Sigmund Freud

(redirected from Sigmund froyd)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to Sigmund froyd: Jacques Lacan, Erik Erikson

Freud, Sigmund

Freud, Sigmund (froid), 1856–1939, Austrian psychiatrist, founder of psychoanalysis. Born in Moravia, he lived most of his life in Vienna, receiving his medical degree from the Univ. of Vienna in 1881.

His medical career began with an apprenticeship (1885–86) under J. M. Charcot in Paris, and soon after his return to Vienna he began his famous collaboration with Josef Breuer on the use of hypnosis in the treatment of hysteria. Their paper, On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena (1893, tr. 1909), more fully developed in Studien über Hysterie (1895), marked the beginnings of psychoanalysis in the discovery that the symptoms of hysterical patients—directly traceable to psychic trauma in earlier life—represent undischarged emotional energy (conversion; see hysteria). The therapy, called the cathartic method, consisted of having the patient recall and reproduce the forgotten scenes while under hypnosis. The work was poorly received by the medical profession, and the two men soon separated over Freud's growing conviction that the undefined energy causing conversion was sexual in nature.

Freud then rejected hypnosis and devised a technique called free association (see association), which would allow emotionally charged material that the individual had repressed in the unconscious to emerge to conscious recognition. Further works, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900, tr. 1913), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904, tr. 1914), and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905, tr. 1910), increased the bitter antagonism toward Freud, and he worked alone until 1906, when he was joined by the Swiss psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler and C. G. Jung, the Austrian Alfred Adler, and others.

In 1908, Bleuler, Freud, and Jung founded the journal Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, and in 1909 the movement first received public recognition when Freud and Jung were invited to give a series of lectures at Clark Univ. in Worcester, Mass. In 1910 the International Psychoanalytical Association was formed with Jung as president, but the harmony of the movement was short-lived: between 1911 and 1913 both Jung and Adler resigned, forming their own schools in protest against Freud's emphasis on infantile sexuality and the Oedipus complex. Although these men, and others who broke away later, objected to Freudian theories, the basic structure of psychoanalysis as the study of unconscious mental processes is still Freudian. Disagreement lies largely in the degree of emphasis placed on concepts largely originated by Freud.

He considered his last contribution to psychoanalytic theory to be The Ego and the Id (1923, tr. 1927), after which he reverted to earlier cultural preoccupations. Totem and Taboo (1913, tr. 1918), an investigation of the origins of religion and morality, and Moses and Monotheism (1939, tr. 1939) are the result of his application of psychoanalytic theory to cultural problems. Other works include A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1910, tr. 1920) and New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1933). With the National Socialist occupation of Austria, Freud fled (1938) to England, where he died the following year. His daughter, Anna Freud, was a major proponent of psychoanalysis, developing in particular the Freudian concept of the defense mechanism.

Freudian theory has had wide impact, influencing fields as diverse as anthropology, education, art, and literary criticism. At the same time, his work has been criticized by many for containing flawed or misrepresented research and for being pseudoscientfic in nature. It has also been criticized by feminists as being marred by a male bias.


See his Basic Writings (tr. and ed. by A. A. Brill, 1938, repr., 1977); The Freud-Jung Letters (ed. by W. McGuire, tr. by R. F. C. Hull and R. Manheim, 1974; abr. ed. 1994); biographies by E. Jones (3 vol., 1953–57, abr. ed. 1974) and P. Gay (1988, repr. 2006) and of his early life by A. Phillips (2014); studies by F. Cioffi (1973 and 1998), P. Roazen (1975), F. J. Sulloway (1979), H. Lewis (2 vol., 1981–83), S. Schneiderman (1987), O. Olson and S. Koppe (1988), J. Kerr (1993), I. Gubrich-Simitis (1993, tr. 1997), L. Breger (2000), A. I. Tauber (2010), H. Markel (2011), M. Borch-Jacobsen and S. Shamdasani (2012), and F. Crews (2017).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Freud, Sigmund


Born May 6, 1856, in Freiberg, Austria-Hungary, now Příbor, Czechoslovakia; died Sept. 23, 1939, in Hampstead, near London. Austrian neuropathologist, psychiatrist, and psychologist. Founder of psychoanalysis.

