aggression against human pretense by making explanations to human reasoning and psychology. He explained that human psychology works irrationally and unconsciously. In this context, it has to be mentioned about psychoanalysis by sticking to the subject more deeply. The symposium on therapeutic results of psychoanalysis had been done at International Congress at Marienbad (1936). In this symposium, the intent of psychoanalysis had been discussed which consists of the destruction of symptoms, advancement of the function of mind, and rearrangement of reality concept. Before explaining the details, some studies about specific cases had been made. Berlin and Chicago Institutes carried out and devised a study in which the individual cases detailed by the London Clinic and by Hyman and Kessel which could be distinguished as to determination and result have been incorporated. In the study, the researcher has endeavored to talk about and outline the troubles engaged with detailing consequences of psychoanalytic treatment, introducing the substantial and invalid reasons normally associated with keeping the production of helpful outcomes, and has made a supplication for and proposals in regards to, standard demonstrative criteria and standard criteria for assessing the result of treatment. An aggregate of 952 cases is recorded by conclusion and helpful outcome. This shows that psychoanalysis must be declared a powerful therapy for psychoneuroses, sexual disorders, and organ neuroses, and more.

Psychoanalysis involves both a theory and a practice. It comprises a lot of general statements about the mind. Its practice comprises a person’s interpretation and treatment. The doubt of psychoanalysis’ being affective or not hints at no sign towards for the most part acknowledged goals. New dimensions have been come to in talks of psychoanalysis. It is possible to say that from this point psychoanalytical discussions have come to a level of extensity. Theoretical contradiction about psychoanalysis is reverberated by the presence of drastically unique perspectives on the instinctive agreeableness of Freud's thoughts. Psychoanalysis strikes some as stressed, outlandish, and an outsider burden on human identity, while others see it as normal and clearly informative. Responses are given in Jung’s letter to Freud, mentioning the trouble of building up any sort of correspondence between the two points of view on psychoanalysis:

“Your Gradiva is magnificent [...] I think one would have to be struck by the gods with sevenfold blindness not to see things now as they really are. But the hide-bound psychiatrists and psychologists are capable of anything! [. . .] Often I have to transport myself back to the time before the reformation of my psychological thinking, to re-experience the charges that were laid against you. I simply can't understand them anymore” (Gardner, 1995, p. 94).

Freud has responded to Jung accepting that situation of psychoanalysis’ epistemology:

“First they write as if we had never published a dream analysis, a case history, or an explanation of parapraxis; then, when the evidence is brought to their attention, they say: But that's no proof, that's arbitrary. Just try to show proof to someone who doesn't want to see it! Nothing can be done with logic [.. .] There is no help for it but to go on working [. . .] and let the fruitfulness of our views combat the sterility of those we are opposing” (Gardner, 1995, p. 94).

What underlies diverse instinctive, pretheoretical reactions to psychoanalysis is something undifferentiated from a distinction in perspective observation: the individuals who handle quickly the intellectual power of psychoanalytic understanding, and the individuals who dismiss it as deceptive, contrast at a dimension which is difficult to verbalize; what they vary over isn't, in the principal occasion, a theoretical suggestion. Consequently, this ends up with the question of what it is about psychoanalytic cases that prompt them are being enlisted in oppositely restricted ways.

There is a critique which was made by Adolf Grünbaum which depends on Freud's admitted goal to give a hypothesis of the mind that is effective by the methodological standards of common science. Grünbaum keeps up that psychoanalysis can be assessed experimentally, and scrutinizes the hermeneutic view that it should be freed from the wrong scientistic origination forced upon it by Freud. Grünbaum states that Freud’s theory is based on the assertion that psychoanalysis can provide a true understanding of the reason for neurosis and that understanding provides the cure for it. He underlines the problem of the empirical structure of psychoanalysis’ statement by reminding an old criticism on the therapeutic results of psychoanalysis can be formed. He claims that Freud’s endeavor to disprove the charge of suggestibility was not effective. Additionally, he advocates that the assumptions are groundless. Therefore, psychoanalysis’ clinical evidence does not have any clear value in the criticism of Adolf Grünbaum.

Despite there are a lot of contradictions in Sigmund Freud’s theories about the personality, the mind, and the way it works, it has been accepted that he brought an extensive and innovative way of thinking into the world of psychology. He has created new terms and added new meanings to the existing terms to explain his studies, thoughts, and theories. Especially, the way of bringing out the repressed feelings, emotions, and thoughts from the unconscious which is called psychoanalysis has caused the psychological treatments to have a new and effective form according to his cases. In conclusion, Sigmund Freud and his contributions to his field have influenced and opened up a lot of new perspectives to psychology.

Works cited

  1. Freud, S. (1916-1917). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Hogarth Press.
  2. Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. Hogarth Press.
  3. Jung, C. G. (1912). Psychology of the unconscious: A study of the transformations and symbolisms of the libido. Moffat, Yard and Co.
  4. Adler, A. (1927). Understanding human nature. Fawcett.
  5. Horney, K. (1939). New ways in psychoanalysis. W.W. Norton & Company.
  6. Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20(2), 158-177.
  7. Grünbaum, A. (1986). The foundations of psychoanalysis: A philosophical critique. University of California Press.
  8. Gardner, S. (Ed.). (1995). Psychoanalysis and the question of the text: Selected papers from the English Institute, 1976-77. Routledge.
  9. Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex. Oxford University Press.
  10. Clark, R. (1999). Freud: The making of an illusion. Vintage.
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Sigmund Freud And His Contributions To Psychology. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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