Psych 101: What does Freud ‘really’ say?

Note: I am a student of psychology with a keen interest in facts. That’s why I wrote this article. Not a Freudian or Neo- Freudian
Sigmund Freud.
If you have heard of psychology, you have heard of Freud…and about sex, cigar, couch, childhood, and the unconscious. He is one of the most misunderstood, highly debated psychologists. If he were to read some online articles about himself, he will roll in his grave.
This article is an attempt to highlight what Freud really said about the human mind.

  • Catharsis
    In the 1890s, Freud set up his private practice specializing in nervous and brain disorders. He conceptualized talking therapy to treat patients with hysteria. He called that process Catharsis. Catharsis was a term used by Aristotle to describe the effects of true tragedy on the spectator. In psychology, in its most basic sense, Catharsis is simply an emotional release.
  • Free Association
    In 1901, Freud published ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ and spoke of Free Association and Dream Analysis. Through this, he tried to explore and understand the unconscious mind. In Free Association, the client is encouraged to share anything that comes to their mind, regardless of how appropriate they seem. A Freudian free association is fairly uncommon in therapy these days, even among neo-Freudians.
  • Defense Mechanisms
    In 1894, Freud focused on another key concept, Defense Mechanisms. In psychology, a defense mechanism is an unconscious means of coping with anxiety. According to him, the balancing part of our personality (ego) might employ varies ways to overcome anxiety such as Repression, Projection, Denial, Displacement, Regression and Sublimation.
  • Transference/ Counter-transference
    Freud spoke about the emotional bond between the therapist and the client. Transference refers to redirection of a patient’s feelings for a significant person to the therapist. Counter-transference is the therapist’s emotional entanglement with a patient. A qualified therapist will address these so that they can be resolved.
  • Structure of Personality
    In psychoanalytic theory, personality is composed of three elements – Id, Ego, and Superego.

    • Id is driven by pleasure principle and demands immediate gratification.
    • Ego works on reality principle and tries to fulfil Id’s needs in socially appropriate ways.
    • The superego acts to civilize our behaviour.
    • For example. I have 5 chocolates. Id wants to eat all of them. Superego thinks that I ‘should’ share them with a friend. Ego then lets me eat 3 (more than half – Id satisfaction) and share 2 with a friend.
  • Levels of Consciousness
    At the heart of Freud’s theory are psychopathologies that may result in a mental illness. Freud thinks that there are three levels of awareness – conscious, subconscious/preconscious, unconscious.

    • Conscious: It holds our thoughts and perceptions about the events happening around us.
    • Subconscious/Preconscious: It stores memories and knowledge which can be easily brought to the surface.
    • Unconscious: It accumulates our thoughts and feelings which have not disappeared. They influence our actions in a disguised manner.
  • Psychosexual Development
    Freud spoke of five stages of psychosexual development – Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital. It is one of the most complex and controversial theories. According to him, we have an innate tendency to seek pleasure through the stimulation of body parts which are sensitive to touch. They are called erogenous zones. An individual either completes all these stages successfully leading to a healthy personality or failure, which leads to unhealthy personality.

If you are still reading this, congratulations!

Things to remember:
• Freud’s work context: late 1800s to early 1900.
• His work has been researched multiple times and many theories/ therapies have been built on it
• Freud really was a scientific mind proposing theories on human behaviour.

It’d be great to hear your views on Freud – what he meant to you? What were your misconceptions? Some of his perspectives that you really like/dislike? It’d help us deconstruct Freud further. Do comment and share.

If you have more queries, feel free to write to us:


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