I have chosen to write my I-search paper about Sigmund Freud, known today as the father of psychoanalysis. He has impacted our society a great deal and this is obvious when you simply open up a psychology textbook. This semester I am taking a psychology course and we talk about him a lot. I have learned, not only through my psychology course, but also through my dad who majored in psychology in college, that Freud has influenced how modern day psychologists treat their patients. Some people follow what Freud has said and use his theories and ideas to treat their patients. This is what made me wonder about Sigmund Freud. Who was this person and how has he impacted my decade so much? Has he really contributed as much as people say he has and if so, what exactly did he do? Do his theories even work? With these questions in mind I set out to find the answers and with some research learn about who is known to be the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
My search process for this information included searching the Internet for Web sites I felt were not only appropriate to the topic, but also academic or other viable Web sites. It is often hard to make sure the information on Web sites is accurate and informative, and so, I made sure the Web sites I chose for my site had some kind of credence to them, such as a school Web site, or site were written by an expert in the topic. I also searched the library for books and journals, and used the online library at Questia.com to search for books, journals, and magazine articles about Freud. I tried to look for a wide variety of references on Freud, on both his life and work, so I would have a greater understanding of the man and what he did. I wanted to know more about why he was so important, but I also wanted to know about his background, his life, and his family, to give a more complete picture of the man, and what drove him to keep working on his philosophies and his treatments. There is a lot of information on Freud in many different areas, and I found the books, journals, and Web sites to be a bit overwhelming, but very helpful in my goal to learn more about the man and his work. In addition, Freud also was a prolific writer, and I wanted to include some of his own writings in my search, which I did.
I learned quite a bit about Freud's life, his work, and his purpose. First, Freud was born in 1856, and lived until 1939. He lived almost all of his life in Vienna, Austria, and that was where he had his practice. He married his wife in 1886, and had six children. His youngest daughter, Anna, went on to be a prominent psychologist in her own right. He was often very poor throughout his life, because often his treatments were controversial at the time, and he had trouble keeping patients. One of the authors I read said, "After his engagement this matter of being thwarted by poverty became really serious. He had to announce that he was a poor man, without a penny, with no prospects, since even a country practitioner needed a modicum of capital to start a practice" (Jones Vol. I, 154). This poverty followed him through his life, and often it made it difficult for him to keep his family comfortable. I was interested to discover that he was actually trained as a medical doctor, and worked as a physician for a time. I thought it was interesting that he took the time to answer people's letters to him, even when he needed to earn real money for his family, and the 1927 letter that was never published before showed that he deeply cared about people and their mental health (Benjamin and Dixon 461).
Freud impacted my decade, and many decades before mine, because his work was so different and new. He did not follow the prescribed methods of psychiatry and psychology, and he came up with many new theories of how the mind worked, including his concepts in the Id and the Superego. I read that "Freud formulated and developed the idea that many neuroses (phobias, hysterical paralyses and pains, some forms of paranoia, etc.) had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences which had occurred in the past life of the patient but which were now forgotten, hidden from consciousness" (Thornton), and this helped me understand how he developed his theories, and what they meant at the time. Mental patients during Freud's time were often committed to asylums, and not expected to get any better. However, Freud saw them differently, and worked throughout his life to prove his theories. I thought it was interesting that he was quite open and honest in his writings, and noted that he was learning as he went along, too. He wrote, "Twenty-five years of intense work have had as their result that the immediate aims of psycho-analytic technique are quite other to-day than they were at the outset" (Freud 12). He learned from his mistakes, and from his successes, and he wrote many, many articles and discussions about his work and theories, in order to share them with other open-minded doctors.
I think Freud contributed as much or more than people say he did, and what he did was extremely important at the time, and today. I knew that his work was ridiculed and not accepted when he first did his research and treatment, but the readings show just how controversial his work was. Another of his biographers writes, "His ideas, first outlined in 1895 in a work he wrote together with Joseph Breuer, were met with skepticism; they were severely criticized, rejected as unscientific, ridiculed as fantastic and arbitrary" (Freud and Allers v). I kept reading about how his theories were so controversial, and I can understand that to an extent, but is seems funny today, because they are so widely accepted. It must have been hard on him at the time, to believe in something so much, and be ridiculed for it, and find yourself not accepted by your peers. It says something about him that he was able to keep going, and that he believed in his theories so strongly that he kept on going to prove his work. Some people might just have given up, but he did not, and it is a good thing for psychology that he did not. Freud developed the "theory of the unconscious," which is still used today, and he developed the theory that many of our actions develop in our childhood, and that negative childhood events could greatly influence our adult actions. He also developed the theories of the id, ego, and super-ego, portions of our mind that structure how we think and react to certain things. He also demonstrated that psychoanalytic therapy could benefit a great number of patients. It seems like today that a lot of people do not know what Freud actually did, and they think that a lot of what he did had to do with sex and repressed sexuality. Some of that is true, but he did a lot more than that, he gave psychologists the tools to make a difference in people's lives, and gave them new ways of dealing with mental diseases and people's problems. He did a lot more than I think many people know, including myself before I did this I-search.
Clearly, Dr. Freud's theories work, because they are still being used over one hundred years after he first developed them, in fact, they are the foundation of modern psychoanalysis, which he literally invented. If his theories did not work, then they would not be used so frequently today, and Freud would not be called "the father of psychoanalysis." In addition, if his theories did not work, I do not think there would be so much information written about him, and so much information on the Internet about him. If his theories had been disproved or finally unaccepted, he might have had some measure of notability as a "crackpot" or something, but not the notoriety that he has today. His theories were based on many years of study and practice, and that is why they finally began to be accepted, people found out they worked, and the patients he worked with (for the most part) got better. The Library of Congress developed a traveling exhibit of Freud and his work, and it traveled across the country and the world in 1999 through 2002. If his theories and practices did not work, surely people around the world would not still be interested in the man and his mind. This exhibit is only one indication that his theories work. So many authors write of the same basic principles of his work, and the importance…