Sparknotes Freud Three Essays Summary

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality is a 1905 work by Sigmund Freud which advanced his theory of sexuality, in particular its relation to childhood. Freud considered these essays to be his second greatest work. His most important work, according to him was The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud began developing these theories after working with female patients. Most of these patients were loosely diagnosed to suffer from hysteria. The symptoms for this term were quite varied. For instance, symptoms as paralysis or insomnia were diagnosed to be hysteria. It also included psychotic instances and wild mood swings. Interestingly, one of the common ways of treating it was for a doctor to cause the patient to have an orgasm. This may have had a great influence on Sigmund Freud's work.

Sigmund Freud was mentored by Jean-Martin Charcot, a renowned Psychiatrist of his time. He was the first to use hypnosis in treating patients that were diagnosed with hysteria. However, Freud abandoned the practice later in his career, finding it to be ineffective. Freud's own success came from dealing with patients who had psychosomatic illnesses. He theorized that the symptoms, which these patients were experiencing, were due to repression of sexual desires. Consequently, Freud postulated that treatment of these symptoms was by bringing these suppressed desired into the conscious mind.

Freud's work has generated a lot of controversy, especially among feminist groups. They view Freud's work as a sexist. However, newer theories into human sexuality are still based on the original Freudian theories. These opponents are particularly offended by the use of the term "normal". They argue that normal is subjective and thus Freud's work is flawed. Freud did also observe that people with "normal" sexual tendencies were not normal afterall. He claimed that there was no normal sexual behavior. On the issue of pedophiles, Freud had an interesting observation. He characterized such perverse feelings as originating form fear. For instance, animals, which were unable to mate successfully with others, would take their frustrations out on young ones. Thus, he observed that pedophilia was not innate but rather grew out of fear.

Despite the major flaws, Freud does make a number of important points. This work was based on famous sexologists of his time. He read their theories and observed their work before coming up with his own theory. The first part of this work is dedicated to studying sexual behaviors that were not "normal". In his work, Freud observed a number of different sexual orientations, which he had observed such as homosexuality and bisexual tendencies. Freud observed that some of this individuals have always had this attraction since birth while others developed this "condition" after a certain trigger.

Sigmund Freud was the first to give detailed description of how children experienced sexual pleasure. He described that children experience pleasure through mechanical processes such as being flung in the air. He claimed that the sense of fear they experience followed by a sense of calmness was an intense source of sexual pleasure. In his work, Freud also suggested that children had specific erogenous zones through which they would experience sexual pleasure. For instance, the act of a child sucking on their thumb was for sexual pleasure. He also postulated the anal area could be converted into an area of sexual pleasure where the child experiences pleasure by exerting pressure.

On his explanations on the stages of sexual development in children, Freud claimed the first stage was borne out of curiosity. A young boy will wonder why they are built different from girls. He also suggested that girls on discovering they do not have a penis develop what he termed as "sexual envy". Freud suggested that this early developments in the child of a life had a great influence on them later on in life. He suggested boys would develop a fear for their father and thus try to mimic him in an attempt to appease him. This fear was the fear of castration. According to Freud this fear came out of sexual desire for his mother. He also postulates he discovery of the penis to be the origin of misogyny. Freud suggested that when the boy made the discovery that the opposite sex lacks a penis, he would henceforth look down on the as lesser men. Freud suggested that later on, this feeling would disappear but re-emerge later in puberty. At this stage, the person's sexual desire and relationships would be staged by the early stages of development. One of his wildest claims was that the desire for intellectualism was driven by sexual desires.

The essays also do briefly touch on sadomasochism. He explained that the drive men had to be aggressive was rooted in more than a desire to mate. He postulated that men were driven by the dire to completely dominate the female in every way. He also observed that this trait was common in most men. However, it existed in varying degrees among different men.

The original Freud theories have been revised over the course of more than a hundred years. Although most of his work has been disproved. He did make some very progressive a point for a man of his time. For instance, he gave an explanation to what were seen as perverse sexual nature of people at the time. In essence, Freud was challenging the long held notion that all sexual desire came from a biological desire to mate. Here in lies the contradictory nature of Freud's work. Although he clearly described sexuality developing independently from a desire to mate, he still viewed it as perverse. Freud also viewed sexuality as fluid and not fixed, thus it developed over the course of an individual's life.

From the aforementioned summary, it is quite clear that Sigmund Freud was obsessed by development of human beings as rooted in sexuality. However, his work does raise some interest. For instance, Freud's attributes the rise of monotheism and the strong hold it had at the time to psychosexual development. In addition, Freud attributed the ease with which strongmen in most states at the time ruled with absolute authority to development of human sexuality. His work was controversial during his time and still is even today. However, Freud's contribution to modern psychoanalysis is not in doubt.

