The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview
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Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) enjoyed school and was a star pupil; his interest in history
and humanities seemed a perfect match for his planned study of the law, but he became
intrigued by science and so enrolled in the University of Vienna's medical school instead.
Working with the physiologist Ernst Brucke, Freud developed an appreciation for mecha-
nistic explanations and published articles in neuroanatomy as a student. Employment as a
researcher seemed unlikely—not only were such positions rare, but Freud's Jewish heritage
would be held against him. A desire to marry prompted a reassessment of his financial op-
portunities, and Freud began a training program at Vienna's General Hospital. In 1885,
Freud won a travel grant to study with the French doctor Jean-Martin Charcot, the leading
authority on the treatment of patients with various forms of hysteria. Returning to Vienna,
Freud entered private practice, initially treating ordinary neurological cases, but he began
accepting patients with hysteria to address his financial concerns. When he experienced
difficulties with Charcot's hypnosis treatment, Freud developed alternative procedures that
eventually led to his psychoanalytic theory of mind and psychotherapy. Throughout the
1930s, the climate was becoming increasingly hostile for Jews in Vienna, so Freud took his
family to London in 1938. Tragically, his sisters were not granted exit visas and were
among over 5 million Jews led to Nazi gas chambers.



Ladies and Gentlemen: It is not always easy to tell the truth, especially when one must be brief, and so to-day I must correct an incorrect statement that I made in my last lecture.

I told you how when I gave up using hypnosis I pressed my patients to tell me what came into their minds that had to do with the problem we were working on, I told them that they would remember what they had apparently forgotten, and that the thought which irrupted into consciousness (Einfall) would surely embody the memory for which we were seeking. I claimed that I substantiated the fact that the first idea of my patients brought the right clue and could be shown to be the forgotten continuation of the memory. Now this is not always so; I represented it as being so simple only for purposes of abbreviation. In fact, it would only happen the first times that the right forgotten material would emerge through simple pressure on my part. If the experience was continued, ideas emerged in every case which could not be the right ones, for they were not to the purpose, and the patients themselves rejected them as incorrect. Pressure was of no further service here, and one could only regret again having given up hypnosis. In this state of perplexity I clung to a prejudice which years later was proved by my friend C. G. Jung of the University of Zürich, and his pupils to have a scientific justification. I must confess that it is often of great advantage to have prejudices. I put a high value on the strength of the determination of mental processes, and I could not believe that any idea which occurred to the patient, which originated in a state of concentrated attention, could be quite arbitrary and out of all relation to the forgotten idea that we were seeking. That it was not identical with the latter, could be satisfactorily ex

From Sigmund Freud, “The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis (Third, Fourth and Fifth Lectures).” American Journal of
Psychology 21 (1910): 196–218.


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