Sigmund Freud - Quotes


On Secessionist Movements inside Psychoanalysis

Suppose, for instance, that an analyst attaches little value to the influence of the patient's personal past and looks for the causation of neuroses exclusively in present-day motives and in expectations of the future. In that case he will also neglect the analysis of childhood; he will have to adopt an entirely different technique and will have to make up for the omission of the events from the analysis of childhood by increasing his didactic influence and by directly indicating certain particular aims in life. We for our part will then say: 'This may be a school of wisdom; but it is no longer analysis.' Or someone else may arrive at the view that the experience of anxiety at birth sows the seed of all later neurotic disturbances. It may thereupon seem to him legitimate to restrict analysis to the consequences of this single impression and to promise therapeutic success from a treatment lasting from three to four months. As you will observe, I have chosen two examples which start from diametrically opposite premisses. It is an almost universal characteristic of these 'secessionist movements' that each of them takes hold of one fragment out of the wealth of themes in psycho-analysis and makes itself independent on the basis of this seizure - selecting the instinct for mastery, for instance, or ethical conflict, or the mother, or genitality, and so on. (Freud: New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1933)

The Sense of Inferiority

In fact 'inferiority complex' is a technical term that is scarcely used in psycho-analysis. For us it does not bear the meaning of anything simple, let alone elementary. To trace it back to the self-perception of possible organic defects, as the school of what are known as 'Individual Psychologists' likes to do, seems to us a short-sighted error. The sense of inferiority has strong erotic roots. A child feels inferior if he notices that he is not loved, and so does an adult. The only bodily organ which is really regarded as inferior is the atrophied penis, a girl's clitoris. But the major part of the sense of inferiority derives from the ego's relation to its super-ego; like the sense of guilt it is an expression of the tension between them. Altogether, it is hard to separate the sense of inferiority and the sense of guilt. It would perhaps be right to regard the former as the erotic complement to the moral sense of inferiority. (Freud: New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1933)

On Religion

Religion is an attempt to master the sensory world in which we are situated by means of the wishful world which we have developed within us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. (Freud: New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1933)

On the value of Human Civilization

For a wide variety of reasons, it is very far from my intention to express an opinion upon the value of human civilization. I have endeavoured to guard myself against the enthusiastic prejudice which holds that our civilization is the most precious thing that we possess or could acquire and that its path will necessarily lead to heights of unimagined perfection. I can at least listen without indignation to the critic who is of the opinion that when one surveys the aims of cultural endeavour and the means it employs, one is bound to come to the conclusion that the whole effort is not worth the trouble, and that the outcome of it can only be a state of affairs which the individual will be unable to tolerate. (Freud: Civilization and its Discontents, 1930)

Spirits and Demons

Spirits and demons, as I have shown in the last essay, are only projections of man's own emotional impulses. He turns his emotional cathexes into persons, he peoples the world with them and meets his internal mental processes again outside himself - in just the same way as that intelligent paranoic, Schreber, found a reflection of the attachments and detachments of his libido in the vicissitudes of his confabulated 'rays of God'. (Freud: Totem and Taboo, 1912-1913)

On Demonology and Neurosis

The neuroses of childhood have taught us that a number of things can easily be seen in them with the naked eye which at a later age are only to be discovered after a thorough investigation. We may expect that the same will turn out to be true of neurotic illnesses in earlier centuries, provided that we are prepared to recognize them under names other than those of our present-day neuroses. We need not be surprised to find that, whereas the neuroses of our unpsychological modern days take on a hypochondriacal aspect and appear disguised as organic illnesses, the neuroses of those early times emerge in demonological trappings. Several authors, foremost among them Charcot, have, as we know, identified the manifestations of hysteria in the portrayals of possession and ecstasy that have been preserved for us in the productions of art. If more attention had been paid to the histories of such cases at the time, it would not have been difficult to retrace in them the subject-matter of a neurosis.

The demonological theory of those dark times has won in the end against all the somatic views of the period of 'exact' science. The states of possession correspond to our neuroses, for the explanation of which we once more have recourse to psychical powers. In our eyes, the demons are bad and reprehensible wishes, derivatives of instinctual impulses that have been repudiated and repressed. We merely eliminate the projection of these mental entities into the external world which the middle ages carried out; instead, we regard them as having arisen in the patient's internal life, where they have their abode. (Freud: A Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis, 1923)

False Standards of Mesurement

It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement - that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life. And yet, in making any general judgement of this sort, we are in danger of forgetting how variegated the human world and its mental life are. There are a few men from whom their contemporaries do not withhold admiration, although their greatness rests on attributes and achievements which are completely foreign to the aims and ideals of the multitude. One might easily be inclined to suppose that it is after all only a minority which appreciates these great men, while the large majority cares nothing for them. But things are probably not as simple as that, thanks to the discrepancies between people's thoughts and their actions, and to the diversity of their wishful impulses. (Freud: Civilization and its Discontents, 1930)

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