argument top image

What do we know about Sigmund Freud's theories? Show more Show less
Back to question

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), commonly referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis" was an Austrian neurologist and is generally recognized as one of the most influential and authoritative thinkers of the twentieth century. He remains a well-recognised figure and he and his ideas are still frequently referenced in pop culture. Freud has been influential in two related but distinct ways. He simultaneously developed a theory of the human mind and human behaviour, as well as clinical techniques for attempting to help neurotics. He popularised the ideas of the unconscious, defense mechanisms, Freudian slips and dream symbolism, while also making a long-lasting impact on fields as diverse as literature, film, Marxist and feminist theories, literary criticism, philosophy and psychology.

Freud's beliefs were problematic Show more Show less

A lot of his beliefs and behaviour are considered problematic today.
< (2 of 5) Next position >

Reported abuse was actually a fantasy

Freud believed a lot of reported abuse was actually misremembered childhood sexual fantasy. He never seriously believed or helped his patients when they spoke of this traumatic topic.

The Argument

Freud’s insistence that children have sexual urges seems bizarre today[1]; the number of possibly abused patients he saw and the potential damage he caused by explaining their stories of abuse as their own childhood fantasies is of enormous concern. This can be seen, namely, in Freud's theory of the Oedipus Complex in which Freud claims that children have "imagined, sexualized [fantasies]" [2]about their caretakers. It is still unclear and contested whether or not Freud truly believed that people who claimed to have experienced sexual abuse were actually recounting fantasies or things they made up in their minds. Some believed that Freud denied his original seduction theory merely because of the pressure of his academic and medical peers. The seduction theory was far beyond its time and people were not prepared to face such ideas. But ultimately, he did privately recant this theory and supported the idea that these reported accounts of abuse were not actual abuse, but were fantasies. Sigmund Freud was more comfortable with undermining his female patients by recounting his theory and stating that many of these reports were imagined-- taking the blame and responsibility off of the male abusers.[3] He played off his patients' sexual abuse instead of reporting it or helping them through the trauma. Due to Freud, many people had their sexual abuse played off as part of their imagination.

Counter arguments

As mentioned in the argument, to this day, there is much debate surrounding Freud’s true views on the impact of sexual abuse on one’s psyche. In his original theory of seduction, Freud claimed, in disregard of his peers, hysteria in patients was caused by sexual abuse in their childhood. This was not only revolutionary but blasphemous in its time. Freud’s peers insisted he not publish the work because of his lack of clinical evidence and the irreversible damage this would do to his reputation. Some believe that it was this response from his medical and psychological colleagues that made him recant this theory. Many view Freud as, yes, a problematic man, but more so as someone who was an empathic visionary in a time that was problematic and not yet ready to face the horrible reality of sexual abuse that so many women faced.



[P1] Freud believed most childhood abuse was actually childhood sexual fantasies.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Friday, 10 Jul 2020 at 21:59 UTC

Explore related arguments