HomeGER-272Module Three

Module Three

Sigmund Freud – Introduction

This somewhat lengthy Encyclopedia Britannica article (Freud lived a long life in which he wrote a lot, so it makes sense that the article will be lengthy) gives a thorough introduction to Freud’s work:

Sigmund Freud

Your discussion task: How would you summarize the main idea behind Freud’s work?

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

ProfMoment – Sigmund Freud

Watch this ProfMoment:

After you’ve been dazzled by that cinematic brilliance, consider this: in The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud developed his notion that dreams fulfill wishes. In the book, he starts with this premise

the dream is the fulfilment of a wish

and then expanded it to this:

the dream is the (disguised) fulfilment of a (repressed, suppressed) wish.

Your discussion task: Explain what Freud means about dreams and wish fulfilment.

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

Freud’s Interpretive Method

So much of Freud’s work depends on his interpretive style. In Chapter Four of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud provides numerous examples of patients who try to show him that dreams can’t be the fulfilment of wishes. Freud interprets these dreams to show that they are the disguised fulfilment of suppressed wishes. Here’s an example:

Yet another dream of a more gloomy character was offered me by a female patient in contradiction of my theory of the wish-dream. This patient, a young girl, began as follows: ‘You remember that my sister has now only one boy, Charles. She lost the elder one, Otto, while I was still living with her. Otto was my favourite; it was I who really brought him up. I like the other little fellow, too, but, of course, not nearly so much as his dead brother. Now I dreamt last night that I saw Charles lying dead before me. He was lying in his little coffin, his hands folded, there were candles all about; and, in short, it was just as it was at the time of little Otto’s death, which gave me such a shock. Now tell me, what does this mean? You know me — am I really so bad as to wish that my sister should lose the only child she has left? Or does the dream mean that I wish that Charles had died rather than Otto, whom I liked so much better?’

I assured her that this latter interpretation was impossible. After some reflection, I was able to give her the interpretation of the dream, which she subsequently confirmed. I was able to do so because the whole previous history of the dreamer was known to me.

Having become an orphan at an early age, the girl had been brought up in the home of a much older sister, and had met, among the friends and visitors who frequented the house, a man who made a lasting impression upon her affections. It looked for a time as though these barely explicit relations would end in marriage, but this happy culmination was frustrated by the sister, whose motives were never completely explained. After the rupture the man whom my patient loved avoided the house; she herself attained her independence some time after the death of little Otto, to whom, meanwhile, her affections had turned. But she did not succeed in freeing herself from the dependence due to her affection for her sister’s friend. Her pride bade her avoid him, but she found it impossible to transfer her love to the other suitors who successively presented themselves. Whenever the man she loved, who was a member of the literary profession, announced a lecture anywhere, she was certain to be found among the audience; and she seized every other opportunity of seeing him unobserved. I remembered that on the previous day she had told me that the Professor was going to a certain concert, and that she too was going, in order to enjoy the sight of him. This was on the day before the dream; and the concert was to be given on the day on which she told me the dream. I could now easily see the correct interpretation, and I asked her whether she could think of any particular event which had occurred after Otto’s death. She replied immediately: ‘Of course; the Professor returned then, after a long absence, and I saw him once more beside little Otto’s coffin.’ It was just as I had expected. I interpreted the dream as follows: ‘If now the other boy were to die, the same thing would happen again. You would spend the day with your sister; the Professor would certainly come to offer his condolences, and you would see him once more under the same circumstances as before. The dream signifies nothing more than this wish of yours to see him again — a wish against which you are fighting inwardly. I know that you have the ticket for today’s concert in your bag. Your dream is a dream of impatience; it has anticipated by several hours the meeting which is to take place today.’

In order to disguise her wish she had obviously selected a situation in which wishes of the sort are commonly suppressed — a situation so sorrowful that love is not even thought of. And yet it is entirely possible that even in the actual situation beside the coffin of the elder, more dearly loved boy, she had not been able to suppress her tender affection for the visitor whom she had missed for so long.