On May 6, 1856, Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born in the small Moravian town of Freiberg. His parents were Jakob and Amalie Freud. Over the next six years Amalie gave birth to six more children. Sigmund was always the favorite child. Jakob's textile business failed, and in 1860, the family moved to Vienna, spending almost a year in Leipzig on the way. In Vienna, Freud was a studious and serious child. He was schooled at home, first by his mother and then by his father, and then he joined the Sperl Gymnasium, where he was at the top of his class.

In 1873, Freud graduated from the Sperl Gymnasium at the early age of seventeen and started medical training at the University of Vienna. It took him eight years to receive his medical degree, in part because he was distracted by scientific research. This was especially true in the later years of his medical studies (1877–1881), when was working in the laboratory of his mentor, Ernst Brücke, on the anatomy of the brain.

1881 was a momentous year for Freud: he met Martha Bernays and became engaged to her–secretly, at first–and he finally received his medical degree. In 1882, he left Brücke's lab and took a position at the Vienna General Hospital, motivated in part by his desire to make enough money to be able to marry Martha. Over the next five years he moved from department to department at the hospital, passing through surgery and dermatology before coming to rest at Theodor Meynert's department of psychiatry. In the winter of 1885–1886, Freud went to Paris to study under Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière. He was finally married to Martha Bernays in the summer of 1886. They first married in a civil ceremony, but when they discovered that Austria (unlike Germany) would not officially recognize a nonreligious marriage, they married in a Jewish one.

Over the next ten years, from 1886–1896, Freud continued to develop his private practice. By the beginning of the 1890s, his relationship with Josef Breuer, another Jewish neurologist, had flourished. The two men had collaborated on the publication of a series of case studies on their patients called Studies on Hysteria. This contained one case study by Breuer and four by Freud. The case study by Breuer, on the patient "Anna O.", is known as the first psychoanalytic case study. In it, Breuer discusses the "cathartic method" he used to cure Anna O.'s symptoms by discovering, with her help, the earlier, unconscious traumas that were associated with her symptoms. Although Freud was enthusiastic about the new method, his emphasis on the exclusively sexual causes of hysteria made his theories unpopular, not only with his superiors at the University, but also with Breuer.

From 1896–1901, in a period of isolation from his colleagues, Freud developed the basics of psychoanalytic theory out of the raw material of his patients, his conversations with Breuer, and his correspondence with a new friend, the Berlin nose and throat doctor Wilhelm Fliess. In 1899, Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, the first fully fleshed-out psychoanalytic work, was published. Freud was deeply disappointed by its lackluster reception, but he continued writing. His The Psychopathology of Everyday Life was published in 1901, and his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality was published in 1905.

In the 1900s, Freud finally emerged from the isolation that had characterized his professional life in the 1890s. He began to have weekly meetings at his house to discuss psychoanalytic theory. The group that met at his house was called the "Wednesday Psychological Society," and eventually it grew into the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society. By 1904, Freud had begun to hear of other neurologists and psychiatrists using his techniques. He was particularly excited to hear that the well-respected Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler and one of Bleuler's staff members, Carl G. Jung, had taken an interest. Toward the end of the decade, psychoanalysis became a truly international affair: the International Psychoanalytic Association was founded with the help of supporters from Germany, Austria (Alfred Adler and Wilhelm Stekel), Switzerland, Hungary (Sandor Ferenczi), and England (Ernest Jones). In the years before the First World War, psychoanalysis experienced its first growing pains: first Jung, then Adler and Stekel, left the organization after bitter disagreements with Freud. In response to these defections, Jones and Freud created a secret "Committee" to protect psychoanalysis. The committee consisted of Jones, Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Otto Rank, and Hanns Sachs.

During World War I, Freud continued to write and lecture, but patients were few and international communications were impossible. When the war ended, however, the International Psychoanalytic Association resumed its meetings in an atmosphere much more conducive to psychoanalysis than that before the war. Unfortunately, the post-war years were extremely difficult in Vienna: inflation was rampant, supplies were few, and patients were rare. Freud's reputation, however, was growing, and in 1919 he was made a full professor at the University of Vienna.

Freud's work from 1919 to the end of his life in 1938 became increasingly speculative. He became concerned with applying psychoanalysis to questions of civilization and society, an approach that he had first tried in his 1913 Totem and Taboo. In 1920, he published Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which suggested that human existence is a struggle between Eros, or the sex drive, and an instinct toward death.

In 1923, Freud was diagnosed with mouth cancer, a consequence of his life-long habit of cigar smoking. His illness would trouble him until his death in 1938, demanding in the meantime thirty-three separate operations that caused him pain and made it difficult for him to speak and eat. The 1920s were a complicated decade for Freud. He was undeniably successful, even famous, but his own health, several deaths in his family, and the disintegration of the Committee made his success bittersweet.

In the 1930s, Freud continued to treat patients and to write. He published one of his most frequently read books, Civilization and Its Discontents, in 1930. The rise of Nazism in Germany, however, and its echoes in Austria, made life in Vienna increasingly untenable. Freud stayed as long as he could, but when the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938 and raided his house, he fled to England with most of his family. He died there on September 23, 1939.


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