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The suggestion is that psycho-analysis, and in particular its assertion that the neuroses are traceable to disturbances in sexual life, could only have originated in a town like Vienna – in an atmosphere of sensuality and immorality foreign to other cities – and that it is simply a reflection, a projection into theory, as it were, of these peculiar Viennese conditions.

Now I am certainly no local patriot; but this theory about psycho-analysis always seems to me quite exceptionally senseless – so senseless, in fact, that I have sometimes been inclined to suppose that the reproach of being a citizen of Vienna is only a euphemistic substitute for another reproach which no one would care to put forward openly.

If the premises on which the argument rests were the opposite of what they are, then it might be worth giving it a hearing. If there were a town in which the inhabitants imposed exceptional restrictions on themselves as regards sexual satisfaction, and if at the same time they exhibited a marked tendency to severe neurotic disorders, that town might certainly give rise in an observer’s mind to the idea that the two circumstances had some connection with each other, and might suggest that one was contingent on the other. But neither of these assumptions is true of Vienna.

The Viennese are no more abstinent and no more neurotic than the inhabitants of any other capital city. There is rather less embarrassment – less prudery – in regard to sexual relationships than in the cities of the West and North which are so proud of their chastity. These peculiar characteristics of Vienna would be more likely to mislead the observer on the causation of neurosis than to enlighten him on it.

Vienna has done everything possible, however, to deny her share in the origin of psycho-analysis. In no other place is the hostile indifference of the learned and educated section of the population so evident to the analyst a sin Vienna. (Sigmund Freud – On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement)

When someone is trying to write a piece on Freud, what comes about is a vast number of information available. Information that have to do with his life, his work, and the application and impact of his work in certain fields such as psychology and criminology. Freud himself was a person that certain life events lead him to pursue certain ideas and views that later on made them into what it now known as his theories and lifework. He considered himself as a scientist whose intentions was to find a physiological basis concerning his theories about the soul. He revolutionized the way we think and perceive ourselves. He is the one that developed psychoanalysis, which became the predominant mode of discussing personality, behavior and interpersonal relationships.


Life History

Sigmoid Freud was born on May 6th, 1856, in Freiberg, Austria (although it is disputed that he may have been born on March 6th instead). He was the first of eight children born to his mother. At age four, Freud and his family moved to Vienna, where he would live and work until he died. His father, Jacob Freud, is said to have been a wool merchant. It may have been the decline of the textile market coupled with an increase of anti-Semitism in this predominantly Roman Catholic town that led him to relocate the family three years after Sigmund was born. After a year in Leipzig the Freud family moved to Vienna, where Sigmund spent almost all of the rest of his life.

Schlomo Sigmoid was the name that Freud was given at birth. He grew up in a time in which the Jewish world was undergoing radical transformations. In his father’s time to be a Jew meant to be a member of a highly visible and oppressed minority. In fact things had been such that when Jacob Freud as a young man had been accosted and insulted by a Christian he could do nothing but quietly walk away.

Sigmund was appalled by his father’s lack of heroic conduct (as this story reveals) and continually sought substitute father images in such historical figures as Hannibal–the Semitic general from Carthage who swore eternal hatred for Rome. This story of his father was to become an enduring source of resentment in Freud for both his father and Gentiles.

Other family events of interest is Freud’s need not be the sole interest of his mother, the relationship he had with his catholic nanny, the birth of siblings and his intimate friendship with his nephew (same age, his brother being quite a bit older and from his father’s previous marriage) and their occasional rivalry developed in Freud the self professed need to always have a great friend and a great enemy.

All of the factors mentioned above and Sigmund’s misconstructions of them have at some point or another have been influential in his later development of his notion of the Oedipal complex. They have also been the subject of much recent speculation–especially of his father and Nanny, who is thought to be a second mother to him. Both are linked to traumatic experiences in Freud’s early life, perhaps sexual abuse, and his relation to each is thought to have been consequential in his later theorizing–about the psyche in general and about human piety in specific.

