Freud Sigmund

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Freud Sigmund

(1856-1939) the founding father of PSYCHOANALYSIS and one of the most important figures in the development of PSYCHOLOGY as a discipline. His theory of the structure of the PERSONALITY, its development and its dynamics, evolved over the course of his life. He influenced many students and colleagues who often developed aspects of his theory according to their own ideas (see e.g. JUNG). This has meant the growth of several psychoanalytic 'S chools’ which have taken up rather different positions to his own (see NEOFREUDIANS, OBJECT-RELATIONS SCHOOL).

Freud was responsible for the development of a theory of the mind and for a method of treatment for mental illness. His theory of the mind involves the division of mental experience into the conscious and the UNCONSCIOUS, and the structure of the personality into the ID, EGO and SUPEREGO. He regarded the id as fundamental, containing the inherited biological disposition of the individual, with the ego and superego developing through the formative first five years of life. His theory therefore, is ‘developmental’ and describes the process of personality development as part of a process of SOCIALIZATION in which sexuality and gender differentiation play a central role (e.g. see OEDIPUS COMPLEX). This process takes place in stages, and each stage must be worked through satisfactorily for a positive outcome to emerge. If there are problems experienced in the correct resolution of a stage, then personality problems occur and cause adult maladjustments. It is then that psychoanalysis may be necessary to uncover the causes withinthe unconscious, bringing them to consciousness, and so resolving the problem.

Especially in works such as Civilization and its Discontents, but dispersed throughout his work, Freud also offers a general psychosocial theory which has been variously taken up within sociology (e.g. MARCUSE's Eros and Civilization, 1955).

Elements of Freud's theory have become accepted psychological concepts – the ‘unconscious’ and the role of early experience in personality development are particularly important – and the widely used method of ‘talking therapy’ has developed from his original patient/analyst dialogue. Freud's concepts have also been widely influential, and much adapted, in sociology and philosophy; see for example MARCUSE, LACAN, FROMM, CIXOUS.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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