Psychoanalysis Theory by Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalysis Freud - Toolshero

Psychoanalysis: in this article you will find a practical explanation of psychoanalysis. Next to what it is (including the definition), this article also highlights the founder, the influences of him, the difference with behavioral therapy, how long does psychoanalysis take, an example from practice, the ID, Ego and Superego, the link between Freud and religion and finnaly a small summary with some important highlights of this article. Enjoy Reading!

What is Psychoanalysis? The theory

Psychoanalysis is a method of treating various mental disorders. It is formed by a psychoanalytic theory, which focuses on the unconscious mind; unconscious mental processes. Psychoanalysis or the use of these techniques is sometimes described as depth psychology.

Psychoanalysis and its associated methods are often the subject of discussion. It is a controversial discipline, the validity and effectiveness of which are highly controversial. Nevertheless, the method has a relatively strong influence within psychiatry.

Free Toolshero ebook

Founder psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis and the movement originated during the clinical studies and observations of the Austrian Sigmund Freud. It is also Freud who coined and introduced this term.

Around the end of the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud worked with Josef Breuer, physician and physiologist. At the time, they were researching patients under hypnosis and the way ideas and impulses functioned during a hypnotic state.

The most controversial work of Sigmund Freud is the theory of the psychosexual stages.

This theory, like Erik Erikson ‘s psychosocial theory of development, is a development and human behavior theory. Another well-known work by Sigmund Freud is the book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, in which he discusses dream interpretations, which became the basis of his later theory of the Oedipus complex.

Psychoanalysis definition

Psychoanalysis is defined as a set of psychological theories and therapeutic techniques that arise from the work of Freud and his colleagues. Psychoanalysis in psychology can have the definition of a method of treating emotional disorders and analyzing psychic phenomena.

The core of psychoanalysis is the belief that all people have unconscious thoughts, desires, memories, and feelings. These aspects are present in the unconscious mind. This is an area of the mind which cannot be freely accessed by oneself. The unconscious mind usually contains repressed or instinctual thoughts. This part of the mind can possibly be accessed by a psychoanalyst.

The unconscious mind is different from the subconscious in that the thoughts and feelings in the subconscious can be recalled. Subconscious thoughts are mere not at the forefront of the mind in a specific moment.

The unconscious mind is seen as the place that holds emotional baggage and is affected by things such as trauma. Psychoanalysis is about helping you deal with this emotional baggage and its defense mechanisms. The focus is on talking freely about experiences and feelings. In this way, you can define psychoanalysis as a way to help you access the unconscious mind through the help of a psychoanalyst.

Influences Freud and psychoanalysis

Alfred Adler, a colleague of Sigmund Freud, helped establish this type of analysis and was one of the founders of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Adler focused his theory on the individual as a whole. This is why he called it individual psychology.

Carl Jung was also an early follower of Sigmund Freud, thanks to their shared vision of the unconscious part of the brain.
Carl Jung was also a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

Sigmund Freud hypothesized that personality begins to develop during the early years of life and that the way parents interact with their children can influence the emotional state of children and later adults.

Only recently was it described that certain events and experiences in childhood do not always result in damage to mental health or stimulate certain personality traits.

Karen Horney developed a theory of neuroses, based partially on the work of Sigmund Freud. However, she rejected various ideas, declaring parts of his work inaccurate and demeaning to women because of the described role of woman in society and evolution.

Freud’s sixth daughter, Anna Freud, followed in her father’s footsteps after his death and was also valuable for psychoanalysis.

Is behavioral therapy different from psychoanalysis?

Behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a newer form of psychotherapeutic methods.

Unlike this type of analysis, behavioral therapy cannot solve deeper problems or traumas. Nevertheless, it is considered an effective way to treat a long list of mental illnesses.

Unlike traditional psychoanalysis, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on immediate problem solving and change in behaviors. An average behavior therapy session usually lasts at least 20 minutes.

How long does psychoanalysis take?

