Sigmund Freud – The Man behind the Theories

Please note: This is independent research and I have taken great care to not copy from other websites (which I have used for this report). I know that I might be graded for this, since it’s for Drama school but I thought I would share this with you guys too. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. 🙂

Last week, I had a lesson at Drama school, where I learnt about Sigmund Freud. Alongside my peers, we gathered together, researched a few facts about him and shared them amongst each other. Afterwards, my teacher asked us about what we would like to find on Freud; I said that I want to focus on Freud’s books and how his work continues on into the twenty-first century.

After my lesson, I decided to do some independent research and send it, as an assignment to my teachers; when I finished, I found that my research on Sigmund Freud was more interesting than I thought it was going to be. During my time, I began to feel as though I was Sherlock Holmes and I was uncovering Freud’s life and work. This is what I found about Freud; his life, work, discoveries on his most famous study cases and how they still intrigue us today.


  • Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born in Freiberg, Moravia, the Austrian Empire (now Pribor in the Czech Republic) on 6 May 1856.
  • Little is known about Freud’s early life; that’s because he destroyed his personal papers twice – in 1885 and 1907. However, Freud’s later papers are guarded in the Sigmund Freud Archives. These papers aren’t available to the public as they can only been seen by Freud’s official biographer, Ernest Jones and a few psychoanalysis members.
  • In 1877, Freud changed his name to Sigmund Freud.
  • Freud studied medicine at the University of Vienna. After graduation, he began to work at the Vienna General Hospital.
  • In 1885, Freud went to Paris as a student of the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-93). On his return to Vienna the following year, Freud set up in private practice, specialising in nervous and brain disorders.
  • Freud married Martha Bernays; the marriage produced six children. Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud is a distinguished psychologist too. Her particular field is child and developmental psychology.
  • Freud’s grandchildren are painter Lucian Freud, and comedian and write Clement Freud. His great-grandchildren are journalist Emma Freud, fashion designer Bella Freud and PR man Matthew Freud.
  • In 1902, Freud was appointed Professor of Neuropathology at the University of Vienna. He held that post until 1938.
  • After the First World War, Freud decided to spend less time in clinical observation and began consecrating on the application of his theories into History, Art, Anthropology and Literature.
  • On 10 May 1933, the Nazis publicly burnt a number of books, including Freud’s in Berlin. Freud’s books were burnt because his theories, ideas and opinions were “UnGerman”.
  • After the Nazis annexed Austria, Freud with Martha and Anna left Vienna and headed to London for safety.
  • In 1923, Freud was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw; he underwent more than thirty operations.
  • Freud died on 23rd September 1939 of cancer.
  • On New Year’s Eve 2013, “callous” thieves tried an attempt to steal an urn, which contained Freud and Martha’s ashes in a raid. This happened at the Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green, North London. The plan was to take the urn (which was 2,300 years old at the time of burglary) from the cemetery during the night. As a result, the thieves “severely damaged” the urn. Since then, the urn has been moved to a secure location.


Freud is the twentieth century’s most famous figures; as well as writing three-hundred books, essays, and articles, he also drafted up theories of human psychology and became a prolific writer.  These works include:

  • Studies on Hysteria (1895)


  • The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)


  • The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901)


  • Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)


  • Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905)


  • Totem and Taboo (1913)


  • On Narcissism (1914)


  • Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1917)


  • Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920)


  • The Future of an Illusion (1927)


  • Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)
  • Moses and Monotheism (1939)


Through his work, Freud became an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis. He had made revolutionary ideas that have changed the world, and the way we believe of the human body, mind and today. Here are, I believe, three important key discoveries, through pure interests Freud found during his lifetime:

  • Freud had an interest in hypnotism and he believed that it could help those who are mentally ill. An example of this theory comes from his time at the Vienna General Hospital, when he worked with Josef Breuer (1842 – 1925) to treat hysteria by recalling patients’ painful experiences under hypnosis.

Freud would later abandon hypnotism; he replaced this interest with free association and dream analysis in what we now know as “the talking cure.” These became the basic elements for psychoanalysis.