Freud studied medicine at the University of Vienna, where he received his M. D. in 1881. From 1876 to 1882 he worked under E. Brücke in the Vienna Institute of Physiology; there Freud became acquainted with the ideas of H. von Helmholtz, whose views on energy he later applied to psychology. In 1885–86, Freud worked under J. Charcot in the Salpětrière Hospital in Paris. He was a professor at the University of Vienna from 1902. In 1908, together with E. Bleuler and C. G. Jung, Freud founded a yearbook of psychoanalytical and psychopathological research, and in 1910 he founded the International Psychoanalytical Association. He was awarded the Goethe Prize in 1930. After fascist Germany’s seizure of Austria in 1938, Freud emigrated to Great Britain.

Freud’s early works were devoted to the aphasias (1891), infantile paralysis (1891–97), and the physiology and anatomy of the brain, including the localization of brain functions. He was one of the first to discover, in 1884, the pain-relieving effect of cocaine; this discovery stimulated research on the use of local anesthesia—as applied, for example, by the Viennese ophthalmologist C. Keller. In the early 1890’s, under the influence of the French school of psychotherapy (Charcot and Bernheim), Freud began to study the neuroses—and especially hysteria—as diseases that had no apparent organic substratum. He also studied psychiatric treatment methods and their psychological bases. Together with J. Breuer, Freud studied the psychological mechanisms of hysteria, and he proposed the cathartic method of psychotherapy, based on abreaction—that is, the release of unconscious traumatic experiences under hypnosis.

In 1895, Freud began to work on the treatment of neuroses by the psychoanalytic method, based on the technique of free association and the analysis of errors and dreams as a way of penetrating into the unconscious. Freud was among the first to investigate the psychological aspects of sexuality. He viewed sexual development as consisting of several qualitatively different stages, each being the potential source of unconscious conflicts that are manifested in such forms as neuroses or perversions. According to Freud’s general theory of psychology, proposed by him in the early 1900’s, the structure of the psyche may be compared to an energy system; underlying this system is the conflict between different psychic levels—primarily between consciousness and the elemental unconscious drives.

In a mistaken attempt to broaden the sphere of application of psychoanalysis, Freud sought to extend its principles to such areas of human culture as mythology (Totem and Taboo, 1913; Russian translation, 1923), folklore, and the creative arts; he even explained religion as a special form of collective neurosis (The Future of an Illusion, 1927; Russian translation, 1930). Freud’s views, considered in their overall ideological development, evolved from “physiological materialism” and the mechanism of the Helmholtz school to the assertion of psychic autonomy and to anthropological constructs that are akin to naturalistic variants of the philosophy of life. The influence of Freud’s ideas ranges over a very broad spectrum of thought in bourgeois philosophy and sociology.


Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1–18. Stuttgart, 1966–69.
In Russian translation:
Psikhopatologiia obydennoi zhizni. Moscow, 1910.
Tri stat’i o teorii polovogo vlecheniia. Moscow, 1911.
Tolkovaniesnovidenii. Moscow, 1913.
Lektsiipo vvedeniiu v psikhoanaliz, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1922.
Osnovnye psikhologicheskie teorii v psikhoanalize. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Ocherki po psikhologii seksual’nosti. Moscow-Petrograd [no date].
Ostroumie i ego otnoshenie k bessoznatel’nomu. Moscow, 1925.
Izbrannoe, vol. 1. London, 1969.


Wittels, F. Freid: Ego lichnost’, uchenie i shkola. Leningrad, 1925. (Translated from German.)
Zweig, S. Sobr. soch., vol. 11. Leningrad, 1932.
Wells, H. K. Pavlov i Freid. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Jones, E. The Life and Works of Sigmund Freud, vols. 1–3. New York, 1953–57.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Enlarge picture
Honored in this Austrian stamp, Sigmund Freud put forth many innovative theories about the importance of dreams and how they may be analyzed to alleviate mental and emotional distress.

