FREUD: The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis

First Lecture

  • Freud credits Dr. Breuer as the creator of psychoanalysis.
  • Freud worked in conjunction with Dr. Breuer to cure an hysterical woman. The woman had symptoms that included paralysis, limited vision, and durations of confusion and dissociation. The symptoms had no obvious cause.
  • Freud and Dr. Breuer used hypnosis to aid in the woman’s recovery of distressful memories surrounding the death of her father. Freud concluded that the woman, and all hysterical patients, suffered from reminiscences. The woman’s symptoms serve as memory symbols, like war memorials serve as reminders of the bravery of the soldiers who fought in a war.
  • Freud states that hysteria occurs when intense emotions are suppressed.
  • Because the woman could not perceive the connection between the death of her father and the manifestation of hysterical symptoms, Freud concluded that there is an unconscious part of our mind as well as a conscious part.


“Our hysterical patients suffer from reminiscences. Their symptoms are the remnants and the memory symbols of certain (traumatic) experiences.”


Second Lecture

  • Freud asserts that there are forces within the mind that repress traumatic memories. These forces are the morals and other pretensions of an individual that are actuated when an individual confronts their desire for something that cannot be reconciled with their “ethical, aesthetic and personal pretentions.” For example, Freud mentions a woman whom he treated that became hysterical when she confronted her desire for her brother-in-law after the death of her sister. Her desire conflicted with her notions of right and wrong; therefore, she repressed this desire, leading to hysterical symptoms.
  • Physical symptoms of repression manifest themselves by the following process: 1) an irreconcilable wish is repressed and replaced in the conscious by a surrogate wish; 2) the pleasure desired in the original wish becomes painful in the light of an individual’s moral standards; 3) this pain manifests itself in the form of physical symptoms.
  • Freud cures the symptoms of repressed memories by utilizing the “talking cure.” He encourages his patients to free associate about their symptoms until they reach the source of the symptoms. Once the repressed memories are discovered, the patient can address it in a healthy manner. He can realize that he was wrong in rejecting the irreconcilable wish and choose to accept it; he can direct his original wish to a higher goal, which is called sublimation; or he can reject the original wish consciously rather than merely repress it into his unconscious.


“What were those forces, and what were the conditions of this repression, in which we were now able to recognize the pathogenic mechanism of hysteria? A comparative study of the pathogenic situations, which the cathartic treatment has made possible, allows us to answer this question. In all those experiences, it had happened that a wish had been aroused, which was in sharp opposition to the other desires of the individual, and was not capable of being reconciled with the ethical, aesthetic and personal pretensions of the patient’s personality. There had been a short conflict, and the end of this inner struggle was the repression of the idea which presented itself to consciousness as the bearer’ of this irreconcilable wish. This was, then, repressed from consciousness and forgotten. The incompatibility of the idea in question with the “ego” of the patient was the motive of the repression, the ethical and other pretensions of the individual were the repressing forces. The presence of the incompatible wish, or the duration of the conflict, had given rise to a high degree of mental pain; this pain was avoided by the repression.”


“There are several possible suitable decisions which can bring conflict and neurosis to a happy end; in particular cases the attempt may be made to combine several of these. Either the personality of the patient may be convinced that he has been wrong in rejecting the pathogenic wish, and he may be made to accept it either wholly or in part; or this wish may itself be directed to a higher goal which is free from objection, by what is called sublimation (Sublimierung); or the rejection may be recognized as rightly motivated, and the automatic and therefore insufficient mechanism of repression be reinforced by the higher, more characteristically human mental faculties: one succeeds in mastering his wishes by conscious thought.”


Third Lecture

  • Just as free association is helpful in discovering the repressed wishes of an individual, interpreting dreams, bungled actions, witticisms, and slips of the tongue are also helpful in the investigation. In other words, what most people consider to be trivial actions are actually significant and characteristic of a person’s repressed desires.
  • The most important thing to focus on is the dream-life of an individual. According to Freud, the dream is the “via regia” – royal road – to the unconscious. Dreams are wish-fulfilling imaginations. Dreams also help people cope with past traumatic events.
  • The manifest content of dreams is what the dream is about on the surface. The latent content of dreams is the repressed desire that the manifest content attempts to conceal.


“Two unscrupulous business men had succeeded by fortunate speculations in accumulating a large fortune, and then directed their efforts to breaking into good society. Among other means they thought it would be of advantage to be painted by the most famous and expensive artist of the city, a man whose paintings were considered as events. The costly paintings were first shown at a great soirée and both hosts led the most influential connoisseur and art critic to the wall of the salon on which the portraits were hung, to elicit his admiring judgment. The artist looked for a long time, looked about as though in search of something, and then merely asked, pointing out the vacant space between the two pictures; ‘And where is the Saviour?’”


