ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Five Interesting Facts About Sigmund Freud That You Probably Didn't Know

Updated on September 30, 2017

His theories about the mind and the mysteries locked within it revolutionized the world. Dr. Sigmund Freud, in his prim suit, black-rimmed eyeglasses and goatee, speaking in a German accent and indicating a nearby couch in his Vienna office will forever conjure up the word psychiatrist in the minds of many. And though he has his detractors, his influence has been felt for a century.

We know all about the ego, the superego, and the id; about cigars sometimes just being cigars; and about the fact that there's really no such thing as a joke. Here are some fun and interesting facts about Sigmund Freud that you probably didn't know.

1. He Didn't Invent Psychiatry (or the Talking Cure or Free Association)

Accounts of people suffering from mental disorders are as old as the Bible, and for centuries society's solution for dealing with them was either to try to exorcise demons from them or to lock them away in an asylum so they wouldn't be a threat to anyone else. Often this meant chaining them or confining them to a dungeon-like room.

Beginning in the Eighteenth Century, however, some people, in keeping with the principles of the Enlightenment, started to view the mentally ill in a more humane way. One of these people was a Frenchman by the name of Philippe Pinel, who argued that even the mentally ill had dignity and that the best way to help them was to probe their mind and see how its inner workings might relate to physiological causes. Toward this end, Pinel introduced a number of reforms to European asylums, such as cutting the patients' chains and putting them into sunlit rooms rather than dungeons. For these efforts, he is regarded by some as the father of modern psychiatry.

This was the world Dr. Freud entered as a young neurologist. In Paris, he studied under Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière, one of the asylums where Pinel had introduced his reforms. Later, Freud worked with a physician named Josef Breuer who was treating a woman named Bertha Pappenheim for a number of ailments. (Pappenheim later became immortalized as the pseudonymous patient Anna O. who appears in Breuer and Freud's Studies in Hysteria, published in 1895.)

It was Pappenheim who coined the phrase "the talking cure" -- her term for Breuer's cathartic method of simply letting her talk about the things that were bothering her, a process which often relieved some of her symptoms.

As for free association, there is some evidence that Freud may have gotten the germ of that idea from an essay by Ludwig Börne entitled "The Art of Becoming an Original Writer in Three Days," which he'd read as a young man. In the essay, Börne suggested that a good way to generate ideas was to concentrate on various topics, and over the next three days write down anything that came to mind. From whatever source, Freud gradually incorporated free association into his own neurological practice when dealing with hysterical patients after finding that some of his earlier techniques -- hypnosis, coercion, and applying pressure to people's foreheads -- weren't always as effective as he first thought. He also had a patient, identified in his writings only as Fräulein Elisabeth, who specifically asked Freud not to guide or interrupt her as she revealed her innermost thoughts as part of what Freud called "Breuer's cathartic method."

2. He Didn't Come Up With the Id, Either

Freud was, of course, a pioneer. And when he started developing his general theory of the mind he was exploring uncharted territory. Others were doing similar work and it was only natural that at times their lives would intersect.

One such person was a physician by the name of Georg Groddeck who practiced in Baden-Baden and in 1917 introduced himself to Freud via letter. Groddeck is generally regarded as being one of the first to discover the effect of mental impulses and thinking processes on the body. Man, Groddeck said, was a creature who not so much lived but rather lived by unknowable mental forces over which he had little control. In some cases, these mental forces played out in the body, giving way to sickness or other physical problems. They could, in other words, be psychosomatic, to use the modern term.

In 1923 Groddeck published a book called The Book of the It (das Es, in German) in which he described these strong, unknowable urges. Freud thought das Es to be a suitable name for the impulses he was learning about also and incorporated the name into his own thinking. When he published his own Das Ich und das Es, he freely credited Groddeck with the discovery. In English the book became Latinized as The Ego and the Id.