Your discussion task: What do you make of Freud’s interpretation? Do you agree with his method? Why or why not?

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

Pleasure vs. Reality

Here’s a video by The School of Life that provides a very quick introduction to some of Freud’s main ideas:

Your discussion task: Is there an idea of Freud’s that you find either particularly insightful or particularly troubling? Explain why you think that.

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

Criticism of Freud

Freud became a household name in the 20th century. Psychoanalysis would be practiced throughout Europe and North America, and the Freudian or psychoanalytic approach made it into many other fields of endeavour, most notably literary studies, where it was applied as a method for discovering hidden meaning in literature and film.

But in the fields psychology and psychiatry, an approach based more on studies of human physiology and cognitive behaviour now holds sway, and Freud and his theories are usually taught as an historical curiosity, if at all. 

To get an idea of the criticisms that the modern medical and psychological professions level against Freud and his methods, read this essay from Britain’s leading medical journal, The Lancet, in which R.C. Tallis review’s Richard Webster’s book Why Freud Was Wrong.

R.C. Tallis, “Burying Freud”

And here’s a short essay that defends Freud’s ideas, at least to some extent:

Matthew Gullo, “A Dangerous Method? In Defence of Freud’s Psychoanalysis” (Read the comments at the end of that article – the discussion is interesting)

Your discussion task: So, what’s your opinion on the matter of Freud? Is he right or wrong?

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

Freud vs. CBT

Cognitive behaviour therapy, or CBT, is now probably the leading form of psychotherapy. It is used by psychologists and therapists to assist their patients in developing strategies for coping with and overcoming various afflictions (e.g. anxiety or depression).

Oliver Burkeman, “Therapy Wars: The Revenge of Freud”

Your discussion task: Where do you stand on the debate between CBT and psychoanalysis?

REMINDER: if someone has already posted to the forum, and your comment relates to what they’ve said, it’s better to respond to that comment than to start a new thread.

Specific Instructions for this Review: Freud

The literature on Freud is voluminous. We’ve barely skimmed the surface of it in this module. So, for your Module Review, I’d like to give you the chance to read a little more.

Below are three different readings. Choose one, and in your review explain your main takeaway from that reading, and relate that takeaway to the work we did on Freud in this module. The takeaway may reinforce an idea you formed in the module, it might contradict something you’ve read, it might open up whole new directions in Freud that you haven’t considered yet: it’s all good. What’s important in this Module Review is that you show that you can apply what you’ve learned so far to new information about Freud.

“How Jewish was Freud?” This older article, from 1991, is a review of two books that attempt to counteract the notion that Freud’s Jewishness did not play a role in his thinking.

“Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” looks at one of Freud’s most famous cases.

“As a Therapist, Freud Fell Short, Scholars Find” is an older article from the New York Times outlining some of the problems with Freud’s practice of psychoanalysis.

As always, feel free to make use of the content items in the module and the postings of your classmates when composing your answer.

600-750 words

General Instructions for the Module Reviews

Please keep the following in mind:

  • your answer should be uploaded as a Word document. If you don’t have Word, please save your answer as a .docx file in the word processor of your choice.
  • your answer should be double-spaced.
  • no title page, but there should be a title, your name should appear at the top, and there should be page numbers.
  • answers should be within the specified word range.
  • good essays have grammatically-correct sentences, coherent paragraphs, no spelling mistakes, and a clear argument or point.

Please note: the question may ask you to make use of the discussions that occurred in the module. There are two modes for viewing the discussion forums, GRID VIEW and READING VIEW. (You can change which you view by clicking on the settings – the gear icon – in the upper right-hand corner of your screen when you’re in the Discussions area of the course.) Play around with the two views to find the setting that works best for you. For example, when I’m reading your discussions during the week and commenting on some of them, I use the READING VIEW, but if I have to read and grade a lot of postings I use the GRID VIEW.