Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sigmund Freud - summary of ideas and main concepts

a brief and short summary presenting the main ideas and concepts of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical theory.
Controversial as he is influential, Sigmund Freud changed the way we understand and treat the human psyche.

Freud's writings span over 40 years of intense work, moving back and forth from his clinic where he treated patients to his study where he wrote. Freud was always developing and revising his ideas and his theory is not unchanging and as is best understood as a developing story of plumbing the depths of the human soul.

Following his work as a neurologist, young Freud and his colleagues proposed the idea that certain physical symptoms (such as "hysteria") can be attributed to mental conditions. After experimenting with hypnosis the discovered that people know more than they think they do, and that certain information can be retrieved from people under hypnosis that is unavailable to them while awake. Freud also discovered that sometimes illness can disappear after locating and surfacing its inducers. The main ramification of this is that we appear to be functioning on different levels of consciousness  (this means that what you experience right now is only a small part of what is actually happening inside you). Freud described these levels as the conscious (what you have on your mind, like this idea by Freud) , preconscious (what could be easily made conscious, like what you had for breakfast)  and unconscious (unavailable to the conscious, like everything that happened before your earliest memory).

After hypnosis proved limited Freud sought to find other ways to penetrate into the unconscious and dig up into conscious whatever it is that was making his patients suffer. The answer was "speech therapy", a revolutionary idea for the time that offered the notion that words can cure if we only pay real close attention to them. Nothing we say or do, says Freud, is accidental or insignificant, and that is why careful dissection of a patient's speech can aid the therapist in directing him towards new discoveries regarding himself. Freud also took a big interest in dreams that he saw as code that once deciphered can open doors to the unconscious and our deepest truths.   
When thus analyzing his patients psyche Freud soon realized that the deeper you dig the more it becomes apparent that it all leads back to one place: early childhood. Freud then devised a theory of the process we go through from birth to adulthood, arguing that the particular manner in which we pass through this process will determine to a large extent who we are. Freud knew very well that processes requires energy and he claimed that this energy is sex, or love or the power on life, call it whatever you like, Freud called it libido and claimed that it is the most essential and rudimentary source of drive and energy in us. Everything we do is in fact a channeling of the libido (channels have been determined by our particular development). Following the horrors of World War 1 Freud revised his theory and offered an additional source of drive, the death craving force of destruction.

Freud famously offered another later model of the mind constructed of: Ego, Id and Super Ego. The Id is the initial raw drive that operates by the "pleasure principle" of maximum pleasure minimum pain. But as the poet said, "you can't always get what you (deep down inside you darkest fantasies) want", and this is where the Ego comes in to manage your desires with reality (the "reality principle"). When we grow up and go through the Oedipal Complex of giving up the competition with dad over mom we start to develop another "division" in ourselves, the Super-Ego which is the internalized expectations of society from us such as morals, values, ambitions etc. The ego is constantly engaged by the Id and Super-ego while trying to mange us and reality, not easy at all.

Freud had many more ideas and he even tried to apply his psychotherapy concepts not only to individuals but also to society at large. To read more about Freud you can check out the links below to summaries on some of Freud's most famous essays. You can also consider the book links (and support us, yay!).   

Summaries of important works by Freud:

Sigmund Freud - The Interpretation of Dreams
Sigmund Freud - Civilization and Its Discontents