  • When he began to take an interest in dreams, Freud analysed his theories in The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud did this to understand the aspect of personality, in order to the relation of pathology. Freud believed that dreams happen when unconsciousness motivates actions and thoughts. He believed that to live in a civilized society, a person has to hold back on the urges and repress of their impulses. The urges and impulses are released as they have a way of nearing the surface in disguised forms; one way to realise them is through dreaming.

Freud also believes that the unconscious reveals itself in a symbolic language since its contents could be disturbing or harmful. This aspects of the mind categorized into three parts:

  • Id – This element is centred on primal impulses, pleasures, desires, unchecked urges and wish fulfilment. *
  • Ego – Consecrating with the conscious, the rational, the moral and the self-aware detail of the mind. *
  • Superego – the censor for the id; this is also responsible for enforcing the moral codes of the ego. *

*     All three aspects of the mind were published Freud’s 1923 novel, ‘The Ego and the Id’.

Whilst dreaming, dreamers are able to see into their unconsciousness or id; when the body guards aren’t operating, they give dreamers opportunities to act out and express the id’s hidden desires whilst they are in a dream state. However, the strong feelings of id could be disturbing and psychologically harmful, like a censor coming to play and translate the id’s disturbing content into an acceptable symbolic form. This helps to conserve sleep and prevent the dreamer from waking up, shocked with the images that’ll go through the mind. This leads up to confusing and cryptic dream images.

When a person awakes from sleep, that the urge and desires of id are conquered by the superego. And while the superego is working, it protects the mind from disturbing images we see in our nightmares and desires.

Also, Freud had a passionate interest in hysteria, which since then has been renamed as conversion syndrome. Conversion Syndrome (or Conversion Disorder) is a mental disorder were patients suffer from psychological distress, due to neurological symptoms. These include fits, blindness and numbness. One case study of Conversion Disorder (which was to be Freud’s well recognised theories) involved a young woman. This study became known as Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (published 1905); it centres on “Dora”, whose real name is Ida Bauer, who had limb pains and aphonia (or loss of voice). In it, Freud digs into “Dora’s” life and inner thoughts so he could see what was going through her mind. At home, “Dora” lived with her parents and through them, her and her family were close to another couple, Herr and Frau K. This relationship worries “Dora’s” father, as he believes that Herr K properly had inappropriate sexual conduct with his daughter while Herr K was still married. Whatever the outcome was (whither Herr K may have or haven’t had sexual intercourse, sexually assaulted or had any sexual activity with “Dora”), Herr K had denied any guilt towards “Dora” which her father didn’t believe. However, “Dora” also told Freud that her father had a relationship with Frau K; during this time, “Dora” confessed that her father was making, then tricking her to have an affair with Herr K because he believed it was correct for a daughter to become a mistress to a friend. According to “Dora” (which is also believed by Freud), Herr K started the sexual advance when she was fourteen 14 years old.

Once he found information on “Dora”, Freud proceeded to treat her, through research and experience; this was completed with eleven weeks (because “Dora” left her therapy sessions, much to Freud’s disappointment). In another case, Dreams and Hysteria, Freud also conducts a dream analysis for “Dora”, in which she recounted two dreams to Freud:

Dream #1

[a] house was on fire. My father was standing beside my bed and woke me up. I dressed quickly. Mother wanted to stop and save her jewel-case; but Father said: ‘I refuse to let myself and my two children be burnt for the sake of your jewel-case.’ We hurried downstairs, and as soon as I was outside I woke up.

