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Human ability to generate knowledge is one of the most significant milestones to be attained throughout life span. Sigmund Freud played an important role in the developmental area of human beings. Freud was a neutralist and psychiatrist who lived and worked in the 19th and 20th century. He spent most of his life generating new knowledge in the area of unconscious mind, especially the theory on mechanism of repression. He contributed immensely towards the understanding of human sexual behaviors and thus rubber-stamped his indelible input towards the growth of humanities. Freud believed that the human mind and the personality consist of three parts that worked independently, but aimed at achieving a particular goal. He identified the id, which according to him is the urge to pursue pleasure and instant gratification; the ego – awareness of reality and the outside world; and the super ego – guidance to socially acceptable behavior as the parts of human mind. This paper is aimed at discussing the ideas of Sigmund Freud on different aspects of humanity as a subject of study, and explores his contribution to the growth of contemporary humanities.
Freud was born in the year 1856. His parents were living at the empire of Austro-Hungary at that time (Thornton 1). He notes that Freud was born to the second wife in a polygamous family. Later, his parents migrated to Vienna. Though his father, who was the merchant, remained a freethinker, Freud became a strong atheist. His ambitions and determination to achieve ensured him an entry into Vienna Medical School University, where he trained as a neurophysiological researcher. His works have greatly been influenced by Josef Breuer, who was both a physician and a psychologist. On his return to Vienna in the year 1886, Freud established his own practice tackling issues related to nervous behavior and various brain disorders, as well as the institute of marriage.
Thornton (1) also notes that Freud came up with an approach of letting his patients relax and speak all they felt like saying. It is the contents of such talks that Freud analyzed to understand the kind of trauma that could have caused such sufferings. He is credited with initiating psychoanalysis, in which he had perceived the mind as a system characterized by complex energy. The other concepts expressly highlighted by Freud include those of unconscious, repression and sexuality. The way in which he treated various human actions and dreams, as well as culturally related artifacts are still considered to be of great significance. However, the question of whether his science of the mind was successful or not has continued to elicit a very controversial debate.
Works of Freud
Sigmund Freud was neurologist, who later turned into psychiatrist. Psychologists consider him to be the father of the contemporary psychoanalytical method. Theories advanced by Freud revolutionized the way society understood mental work and the mind as a whole. He came up with a number of theories including that of the mind, stages in sexual development and the Oedipus and Elektra complexes.
According to Gardner & Nemirovsk (45), his theory of the mind has been among the most significant aspects in studying the psychology of mankind. In his theory, Freud says that the mind is subdivided into 3 sections. The first section is the id, which is an insensible region of the mind that causes drives and instincts. Feud added that id section is the one that empowers the three major human needs. According to him, the major needs include: suppressing hunger and thirst, the desire to avoid pain, and finally, the sexual satisfaction urge. Similarly, the demand to satisfy these needs is known as the pleasure principle (Wintle 61). On his side, Wintle (72) noted that the id itself is unable of organizing processes and, as a consequence, produces no cooperative will, but only strives to bring satisfaction of instinctive needs (Helmeke & Sori 73).
In such way, the id cannot act on instincts only. Therefore, in order to satisfy these instinctive needs, the id spins to another region of the mind, called the ego, which is the conscious section of the mind mandated with the task of searching for substance and actions to satisfy the desires created by the id (Winer & Anderson 60). This is the section that empowers human senses, making them rational beings. As a result, it enables man to relate with the rest of the world. This means that the ego performs the role of intermediating between the urge for immediate satisfaction, the id, and the world around an individual, the supper ego.
Freud’s understanding of the mind narrowed to a state of constant conflict. According to him, this conflict is the primary cause of human anxiety and unhappiness. Freud uses a number of conflicts in his illustration of how internal conflict could relate to nervous breakdown. It is his findings from such conflicts that made him partition the mind into three parts, based on three conflicting internal tendencies: the id, ego, andsuper-ego.
However, Gardner & Nemirovsk (45) suggest that this division should not be viewed as the separation of the mind into three structures and functions, which subsist in physical partitions in the brain. In their analysis, they observe that these are not even true structures, but rather differentiated aspects and basics of the one structure of the mind. The duo argue that according to Freud’s finding, although it is appropriate to say that the id "demands" immediate gratification, the mind on its own has no three dissimilar objects engaged in a constant conflict. Reportedly, the personification of the three elements is intended merely to serve as a handy guide through a multifaceted psychoanalytic theory.
