It has been more or less one hundred years since Freud wrote many of his groundbreaking books and papers on the human mind, exploring and theorising about dreams, culture, human development, sexuality and mental health. And while some of his theories have been discredited, many major ideas have been borne out and are still relevant today.
Many of Freud’s methodologies, techniques, and conclusions have been put into question. Moreover, some of his theories are considered potentially damaging, prejudiced and without justification; particularly to certain segments of the population.
His perspectives on female sexuality and homosexuality are often reviled, causing some feminists to refer to him by a different kind of ‘F’ word. A few have even argued that his name should be “Fraud”. Much of the criticism of psychoanalysis is that it is heterosexual, phallocentric, sexist and unscientific.
Without doubt some such criticisms are valid and justified. However, to dismiss Freud’s work as irrelevant, or having no solid evidence based grounding, or even that there is no validity to the Freudian perspective; is a gross over simplification.
Certain critics perhaps don’t bear in mind the time he grew up in when he was theorising and just how ahead of his time he was. Fundamentally his legacy, influence and contributions to psychology, culture and society, has impacted on us all in one way or another. Freud’s lexicon has become part of the vocabulary of western society. Words he introduced through his theories are now in common usage. Libido, Oedipal, denial, repression, cathartic, Freudian slip, anal (personality) and neurotic, to name a few.
‘If someone speaks, it gets lighter’
Freud is the founding father of psychoanalysis, which is often referred to as the ‘Talking Cure’. As Freud wrote in his Introduction to Psychoanalysis (lecture XXV). ‘If someone speaks, it gets lighter’. He would encourage his patients to speak freely about whatever was on their mind, the commonly known term of ‘free association’.
Whether an individual's therapy is based on Freudian psychoanalysis or any of the other forms of talking therapy, the evidence is clear, that talking helps alleviate emotional symptoms, lessen anxiety and can help give a person better clarity. While medication and brief therapy can be effective in alleviating symptoms, talking therapy has the important factor of the therapeutic relationship. The whole person is involved in the process, not only their symptoms or a diagnosis: therefore deeper and more lasting changes can become possible.
Sigmund Freud’s contentious and provocative theories are still a huge part of psychology, neuroscience, and culture, despite the fact that some of his ideas are outdated and questionable. After all as my university lecturer would often state…“Freud himself was not a Freudian”.
Eleanor Rockell, who runs her own practice, London City Psychotherapy based in Bethnal Green, has been a practising therapist for over ten years. Having worked in the NHS and now running her own private practice, Eleanor is an experienced therapist who holds a Masters of Science in Psychodynamics of Human Development from The University of London and is also registered with the BACP