If one was to ask what the legacy of Sigmund Freud is, it is that element of his life which still touches those in our society today. He was a bit of a pioneer, and while I cannot purport to agree with his theories, what Freud had was the image to explore and to create standards in analyzing people’s thought patterns.
Taking the premise that the mind is almost pre-programmed by events within our childhoods, he went further to explore the id, the ego and the super ego, and the way in which each works in the process of thinking. One of the biggest flaws that psychology seems to have overlooked is the link of human thought to religion, and Freud was no exception. There is always this stigma that the way we believe can be explored scientifically without reference to belief or indeed those spiritual areas of life that were dealt with by the great philosophers of our times.
Having studied Freud, and while I agree with some of his principles, others seem flawed, though this could perhaps be forgiven by the passage of time and the changes that have taken place in society since his work in the late 1800’s, where sexuality was being explored in a society where values were much more primitive or even covert in the areas he examined.
In this century, we look into child behavior in a very open way, and the differences of opinions are vocal ones, though Freud’s theories of the Anal, Genital and Phallic stages would certainly be cause for debate in a society that is more open to addressing the behavior patterns of children based on what we know. These, to me, were the weak links within his study, and when I read up on his work in this direction, I found that present day thinking would probably have scoffed these theories more than those theories of Freud that do hold water, on the subject of adult behavior.
In an argument with my own thinking, I crept into the covers of Freud’s books and I suppose it could be said that Freud and I became bedmates for a while, though perhaps not in the Freudian sense that people recognize and use. His books were weighed down with theory that interested me, and I would agree with his ideas on how ego works, and also in most of the defence processes used to demonstrate this, though, as stated above, much of what he left us was scientific and bore no relationship to that spiritual side of a human being that also comes into play in the make-up of balance. For example, the defense process of rationalization must surely take into account those moral beliefs that we derive from religion. Without this added element, what most psychologists failed to do was to examine the whole, and treated the mind almost like a scientific machine that responds to stimuli.
It may be my own vanity that leads me to believe that the human brain is much more complex than Freud’s studies suggest, and that he didn’t leave room for gray areas, assuming that given circumstance gives given result, and with the diversity of human behavior that may not be the case. In his field, he was a pioneer. He devoted his life to the study of psychology with the intention of helping mankind understand mental illnesses and processes, and no one can deny this as being part of his legacy, though would his findings have been the same today ? With the study material available, my strong belief is that even though his theories on Egoism, the Id and Super Ego were valid observations, they are just that, observations recorded by a man who had the time and the luxury of recording his findings.
His free association work was very astute and the encouragement of free flow of thoughts is still helping patients worldwide. His work with hypnotism was radical in the times when he was alive, and are still valid now, and certainly the interpretation of dreams held water and is arguably astute. The true legacy of the man is perhaps laid to rest in these areas rather than other areas that were at best, incomplete and questionable.
What I believe to be the most useful legacy that a man like Freud can have is that he made people think, to examine and to explore in an effort to improve understanding. Perhaps in years to come, these works, mixed with the works of philosophers and beliefs would make a fuller diagnostic of human response to life, though while psychology remains in the field of science and turns a blind eye to the spiritual side of humanity, it will always be limited in it’s usefulness to all those seeking answers of whatever race or creed.