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Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and SexSigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex


Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)


Austrian psychiatrist and founder of psychoanalysis (see point one below).

Controversial because of his emphasis on sex.


His most famous book is...

The Interpretation of Dreams (1913) that says our dreams indicate what’s in our unconscious mind.


What did he teach us?


1. PsychoanlysisSigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

This aims to solve your psychological problems (anxiety, guilt, aggression, etc.) through:


a) interpretation of your dreams

(the key to your unconscious mind - see point 2)

Every dream enacts one of your desires 


Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

b) “free association”

Analysis and discussion of your thoughts with a psychoanalyst, whilst relaxing on a couch - see point 3 



2. Your mind matters

To be free from anxiety and other mental problems, you must balance the three parts of your mind (or psyche), the id, superego and ego:


a) id

Unconscious, inborn, selfish desires (particularly sex), which you want to satisfy immediately (the “pleasure principle”).

Maturer people delay satisfaction of their desires so they can get on with life (the “reality principle”).

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

b) superego

Your conscience and morality, telling you what’s right or wrong.


c) ego

Your conscious self - what you consider to be you!

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

The ego tries to reconcile desires (id) and conscience (superego).

Failure to do so will result in guilt and anxiety, unless avoided by defence mechanisms (a concept later developed by his daughter, Anna Freud, pictured right - see point 3).

You must also confront and overcome repressed emotions and memories (called catharsis) - see point 3.


3. Defence mechanisms

These are:


a) repression

Locking up your bad thoughts and feelings in your unconscious, sometimes causing;

  • guilt, resentment and bad relationships
  • Freudian slips (referring to someone or something by mistake).

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

b) denial 

Denying reality and your problems.


c) displacement

Taking out your problems on:

  • others (leading to blame and hatred).
  • yourself (leading to self-hatred and inferiority).

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

d) sublimation

Using unacceptable impulses (e.g. fear and aggression) in an acceptable way (e.g. sport).


e) projection

Attributing your unacceptable behaviour to others e.g. an aggressive person accusing others of aggression.


f) intellectualization (or isolation)

Detaching yourself emotionally from a painful memory or event.

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

g) rationalization

Shifting the blame for a problem from yourself to other things or people.


h) regression

Reverting back to earlier behaviour e.g. adults acting like children.


i) introjection (or identification)

Tackling your emotional weaknesses by using other people's strengths.

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

j) fantasy (daydreaming)

Imagining something nice.


k) reaction formation

Doing the opposite of what you want to be.



4. Sex is supreme

The libido is your sex drive which is the cause of most of your behaviour.

The main aim of psychoanalysis is to

  • transfer the id’s unpleasant desires and feelings into the conscious mind (called transference see point 5).
  • cope with these unpleasant feelings without resorting to defence mechanisms.

To do this Freud laid his patients on a couch without looking at them, so they could talk about their real feelings without embarrassment.


5. Transference is important

This describes the transfer of childhood feelings (particularly from parents and siblings) into adult life.Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

For example:

  • idealizing parents and
  • expecting others to live up to these perfect standards - see point 6.



Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

6. Importance of childhood

Your personality is largely developed through:

  • your childhood experiences (particularly with your parents)
  • various stages in your “psychosexual” development (focusing on sexual fantasies and sexually sensitive organs like the mouth, bowel, bladder and genitals).

To be happy you must:

  • become independent of your parents.
  • find fulfilment from your work and relationships.

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

7. The Oedipus complex

This is the repressed, unconscious desire to:

  • possess the parent of the opposite sex. 
  • eliminate the other parent.

This causes much guilt.

Freud named it after the Greek mythical character, Oedipus, who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother.

 Sigmund Freud - Psychoanalysis and Sex

8. Don't be selfish

The enemy of mental health is self-absorption (or narcissism), where your life is totally centred on yourself.

To illustrate this Freud uses the story in Greek mythology of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection.


9. Religion is rubbish

Religion is an illusion, created for social order and making life easier.


Key quotes on motivation

All that matters is love and work

We are our desires.


Key quote on empowerment and freedom

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibilities and most people are frightened of responsibility.


Key quote on God and religion

Religion is an illusion.


Key quote on happiness

Look first into the depths of your own soul and know yourself.


Key quotes on psychology

Anatomy is destiny.

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.

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