Freud, Sigmund


Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was the founder of psychoanalysis and one of the great thinkers of this century. As a practicing medical doctor, Freud became interested in the role of the mind in disease. Partially as a result of his work with patients afflicted with hysteria (a psychosomatic illness), as well as his training in hypnosis under the brilliant French neurologist J. Martin Charcot, Freud was led to specialize in psychological disturbances. His early theorizing about the sexual origins of mental illness was scandalous to contemporaneous polite society, and it was many years before he was able to convince his medical colleagues of the truth of his basic discoveries. Although few, if any, current analysts adhere to “orthodox” Freudianism, certain fundamental Freudian notions, such as the idea that we are influenced by unconscious motivations, are widely accepted among psychotherapists.

Freud’s theory of human nature (what contemporary psychologists would call Freud’s personality theory) presents a highly uncomplimentary picture of the human being. Basically selfish animals driven by aggressive urges and the desire for pleasure, people learn how to repress their animal impulses as they grow up in order to get along in society. They never, however, completely conquer their primitive selves. Freud called this animal self, which constitutes the core of the psyche, the id. The other aspects of the psyche, the ego and the superego, are later developments that arise from the need to survive and to adapt to the surrounding social environment. The ego is the rational, reasoning part of the psyche that undertakes the task of adjusting our inner urges to the demands and restrictions of the surrounding environment. The superego represents the internalized mores of society and tells us what is right and wrong.

The superego is frequently in conflict with the id. The demands of external reality (an ego function) also tend to conflict with certain id drives. Thus, in Freud’s theory of human nature, the psyche is a kind of battleground in which the various components of the personality are engaged in an ongoing struggle. At the core of conflicts that lead to mental illness is often a denial of urges that people regard as unacceptable and that they do not wish to admit are a part of themselves. One might, for instance, wish to have intercourse with the parent of the opposite sex (termed Oedipus complex; in women, also termed Electra complex). This desire, however, is so beyond the bounds of what our society regards as proper that we repress our awareness of the urge and it remains unconscious. Mental illness comes about when such desires become too strong to deal with through the normal coping process.

Freudian therapy involves discovery of the repressed urges causing dysfunction. Once patients are confronted with their real desires and accept them as part of themselves, a cure is effected because the psyche no longer need go to extraordinary lengths to hide the “terrible truth” from the conscious mind. Freud initially hoped that hypnosis would be a useful tool for accessing the unconscious, but soon gave that technique up in favor of free association.

He also came to believe that the analysis of dreams was a powerful avenue for uncovering repressed desires, even referring to dreams as “the royal road” to the unconscious. Freud’s principal work on this subject, The Interpretation of Dreams, was first published in 1900 and went through eight editions in his lifetime. At one point he wrote that The Interpretation of Dreams “contains even according to my present day judgment the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my good fortune to make. Insights such as this fall to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.” Despite many minor revisions, his basic theory of dreams remained remarkably constant after its initial formulation.

In Freud’s view, the purpose of dreams is to allow us to satisfy in fantasies the instinctual urges that society judges unacceptable. So that we do not awaken as a result of the strong emotions that would be evoked if we dreamed about the literal fulfillment of such desires, the part of the mind that Freud called the censor transforms the dream content so as to disguise its true meaning. Freud called the censorship process the dreamwork. Freud explicitly identified five processes brought into play during dreamwork: displacement, condensation, symbolization, projection, and secondary revision.

After undergoing one or more of the dreamwork process, the secondary processes of the ego reorganize the otherwise bizarre components of a dream so that it has a comprehensible surface meaning, called the manifest dream. The process of dream interpretation in psychoanalysis involves “decoding” the manifest dream content to discover the real, hidden meaning of the dream, called the latent dream.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.