psychology emerged as an independent scientific discipline in Germany
during the middle of the 19th century it defined its task as the
analysis of consciousness in the normal, adult human being.
Sigmund Freud however attacked the then traditional psychology. He
likened the mind to an iceberg in which the smaller part showing above
the surface of the water represents the region of consciousness while
the much larger mass below the water represents the region of
In this huge domain - the unconscious - Freud believed were the
urges, passions, the repressed ideas and feelings - the great unseen
forces which exercise an control over the conscious thoughts and deeds
of the individual.
Freud's aim in life was to "agitate the sleep of mankind". In
other words, Freud was interested in stirring the hornet's nest of human
unconscious, which he succeeded in doing both academically and on a
personal level with many patients and colleagues.
Freud was born in Moravia in 1856, attended the medical school of the
University of Vienna for 8 years until 1881. His interest neurology
caused him to specialise in the treatment of nervous disorders. He
studied under the French psychiatrist Jean-Martin Charcot for a year,
particularly in the area of hypnosis.
He tried hypnosis with his patients but was not impressed by its
efficacy so he tried a new method of treatment devised by a Viennese
physician - Joseph Breuer. This method was one in which the patient was
cured of his or her symptoms simply be talking about them. Later he
turned to the use of free association (instructing patients to say
whatever came into their minds). One of his patients dubbed this therapy
the “talking cure”.
For over 40 years Freud explored the unconscious by the method of free
association and developed the first comprehensive theory of personality.
He became both extremely influential and extremely controversial in his
day. The same is true now!