Sigmund Freud: the man who lived behind the myth.
Sigmund Freud is one of the historical figures who has contributed the most with his discoveries to the advancement of science in general and psychology in particular. No one can doubt his worth and his discoveries. But I do not want here, nor do I feel authoritative, to speak of his extensive work. I prefer to focus on the man who lived behind the myth.
I do not want to expose what the publication of a book like “The Interpretation of Dreams” meant in its day. I must not value descriptions of the structure of the psychic apparatus, nor the importance of the unconscious. It would be foolhardy to judge the discovery of infantile sexuality, which shocked the Victorian society of its time.
No, I don’t want to talk about what almost everyone knows. I want to focus on the human being, on his strengths and weaknesses. I prefer to talk about his daily routines and his anecdotes: about the man who lived behind the myth.
Under the sign of Taurus.
Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, (under the zodiac sign of Taurus, for astrology lovers), in the small town of Freiberg, in Moravia in the year 1856.
He was born into a Jewish family. He was the first child of his mother, Amalia, 21 years old. She had married Jacob Freud, twenty years her senior. Jacob was the father of two children, the fruit of a previous marriage: Emmanuel and Philipp.
The older stepbrother was the same age as his mother and in turn had a son. The family situation was at least peculiar: Freud had a nephew who was older than him. After Sigmund his parents had a second son named Julius.
Years later, in a letter to a friend, Freud acknowledged his jealousy towards his little brother. Freud said that he had “bad feelings” towards his new little brother from the moment he was born. Julius died at nine months of age, causing a strong emotional impact on Freud. His death produced feelings of guilt and strong remorse. Shortly after Anna his first sister was born.
Childhood in Vienna
His father’s business, a wool merchant, went bankrupt. The family decided to move, first to Leipzig and later to Vienna, when Freud was just 3 years old. Vienna was then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There he would spend his entire life until in 1938, after the German invasion, he moved to London.
In Vienna they lived in a poor neighborhood, inhabited mostly by migrant Jews. Although the family was Jewish, he lived his childhood and youth without any special attachment to religion. Freud practiced Jewish customs, but considers himself “unbeliever.”
The father’s business never prospered. The family lived, going through considerable economic hardships, which were further accentuated with the birth of five siblings. Four girls and a new little brother. His mother, Amalia, lived completely devoted to her family. She largely took care of the education of Sigmund, her favorite son.
Admiration for Cervantes.
At the age of 15 and after reading Cervantes’s work, he began, together with his close friend Eduard Silberstein, to learn Spanish. He did it to be able to enjoy the work of the author of “Don Quixote” in its original language. He came to adopt, in his recreational activities, the pseudonym of Cipion. This nickname was taken from the Cervantine work “The colloquium of the dogs.”
At age 16 and after a trip to Freiberg, his hometown, he fell in love with a young woman, Gisela. Unfortunately, Fred was very shy and never confessed his love to her.
Sigmund Freud: Youth and Study.
At the age of 17, he finished his secondary studies with very good marks. It should be said in this regard that the family’s financial difficulties and the long periods of unemployment of his father, sharpened his sense of responsibility. Sigmund struggled to take advantage of the opportunity his family gave him to study.
With the doubt of whether to study Law or Medicine, in the end he decided on the second option. In 1873 he entered the Faculty of Medicine, where he studied. He got a good academic record, but without any particular brilliance.
He was very clear that he was not going to dedicate himself to practicing medicine. Rather, he intended to apply himself to research. For this purpose, he alternated his medical studies with research work in the laboratory of the specialist in physiology Ernst Brücke.
Many of these experiments were on the anatomy of the human brain and the nervous system. He was trying to find an answer to one of his youthful doubts: to understand the behavior of human beings.
Doctor in medicine.
At the age of 25 he graduated as a doctor of medicine. He ended three years late and the firm decision to dedicate himself to research. All this, despite the fact that their economic situation was not good. On more than one occasion, he had to receive help from his friend the doctor Josef Breuer. This help was not only economic but also moral, because at this time, Freud fell madly in love with a Viennese girl.
