Sigmund Freud had an enormous impact on the world – having made contributions to several fields of study, including philosophy, psychology and sciences among others. His various theories helped shape mental health treatment, and it continues to have an impact decades later.
Freud was born in 1856, and eventually passed away in 1939. In this article, we chart his contributions to mental health, with further articles available within each section.
- Psychoanalysis was Freud’s biggest contribution to psychology. It refers to a wide body of theories that detailed Freud’s overall philosophy towards the mind and personality.
- Psychoanalysis is also different to other talking therapies in various ways
- Freud’s theory on psychoanalytic theory differed to Carl Jung’s
- In fact, there are a few specific differences between Freud and Jung
- Freud made significant contributions to the study of Defence Mechanisms – which is a mental process that a person does unconsciously to avoid experiencing conflict or anxiety
Life and Death Instincts
- Freud believed that humans had two instincts – the “life” and “death” instincts. The life instinct, better known as Eros, relate to the basic needs of a human, including survival, reproduction and love. Meanwhile the death instinct, also known as Thanatos, considered that the goal of all life was death. But instead of channelling death instincts internally, people push these instincts externally, so that they won’t affect themselves
Freud’s Theory of the Mind: The Id, the Ego, and the Superego
- Freud had a well-known theory on personality – which involved his concept of the id, ego and superego. His theory suggested that three components of personality existed – the id, the ego and the superego. He likened personality to an iceberg; an individual can only see a small piece of personality (i.e. the tip of the iceberg above the water), with most hidden away from view (like the iceberg). The tip of the iceberg refers to what a person is aware of, and the forefront of the mind. But under the water, there is an unconscious mind – where hidden thoughts, memories, feelings and desires are present.
- The Id is the component of personality that controls urges, needs and desires. The id is always looking for pleasure – regardless of the circumstances.
- The ego has the task of organising our thoughts to make our mind process learning in a coherent fashion. It tries to balance the id and the superego, and think about the consequences of each action.
- The superego is seen as a person’s conscience – and will try to judge the desires of the id, and subsequently overwhelm any urges that are seen as bad. The superego is arguably the sensible part of the mind, and attempts to ensure a person acts in a way congruent with societal and cultural norms.
- There are also two parts of the superego – the ego ideal and the conscience.
Freud’s Theory of the Mind: The Conscious, Preconscious and Unconscious Minds
- Another of Freud’s highly renowned theories was based on the human mind. He suggested that the mind consisted of the Unconscious mind, the Preconscious mind and the Conscious Mind. Freud suggested these three distinct forces interact with the aforementioned ego, superego and id.
- The Unconscious Mind is made up of a range of feelings, thoughts and memories. Most of these feelings and memories are negative – they may be past traumas, fears of conflict, or general painful feelings. Freud suggests that these areas in the unconscious mind continue to have an influence on the day-to-day life of a person. Despite this, a person isn’t aware of the influence of the unconscious mind – as it is outside of their awareness.
- The Conscious Mind refers to the mind we know about. We think, we analyse, we decide a course of action. These are all things the conscious mind does. However, Freudian theory posits that outside of the conscious awareness lies the unconscious mind.
- The Preconscious Mind is made up of anything that may potentially be brought into the conscious mind, but isn’t actively thought of. An example is a person’s pin number – they won’t be thinking about it all of the time, but when needed, they will think about it.
- There are several differences between the conscious and preconscious minds and the conscious and unconscious minds.
- Freud suggested that it is important to uncover the contents of the unconscious mind to help treat someone for psychological distress. He had various techniques to get unconscious thoughts to become conscious.
- We have an overview of these techniques. These techniques include:
Wider Psychology Field
- Freud spearheaded the belief that talking therapy could help in treating mental distress. Talking therapy has gone on to become a major part of mental health treatment. Freud’s theory on talking therapy was helped by the Case of “Anna O” – something that changed psychology forever.
- Another case Freud worked on involved a woman given the pseudonym Dora, which involved Dream Analysis.
- Freud left behind a remarkable legacy on multiple disciplines
- Freud also has some interesting facts too!
As seen in this article, Freud certainly made a big impact on mental health and the wider field of psychology. His theories have reached far and wide!
We have a huge range of articles on Freud. You can read more by seeing our list of articles about Freud here.
- Overview of Sigmund Freud and His Theories
- 8 Interesting Facts About Sigmund Freud
- The Legacy of Sigmund Freud
- Freud and Mental Health Home
- Therapy Home
- Mental Health General Homepage
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