Freud has had a great influence in the context of modern scientific, psychotherapeutic, and academic settings. According to Gardner & Nemirovsk (23), much research has been done by preceding scientists in search of various branches and directions in an effort to comprehend the multidimensional and multidisciplinary richness of Freud's contribution to the growth of contemporary humanities. Much of Freud’s study continues to have impact on the growth of modern humanity, despite the advancement of research skills coupled with technological know-how of today. He is viewed as a symbol in the context of modern neuroscientific findings and cultural subversiveness.
Furthermore, Freud considered that people are faced with two forms of gratification during their childhood years. He proposed that this was caused by either the child receiving little or much care from their parents. Accordingly, Wintle (61) in his analysis of Freud’s views notes that both incidences involve a loss on the part of the infant. For instance, he argues that Freud found out that those infants who received too little care usually felt worthless and, therefore, had low self esteem in adulthood. On the other hand, he observed a tendency of those who received too much love wanting the experience to last throughout their lives. Unfortunately, the love they received while they were children ceases as they grow older. In this way, the onus is for both to seek to recompense for their loss and become excessively reliant on others for inherent characteristics such as love, affection, self worth and self- esteem. Gardner & Nemirovsk (23) observe that this loss is later reflected in adulthood, as the loss that was experienced in infancy begins to manifest. This has the effect of promoting the feeling of rejection and unworthiness. In this manner, depression starts manifesting itself as a call for security and love.
Sigmund Freud’s Contribution to Contemporary Humanities
Freud is arguably the celebrated contributor to the growth of humanities as subjects. Freud is credited for advancing the theory of personality development that focused on the effects of the sexual happiness on a person's emerging personality (Winer & Anderson 89). According to his theory, parts of the personality develop in series of psychosexual stages. Each stage is characterized by varied demands for sexual gratification and different ways of achieving that fulfillment. Notably, Freud discovered that the amount of gratification that human beings normally receive has an effect on their future life. He implied that people normally continue to have the same demand for gratification as they used to have during their earlier stages of life. This condition leads to a variety of adult behaviors.
Although Freud's involvement in theories and research methods was controversial during his life and even in contemporary society, his influence on the development of humanities, like psychotherapy, is undisputable. Horak & Macquarrie (67) note that Freud popularized the talking-cure. This was done in an experiment with his patient Anna O., an experiment which gave rise to the idea that it is possible for a person to solve problems by simply talking over them. Despite the fact that contemporary psychotherapists are predisposed to reject the details of Freud's theories, this basic method of treatment that has continued to be used comes largely from his work. His opponents have also argued that most of his theories like that on the explicit stage of psychosexual development have continued to gain favor in modern cognitive and experimental psychology (Helmeke & Sori 120).
In the modern world, some psychotherapists still follow the order of the Freudian system of treatment, with many having modified the exact approach, or better still joined one of the thoughts that branched from his inventive theories. Even those who seem to have rejected his theories entirely have had their performances influenced by his ideas in a number of ways (Helmeke & Sori 73). In their research, the two report that today’s psychoanalysis maintains the same undecided relationship with medicine and academia that was experienced by Freud in his lifetime.
On the other hand, Freud's theories and research has influenced the growth of schools which are dedicated to the study of his works, and also the modern critical theory. Gardner & Nemirovsk (45) note that many contemporary scientists studying the works of Freud agree with the suggestion that Freud addressed quite similar questions as Marx. The only exception is the fact that they did this from their own perspectives that were rather different. Additionally, Neo-Freudian revisionists have been criticized for overlooking the imperative aspects of Freud’s study such as “the death instinct, the primal horde, and the killing of the primal father” (Gardner & Nemirovsk 145). These were seen as the bravest assumptions of Freud that had symbolic value. Evidently, they are also accused of diminishing the conflicts that existed between entity and society (Gardner & Nemirovsk 145).
Freud’s idea of the death instinct as implying an inborn push for to aggressive behavior has led to contemporary interpretation of the same to mean anxiety which life is all about. Contemporary scientists argue that if the level of stress that we face in life went down, then it will mean that death instinct ceases to be influential. In such way, it turns Freud's negative conclusions into a mess.
