A Slice of Sigmund Freud Biography - The Wizard of Dreams


If the first laws and proclamations of ethics--the code of Hammurabi and the edicts of Asoka--have been attempts to hone, harness, subdue, and domesticate emotional life, Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), the plumber of the human mind, thought of society as composed of rules from within.

Of rules meant to pin down the tides of emotional excess that flow too freely from within. This article is a tribute, published on Freud's 150th birth anniversary which is a slice of Sigmund Freud biography.

The life of Sigmund Freud began when he was born in Freiberg, Moravia, on May 6th, 1856.

A frail kid, Freud was a bright student--a child with endless curiosity.

Life of Sigmund FreudNot much is known of Freud's early life, as he twice burned his personal papers. Besides this, his later papers were strictly "embargoed" in the Sigmund Freud Archives. Some were only made available to Ernest Jones, his official biographer, and select members of the interior loop of psychoanalysis.

Freud went to medical school, and graduated with relative ease. However, side-by-side with his learning, Freud had a fondness for the unexplained, from his formative years. He dwelled on his own eclectic research activity, which may not have appealed to the purists.

Small wonder that he soon came under the influence of the famous French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot (November 29th, 1825 - August 16th, 1893)--and, the rest was destiny. Freud learned hypnosis under Charcot--an interest he was to give up later.

Freud first set up his practice in Vienna, and it was here that he spent his decisive years in exploring the human mind--an activity that was to make him famous.

He first used the term psychoanalysis in 1896.

Sigmund Freud theories include a theory of the human mind and human behavior, and clinical techniques for attempting to help irrational (neurotic) patients. Most experts today maintain to have been enthused by one, not the other.

However, the most significant contribution Freud has made to modern thought is his idea of the unconscious. His model of the unconscious was groundbreaking, in a world dominated by positivism. Freud proposed that awareness existed in layers and there were thoughts occurring "below the surface." Dreams, he explained were the "royal road to the unconscious." In his seminal work, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Freud developed the argument that the unconscious exists, and described a method for acquiring admission to its deepest recesses.

It was, however, his psychoanalytic structure, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), which alienated him from the mainstream of contemporary psychiatry, and his two loyal disciples: Alfred Adler and Carl Jung.

Adler went on to develop his own psychology, which emphasized on the belligerence with which people deficient in some quality ("inferiority complex"), convey their unhappiness by "staging." Freud did not lament losing Adler; but, not Jung. Freud and Jung were close for several years, but Jung's aspirations, and his emergent liking for religion and mysticism--at, long last, pushed them apart.

Freud, the Wizard of Dreams, nevertheless, went on with his opus, liked or not liked. He thought of society as composed of rules from within. Of rules meant to subdue the tides of emotional excess that surge too freely within. He also believed that contentment arises from attuning one's life with one's true feelings.

A "plumber of the unconscious," Freud not only focused on the vitality of self-awareness as being fundamental to psychological insight, but he also thought of the emotional brain as being full of symbolic meaning--the interaction of metaphors, stories, myths, and the arts.

Freud strongly believed that dreams also represented the unconscious trying to express itself consciously.

Interestingly, Freud's antipathy towards religion was, in many ways, legendary, albeit he often referred to the experience of nirvana as the "awful depths" of Eastern thought in metrical terms. However, his perspective, arguably, leaves too little space for descriptions that show the positive contributions of spirituality in child development. What's more, new research has clearly demonstrated children's capacity for profound religious thought. But, this does not digress from Freud's major contribution with his celebrated theory of conscience: of how it is formed out of primitive fears, which is also proximate with his brilliant analyses of the human instinct, and the concept of character, or the self--from infancy to maturity.

What makes Freud's work unique is the reader finds himself/herself in the world of dreams. Of the existence of dreams for the importance and sense of it, including the elements of "wish-fulfillment" brought through an objective of realization, or reduplication, of what Freud called dream work.

In its totality, during the life of Sigmund Freud his study of dreams also led him directly into the practical applications of psychoanalysis as a tool for neuroses. It elevated his insight to unlock the difficulties and perplexities of the hidden side of human nature--a clear path into what makes the unconscious mental life a subject to the action of the mechanisms which are not explicable by the means at hand, or ordinary rationalized thinking. His expansive experiments, needless to say, also balanced the domain that went beyond all negations of the unconscious. It also set the ball rolling, while beginning to read Freud's own emerging conception of the psyche into a more elementary, psychological concern.

With his introduction of the id, the superego, and their problem child, the ego, Freud also advanced scientific comprehension of the mind infinitely. In so doing, he ripped "open" motivations that are normally imperceptible to our consciousness. While there's no question that his own prejudices and neuroses influenced his observations, Freud's psychological components are less consequential than his "paradigm shift" as a whole. Sigmund Freud theories show he went overboard with some, and manipulated them, is part of history; it is also ironical that his path-breaking work on sexuality also catapulted the outstanding ability in him to embark on his controversial walk.

With today's technology, the efficacy of Freudian Analysis remains a topic of disagreement, though the likelihood of integrating psychoanalysis and drug therapy is gaining some ground.

All the same, Freud "meditated" upon others' minds as much as he did his own. This was a huge advance.

He also believed it was conceivable to lay bare the content of the unconscious if one paid attention to such normal behaviors as jokes, slips of the tongue, free associations and--most importantly, and certainly--dreams.

Convinced of their import, Freud is also reported to have quipped that a marble tablet, on his home, would one day read: "Here, on July 24th, 1895, the secret of the dream revealed itself to Dr Sigmund Freud."

If dreams are made this way, in the life of Sigmund Freud he made his own. He peered deeply into his own psyche, and into that of all human beings.

This was his masterly achievement, and his genius.