Sigmund Freud was a Viennese physician and the founder of Psychoanalysis. Freud suggested that behaviour is determined by the unconscious mind, a repository of repressed impulses and desires, of which the waking mind is completely unaware, but determine the way we think, feel, and act.
According to Freud, all behavior is motivated by the desire to feel pleasure. That motivation is organized and directed by two instincts: sexuality (Eros), and aggression (Thanatos). Freud conceptualized both these instincts as being powered by a form of internal psychic energy that he called the libido. Libido is the pleasure principle, or basic psychic energy. It can perhaps be considered equivalent ch'i or parana of esotericism and yoga.
Freud proposed the evocative metaphor of the psyche as like an iceberg; only the upper 10% of it is visible (i.e. conscious); the rest is submerged and unseen (unconscious).
In explaining the interactions between the various parts of the psyche, Freud suggested several overlapping theories: the economical ( the hydraulics of unpleasure-avoidance through pleasure), the dynamic (libido movements through id, ego, and superego), and the topographic (psyche as structured into conscious, preconscious, and unconscious layers). [ref Craig Chalquist A Glossary of Freudian Terms] The following diagram shows the relationship between some of these elements
Of these psychic structures the id (literally the "It") is the source of libido, and the only structure present at birth. The Id thinks primarily in visual and irrational terms - called primary process thinking. After birth, part of the id differentiates into the ego (note - the latinized term ego is unnecessary; Freud wrote, and meant, "I." [ref Craig Chalquist - Glossary of Freudian Terms] , whose function it is to translate the id's internal wishes (experienced in the form of images) into contact with actual objects. This is secondary process thinking. Despite the ego being the "I", part of it exists in the unconscious
The last structure to develop is the superego (in German Uber-Ich - literally the "Over-I"), which is the result of the resolution of the Oedipal complex, and the internal representation of parental and societal values. It is a sort of internalised parent, formed of reaction formations to unconscious sexual wishes. Obeying this inner voice results in the secondary narcissism of pride, an expectation of being loved by a parent figure, and disobeying it creates guilt. [ref Craig Chalquist - Glossary of Freudian Terms] It is divided into two parts - the conscience, which represents the internalised taboos, and the ego ideal, which contains the internalized aims and goals. Like the ego, the superego operates partly in the conscious part of the mind, and partly in the unconscious and id.
Of the three levels (see "iceberg" diagram), the Conscious is what is in awareness, the Preconscious is those thoughts which although not conscious at the moment can be made conscious voluntarily. The Unconscious is that part of the psyche which is repressed and therefore not part of awareness. The contents of the unconscious are heavily influenced by early childhood experiences.
According to Freud the libido functions in two possible ways
Primary Process is the preverbal and dreamlike original, irrational state of libido, lives in the immediate present, and is unable to defer pleasure. "It produces a memory image of an object needed for gratification in order to reduce the frustration of not having been gratified yet. This develops as the id encounters frustrations of its desires, and it works because for the id, an image is the same as an object ("an identity of perception"). It's called "primary" because it comes first in human development: for Freud if not for later theorists, the baby is, so to speak, all id." [ref Craig Chalquist - Glossary of Freudian Terms]
The Secondary Process is the thinking and reasoning ability. This is the ego's reality-testing and energy (libido)-binding capability. It is able to put aside immediate desire in order to work out a way to acquire the object of pleasure. The ideal adult state is characterized by a strong ego and the ability to delay need gratification.
For someone living in a puritanical Victorian-era society, Freud's psychology is almost obsesively concerned with sex. It can be seen as a reaction against the prudishness of the age, and indeed such symptoms as Freud described were to be expected in a society that repressed sex.
This emphasis on sex is typified by perhaps the strangest of all Freud's theories - his concept of sexual psycho-developmental stages. These stages are defined by changes in attachment of ibido. Freud argues that humans are born "polymorphously perverse," meaning that for the young child any number of objects can be a source of pleasure. As the individual develops from newborn to adult, they fixate on different specific objects, which characterse the stages of development. Through this psychosexual development, this tendency is, ideally, replaced by "normal" heterosexuality.
