Biography and Sexual Teachings of Sigmund Freud Part 2

About the famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, history and biography of the man who had a lot to say about sexuality.


SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939), Austria

Freud's ambivalence toward sex is reveled in an essay he wrote in 1912, in which he declared that anyone who examined himself deeply would have to confess "at the bottom of his heart" that he found sexual intercourse "degrading." Perhaps for this reason he was unable to discuss sex with his children. In 1957 his son Martin remarked, "I didn't know the full facts of life until I was 17. My father never talked about his work." By age 41, Freud had decided, "Sexual excitation is of no more use to a person like me."

Before his marriage, Freud pursued a career in scientific research. He developed ideas in clinical and pathological medicine, including the gold chloride method of staining tissues and (an enthusiasm he later regretted) the clinical use of cocaine. For a while, in fact, he prescribed cocaine to his friends, family, and patients for ailments as minor as indigestion. He wrote Martha, "Woe to you, my princess, when I come. I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are forward you shall see who is the stronger, a gentle little girl who doesn't eat enough or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body. In my last severe depression, I took coca again, and a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature for a song of praise to the magical substance." Incidentally, the attitude towards women that this letter reveals--that they are gentle creatures to be protected by strong men--permeated his work, much of which dealt with female hysterics. Many modern feminists feel antipathy toward Freudian psychology because of it. It was Freud who asked the question What does a woman want? In a critique of the feminist ideas of John Stuart Mill, he said a woman's best position is to be "in her youth an adored darling and in mature years a loved wife," and he also maintained, "Nature has determined woman's destiny through beauty, charm, and sweetness."

In the same year that he married, the young doctor went to Paris to study hypnotism as a method for curing hysterics. (While there, he tested the green curtains in his hotel room to make sure they didn't contain arsenic.) Before the use of hypnosis, hysteria had been treated by methods as barbaric as surgically removing the clitoris or administering valerian, whose smell was supposed to offend the womb so it would creep back in place. After trying hypnosis, Freud switched to a new technique--free association--to treat these women and became convinced that hysteria was caused by repressed memories of sexual encounters during childhood. He later revised this theory, which Krafft-Ebing, called a "scientific fairy tale," to say that the cause was the memory of childhood sexual fantasies.

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