One day when he got home, he found his sister Anna with one of her best friends. It was about Martha Bernays, daughter of a family of Jewish intellectuals. The crush was instantaneous. He fell in love with her and wanted to get married but his financial situation was not ideal to think about a wedding.
Martha’s mother tried to avoid marriage to a doctor in such a dire financial situation. To do this, he took his daughter to spend the summer at the home of distant relatives. The young Freud had to resort to all his cunning to be able to communicate with his girlfriend. To achieve this, he devised a complicated letter messaging system.
Tired of receiving help from his friend Breuer, disappointed by the poor viability of his research in Brücke’s laboratory and eager to start a family, he decided to dedicate himself, without any illusion, to the practice of Medicine. In 1882 he began to work at the Vienna General Hospital.
Sigmund Freud and Cocaine.
At this time he was commissioned to carry out a work on cocaine. Freud, eager to progress and acquire a reputation that would allow him to make his way as a doctor in Viennese society, was reckless in experiencing the effects of cocaine firsthand.
Although much has been said about the subject, especially by his detractors, Freud did not become a drug addict, but it is true that he tried, with cocaine, to cure his friend Von Fleischl.
He was addicted to morphine and the result that Freud obtained was that of a new addiction of his friend, who ended up dying. After this episode, his reputation as a doctor was damaged in Vienna medical circles.
During this time (1884) he published “On Coca” one of his best known articles on this drug, where he describes the use of cocaine as a local anesthetic. Some prestigious specialists of the time echoed these experiments and achieved important advances in ophthalmological surgery, although, unfortunately for Freud, these colleagues omitted his name in the scientific publications of the time.
Sigmund Freud y Charcot.
In 1885 he began to work as a teacher at the Faculty of Medicine in Vienna, obtained a scholarship and traveled to France, where he spent five months at the Hospital de la Salpêtriere in Paris, with Charcot, a famous French neurologist. There he was able to observe hysterical phenomena and the use of hypnosis and suggestion as their treatment.
In 1886 he finally married Martha Bernays and eighteen months later his first daughter, Mathilda, was born. The economic situation was delicate, but the marriage and the birth of her daughter gave her the strength to carry on.
He decided to open a private practice where he treated nervous disorders, using hypnosis in hysterical patients, obtaining surprising results.
The children of Freud.
Freud had a happy married life and after the birth of Mathilda, he had five more children: Sophie, Jean Martin, Ernst, Oliver and Anna.
The latter was a famous psychoanalyst specializing in the treatment of children. On the other hand, he maintained a close relationship with his mother, and it was a deeply rooted family custom, that Amalia, his mother, even when she was very old, would gather the whole family, children and grandchildren for a Sunday meal.
Freud’s health suffered an ups and downs and from 1882, according to his GP, he suffered from paroxysmal tachycardias and a picture compatible with angina pectoris, which is why he tried on several occasions, always without success, to stop smoking. Before these heart ailments, his only known illnesses were severe headaches.
Sigmund Freud the father of psychoanalysis.
Sigmund Freud’s work is very broad. His first book, which was widely distributed, was “Studies on Hysteria.”
Studies on hysteria.
In 1895 his book ” Studies on hysteria ” was published with the collaboration of his friend Breuer, a supporter of hypnosis, which Freud had gradually abandoned, to replace the method of free association.
In the end his paths parted somewhat abruptly, and for some time he worked alone, despised by doctors, mainly due to Freud’s theories on infantile sexuality.
The interpretation of dreams.
In 1899 he published ” The Interpretation of Dreams ” his main work laying the foundations of what would be the psychoanalytic doctrine. In 1902 he was appointed Extraordinary Professor by his Imperial Majesty.
The second of his most important works is published in 1905: ” Three contributions to sexual theory .” In 1908 the First Psychoanalytic Congress was held in Salzburg, with Jung’s participation.
In 1909 he was recognized as a doctor “honoris causa” by Clark University in Massachusetts, and psychoanalysis began to spread in the United States much more rapidly than in Europe.