Fourth Lecture

  • One’s childhood experiences form a crucial role in the development of one’s personality.
  • There are numerous repressions and sublimations that are required to form a healthy minded adult according to general societal standards. Freud believes that all neurosis could be traced to erotic desires that were not fulfilled or properly managed during childhood.
  • Not many people agreed with Freud that infants had sexual desires, but Freud argues that everyone is born with sexual desires that develop by gradations into the sexual desires of a mature adult. He argues that infants do not discriminate between sexual objects, and that heterosexuality is a result of a repression of the desire to seek sexual gratification in partners of the same sex. An infant’s sexual desire is not driven by a desire to reproduce, but merely by a desire for pleasure; and this pleasure does not necessarily need to be associated with the genitals. An infant derives pleasure from different erogenous zones all over its body – oral, anal, skin, etc.
  • The first stage of sexuality is autoeroticism – a baby sucks its own thumb.
  • A baby considers the closest person to it as the object of its sexual desire. By rule, the mother prefers the sons and the father prefers the daughters. Thus, Freud developed the Oedipal complex, which describes the attachment a boy feels for his mother and the desire to replace the father. This infantile desire is transferred to another sex object during one’s natural sexual development by education and societal expectations, but the new sex object will strongly resemble the former sex object.


“The child takes both parents, and especially one, as an object of his erotic wishes. Usually he follows in this the stimulus given by his parents, whose tenderness has very clearly the character of a sex manifestation, though inhibited so far as its goal is concerned. As a rule, the father prefers the daughter, the mother the son; the child reacts to this situation, since, as son, he wishes himself in the place of his father, as daughter, in the place of the mother. The feelings awakened in these relations between parents and children, and, as a resultant of them, those among the children in relation to each other, are not only positively of a tender, but negatively of an inimical sort. The complex built up in this way is destined to quick repression, but it still exerts a great and lasting effect from the unconscious.”


Fifth Lecture

  • All art and creations of the mind are products of a healthy neurosis. Art is a wish-fulfilling fantasy that compensates for the dissatisfying reality.
  • When repressed desires are brought to the conscious, the desires are weakened. The repressed desires are overcome by more acceptable desires, or sublimated along less sexual and more socially valuable channels.
  • Not all of our desires ought to be directed towards satisfying the goals of society. We ought to satisfy some of “what was originally animal in our nature,” in order to attain happiness.


“A certain part of the suppressed libidinous excitation has a right to direct satisfaction and ought to find it in life. The claims of our civilization make life too hard for the greater part of humanity, and so further the aversion to reality and the origin of neuroses, without producing an excess of cultural gain by this excess of sexual repression. We ought not to go so far as to fully neglect the original animal part of our nature, we ought not to forget that the happiness of individuals cannot be dispensed with as one of the aims of our culture. The plasticity of the sexual-components, manifest in their capacity for sublimation, may cause a great temptation to accomplish greater culture-effects by a more far reaching sublimation. But just as little as with our machines we expect to change more than a certain fraction of the applied heat into useful mechanical work, just as little ought we to strive to separate the sexual impulse in its whole extent of energy from its peculiar goal. This cannot succeed, and if the narrowing of sexuality is pushed too far it will have all the evil effects of a robbery.”


In these five lectures, Freud discusses the principles of his psychological theories. Many of Freud’s contributions to psychology became well-known. The Oedipus complex, Freudian slip, and the unconscious are a few of Freud’s contributions that have gained world-wide notoriety. Whether his theories are correct is subject to debate, but I think that his theories and the study of psychology are very important. They attempt to explain human behavior, which often seems inexplicable. Some people behave in seemingly unpredictable ways, while others conform exactly to specific rules and morals imposed by society or even themselves. I believe that psychology is greatly concerned with the eternal theme of Free Will/Determinism. If human behavior is deterministic, then it can be explained and psychologists can develop methods by which to create “healthy and mature” personalities according to societal goals. If humans possess free will, a universal explanation of human behavior is impossible.

One thought on “FREUD: The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis”

  1. way back when I read all of Freud, I loved his lucid prose, his easily
    understood logic, it was clear to me that he’d invented a completely
    new, and convincing, paradigm, one of great intellectual beauty, for understanding human consciousness, regardless of his growing pains, the many later contested assumptions – thanks for the memories – Richard

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