Major Theories of Sigmund Freud

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is often credited as the creator of psychoanalysis. Freud devised an array of talk−based therapeutic procedures that included concepts like attachment, individual liberty, and dream interpretation. During the early days of psychology, psychoanalysis emerged and continues to have a major impact on the field. Freudian slips, the subconscious, desire fulfilment, and self-importance are all terms borrowed from Freud and are now commonplace in popular culture as well as in the jargon of psychologists.

Who was Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud spent most of his life in Vienna, having moved there from Frieberg, Moravia, when he was a child. His parents homeschooled him until he was old enough to attend Spurling Gymnasium, wherein he excelled academically and finished at the top of his class with a summa cum laude. Freud earned his medical degree from the University of Austria and established himself as a respected practitioner. While studying under the renowned French physician Jean-Martin Charcot, Freud developed a deep interest in the mental illness of hysteria. Freud's mentor, Dr. Josef Breuer, and his companion, Anna O., who went by the name Bertha Pappenheim, exposed him to the study case later. Her physical manifestations were a nervous cough, numbness in her hands, and paralysis. During her time in therapy, the lady remembered several traumatic events that Freud and Breuer felt had played a role in her condition. The two doctors determined that Anna O's problems did not have a physical basis but that talking about them helped alleviate her symptoms. Breuer and Freud authored the submitted Assignments in Hysteria in 1896. In her writings, Bertha Pappenheim called her therapy "the talking cure."

What are the Theories Published by Sigmund Freud?

Unconscious Mind

Freud created a "topographical model" of the mind, in which he detailed the anatomy and operations of the mind. Freud used an iceberg to illustrate the mind's three layers. The ideas now at the forefront of our minds make up awareness, which is the visible part of the iceberg. Everything that can be recovered from memory is part of the preconscious. The unconscious is the third and also most crucial area. The mechanisms responsible for most observed behaviors may be found here. The unseen but crucial portion of your mind is analogous to the iceberg. The preconscious mind functions as a mediator between the unconscious and the conscious mind, keeping the unconscious mind's "cauldron" of primal desires and impulses at bay.


The id, ego, and superego make up Freud's later, more structured model of the mind. These are not actual brain regions but abstract representations of crucial cognitive processes. Traditionally, the human psyche has been broken down into the id, mind, and superego. Freud thought the id was driven by the pleasure principle on some deep, unconscious level. Freud classified these tendencies as Eros and Thanatos, which are part of the id. Eros, sometimes known as the "life instinct," is crucial to an individual's survival since it controls vital functions like breathing, eating, and interacting sexually. Libido is the vitality generated by the drives of life. Thanatos, often known as the "death instinct," is seen as a collection of negative tendencies that are inherent to every person. Aggression and violence result when these feelings are projected onto other people. To Freud, Eros triumphs over Thanatos, allowing for survival rather than suicide.

Psychosexual Stage

Particularly women in Freud's severely oppressive "Victorian" society had to control their sexual desires. Because of this, many people develop neurotic illnesses. By investigating his patients' sexual pasts, Freud hoped to learn more about the causes and manifestations of his patients' diseases. This was not meant to be a study of sexual encounters per se. Much more crucial were the patient's hopes and dreams, feelings of love, hatred, humiliation, guilt, and fear, and how they dealt with them. That prompted Freud to establish his concept of psychosexual stages and the Oedipus complex, which has caused the greatest controversy. According to Freud, everyone is born with libido or sexual drive. As a kid develops, he or she goes through many phases in which he or she looks for satisfaction in various things.

Dream Analysis

Because the ego's defenses are decreased while dreaming, allowing some of the suppressed information to filter through to consciousness, although distorted, Freud viewed nightmares as the royal way to the unconscious. Dreams serve essential purposes for the subconscious mind and provide useful insights into the workings of the subconscious. In 1895, Freud experienced a dream that would later serve as the inspiration for his theory. His concerns cantered on a patient named Irma, who was not responding to therapy as effectively as he had planned. Freud felt responsible for this and sorry about it. Dreamwork is the process of turning a hidden longing into a reality. The goal of excellent work is to reframe the taboo desire as something harmless so that we can relax and go back to sleep. Condensing information, moving it around, and refining it in a second iteration are all part of the dreamwork process. Condensation is merging several concepts or mental pictures into one cohesive whole.


No matter how his views are viewed now, Sigmund Freud’s thoughts and theories had a significant effect on the area of psychology. His research supported the most of his theories that cultural variations might affect psychological functioning.

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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