Sigmund Freud (Sigismund Schlomo Freud) was born to Jakob Freud and Amalia Nathansohn (Amalia Freud) May 6th 1856 in the Austrian empire (now Příbor, Czech Republic). He is considered to be the father of Psychoanalysis, and has influenced a number of Psychologists with his theories, and research.

Sigmund Freud

Most are able to recognize his main contributions as: coining the oedipal complex, developing the psychosexual stages of development theory, and dividing the mind into the conscious, unconscious, and preconcious. Later, Freud proposed an alternative to this model, which is the Id, Ego and Superego.

These contributions, important as they are, are not all Freud has contributed to the science. However, before we proceed further, I will give a brief overview of the divisions of the mind.

The mind can be divided into the unconscious, the area of the mind where things occur automatically, including our emotions, affects and motivation. This part of the mind is not available for introspection, and it is not readily accessible to us (Freud, S, 1949).

The conscious mind, can be understood as our current awareness.

The preconscious mind is an interesting concept. It is the part of the mind which contains unconscious thoughts that are readily accessible to us, with introspection (Freud, S, 1949).

Freud further divided the mind, again into three parts. These are the Id, Ego and Superego. The Id relates to our basic human needs, we are motivated by these basic needs which are unconscious and demand immediate satisfaction. The Ego is the part of our mind which attempts to balance between our Id (basic drives and needs) and the Superego, which is our internalized views from society and culture. These three concepts relate to three different principles. The Id relates to the pleasure principle, the Ego relates to the reality principle and the Superego relates to the morality principle (Freud, S, 1923). 

This concept of the mind laid the groundwork for Psychoanalysis. Freud believed that by way of using defence mechanisms to combat against neurotic thoughts or needs, we often repressed memories. These repressed memories or past events, would later manifest in neurotic behaviour or thought patterns. In order to deal with these behaviours and thought patterns, (either before they developed into neuroses or after), Freud developed Psychoanalysis, otherwise known as “Talk therapy” (Freud, S & Breuer, J, 1895).

Anna_O (1)
Anna O

Talk Therapy came to fruition after Freud worked alongside his colleague Josef Breuer in the treatment of Anna O. Anna O, (Bertha Pappenheim), was a patient of Breuer’s, who experienced a number of somatic symptoms due to her Hysteria. What Freud discovered was, by having the client talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis, the severity of these symptoms reduced. (The full case of Anna O is cited in “Studies on Hysteria” written by Freud and Breuer) (Freud, S & Breuer, J, 1895).

With this discovery, Freud was able to develop the most common form of therapy, Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is not simply the re-telling of past memories and events, it also includes methods of analysis, in order to understand the past experiences.

There are 3 main methods used throughout Psychoanalysis, these being: hypnosis, anamnesis and free association. Hypnosis is the most commonly understood concept. The patient is put into a hypnotic state, and asked to speak about their symptoms. He later discovered that it was more effective to encourage patients to talk freely, without inhibition, anything that came to their mind. This is known as free association (Jones, J). The final method is known as anamnesis (Jones, J), which is the recollection of memories and events that preceded the symptoms. By recalling these events, we may better understand the origin of the symptoms, and better deal with them.

Psychoanalysis is the analysis of the unconscious mind, it offers a way to understand what lies beneath. By understanding the unconscious mind, we may deal with the neuroses, and the somatic symptoms produced by said neuroses. 

Freud’s couch, Berggasse 19

Freud’s major and lasting contribution to Psychology, is of course, the development of Psychoanalysis, and its components. He did however, develop a number of important theories such as the oedipal complex, Psychosexual development stage theory, Interpretation of Dreams, Defence mechanisms and Life and Death Drives. 

His dreams theory is most closely related to Psychoanalysis, in that, it offers another form of analysis, another method of understanding the unconscious mind. In his “Interpretation of Dreams” (1900), Freud outlines the main ideas behind this theory. Freud believed that dreams are a form of “wish-fulfillment” attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict. During sleep, our mind is relaxed, and our Id-ego-superego are no longer combatting. This means that what would naturally be left repressed in our unconscious mind, comes to the surface. He states that due to the volatile nature of most unconscious thoughts, these thoughts present themselves in masked ways throughout our dreams. These are known as symbols, and these symbols may be assessed in order to gain a better understanding of what the dream could be representing. Each symbol is multifaceted, and has the possibility to mean more than one thing (Freud, S, 1900).

By assessing a patients dream, typically by having the patient explain the dream and free-associate about the dream, we may, again, gain a better understanding of the patients unconscious.

Freuds’ contributions to Psychology have not gone unnoticed, and must be appreciated when considering how advanced we are today in our knowledge. His contributions, and empathic teaching style influenced many, although those many also tended to disagree with him in some regard or another. His most notable descendants have been Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and G. Stanley Hall. 

Further reading:

  • 1891 On Aphasia
  • 1895 Studies on Hysteria (co-authored with Josef Breuer)
  • 1900 The Interpretation of Dreams
  • 1904 The Psychopathology of Everyday Life
  • 1905 Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious
  • 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
  • 1910 Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis
  • 1915–17 Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis
  • 1920 Beyond the Pleasure Principle
  • 1923 The Ego and the Id
  • 1926 The Question of Lay Analysis
  • 1930 Civilization and Its Discontents
  • 1933 New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis
  • 1949 An Outline of Psycho-Analysis


Freud, S. (1950). The Ego and the Id. (Joan Riviere, Trans.). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1923).

Freud, S. (1949). An Outline of Psych-Analysis. (James Strachey, Trans.). New York, NY: W.W Norton & Company. (Original work published 1940).

Freud, S & Breuer, J. (1955). Studies on Hysteria. (James Strachey, Trans).London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published in 1895).

Freud, S. (1955). The Interpretation of Dreams. (James Strachey, Trans.). New York, NY: Basic Books. (Original work published in 1900).

Jones, J. (n.d). Anamnesis in Psychoanalysis. Retrieved from

Jones, J. (n.d). About the Free Associations Method. Retrieved from



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