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Freud, Sigmund

World Encyclopedia

Freud, Sigmund (1856–1939) 

Austrian physician and founder of psychoanalysis. With Josef Breuer he developed new methods of treating mental disorders by free association and the interpretation of dreams. These methods derived from his theories of the id, ego and superego, and emphasized the unconscious and subconscious as agents of human behaviour. He developed theories of neuroses involving childhood relationships to one's parents and stressed the importance of sexuality in behaviour. He believed that each personality had a tripartite structure: the id, the unconscious emotions, desires and fears which may surface in dreams or madness; the ego, the conscious rationalizing section of the mind; and the superego, which may be compared to the conscience. As he saw it, a very young baby is largely id, full of unchecked desires; the ego develops from the id, enabling the child to negotiate realistically with the world; and the superego evolves as the child internalizes the moral values of society. The ego comes to mediate the selfish needs of the id and the idealistic demands of the superego. The adoption of a satisfactory superego is dependent on the resolution of the Oedipus complex. His works include The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1904), and The Ego and the Id (1923).