Several researches in the up-and-coming field of neuro-psychoanalysis, established by neuroscientists and psychoanalysts have supported Freud's theories, indicating that brain structures relate with Freudian constructs such as libido and repression. However, contemporary study of humanities is sometimes dependent on the idea of neuro-scientific findings being scarcely consistent with Freudian theories, rather than firm substantiations of those theories. Moreover, research on dream has disputed assertion of specifically Freudian dream theory being validated as contended by some contemporary researchers. Notably, there has been disapproval of the theory of neuro-psychoanalysis by psychoanalysts themselves (Horak &Macquarrie 132)
Even though a number of the contemporary scientists disagree with Freud’s view, arguing that he was in total opposition against the entire claim and tendency of psychology, Gardner & Nemirovsk (45), together with other prominent scientists, identify Freud as the chief architect of the modern age humanities. However, the two also agreed that Freud cannot be compared to prominent scientists like Marx.
Even though there are numerous parallels between the works of Freud with those of contemporary researchers trying to generate new knowledge, they both hold the power of scientific interpretation and analysis in a similar manner. That is, they have both related their works to the existing environmental exploits. Horak & Macquarrie (95) note that Freud composed an inversion related to many contemporary disciplines in humanities. According to Freud’s views, for every action there is a reaction force that works to oppose it. He, thus, argues that the events in humanities must have some causative agents behind them. While Freud was viewed as a naturalist who did not follow a set of approaches, the contemporary humanities have formulated distinctive procedures and theories to help to draw parallels between human as an agent of thinking and that of society.
Feud has also contributed to contemporary humanities through strengthening the ties that hold a family together. In his studies he points to the bond between parents and their children as those that help to build up a strong family. Other contributions of Freud include his intricate study of metamorphoses experienced in the process of dreaming, the concept of self-sabotage through chances and accidents, as well as the ferocious and unconscious conflicts of love and family life. He had argued for the full sexuality of women, which was later to be censored by the Victorian era during the 19th century. Surprisingly, he was able to prove that sexuality does not begin at youth, but in early days and even formative years.
Criticisms of Sigmund Freud’s Work
Freud, like any other scientist, has not escaped criticisms of his works as being not scientific. According to Winer & Anderson (89), the objection of Freud’s work was raised on the basis of proper scientific theories being falsifiable. Many of the critics of Freud’s work argue that he did not carry out any experiments and observation, and, thus, his work was not subject to these important tools of collecting data in science.
According to Gardner & Nemirovsk (45), many scientists who criticized the work of Freud hold the opinion that he hasn’t made any significant rational discoveries. Freud is accused to develop a pseudo-science that must be recognized as the greatest failure of Western civilization. They argue that in this exact pseudo-science, he was able to single handedly develop a despotic, anti-empirical rational system which has made an immense input to the academic ills of contemporary society. His unique theoretical approach, his ways of thought, and his position regarding the scientific research have worked to isolate him from his critiques.
Freud's theory of the unconscious is claimed to be built up on the unrealistic constructs, with the assertion that consciousness is essentially self-conscious. In contrast, other scholars like Still Horak & Macquarrie (90) have argued that some of the critics emanate from a gross misunderstanding of Freud’s ideas. However, Freud, together with other scholars like Marx and Nietzsche, has been accused as the architect of school of suspicion. On the other hand, those who have supported the works of Freud have maintained that he greatly helped in the creation of a distinct version which has made his work to be the most significant in shifting the understanding of human beings.
From the discussion above, it is evident that Sigmund Freud has immensely contributed to the growth of humanity disciplines such as psychoanalysis and the understanding of human growth from infancy to adulthood. Throughout his scientific studies it has been established that the story of Sigmund Freud is one that inspires contemporary research to dive deep into the study of human nature so as to be able to provide solutions to many problems. From Freud’s works, it can be seen that critiques will always be there, but their presence should help us to become more determined in the area of our study rather than being cowed by simple criticism which would have otherwise built us up. From the discussion above, it is clear that despite early discouragement, Freud did not give up on his quest of creating new knowledge and his work has helped to solve numerous challenges faced by humankind.