While studying at the university, Freud joined the student union to study history, politics, and philosophy. However, natural sciences were of particular interest to him, the achievements of which made a real revolution in the minds in the middle of the last century, laying the foundation of modern knowledge about the body, about living nature (Flem, 2020). Unlike physical appliances, the organism is a product of the evolution of the entire human race and an individual’s life, and these principles extend to the psyche. The psyche was considered an energy resource of the individual and as the development of this personality, which has a memory of the history of humanity and its memory of its childhood (Flem, 2020). This is a kind of consciousness and awareness that a person belongs to the estate and is integral. Thus, Freud was brought up on such sciences as biology and physics.
He intended to become a professional researcher. Unfortunately, Brucke had no vacant place at the physiological Institute. And Freud’s financial situation worsened due to the upcoming wedding to Martha Verney, who was as poor as he was. Thus, the scientist had to give up science classes to improve his financial situation. There was only one way out – to become a practicing doctor, although he did not feel any attraction to this profession. Freud decided to go into private practice as a neurologist (Flem, 2020). He had to first go to work in a clinic to do this since he had no medical experience. In the clinic, Freud thoroughly masters the methods of diagnosis and treatment of children with brain damage (patients with infantile paralysis) and various speech disorders (aphasias) (Dawson, 2018). His publications about this become known in scientific and medical circles.
Freud acquired a reputation as a highly qualified neuropathologist. He treated his patients with the methods of physiotherapy accepted at that time. It was believed that since the nervous system is a material organ, then the painful changes that occur in it must have material causes (Lothane, 2018). Therefore, physical procedures should eliminate them, affecting the patient with heat, water, and electricity. However, soon, Freud began to feel dissatisfied with these physiotherapy procedures (Flem, 2020). The effectiveness of the treatment left much to be desired, and he thought about the possibility of applying other methods, in particular hypnosis, using which some doctors achieved good results. One of these successful practitioners was Joseph Breuer, who patronized the young Freud in everything.
Acquaintance with Josef Breuer and the Patient
At the end of 1882, Freud got acquainted with the story of Anna O., Breuer’s patient. This girl lost her father, after which she developed hysterical symptoms: paralysis of the limbs, impaired skin sensitivity, speech, and vision disorders. In addition, she had a split personality, and the transition from one personality to another was accompanied by self-hypnosis and stories about her daily life (Michael, 2019). During one of these conditions, she spoke in detail about how she had one of the symptoms.
When she returned to her normal state, it suddenly turned out that this symptom had disappeared. This event prompted Breuer to create a new treatment method, which he called cathartic. The scientist immersed the patient in a hypnotic state and asked him to tell with all the details about all the events accompanying the appearance of the symptom (Michael, 2019). The French School of Neuropathology had a wealth of clinical material and extraordinary successes in studying hypnosis and hysteria (Dawson, 2018). Nevertheless, in Vienna, these studies were met with rather skepticism. Therefore, Freud decides to go to Paris to learn with Charcot personally.
Charcot paid great attention to the fantasy world of the patient; he argued that the causes of hysteria are in the psyche, not in physiology. In one of his conversations with Freud, he notes that, in his opinion, the grounds of the neurotic’s illness lie in the peculiarities of his sexual life (Lothane, 2018). Compared with the observations of Freud, as well as with the special case of Anna O., these ideas lead him to the concept of the existence of a special sphere of the psyche (Michael, 2019). Moreover, it is hidden from consciousness but dramatically impacts our lives. Furthermore, this sphere consists mainly of sexual drives and desires, one way or another manifested during treatment.
Together with I. Breuer, Z. Freud continued to study hysteria and its treatment with the help of the cathartic method. In 1895, they published the book “Studies on Hysteria”, which for the first time talks about the relationship of the emergence of neurosis with unsatisfied drives and emotions displaced from consciousness. Freud is also occupied by another state of the human psyche, similar to the hypnotic one – dreaming (Dawson, 2018). In the same year, he reveals the basic formula of the mystery of dreams: each of them is the fulfillment of a wish. Developing his ideas, Freud concludes that the main force guiding all human actions, thoughts, and desires is the energy of libido, the power of sexual attraction.
The human unconscious is filled with this energy, and therefore it is in constant confrontation with consciousness – the embodiment of moral norms and moral principles. Thus, he comes to the description of the hierarchical structure of the psyche, consisting of three levels: consciousness, preconscious and unconscious (Dawson, 2018). The preconscious consists of those desires and thoughts that have been realized but repressed, and they can be quickly returned to the field of consciousness. The unconscious is constructed of natural forces and instincts, the awareness of which is complicated. In addition, Freud identifies three qualities of the psyche, three actors present in people, between whom there is a constant confrontation.
In the canonical works, written mainly by psychoanalysts – adherents of the ideas of classical psychoanalysis, we see, in the words of Freud, the concept of the development of a hero who managed to become the greatest mind of the XX century. Thanks to his intellect, independent thinking, love of truth, titanic work and fearlessness, he overcame the obstacles standing in his way. In addition, Freud overturned traditional ideas about man and culture, a true revolutionary in science, a liberator of mankind from various kinds of illusions, a man whose example of serving honesty, duty and truth deserves every imitation. The facts revealed in the course of this study suggest that the founder of psychoanalysis was very purposeful and observant. An interesting fact is that the development of the theory was influenced by events related to the patient. Such a case allowed Freud to gain more skills and knowledge about the topic of interest to him.
However, it should be noted that the facts presented here had only a partial impact. Many different theories and studies seek to identify the aspect that influenced the formation of Freud. Thus, a deeper analysis also requires consideration of the state of the relationship in Freud’s family, primarily through his childhood and youth. It is also necessary to consider the influence of his wife on the scientist, who by and primarily predetermined the development of Freud in the field of psychoanalysis. The letters show that Marta was deeply engaged in Freud’s emotional and professional development. However, this fact with the patient shows the formation of the scientist’s interest in researching human behavior and consciousness.
Dawson, M. (2018). Revisiting Freud as a social theorist – but which ‘Freud’? Sociology, 52(5), 1103–1109. Web.
Flem, L. (2020). Freud the man: An intellectual biography. Other Press.
Lothane, H. Z. (2018). Freud an intellectual biography, by Joel Whitebook. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 27(2), 129–131. Web.
Michael, M. T. (2019). The case for the Freud–Breuer theory of hysteria: A response to Grünbaum’s foundational objection to psychoanalysis. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100(1), 32–51. Web.