The Death of a Legend
On this day in 1939 a giant of 20th Century thought and the arguable father of modern psychotherapy died in London, the person in question of course was Sigmund Freud. For readers who do not know much about Freud, here is a brief biographical snippet. Freud was born in Pribor which was then part of the Austrian Empire, which is now part of the Czech Republic. He went on to study and qualify in Medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881, having a keen interest in neurological disturbances and diseases.
Freud’s interests lead him to begin to look at the treatment of psychopathology through talking rather than invasive methods. This was the birth of psychoanalysis and by default the birth of the talking therapies and psychotherapy. From the embryo of psychoanalysis came “free association” and “transference” and of course the concept of the unconscious mind. Freud also pioneered the use of dreams within therapy.
Though Freud’s contribution cannot be overstated, he ideas also attracted controversy. The feminist movement criticised Freud particularly. His views on the superiority of the male as well as concepts like “Penis Envy” came in for particular criticism. Additionally, as psychotherapy evolved as a profession and discipline, one could argue that psychotherapy falls into two distinctive camps, Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic and everything else. Even within the ranks of psychodynamic psychotherapy, Freud’s work is the subject of critical scrutiny.
Whether you like him or loath him we are still talking about and debating the ideas of this giant of 20th century thought 75 years after his death. I imagine we will be doing so in another 75 years.