FREUD : A Very Short Introduction by Anthony Storr ( OXFORD University Press, 1989) pdf
Sigmund Freud was born on 6 May 1856 in the Moravian town of Freiberg, now Pribor in the Czech Republic. His mother, Amalie, was the third wife of Jacob Freud, a Jewish wool merchant, some twenty years younger than her husband. In 1859, when Sigmund Freud was three years old, the family moved to Vienna. For the next 79 years Freud continued to live and work in this city, for which he recurrently professed distaste, but which he was extremely reluctant to leave. In 1938, he was compelled to take refuge from the Nazis, and spent the last year of his life in England, dying on 23 September 1939, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War.
Freud’s mother, a vivacious and charming lady who survived until the age of 95, was only 21 when Freud was bom. She went on to bear seven other children; but Sigmund, referred to by her as ‘mein goldener Sigi* (‘my golden Sigi’), remained her indisputable favourite, one circumstance to which Freud attributed his inner confidence. Freud also believed that his later success was directly related to his being a Jew.
Although Freud never practised the Jewish religion and dismissed all religious belief as illusory, he was very conscious of being Jewish, made few friends who were not Jews, regularly attended the meetings of B’nai B’rith, his local Jewish society, and declined royalties from those of his books which were translated into Yiddish and Hebrew. He attributed his intellectual autonomy to his being Jewish, writing that, when he first encountered anti-Semitism at the University of Vienna, his lack of acceptance by the community drove him into opposition and fostered his independence of judgement.
As a boy, Freud was intellectually precocious and an extremely hard worker.
For six successive years, Freud was first in his class at school; and, by the time he left, had not only obtained a thorough knowledge of Greek, Latin, German, and Hebrew, but had learned French and English, and had also taught himself the rudiments of Spanish and Italian. He began to read Shakespeare at the age of eight. Shakespeare and Goethe remained his favourite authors. From his earliest years, Freud was a serious, dedicated student who was evidently expected by his family and teachers to make his mark in the world, and who himself acquired a conviction that he was destined to make some important contribution to knowledge. Family life revolved around his studies.
He took his evening meal apart from the rest of the family and, because the sound of her practising disturbed him, his sister Anna’s piano was removed from the apartment by his parents.
Freud enrolled in the medical department of the University of Vienna in the autumn of 1873, but did not graduate until 30 March 1881. His initial interest was in zoological research. From 1876 to 1882 he carried out research in the Physiological Institute of Ernst Briicke, an authority whom he greatly admired and who exercised a considerable influence upon his thinking. Briicke and his co-workers were dedicated to the idea, then not widely accepted, that all vital processes could ultimately be explained in terms of physics and chemistry, thus eliminating religious and vitalist concepts from biology.
Freud remained a determinist throughout his life, believing that all vital phenomena, including psychological phenomena like thoughts, feelings, and phantasies, are rigidly determined by the principle of cause and effect.
Freud was reluctant to practise medicine, and would have been content to spend his life in research. But, in 1882, he fell in love and became engaged to Martha Bernays. Since there was no possibility of his earning enough to support a wife and family if he remained in Brucke’s laboratory, Freud reluctantly abandoned his research career, and spent the next three years gaining medical experience in the Vienna General Hospital, preparatory to embarking upon medical practice. In 1885 he was appointed a lecturer in neuropathology at the University of Vienna.
From October 1885 to February 1886 he worked at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris under the great neurologist Charcot, whose teaching on hysteria awoke his interest in the problems of the neuroses, as opposed to organic diseases of the nervous system. In April 1886 Freud opened his medical practice in Vienna, and, on 13 September, at last married his fiancee.
What kind of personality is able to achieve so much within the span of only half a lifetime? Most people of outstanding intellectual achievement exhibit traits of personality which psychiatrists label obsessional; that is, they are meticulous, scrupulous, accurate, reliable, honest, and much concerned with cleanliness, control, and order. Only when these admirable traits become exaggerated do we speak of obsessional neurosis, a disorder which ranges in severity from mild compulsions to check and recheck to a state of total disablement in which the sufferer’s existence is so dominated by rituals that normal life becomes impossible…..
- Life and character
- From trauma to phantasy
- Exploring the past
- Free association, dreams, and transference
- Ego, super-ego, and id
- Aggression, depression, and paranoia
- Jokes and The Psycho-Pathology of Everyday Life
- Art and literature
- Culture and religion
- Freud as therapist
- Psychoanalysis today
- The appeal of psychoanalysis
- Further reading
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