Dream #2

I was walking about in a town which I did not know. I saw streets and squares which were strange to me. Then I came into a house where I lived, went to my room, and found a letter from Mother lying there. She wrote saying that as I had left home without my parents’ knowledge she had not wished to write to me to say Father was ill. “Now he is dead, and if you like you can come.” I then went to the station and asked about a hundred times: “Where is the station?” I always got the answer: “Five minutes.” I then saw a thick wood before me which I went into, and there I asked a man whom I met. He said to me: “Two and a half hours more.” He offered to accompany me. But I refused and went alone. I saw the station in front of me and could not reach it. At the same time, I had the unusual feeling of anxiety that one has in dreams when one cannot move forward. Then I was at home. I must have been travelling in the meantime, but I knew nothing about that. I walked into the porter’s lodge, and enquired for our flat. The maidservant opened the door to me and replied that Mother and the others were already at the cemetery.


Reading both dreams, Freud can easily refer to “Dora’s” life, based on the events that have been occurred or waiting to happen. Examples include:

  • The jewel case (representing as “Dora’s” virginity), being at risk because of the misuse of trust from the one person who is responsible for the safety of “Dora”, i.e., her father. This shows that “Dora’s” father wants nothing to do with his daughter’s interests at heart, by protecting her from Herr K.
  • The railway station: this presents “Dora’s” authority over herself. The person who wished to accompany her to the station represented her anxiety over Herr K; the fear to say ‘no’ when he wants sexual attention towards “Dora”, the fear of him being around/near her, or his name being mentioned and the fear of herself in this situation.

Through these symptoms, Freud was able to identify “Dora’s” jealously of Frau K’s relationship with her father, the mixed feelings towards Herr K, her sexual feelings and memories of the abuse.

But although Freud’s case studies have been questioned, studied, modified and fictionalised through stories and novellas, no one really knows of the happenings between Freud and his patients, which is still high debated to this day.

How Freud’s Theories Continue to live on in the Twenty-First Century?

Psychoanalytic theory has changed over the years. During his lifetime, Freud’s ideas are discussed and analysed as works of literature. However, his theories and treatment of his patients are still debated today, since no one really knows what happened during this process.

Despite this, Freud (through his work) had changed how we recognise human behaviour. He was the first to insight the inner selves of human beings, and though this, he opened new doors towards ways we study and think of our inner and outer selves; Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and special importance on the unconscious gave ways to shape years of pain staking research. Even his work helped traumatised soldiers during the First World War.

Today, Freud’s studies are covered in most categories/careers we know and do including sociology, heath, and care, literature and drama. His theories have also inspired literacy critics alike including:

  • French theorists Claude Levi-Strauss, and Jacques Derrida (who have studied Postmodernism, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism, supporting Freud’s own theories as pure evidence).
  • Freud’s work with the soldiers during WWI and his theories in Beyond the Pleasure Principle inspired the character, Septimus Smith in Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs Dalloway.
  • Peter Brooks unearthed Freud’s work on his dream theories, for proof as to how story plots in novels are made in his 1992 novel, Reading for the Plot.
  • And that’s not all; Freud had also taken his own research for his work, using characters from theatrical performances, and the written language by poets, and novelists so he could understand and outline the behaviours, figures of speech and actions of dreams while unconscious. These include the likes of Sophocles, Goethe’s Faust and Shakespeare (especially Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth).


In conclusion, I feel that Sigmund Freud and his works inspired the next generation of theorists, performers, nurses and sociologists alike. Freud has proved to show that there’s more to a people than we think. Without the findings, stories of his patients, and Freud’s own accounts, we would have never known the spirituality, emotions and inner feelings of the human body. As a student in a performing arts school and a passionate writer, Freud’s findings prove to be extremely useful for developing characters for the stage, screen, stories and poems. It shows that not all characters, story lines and poems can share the same inner feelings (for example, Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons, is sad all the time because she feels utterly miserable for no reason).

Reading Freud’s theories, especially “Dora’s” case, has taught me that every person (in the real and fictional words through novels, television, stage, etc.) desires to want they wish for, what holds them back and how they could achieve them. I believe Freud is the master of dreams and inner feelings towards his patients; he has used clever meanings of dreams to describe their lives and situations, like he was a living dream dictionary.

Now, I will treasure Freud’s findings; not only for research, but for personal issues too such as anxiety and dreams. I applauded this great man for his hard work and I hope he’ll be remembered for generations to come.