The following represents a brief overview of these stages.
During the first or oral stage of development, from birth to 18 months, the erotogenic zone is in the mouth, as indicated by the infant's pleasure in nursing. At first gratification comes from sucking and swallowing (oral incorporation) . This is later replaced by biting and chewing (oral aggression).
In the following or anal stage, which lasts from about 18 months to 3 years, is typified by the toddler's pleasure in controlling his or her bowels In the early stage, gratification is from giving up feces (anal expulsion), but after the start of toilet training pleasure comes from retaining feces (anal retention).
The following or phallic stage, from 3 to 6 years, has the child playing with their genitals. This stage also sees the development (and hopefully resolution) of the Oedipus complex. Named after the Greek tragedy of Oedipus Rex, this is a central event in personality development, where the child fixates on the parent of the opposite sex (at least etymologically speaking this should refer to the mother; in girls the equivalent fixation on the father is then called the Electra complex) and sees the same-sex parent as a rival (in Sophocles' tragic story, Oedipus unwittingly fulfills a prophecy that he will murder his father and marry his mother).
The Oedipal stage is followed by a period of latency, from 6 to 12 years, and finally the adult or Genital phase (from 12 years onwards).
Each of the stages represents a development from infacy to adult sexual maturity. In the course of this psychological development, people repress those thoughts or desires that are felt to be uncomfortable or unacceptable to the individual or to society. These contents of the unconscious can cause personality disturbances and even physical symptoms. Although hidden from conscious awareness, these repressed impulses can be deduced from their appearance in dreams [as explained in his clasisc work 'On The Interpretation Of Dreams, published in 1900], everyday reactions, and so on.
The therapist hopes, by means of a long course of analysis with the patient, using such techniques as dream analysis, free association, hypnosis, regression, and so on, to lower the demands of teh superego, anmd to bring the repressed contents of the psyche to the patients' conscious awareness, and in so doing resolve the symptoms they are causing.
Along with Darwin, Marx, and Einstein, Freud stands as one of the intellectual giants who shaped the modern world, and who became a houesold name, even among those with no, or only the barest, understanding of what he was on about. He popularised the concept of the unconscious mind, and revolutionised the secular western modernist worldview that until then (and still today) was (and is) only concerned with surface appearances and relativities.
His development of psychoanalysis, and his discovery of the Unconscious, brought about a revolution in art and culture in the early part of the 20th century. It "extended the idea that the world of the individual went beyond the obvious, the visible or the tangible. There was now a world of the subconscious to be considered, a world of dreams, alternate reality, and irrationality. This world became a fabulous mine for many artists." [ Art - Colonialism] These themes were explored in the Surrealist movement developed by the writer Andre Breton (see his Surrealist Manifesto of 1924), and further developed through artists like René Magritte, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and many others.
Some of Freud's students and followers, like Jung, Adler, Anna Freud, Reich, and Horney, felt that there were other factors in determining the nature and development of the psyche than sex, and in this way further developed the psychoanalytical understanding of the unconscious.
Today the psychoanalytic ideas of Freud and his successors are ubiquitous in everything from childcare, education, literary criticism, and psychiatry. The ideas of Freud and his followers remains central even to those like Ken Wilber who are on the cutting edge of western academic thought; Wilber's understanding of developmental stages up to the rational ego can be seen as simply another development of Freud's genius.
As for the authors of this present website, Steven Guth's theory of the Double, and my own understanding of Orexis, are likewise developments of Freud's discoveries and insights
Sigmund Freud - good basic coverage of Freud and his method of Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalytical Psychology - good intro
Theories of Personality - Freud - excellent coverage of the more difficult to understand aspects of Freudian thought; using diagrams
Sigmund Freud - Psychology WWW Virtual Library - links page
Sigmund Freud (1932) from LECTURE XXXI (1932) The Anatomy of the Mental Personality - Source: New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1933) publ. Hogarth Press.
Cube of Space: Metapsychology - combines Freudian, and various esoteric streams of thought (scroll down for some Freudian diagrams (near bottom of page)