We know very little factual material of the Freud household’s religious climate. Freud claims that his father was from a Hassidic background but had been estranged from it as a young man. Still he continued to read the Old Testament and is said to have encouraged contemplation of the same. At Freud’s 35 birthday–the beginning, according to Jewish tradition, of middle age–his father presented him with a newly rebound bible with the Hebraic inscription wishing that Freud draw upon this well of “wisdom, knowledge and understanding.” Still the household is generally considered to have not been overly religious and Freud himself emerged an avowed atheist.

His impact and mark would remain there forever, as he was renown for founding the first Viennese school of psychoanalysis from which all aspects and development in this field then flowed. Freud’s interest and professional training and experience were very broad. Although he was not particularly interested in becoming a physician, Freud saw medicine as a vehicle for engaging in scientific research. After being enrolled at the University of Vienna for eight years (from 1873), Freud graduated and was then engaged in 1882 later to be married in 1886. Many of his theories were based on clinical material documented while he operated a private practice to treat psychological disorders.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Freud, after a period of self-analysis, published works such as; “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900), “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” (1901), Three essays on the Theory of sexuality (1905) and “Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis” (1916). Freud’s theories on Sexuality received the most resistance and caused many of his partnerships with other philosophers to deteriorate. The final and yet not any less significant of his works was his model of the mind, consisting of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego. After a life of remarkable vigor and creative productivity, he died of cancer while exiled in England in 1939. It is interesting to note that although he carried out many self-analytic tests, that he was unable to resolve his addiction to cigarette smoking, the very habit that eventually killed him.

Contribution to Criminology

Freud’s works and ideas are vast, but among these there are some which the basis of many of his theories are grounded.

A). The Theory of the Unconscious

This is based on Freud’s idea that all human actions are a manifestation or a representation of some hidden desire or impulse. Events become conscious when “unconscious” matter arises into a level of awareness for an individual and then may sink into a state of unconsciousness again. This theory follows that whenever we make a decision, we are governed by a hidden mental process of which we are unaware and have no control. The question arises therefore, do people truly have free will? Freud deeply associated the unconscious with instincts and drives, categorizing those drives into Eros (the life instinct) and Thanatos (the death instinct). Sexuality (any pleasure which can be derived out of the body) is derived out of Eros while Thanatos is the opposite, the urge to destroy any source of sexuality.

B). Infantile Sexuality

Freud determined that through satisfaction, or lack thereof, of sexual satisfaction through childhood stages, the individual would develop into a correspondingly appropriate adult. These stages are; “The Oral Stage” – satisfaction from sucking, “The Anal Stage” – satisfaction from releasing excrete or urine, “The Phallic Stage”- interest in genital region (Oedipus Complex may also develop here – hatred of a parent of the same sex), “Latency” – less pronounced sexual motivation and “The Genital stage”- genital region becomes focus of stimulation and satisfaction. Freud believed that (in)appropriate treatment is responsible for forming the resulting image of the individual’s character and personality.

C). The Structure of the Mind

Freud distinguished three structural elements that framed the mind. They are the Id, Ego and Super-Ego. The Id represents the instinctual sexual drives which acquire satisfaction. The Super-Ego represents the conscience which restricts us from satisfying the desires of the Id. The Super-Ego however is shaped by social influence, such as parents. The Ego is the “conscious” self-created as a balance between the ever-struggling fight between the Id and Super-Ego for dominance. The Id and Super-Ego reside in the unconscious. Failure of the Id and Super-Ego to resolve conflict may later form neurosis resulting in the activation of “defense mechanisms” such as repression, sublimation, fixation and regression.

