The Freud Museum


Sigmund Freud: Work

Sigmund Freud was a doctor who lived in Vienna, the capital of Austria, from 1859 until 1938. While he was still at university Freud decided to specialize in neurology, the study and treatment of the brain and the nervous system. In 1885, just before he got married, he obtained a grant to go to Paris to see the famous neurologist Jean Martin Charcot.

Can you find a picture of Charcot in the museum? What is Charcot doing in the picture?

Charcot worked with men and women who suffered from hysteria. At first sight they appeared to be blind, or paralysed in a part of their body, or cannot stop coughing, or have some other physical symptom. Charcot used hypnosis to show that under hypnosis he could get his patients to walk or see. He saw the symptoms as a result of 'neurological degeneration', but the real problem was a mental one. Freud realised from these demonstrations the power that the mind could have over the body, and he came back from Paris determined to make a name for himself in this new field of study.

What other situations do you know when the mind affects the body? Find something in the museum to support your answer.

Gradually more and more patients came to see Freud, and with each patient he tried to learn something new about his work. He also tried to analyse himself. He realized that some of the ideas that affect people are unconscious - we do not know about them even though they are in our own minds. Freud said that this means that people may do things without knowing the real reason why they are doing it.

Have you ever done anything without knowing the real reason until afterwards? What was it?

He also showed that the unconscious is full of memories and ideas from early childhood, but they are 'repressed' and made unconscious because they are things we don't want to think about, or they are forbidden. Freud believed in an idea which is still often heard today, that 'the child is father to the adult', and because of his views many adults today think about children in a different way to before.

What does it mean that 'the child is father to the adult'?
Do you think it is true?

Freud also showed that sometimes the repressed ideas from childhood could show themselves in dreams or nightmares, and one of his most famous books was called The Interpretation Of Dreams. The first dream Freud interpreted was when he was on holiday at a place called 'Bellevue'.

There is a picture of Bellevue in the museum. Can you find it?
Why do you think the place inspired Freud?

Freud says that dreams are about all the things we wish for. But rather than just wishing for something, the dream shows us a picture as if the wish has come true. So instead of thinking 'I wish I had an ice-cream', a dream shows you actually eating the ice-cream!

Go into Anna Freud's room upstairs. What might Anna have dreamed of when she was a little girl?

But sometimes you are not allowed to have an ice-cream. Freud said that the wish is often forbidden, so it becomes unconscious and repressed. Part of you wants to make the wish come true and part of you wants to stop the wish by imposing a kind of 'censorship'. Because of this the wish is disguised, to avoid being caught out by the censor, which means that the dream has to be interpreted before it makes sense. That's why Freud called his book The Interpretation of Dreams.

Imagine Freud's study is a dream. What is the forbidden wish you can find in it?

One of the most important things Freud discovered was what he called 'The Oedipus complex'. The Oedipus story was a Greek myth about a man who killed his father, the king, and married his mother. In the story Oedipus also had to solve the 'riddle of the Sphinx', by answering the three questions the Sphinx asked him.

Find the picture of Oedipus and the Sphinx in Freud's study. Why do you think people like solving riddles?

Freud thought that all little boys of 4 or 5 years old were like Oedipus in the story. When they say 'I wish I could have mummy all to myself and that daddy was gone away' they are wanting to be just like Oedipus. But this wish cannot be granted - noone can have their mummy all to themselves - so the child has to learn to grow up and accept his disappointment. It was when his own father died that Freud began the study of dreams which led him to discover the Oedipus complex.

Do you think everyone has an Oedipus complex, or do you think it was something Freud made up?

Gradually Freud developed the theory of Psychoanalysis and the method of helping people he called free association. With free association Freud simply asked his patients to lie on the couch and say anything that came into their heads. He tried to interpret what they said by relating it to the repressed ideas and wishes in the unconscious. In this way he hoped that things which were unconscious would gradually become conscious, so that the patient would have more control over them and they would not be able to affect him or her so much.

Imagine you went to see Freud, and lay down on the couch. What is the first thing you would say?
Do you agree that when things are talked about they become less important?



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