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7 disturbing facts about Sigmund Freud that you didn’t know

Updated on March 17, 2016

Say the name Freud and almost everyone will know who he is and the fundamental part he played in the creation of psychotherapy. That is, they will know the official image projected of him.
But few of us really know what kind of man he was, how he lived his life and what kind of thoughts and concepts he harbored.


For most people, when in need of help, they turn to what they believe to be the dubbed professionals in matters of health. They trust their minds and inner world to the professional and hope to come out of the session clearer and saner than before entering. But doesn’t it matter what foundational theories the psychologist base their work on and what effects those theories might have on the treatment of those in need?



To become a psychologist or therapist one is obliged to enroll in university studies and graduate with a degree. During these studies the student is made to study and memorize the theories of the founding father, Sigmund Freud. His theories are neatly compiled in edited and reviewed textbooks. What these textbooks intentionally exclude though, are the dark and destructive aspects of his practices and theories.
But does it really serve society to cover up the nasty bits and only present the presentable parts? How are we to make informed decisions when the full truth is not available for us? For some who study Freud a questionable position does occur but generally few question or take an active stand against the Freudian paradigm. With that said let’s take a look at the father of psychotherapy and his life.

1. Avid drug user

An enthusiastic user and promoter of cocaine, he used the substance frequently until his death in 1939. In fact, he was so fond of the drug he actively distributed it among his friends and associates which in some cases resulted in drug addiction, as with with close friend Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow.

2. Defender of child molestation

As Freud embarked on the journey of psychoanalysis he came across numerous cases of so called hysterical individuals that showed alarming symptoms and behaviors in adult age. Unsurprisingly most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse. Initially he proposed that most mental illnesses were related to early sexual abuse (known as the seduction theory) but a couple of years later he took a 180 degree turn and instead concluded that his patients memories of sexual abuse were mere fantasies and completely made up. The new theory instead was named infantile sexuality. He actually, seriously presented a theory where the cause was not adults preying on children but that the child itself is lusting over his/her parents and seeking bodily/sexual pleasure thereof.
As the Internet Encyclopedia of Psychology describes it:“From his account of the instincts or drives it followed that from the moment of birth the infant is driven in his actions by the desire for bodily/sexual pleasure, where this is seen by Freud in almost mechanical terms as the desire to release mental energy. Initially, infants gain such release, and derive such pleasure, from the act of sucking. Freud accordingly terms this the "oral" stage of development. This is followed by a stage in which the locus of pleasure or energy release is the anus, particularly in the act of defecation, and this is accordingly termed the ‘anal’ stage. Then the young child develops an interest in its sexual organs as a site of site of pleasure (the "phallic" stage), and develops a deep sexual attraction for the parent of the opposite sex, and a hatred of the parent of the same sex (the "Oedipus complex").
So the kids are fantasizing sexually over their parents and that's why they have distresses in adult age. Duh.

Talk about total gaslighting.

3. Serious women issues

His relationship to women was disturbed, to say the least and he never really developed any kind of healthy relationships with a significant other. He considered women to be weak, vain, jealous and lacking a good sense of justice. He believed that women’s problems in essence stemmed from them not having a penis. He even went as far as claiming that women are the problem in society. Nice.

In fact, a lot points towards him having more than just “friendly” relationships with his male friends and judging by letter correspondence uncovered with for example Wilhelm Fliess it appears the relationship was passionate, intimate and most probably of homosexual nature. In a letter written as a response to an acquaintance that shared that he had dreamed of Freud naked he responded, “You probably imagine that I have secrets quite other than those I have reserved for myself, or you believe that (my secret) is connected with a special sorrow, whereas I feel capable of handling everything and am pleased with the resultant greater independence that comes from having overcome my homosexuality,''.

4. Generational abuse in the family

It’s a little known fact that Freud’s father molested his own children and that they all showed distinct symptom of distress and trauma. Something that troubled Freud deeply and probably another reason as to why he dropped the seduction theory and proposed the infantile sexuality theory. A convenient way of explaining away abuse. As he writes in one of his letters during a time when he was engaging in self psychoanalysis. ''Unfortunately, my own father was one of these perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose symptoms are identifications) and those of several younger sisters.''

Today its commonly understood that victims of sexual abuse, when not having addressed and resolved the trauma, tend to in higher frequencies pass on the violence to the next generation.
Freuds first and favorite daughter Anna showed signs of distress and mental illness which later gave her the description of a “jealous, depressed, masochistic, anorectic, latent-homosexual teenager”. In early adolescence she developed a severe psychopathology, consisting of sado-masochistic fantasies accompanied by compulsive masturbation, an eating disorder, and depression.
Symptoms of child abuse anyone?

Anna Freud in her younger years

5. Relentless addict

Smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day he eventually developed mouth cancer 1923. For the next 16 years he went through a whooping 33 surgeries and had a large prosthesis inserted to separate his sinus and jaw. Despite all of this, he never stopped smoking and consequently that nasty habit led to his death.

6. In safe hands?

In the book ''The Assault on the Truth, Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory,'' by author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson he courageously presents chocking new material from letters and documents issued by Freud and his circle. Mr Masson should know, he was formerly the project director for the Sigmund Freud Archives and was to become its next director, but was dismissed in 1981 in a dispute over interpretation of other controversial Freud material.
As the brave man he is he choose to not keep quiet about the information he came across and at the expense of his own career he instead spoke the truth on the matter.

Several disturbing facts have been unraveled under his research such as:

-A patient treated by him in 1900 and then dismissed as a case of paranoia ended up hanging herself in a hotel room.

- Freud was overly preoccupied and lustful over money. In one letter he wrote that money is ''laughing gas for me.''
On numerous occasions he attempted to manipulate his clients into donating money to him, in effect abusing the trust given. In an article published in New York Times its revealed “In one little-known case that barely missed becoming a major scandal, researchers say, Freud induced two patients to divorce their spouses and marry each other. In addition, he hinted that the man should make a generous donation to his psychoanalytic fund.”
How professional.

7. Something to hide?

Much of the coveted Freud material held by the Freud Archives still remains unavailable to scholars. This includes at least 75,000 items stored in the United States Library of Congress and to which public access has been prohibited, in some cases, into the 22d century. One might wonder what the Freud estate has to hide, going though such extreme measurements to keep such a large quantity of documents secret to the public.

As seen above the father of psychotherapy could hardly be considered a healthy, balanced man with good morals and wholesome behaviors. If he was practicing today he would surely be robbed of his license and questioned for his dubious behaviors.
As we move forward in our meetings with the school of psychology, it is helpful to have the whole picture. A healthy dose of common sense and critical standpoint is appropriate to apply for both the practitioners of Freudian theories and the recipients.

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