Sigmund Freud was the first major social scientist to propose a unified theory to understand and explain human behavior. No theory that has followed has been more complete, more complex, or more controversial. Some psychologists treat Freud's writings as a sacred text - if Freud said it, it must be true. On the other hand, many have accused Freud of being unscientific, proposing theories that are too complex ever to be proved true or false. He revolutionized ideas on how the human mind works and the theory that unconscious motives control much behavior. “He applied himself to a new field of study…and struggled with an environment whose rejection of his work endangered his livelihood and that of his family” (Freud 3). His work greatly improved the fields of psychiatry and psychology and helped millions of mentally ill patients.
Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856, in Freiberg,
Moravia, a region now in the Czech Republic. His father was a wool merchant and was forty when he had Sigmund, the oldest of eight children (Gay 78). When Freud turned four, his family moved to Vienna, Austria. After graduating from the Spree Gymnasium, Freud was inspired by an essay written by Goethe on nature, to make medicine as his career. After graduating from the medical school of the University of Vienna in 1881, Freud decided to specialize in neurology, the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system (Gay 79).
In 1885, Freud went to Paris to study under Jean Martin Charcot, a famous neurologist. Charcot was working with patients who suffered from a mental illness called hysteria. Some of these people appeared to be blind or paralyzed, but they actually had no physical defects. Charcot found that their physical symptoms could be relieved through hypnosis (Garcia 209). Freud returned to Vienna in 1886 and began to work extensively with hysterical patients. While discussing the case history of one patient, Freud said, “In the study of hysteria, local diagnosis and electrical reactions do not come into picture, while an exhaustive account of mental processes, of the kind we were accustomed to having from imaginative writers, enables me, by the application of a few psychological formulas, to obtain a kind of insight into the origin of a hysteria” (Freud 15).
He gradually formed ideas about the origin and treatment of mental illness. He used the term psychoanalysis for both his theories and methods of treatment. When his ideas were first presented in the 1890's, other physicians reacted with hostility. But Freud eventually attracted followers, and by 1910 he had gained international recognition. During the next ten years, Freud's reputation continued to grow, with the exception of two of his earliest followers and close friends, Alfred Alder and Carl Jung (Garcia 132). This is because they were developing their own theories of psychology and personnel conflicts were getting in the way. Freud was always changing and modifying his...