Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

By Richard E. Noble

Sigmund Freud is listed in every book of great thinkers that any of us have probably ever encountered. Freud's area of discovery was the human mind. Trying to figure out what it is that he actually discovered is not so easy. His discovery with regards to the human mind is called Psychoanalysis. Via processes and techniques, Freud tried to analyze how the human mind functioned. How it worked. How a human being actually thinks. Today his ideas are so commonplace in all of our lives that it is impossible to imagine that there was a time when these ideas were not known and accepted.
If you want to know what makes your husband tick, for example. You will want to know what his parents were like. What kind of a childhood he had. What was his education? What kind of company did he keep? What books does he read? What does he aspire to? What are his fears? What are his hopes and dreams, his idiosyncrasies, his peculiarities? What does he believe in? What is his Faith? What were the social mores and customs of his native land? Who does he admire? Who does he hate? We can go on and on, and it all seems like plain, old common sense. Yet, this is all supposedly Freudian. It's called psychoanalysis. It's sublimation and repression, and sub-conscious and conscious. It's association. It's transference. It's ego and id and super ego. Even a misplaced word or slip of the tongue could be defined as Freudian. The influences of our particular sexuality on our ways of thinking and our conclusions and actions, is all Freudian.
So how did we analyze the workings of the human mind before Freud? I don't know. And what is worse, I can't even imagine. Today many people tell us that Freud was wrong. About what?
Freud was interested in the human mind; in diseases that were the product of mental processes and not physical conditions within the body. He was interested in dreams and their reason and origin in the human mind. When he expressed many of his fundamental theories and discoveries, he was literally laughed at by the medical community of his day. He discovered that many mental illnesses were merely an exaggeration of "normal" inhibitions, fears or aspirations.
He studied hysteria and hypnotism under a doctor named Charcot. He worked on his dream theories with Carl Jung. He proposed theories like the Oedipus Complex. This Complex suggested that a child has a tendency to fall in love with the parent of the opposite sex and harbors feeling of competition and resentment towards the parent of the same sex. My personal theory is that a child has a tendency to like people who treat him kindly and tends to dislike people who treat him unkindly. This goes for parents as well as strangers. In fact, the child often times can't tell one from the other.
Freud theorized that even small children had a sexual nature. I feel that sex comes to most of us somewhat suddenly and is quite a shock. We then learn a little more about it from friends, neighbors, relatives and parents, after which, we give some form of it a try, and then can't stop doing it. During this compulsive period we justify our neurotic, psychotic, irrational, perverted antics in every possible way. When suddenly the urge dissipates and we wake up, we can hardly believe that we were ever inclined to behave in such a manner and we try to guide our children and the rest of mankind accordingly. It doesn't seem to be working.