3. He Once Treated Gustav Mahler

In the summer of 1910, while vacationing in Holland, Freud got a telegram from the composer Gustav Mahler, who asked if he could see him as soon as possible. Even though the two of them lived relatively near each other in Vienna, they had never met, and even though Freud preferred not to be disturbed while on holiday, he felt he could hardly refuse such a "name" patient. Mahler, too, seemed reluctant at first -- he cancelled on Freud several times -- but they eventually met at a hotel (though some sources say it was a restaurant) in the city of Leiden.

What followed was perhaps the most unusual therapy session that Freud -- or anyone else -- ever experienced. He ended up walking with the composer about the city for about four hours, during which time he asked Mahler questions to which Mahler gave responses. (It's not known precisely what ailment Mahler was experiencing that made him seek Freud's help, but it's generally believed to be impotence.) Fortunately, Freud said later, Mahler seemed to have an acute grasp of psychoanlysis so the two of them were able to use the short time productively. Apparently the intensive therapy worked. Mahler never came back -- although he died the following year.

4. He Knew Eight Languages

Being an Austrian, Sigmund Freud spoke German, of course, and being raised in a Jewish home, he also spoke Hebrew. He learned Latin and Greek through his classical education, but he also picked up French and English and taught himself both Spanish and Italian.

Of all the foreign languages he knew, English seems to have been one of his favorites. According to his biographer and colleague Dr. Ernest Jones, Freud once spent a week reading nothing but English books. Even though he studied in Paris, he seemed much less comfortable with French than he did with other languages. Often while living there he reverted to English or Spanish.

5. He Was Superstitious

There's no doubt that Sigmund Freud was a brilliant man, but even brilliant men have their idiosyncracies. One of Freud's was an obsession with numbers. Some of this may have stemmed from his knowledge of Jewish mysticism, or it could have been from his studying under Wilhelm Fliess, the discoverer of biorhythms, who himself saw almost magical properties in the numbers 23 and 28.

For a long time, when he was younger, Freud was obsessed with the number 51, believing it to be the age at which he would die. Later, after he surpassed that age, he became fond of 62, as he saw it recur throughout his life through dates, phone numbers, hotel room numbers, and so on. In the end, neither one of those numbers was particularly meaningful He died in 1939 at the age of 83.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Dr. AHK Arsenian Ph.D.,MIPPDG (psych.patho./psyc.anal. IPA 

      4 years ago

      As psycho-pathologist, I do not agree that Freud's ideas or theories have been discarded

      Whether you are Jungian analyst or cognitive psychologist : Freudian Psycho-analysis will always remain insurmountable. Please DO NOT CONFUSE yourself between Psycho-analysis versus collective Psychology

      Dr. AHK Arsenian Ph.D,IPPDG,IPS

    • rjbatty profile image


      4 years ago from Irvine

      You needed to continue your Hub to say that his protoge, Carl Jung became the real master of psychiatry. While Freud funneled almost all human psychiatric ailements to a sexual complex, Jung had a much wider grasp of the psyche and realized that there were a variety of psychological types. Much of modern-day psychoanalysis is based upon Jung's theories, not those of Freud.

      Freud may be considered the founding father of modern psychoanalysis, but most of his ideas have been discarded, and few (if any) active psychoanalytical doctors in the world adhere to Freud's concepts. It was really Jung who opened up the field, writing extensively about the complexities of the human mind, character and behavior.

    • Gerg profile image

      Gregory S Williams 

      8 years ago from California

      Unique and interesting observations about this fascinating character - well researched and presented, tuetophile...


    • profile image


      8 years ago


      I find your writing interesting and engaging, so I've come for more.

      It's hard to believe that Freud was superstitious, but it shows that in spite of his constant search for logic, he was simply a human being.

      I didn't know that Mahler had requested his help. Being such a passionate musician, I can understand how his condition would drive him mad to the point of looking for professional help.

      Thanks for sharing this information with us.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)