D). Psychoanalysis as a Therapy

The main purpose of this treatment was to bring harmony within the frame or structure of the human mind by resolving “unconscious repressed & unresolved conflicts”. Freud allowed clients to lay on a sofa and encouraged them to express themselves freely (through “free association”), hence to some degree disarming the Super-Ego. By analyzing slips of the tongue dreams and other means of expression Freud believed that one could discern the underlying/unconscious forces lying behind the expression. The next step was to bring the client to a point of self-understanding and assist them in dealing with their past and find a way curing themselves of some neuroses by suppressing it.

His main contribution to criminology is the psychoanalytic theory that armed criminologist with a new way of discovering the source of deviant behavior as well as ways to explain it and treat it. According to his theory criminal behavior is maladaptive, or the product of inadequacies inherent in the offender s personality.

Analysis of key events in his life

Two individuals who played a significant role in his life were Jean Charcot and Josef Breuer. Charcot was a French neurologist who used hypnotism to treat psychologically ill patients. Freud attempted Charcot’s methods but was unsuccessful. Breuer was an older Viennese colleague whose methods for treating neuroses, though unique, caught the interest of Freud. Breuer discovered that when he encouraged patients to talk freely without restrictions that he was able to get to the source of the problem causing the symptoms. Freud worked with Breuer and developed the idea that the source of a patient’s problems was some hidden or unresolved conflict which occurred in their past life, and the “cure” was achieved by bringing that conflict to the client’s “consciousness” in a manner in which he/she might intellectually and emotionally confront it.

The fact that he destroyed many of his personal documents twice in 1885 and 1907 make us estimate that his discoveries were either of great importance or were to great for the world to comprehend.

Another fact that also needs to be examined and taken into consideration is the love that his mother had towards his as well as the way he was treated at home. He had his own room when his siblings had to share which made him to be different even in his own house. All of this played a tremendous role in his later life, thought and writings.


Underlying assumptions about crime causation

Freud s classical psychoanalytic theory viewed the structure of the minds’ psyche in three major parts, the id, ego and super ego. Which he termed as the Mental Apparatus . These parts together became the persons whole.

The id is the basic animal instincts of the person. Because it has its own source of energy it has no need for external influences, therefore it exists for instinct gratification of itself. Freud termed this as the pleasure principle. These urges consisted of the need for food, water, elimination, warmth, affection and sex. Freud called this energy the libido of which, we are not meant to be aware of.

The mental apparatus responsible for dealing with reality is the ego. The Ego attempts to meet the needs of the id s pleasure principle while avoiding anxiety provoking situations or situations that is not effective in its quest to maintain life, Freud termed this as the reality principle.

The superego is the best thought as, forming the conscience. It develops through interacting with its emotional surroundings, usually the parents. While the ego tries to meet the demands of the id, the superego rewards and punishes the ego for its ability to avoid anxieties surfacing from the subconscious.

There will be inevitable conflicts between the id and the superego of which, the conflicts unresolved-able by the ego be placed into the unconsciousness. When the unresolved conflict is sent to the unconsciousness, it causes anxieties that it do not disappear but take on another form. This can lead the person to develop certain psychopathologies. But firstly we have to review Freud s theory on personality development termed the psychosexual stages.

Freud believed that there were four stages to the development of the personality. At different parts of these stages, a different part of the body is most sensitive to sexual excitement and is therefore that particular stage is most capable of providing the most satisfaction to the id. These stages are the oral stage that occurs from birth to about eighteen months. The id gains satisfaction form feeding, sucking and biting. From eighteen months to three years the person reaches the anal stage, where the child s id is satisfied from passing and retaining faces. The phallic stage is between the period of three to five and the id is most satisfied through genital stimulation. Between the age of six to twelve the child goes through the latency period, the fourth stage where motivational behavior is not meagerly effected by the id. The last stage is the genital stage that is the adult stage where normal adult heterosexual exists.

Although Freud wrote very little about crime, he spent a fair amount of his time trying to analyze certain aspects of abnormal behavior, a fair amount of which connects with the violations of the criminal law. A way by which a person can is commit crime or develop the desire for it is by the poorly development of the superego. Due to this the ego operates without a moral guide that will sometimes lead to violations of the law. People that have an underdeveloped superego tend to seek immediate gratification without taking into consideration the long-term consequences.

