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Freudian Psychology

What Is Freudian Psychology?

Freudian psychology is based on the work of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). He is considered the father of psychoanalysis and is largely credited with establishing the field of talk therapy. Today, psychoanalytic and psychodynamic approaches to therapy are the modalities that draw most heavily on Freudian principles.

Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind, dreams, infantile sexuality, libido, repression, and transference—all of which continue to influence the field of psychology to varying degrees. Trained as a neurologist, Freud conceived of the mind as the desire-centered id, the morally driven superego, and the ego (or "the I") in between, contributed to a new understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of psychological disturbance.

Ideas that remain associated with Freud today include the concept of "Freudian slips," the notion that misspoken words—"we've had a few sexbacks," or "nice to beat you"—can reveal hidden thoughts or motives. The much-discussed theory of the Oedipus complex, in which a child supposedly harbors an unconscious sexual attraction to an opposite-sex parent, was introduced in his 1899 book The Interpretation of Dreams.

Why Does Freud Still Matter?

Sigmund Freud’s concepts persist in the popular imagination and his work forms an important part of the history of psychology.

As psychology and psychotherapy evolved, the approach to therapy that Freud created—with its strong emphasis on the therapist-patient relationship—slipped from prominence. Major ideas of his, such as his conceptualization of the unconscious, have been discounted by scientists as difficult or impossible to test empirically.

Nevertheless, psychologists continue to find wisdom and meaning in Freudian concepts, such as projection and other "defense mechanisms," and modern psychoanalytic therapists owe much to Freud’s methods, as do therapists who employ psychodynamic approaches.

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