January 1, 2021, by khyx2lyn

Freud: Lesser known facts

Article by Tanushri Jayani A/P Krishna Murthi, Year 1 student for the 2020/2021 academic year

Sigismund Schlomo Freud, commonly known as Sigmund Freud requires no introduction. Known as the ‘Father of Modern Psychology’, his contributions in psychology is not only known by his peers, but by the public as well. For example, terms such as ‘Freudian Slip’ being administered in daily conversation or concepts such as the Oedipus complex, though mind-boggling, leaves a strong impact on a person. As psychology students, I believe we are well acquainted with his contributions as the founder of psychoanalysis, in psychosexual development, defence mechanisms, dream association, the Tripartite Theory of Personality and such, so let’s look at some lesser-known facts about Freud.

Freud was a bright student, having graduated with honours from a reputable high school, and was fluent in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Subsequently, Freud graduated from the University of Vienna as a doctor of medicine, then pursued neurology. As a student, Freud spent six years in a physiology laboratory comparing human brains with vertebrates and invertebrates. His research on the biology of nervous tissue was highly influential towards the discovery of the neuron in the 1890s.

Although he had great interest in philosophy, Freud started gravitating towards psychology. It was said that his great interest in William Shakespeare’s plays contributed towards his understanding of human psychology. Freud came up with the idea of ‘free association’, otherwise known as ‘talk therapy’ after abandoning hypnosis from his clinical practice. This was because he found free association to be more consistent and effective compared to hypnosis as patients were allowed to speak without censorship or inhibition. Shortly after, he coined the term ‘psychoanalysis’ that concerns the interaction between the conscious and unconscious as a form of treatment for mental disorders.

Being Jewish in Austria and one of the most influential people of his time, Freud became a target of the Nazis in 1933. His books were among the first that were burnt and destroyed. After Germany annexed Austria, the Nazis raided Freud’s apartment. Luckily, he was able to flee to Paris with the help of a friend and patient, Princess Marie Bonaparte, the grandniece of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Finally, Freud was an avid supporter of cocaine use as he found his spirits to be improved after drinking water with dissolved cocaine. He was in awe of cocaine, so much so that he wrote a paper on its therapeutic benefits called ‘On Coca’ and distributed doses to his friends and future wife. However, this was short-lived when Freud suggested that his friend should try cocaine to overcome his morphine addiction. You could probably guess how well this ended. Despite his use of cocaine for over a decade, he eventually died due to his chain-smoking. He believed that smoking enhanced his productivity and creativity, but more bizarrely, he stated that addictions such as tobacco were great substitutes for ‘the one great habit’, masturbation. Over 16 years, Freud underwent 33 surgeries but continued to smoke. He did not quit smoking because his doctors downplayed his cancer as they were afraid of him committing suicide.

There are many other ‘fun’ facts about Freud that are lesser-known as they are hidden from the public by his daughter, Anna Freud’s wishes to preserve his legacy. I say ‘fun’ facts as they regard his blatant sexism and his views on homosexuality as a fetish, inter alia. Simply put, Freud was very much a man of his times. Though his bigoted views are somewhat known to the public, there are other cases such the tragedy of his patient Emma Eckstein that was kept under wraps, but that’s a story for another time.

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