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Sigmund Freud. Appunti per il CLIL di Filosofia in lingua inglese

red - Di seguito viene proposta una risorsa su Sigmund Freud, utile per le classi in cui sono attivi dei percorsi CLIL di Filosofia in lingua inglese

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 from a Jewish family which moved to Vienna 4 years later. In 1873, Freud begun studying medicine at the University of Vienna. He became a doctor in 1881, specializing in nervous disorders. In 1885 he moved to Paris to study with dr. Charcot, who used hypnosis to cure hysteria. He returned to Vienna and began to collaborate with Joseph Breuer, using the “cathartic method”. The symptoms of hysteria disappeared when, under hypnosis, the patient recalled and re-lived the emotional circumstances bringing about the psychic trauma.

In 1895 the two men published the Studies on Hysteria, presenting some case studies on their patients. The most important case-study was the patient Anna O., a young woman: invited to talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis, she improved when recovered memories of traumatic incidents. This was the beginning of the “talking cure“. Freud was enthusiastic about the new method, but his emphasis on the exclusively sexual causes of hysteria made his theories unpopular and led to break with Breuer. In this period Freud also replaced the use of hypnosis with the method of freeassociations. According to Freud, our thoughts have unconscious roots which we can reach by means of free associations.

The Interpretation of dreams

In 1899, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams. He used to define the dreams as “the royal road to the Unconscious”. Dreams, in Freud’s view, are forms of “wishfulfilment” — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort. 

Because the urges from the unconscious are often disturbing, a “censor” in the preconscious (later the Superego) will not allow it to pass unaltered into the conscious. During dreams, the preconscious is more relaxed than in waking hours, but is still attentive: as such, the unconscious must distort the meaning of the latent dream. Consequently, images in dreams are transformed in the more acceptable manifestdream. Yet, to understand its true meaning, we need a deeper interpretation. 

His history of mind

What were the basic elements of Freud’s theory of the mind?

 Freud provided two different descriptions of the mind: the first was developed in his 1900 book The Interpretation of dreams, distinguishing the conscious strand of personality from the material which is not conscious but can be called easily into consciousness, “pre-conscious.” The most important idea was the “unconscious”: it does not include all that is not conscious, but rather what is actively repressed from conscious thought or what a person is averse to knowing consciously. Freud viewed the unconscious as a repository for socially unacceptable ideas, wishes or desires, traumatic memories, and painful emotions put out of mind by the mechanism of psychological repression.

In 1920 Freud developed a new version of his description of the mind introducing three ideas: the “id”, “ego”, and the “superego”.

The id is entirely unconscious; it obeys the “pleasure principle” and wants to act on impulses and instincts. The ego is mostly conscious and partly unconscious; it obeys the “reality principle,” interposing between the person and reality. 

The superego is also mostly conscious but partly unconscious; it is the internalization of society’s restrictions on behaviour. Repression is the method by which objectionable material in the conscious part of the ego and superego is made unconscious. 

According to Freud the three elements or forces of the mind interact and conflict among them, causing mental illness. A “neurosis” is a mental illness caused by the partially successful repression of unwanted thoughts or desires, which leads to secondary symptoms such as depression, hysteria, and anxiety. 

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