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Sigmund Freud: The Life, Work, and Legacy of a Brilliant Mind

“Thinking is an experimental dealing with small quantities of energy, just as a general moves miniature figures over a map before setting his troops in action.” These are the words of a man who has shaped our views about childhood, sexuality, dreams, personality, and therapy. He was one of the most criticized thinkers of his time but one of the most influential personalities of all time. He was a curious rebel who moved the world out of the hypocritical norms of his time with his brilliant mind. He is Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis. At the age of 17, he entered the University of Vienna where he joined the medical faculty and received his doctor’s degree in Medicine in 1881. Freud started his medical career in 1882 at the Vienna General Hospital where he worked in various departments of the hospital. There, he met Martha Bernays, who was once his patient, with whom he had seven years of long distance relationship before marrying her in 1886. They had six children. In 1939, Freud was suffering from jaw cancer and was, upon his advice to his physician, ‘mercy-killed’ by an overdose of morphine.

Among the works of Freud, he was most famous for his developmental theory of Psychoanalysis. Freud delved to the understanding and treatment of psychological disorders where he and his friend Josef Breuer discovered the “talking cure” after making a patient suffering from hysteria named Anna O to talk about her traumatic experiences which eventually led to a more developed form of therapy called “free association”. This contributed to the birth of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis assumes that the unconscious mind is the most powerful force behind thought and behavior and that dreams have meaning and are the most direct route to the unconscious mind arguing that the conflicting impulses, thoughts, and feelings that threaten the waking mind are released as visual compromise in distorted and disguised form by the sleeping mind. It also assumes that our childhood experiences are a form of a powerful drive in the development of our adult personality and that sexual and aggressive impulsion and the repression thereto are part of the maladaptive behavior of adults.

Freud’s theories are not without criticism but nevertheless his works remain to be a strong influence not only in the fields of psychology and medicine, but also to the day to day lives of every person. As W.H. Auden wrote in his 1939 poem, In Memory of Sigmund Freud, "if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd, to us he is no more a person now but a whole climate of opinion."


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