A review of the empirical research

August Aichorn was one of the first to use psychoanalytic principles to explain criminal behavior. He was a teacher working with disturbed and delinquent children, he wanted to understand and treat these young people and their families. Being heavily influenced by the ideas of Freud he concluded from his studies of delinquents that environmental factors alone could not be the sole reason for crime. He came up with the concept that an underlying predisposition psychologically prepares the child for entering a life in crime. He labels it latent delinquency.

Aichorn developed his position by saying that each child is asocial in his or her first dealings with the world, a position that follows Freud s concept of pleasure principle. The core of his findings was that some children when going through the process of socialization they allow the latent delinquency to become dominant. A state that Aichorn describes as dissocial. The criminal behavior is therefore the result of a failure in psychological development, which becomes the main character that governs their behavior.

Another concept that was examined as providing information about crime was the reality principle. It was conducted by F. Alexander and Staub (1931) and F. Alexander and Healy (1935). The criminal under this notion is someone who is unable to postpone immediate gratification in order to achieve greater long-term gains. (F. Alexander and Staub 1931) To make it more simple the criminal is the one that failed to progress from the pleasure principle to the reality principle. The characteristics therefore obtained where formed during childhood.

Healy and Bronner (1936) applied another psychoanalytic concept to the explanation of crime that of sublimation. Sublimation is the process by which instructural impulses are channeled into the thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The outcome of that process is that the criminal act results from inner unsatisfied desires and dissatisfaction, these derives from inability to form strong emotional ties with parents. To provide evidence so as to support their theory Healy and Bronner conducted a study with two groups of children from a child guidance clinic. They compared the two groups and they discovered that the children that had committed offences had less stable families and showed greater signs of emotional disturbance.

A summary of findings

In answering whether psychoanalytic approach is useful we come across with many interesting fact. There are many critiques and supporters on the question of whether psychoanalytic theory is useful. Especially how Freud came to the conclusions that he did.

One of the main criticisms about Freud was that during the sessions with his patients, the evidence that was collected was collected was anecdotal. Therefore the evidence collected was not scientific due to the lack of objectivity.

Another criticism was that the theory was based on a very small sample of the total population. His patients were mostly rich, well-educated Viennese. Any theory developed on such a small sample size has limitations.

There is also experimenter bias due to Freud, he may have directed his patients to do look at certain topics that interested him. This may have caused the patient to overlook some important situations in their life.

Freud s case notes were another issue, this was due to the fact that he never wrote detailed notes during his sessions. So when he did recall events, his own perceptions and what exactly did happen could some into perception.

However a lot of his work has laid and is the foundations of the modern day psychoanalytic perspective. He gave light to the concept of an underlying cause and not to take behaviors at face value. He also gave light to anxiety/stress coping techniques through the use defense mechanisms. One of his more famous theories was adult personality being shaped through child hood experiences with particular reference to the psychosexual stages. However the psychosexual stages are barely focused on. Lastly is his work on the unconscious. This theory is about how people are not aware of their behavior and how the unconscious influences it.

In conclusion modern psychoanalytic theories are a useful use full perspective on psychopathology because it helps the person get into the core of the problem. Although the theory does explain a lot about the person s thoughts and why they may behave in a certain way, it certainly does not explain everything.


Impact of the theory on policy

Freud s psychoanalytic theory gave ground to formation of one on one therapy of criminal offenders and the formation of certain ways of imposing rehabilitation. Programs that would identify offenders as well as how to treat them. His major points of his Freud’s therapy has been more influential than any other, and more influential than any other part of his theory. Here are some of the major ones.

Relaxed atmosphere. The client must feel free to express anything. The therapy situation is in fact a unique social situation, one where you do not have to be afraid of social judgment. In fact, in Freudian therapy, the therapist practically disappears. Add to that the physically relaxing couch, dim lights, soundproof walls, and the stage is set.