Progress takes a lot of time in many cases. How long it takes before positive developments are noticed varies from patient to patient.

The problem isn’t that this type of analysis and psychoanalytical therapy take time, it’s that many patients are focused on relief and results. The hard work that goes into this is the most important.

The focus of Freudian therapy is traumatic problems. Traumatic problems, without exception, take longer than behavioral problems or other problems.

In complex cases, involving unresolved trauma, it is important to first build trust and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Group therapy can also be an opening before more confrontational techniques are applied. Irwin warned that if people are suicidal or drunk, they are not ready for 1-on-1 therapy.

A Psychoanalysis example

Consider the following example. A healthy, strong twenty-five year old has a nice job and just bought a house. Everything seems to be going well, but the person has a seemingly irrational fear of rats.

The fear of these beasts makes the person shiver at seeing a mouse or rat, but also nightmares and panic attacks take place. This fear hinders the person in life to some extent.

Psychoanalysis shows that the person was bitten by a large rat at a very young age. The wound bled and eventually led to an infection that required treatment.

An incident that had taken place 2 decades earlier appears to still have a strong influence. Several sessions made the patient see that it was just a past experience and that the patient is now strong enough to take care of himself.

ID, Ego and Superego

Sigmund Freud ’s most popular work deals with the human psyche. He believed that the psyche consists of more than one aspect.

He structured the psyche into three parts: the ID, ego, and superego. These all develop at different stages of life. The three aspects should not be confused with parts or other physical objects.

The ID, according to Sigmund Freud, is the primitive and instinctive part of the brain. This part is responsible for storing sexual and aggressive urges, as well as hidden memories.

The superego acts as a moral compass and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the ID and the superego.

Freud and religion

Sigmund Freud believed that people rely on religion to explain fears, tensions, and vital questions of life. Freud even stated that mankind created God itself, in their own image. The role of the mind is something that was often discussed by Freud. He believed that the mind is responsible for both conscious and unconscious decisions. This decision would be based on motives and forces.

The idea that religion causes people to behave morally has been pushed aside by Sigmund Freud. He believed that no other force affected the way people act. He believed that people behave in a way that suits the group they belong to.

According to Freud, groups are necessary to reduce narcissism in people. This can be achieved by developing bonds with others and putting everyone on an equal level. The commonality that arises between people in groups enables people to identify with each other.


Psychoanalysis is a method for the diagnosis and treatment of various psychological problems. This type of analysis focuses on the unconscious mind. It is more thorough than, for example, behavioral therapy, so it can take longer for a patient to notice improvement.

The founder of this type of analysis as it is known today is Sigmund Freud. The Austrian researcher is known for his controversial theories and ideas and is often the center of discussion.

The core of this theory is Freud’s belief that all people have unconscious thoughts, desires, and feelings. It helps people deal with this emotional baggage. The focus in these types of sessions is on talking freely about experiences and feelings.

It is a psychotherapeutic method, just like behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. The difference between the two is that psychoanalysis can delve deeper into traumatic problems. Psychoanalysis takes significantly more time and sessions to make noticeable progress.

Join the Toolshero community

Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about psychoanalysis? Do you have experience with a therapy based on Freud’s studies? How do you deal with traumatic events? Do you think therapy is always necessary for a traumatic event? Do you have other tips or comments?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. Erdelyi, M. H. (1985). Psychoanalysis: Freud’s cognitive psychology. WH Freeman / Times Books / Henry Holt & Co.
  2. Freud, S., & Bonaparte, P. M. (1954). The origins of psychoanalysis (Vol. 216). London: Imago.
  3. Jung, C. G. (2015). Freud and Psychoanalysis, Vol. 4. Routledge.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2021). Psychoanalysis (Freud). Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 26/08/2021 | Last update: 12/06/2023

Add a link to this page on your website:
<a href=””>Toolshero: Psychoanalysis (Freud)</a>

Did you find this article interesting?

Your rating is more than welcome or share this article via Social media!

Average rating 4.2 / 5. Vote count: 13

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


Leave a Reply