From here on his activity is incessant, the psychoanalytic movement advanced unstoppably, the first splits appeared among his disciples, but Freud did not stop publishing at any time.
The me and the id.
In 1923 he published another of his fundamental works ” The I and the Id “, but at the same time it was a particularly bitter year: He was diagnosed with cancer of the palate , perhaps due to his great love of cigars, and underwent surgery.
This was the first of 33 operations that followed. He did not regain health until his death in London in 1939, although despite illness and pain, his mind was clear and his intellectual activity did not decline at any time.
In spite of everything, he never stopped smoking. Freud’s ailments at this time were tremendous, with tube feeding, removal of the soft palate, a prosthesis to separate the mouth from the nasal cavity, and endless hardships that could not prevent the final outcome.
At the age of 95 his mother, Amalia, passed away, which was a hard blow for Freud, although in a way a liberation, because he feared he would die before his mother, due to the cancer he suffered, and he did not want her to have to go through it. terrible pain of burying a child.
Flight to London and death.
In 1930, the German people awarded him the highest literary award: The Goethe Prize. But this recognition of his work was overshadowed in 1933 with the arrival of Hitler to power and the burning of his books in Berlin.
Faced with that act of barbarism, Freud commented:
“The progress of the human race is undoubted. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me, now they only burn my books ”.
In 1938, after the invasion of Austria by the Germans, due to his Jewish origin, he was heavily persecuted. His son Martin and his daughter Anna were arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. Thanks to the intervention of Marie Bonaparte and her friend Ernest Jones, Freud and his family managed to flee from the Nazis and leave Vienna.
After a brief stop in Paris, they arrived in England. Four of his sisters died years later in the death camps. In England he had to undergo surgery again and from then on it gradually became exhausted.
In his last days and with the little strength he had left, he published his latest work: ” Moses and the monotheistic religion .” On September 23, 1939, a few hours before his death, he forced his GP to fulfill the promise he had made, to give him a dignified death with sedation, and after three injections of morphine he died .
He was cremated in a lay crematorium in London, where his ashes lie alongside those of his wife Martha.
Anecdotes from Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis.
There are many anecdotes about the father of psychoanalysis. As in many other celebrities, some of them are blamed undeservedly. However, these two that we are going to refer to, seem to be true and occurred to Sigmund Freud.
A cigar is just a cigar.
As a result of the interpretation of symbols and especially the publication of his most famous work, “The Interpretation of Dreams”, it was quite common for Freud’s acquaintances to try to show off their knowledge in their presence. They did not hesitate to resort to interpretations, generally of a sexual nature, to attract the attention of the Austrian.
After a pleasant lecture, Freud chatted amiably with a few journalists. One of them couldn’t stop watching him smoke. He did not take his eyes off the huge cigar that Freud raised to his lips.
You didn’t have to be a genius to realize that the journalist was about to make a comment, of a sexual nature, about the symbolic or phallic nature of the cigar. Freud, who had already realized his attitude, anticipated him with these words:
“Dear Friend. In life, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar ”.
One autumn afternoon, Freud was treating a man with distinguished features in his office at 19 Bergasse Street in Vienna. He had been referred, quite urgently, for suffering from a severe depression.
After a long talk, Freud realized the seriousness of the picture and tried to warn his patient about it. He told her that her condition was quite serious and that no obvious improvement was to be expected in the short term.
– “The treatment can take years of therapy” – he said.
The patient appeared to be disappointed. Realizing this, Freud told him with the intention of encouraging him:
– “Psychoanalysis takes a long time, but if you want to feel much better, more animated and even laugh out loud, I recommend the show, which these days, the great clown Grimaldi represents in Vienna. Go and have fun. You will surely like it ”.
The patient, looking even more taciturn, replied:
– “I’m sorry, I can’t do what you ask me to do.”
Surprised, Freud asked him what the cause was. The man, very serious, replied:
– “I am the clown Grimaldi.”
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.