Free association. The client may talk about anything at all. The theory is that, with relaxation, the unconscious conflicts will inevitably drift to the fore. It isn’t far off to see a similarity between Freudian therapy and dreaming! However, in therapy, there is the therapist, who is trained to recognize certain clues to problems and their solutions that the client would overlook.

Resistance. One of these clues is resistance. When a client tries to change the topic, draws a complete blank, falls asleep, comes in late, or skips an appointment altogether, the therapist says “aha!” These resistances suggest that the client is nearing something in his free associations that he — unconsciously, of course — finds threatening.

Dream analysis. In sleep, we are somewhat less resistant to our unconscious and we will allow a few things, in symbolic form, of course, to come to awareness. These wishes from the id provide the therapist and client with more clues. Many forms of therapy make use of the client’s dreams, but Freudian interpretation is distinct in the tendency to find sexual meanings.

Parapraxes. A parapraxis is a slip of the tongue, often called a Freudian slip. Freud felt that they were also clues to unconscious conflicts. Freud was also interested in the jokes his clients told. In fact, Freud felt that almost everything meant something almost all the time — dialing a wrong number, making a wrong turn, misspelling a word, were serious objects of study for Freud. However, he himself noted, in response to a student who asked what his cigar might be a symbol for, that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Or is it?

Other Freudians became interested in projective tests, such as the famous Rorschach or inkblot tests. The theory behind this test is that, when the stimulus is vague, the client fills it with his or her own unconscious themes. Again, these could provide the therapist with clues.

When this method is applied in rehabilitation the therapist gets a better understanding of the offender because the whole idea is based on the principle to treat each person as a unique case. Also another implication of the theory is that we can identify the stages early as well as finding when the damage occur and the person turned into a deviant. We must also remember that early detection is a major issue in criminal justice field not only because it enables us to identify and provide treatment for the deviant but also it gives the opportunity to focus on certain groups that seem to have those characteristics. The drawback though is that bearing in mind all those characteristics that lead to deviant behavior one runs into the problem of being biased or treating those that belong to that group differently and also labeling them before even they get a chance of demonstrating delinquent behavior.

Crime specific applications

Compulsive behavior is a type of crime that can be explained using the theory. The person that exhibits this type of behavior usually does not measure the outcome of his action in the long run, he or she therefore wishes to satisfy the need that drives him to deviant behavior. So by using the theory of ego superego and id, we can explain the drive that employs people into such a behavior. In order for us to understand and cure this behavior we must apply the theory that is provided and then make sure that the person is rehabilitated.

A good way in order to solve such a behavior is to increase the long-run effect of his action into one of short-run effect. What I mean by that is that his action should be immediately punished therefore no instant gratification can be sustained.

A good way to do this is for example the speeding up of the court trial for the committed offence. Also the idea of having immediate actions taken in the crime scene . In other words device a form of penalty that will be immediately implemented by the people who suffered from the offender s action.

By this way the would be offender will have to rationalize his action before committing it as well as knowing that there is immediate punishment to his action.


Aichhorn, A. (1995) Wayward Youth (trans), New York: Meridian Books

Alexander, F and Healy, W.(1935) Roots of Crime, New York.

Alexander, F and Staub, H. (1931) The Criminal the Judge and the Public, New York: Macmillan

Atkinson, Smith, Bem and Nolen-Hoeksema, (1996) Hilgards Introduction to psychology Harcrourt Brace and Company

Brice Avery (1996) Thorsons principles of psychotherapy , Thorsons

Gross, Richard., (1996) Psychology the science of the mind and behavior Hodder & Stoughton

Healy, W. and Bronner, A.F. (1936) New light on Delinquency and its Treatment, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.

Hollin, C., (1996) Psychology and Crime. Routledge.

Sutherland, Stuart., The Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology


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