Sigmund Freud

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To many people, the name Sigmund Freud brings to mind the image of a scholarly psychiatrist, with a patient on his couch, taking notes as the patient tells stories of his or her unhappy childhood. While this common form of psychotherapy is Freud’s most obvious legacy, he has, in fact, left behind numerous theories regarding the inner workings of the human mind that have become commonly accepted, as well as other theories that are debated to this day. Freud’s keen intellect was apparent from an early age, and his research and study spread through his publications, lectures, and collaboration with other great minds to ensure that the psychoanalytic science he pioneered continues to see use nearly a century after his death.

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856, in Freiberg, Moravia (“Sigmund” par. 3), to a Jewish family in an area that strongly favored Catholicism (“Sigmund” par. 4). Freud’s parents recognized his intellectual ability early on, and did their best to provide him with opportunity to make use of his talents (“Sigmund” par. 6). When he was four years old, Freud’s family moved from Freiberg to Vienna, Austria, where Jews held rights equal to other citizens, and opportunities for social and professional advancement were greater than in their homeland (“Sigmund” par. 3-4). As a child in Vienna, Freud proved himself to be well-suited to scholarly pursuits, excelling at his studies and gaining acceptance to the University of Vienna at the age of seventeen (“Sigmund” par. 6). At the university, Freud was initially attracted to the study of law (“Sigmund” par. 7), but ultimately chose to enroll in medical school, with an emphasis on biology, physiology, and neurology (Lerner and Lerner 113). After completing his residency at ...

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...y 1920, the Berlin Psychoanalytic Polyclinic had opened its doors to teach a new generation of psychoanalysts (Decker 591). Freud died in 1939 after a years-long struggle with cancer (“Sigmund” par. 18-19). As noted by Noel Sheehy: “at the time of his death, Freud was regarded as one of the major scientific thinkers of his age, one whose intellectual stature was equal to that of Darwin and Einstein” (89).

While debate still continues over some of Freud’s methods and theories, particularly those that emphasize the role of sexuality in psychological development, some of his ideas are now widely accepted by psychiatrists around the world (Lerner and Lerner 116). The basic psychoanalytic approach in which a patient talks to a therapist in a relaxed environment has become not just common practice, but the very symbol of psychiatric treatment in popular culture.

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