The National Council of Psychotherapists
Freud: Sexual revolutionist
come, when many of his ideas are long deserted and disputed, Freud's work is
still useful today?
Rolef Ben-Shahar LicMT LHS LNCP LCPS
Freud’s contribution to mankind stretches far beyond the field of
psychoanalysis. As a matter of fact, none of us today in the modern western
world can even imagine our life without Freud. If we are to consider Freud’s
applications with regards to modern society, we should, first, have a look at
the things that Freud has changed.
many historians, the modern era began with replacing the static (medieval and
pre-medieval) world with a dynamic one. Martin
Luther broke the catholic monopoly on God, and made both religion and faith
a matter of a living inner process. Once the objectivity of church was broken
– it was never to totally recover again. Nicolaus
Copernicus revised our way of looking at the Earth and Sun (in the 16th
century) – the Earth is no longer static nor the centre of the universe. The
heliocentric theory that Copernicus had published argued that Earth was just a
planet, revolving around the Sun, nowhere near being the centre of the Universe.
So did Charles Darwin – and a human
being after the ‘the origin of species’ (1859) was not God’s peak of
creation any more. Man was not the ruler of inferior beasts, but rather a link
in an infinite chain of adjustments, an animal. All of the great men mentioned
above did much more than presenting new ideas, new theories. They changed a
point of view, they brought about a shift in paradigm, forcing all other fields
of knowledge to adopt the new way. They have created a new path, which demanded
a new language and different concepts. And this is exactly what Sigmund
Freud has done.
man before Freud was logical, basically good, and ever improving. Freud had
changed that. He emphasised our animal instincts of violence and sex, our
inability to be totally rational. He drew attention to the importance of
development, of childhood. Freud created a systematic method for dealing with
mental problems, his psychoanalysis. These were all processes – everything was
changing. Freud inserted the concept
of dynamics into the realm of human behaviour and human mind. All of these
points are still relevant at present.
not only are we forced to speak ‘Freudian’ when we constantly use Freud's
concepts and improved theories, but we also think
in ‘Freudian’ language. Sexuality in children wasn’t recognised until
Freud; interpretation of dreams was never as methodical as Freud made it;
Conscious, unconscious, ego, neurosis, drives (or instincts), anal, oral and
phallic stages, Oedipus complex and many other terms are used in this fashion
thanks to Freud.
is an old Spanish saying: ‘when a stone hits a vessel - alas for the vessel,
but when a vessel hits a stone – alas for the vessel’. Once changes were
made, there was no return. Modern psychology is based on the model of thinking
(paradigm) that Freud had given birth to, and in a way, we are all products of
Freud's fertile work.
paved a new road – and anyone who follows this path ought to refer to his
main contribution to humanity is that of changing the paradigm. Nonetheless,
Freud’s work is still being used in practical and theoretical psychology. The
methods of interpretation, analysis and the importance of transformation between
patient and therapist (among them are transference and counter-transference) are
of use in many therapies. Almost everything Freud talked about became a
psychological hot issue.
Freud’s concepts and even contradicting him was exactly what helped the study
of human mind to evolve, and still does. A dynamic science will always have new
questions and answers, and it will always change and calibrate itself.
a new revolutionist changes our whole image of mankind, until we are forced to
replace our current point of view of the world with another – Freud will be
useful. And in a way, even afterwards – because no matter what changes occur,
by making the mind dynamic, by breaking the static paradigm of the human mind,
Freud opened the sealed gate of interpretations. Any interpretation thereafter
is his brainchild too.
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