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Freud Quotes

From The Interpretation of Dreams (1899)

"The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious; what I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied."

"Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious."

From Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

"Men have gained control over the forces of nature to such an extent that with their help they would have no difficulty exterminating one another to the last man. They know this, and hence comes a large part of their current unrest, their unhappiness and their mood of anxiety."

From The Unconscious (1891)

"Our right to assume the existence of something mental that is unconscious and to employ that assumption for the purposes of scientific work is disputed in many quarters, To this we can reply that our assumption of the unconscious is necessary and legitimate, and that we possess numerous proofs of its existence.

It is necessary because the data of consciousness have a very large number of gaps in them; both in healthy and in sick people psychical acts often occur which can be explained only by presupposing other acts, of which, nevertheless, consciousness affords no evidence."

From An Outline of Psycho-Analysis (1940)

"However much the analyst may become tempted to become a teacher, model and ideal for other people and to create men in his own image, he should not forget that that is not his task in the analytic relationship, and indeed he will be disloyal to his task if he allows himself to be led on by his inclinations. If he does, he will only be repeating a mistake of the parents who crushed their child's independence by their influence, and he will be replacing the patient's earlier dependence by a new one."

From the Introductory Lectures (1916-17)

"Indeed there are cases in which even the physician must admit that for a conflict to end in neurosis is the most harmless and socially tolerable solution. You must not be surprised to hear that even the physician may occasionally take the side of the illness he is combating. It is not his business to restrict himself in every situation in life to being a fanatic in favour of health. He knows that there is not only neurotic misery in the world but real, irremovable suffering as well, that necessity may even require a person to sacrifice his health; and he learns that a sacrifice of this kind made by a single person can prevent immeasurable unhappiness for many others. If we may say, then, that whenever a neurotic is faced by a conflict he takes flight into illness, yet we must allow that in some cases that flight is fully justified, and a physician who recognizes how the situation lies will silently and solicitously withdraw."

From Psychical Treatment (1905)

"Quite a number of different methods of treatment have thus arisen, some of them simple to arrive at and others which could only be reached on the basis of complex hypotheses. It is easy to see, for instance, that the physician, who can no longer command respect as a priest or as a possessor of secret knowledge, should use his personality in such a way as to gain his patient's confidence and, to some degree, his affection. He himself may succeed in doing this with only a limited number of patients, whereas other patients, according to their inclinations and degree of education, will be attracted to other physicians. Such a distribution will serve a useful purpose; but if the right of a patient to make a free choice of his doctor were suspended, an important precondition for influencing him mentally would be abolished."

From On Transience (1916)

"A year later the war broke out and robbed the world of its beauties. It destroyed not only the beauty of the countrysides through which it passed and the works of art which it met in its path but also shattered our pride in the achievements of civilization, our admiration for many philosophers and artists and our hopes for a final triumph over the differences between nations and races. It tarnished the lofty impartiality of science, it revealed our instincts in all their nakedness and let loose the evil spirits within us which we thought had been tamed for ever by centuries of continuous education by the noblest minds. It made our country small again and made the rest of the world far remote. It robbed us of very much that we had loved, and showed us how ephemeral were many things that we regarded as changeless."

From The Resistances to Psychoanalysis (1925)

"So it comes about that psycho-analysis derives nothing but disadvantages from its middle position between medicine and philosophy. Doctors regard it as a speculative system and refuse to believe that, like every other natural science, it is based on a patient and tireless elaboration of facts from the world of perception; philosophers, measuring it by the standard of their own artificially constructed systems, find that it starts from impossible premises and reproach it because its most general concepts (which are only now in process of evolution) lack clarity and precision. This state of affairs is enough to account for the reluctant and hesitant reception of analysis in scientific quarters. But it does not explain the outbursts of indignation, derision, and scorn, which in disregard of every standard of logic and good taste, have characterized the controversial methods of its opponents. A reaction of such kind suggests that resistances other than purely intellectual ones were stirred up and that powerful emotional forces were aroused. And, there are indeed plenty of things to be found in the theory of psycho-analysis calculated to produce such an effect as this upon the passions of men of every kind and not of scientists alone."

From Wild Analysis (1910)

"Informing the patient of what he does not know because he has repressed it is only one of the necessary preliminaries to the treatment. If knowledge about the unconscious were as important for the patient as people inexperienced in psychoanalysis imagine, listening to lectures or reading books would be enough to cure him. Such measures, however, have as much influence on the symptoms of nervous illness as a distribution of menu-cards in a time of famine has upon hunger."

From Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through (1914)

"...one willingly leaves untouched as much of the patient's personal freedom as is compatible with these restrictions, nor does one hinder him from carrying out unimportant intentions, even if they are foolish; one does not forget that it is in factionly through his own experience and mishaps that a person learns sense."

From The Standard Edition (1910)

"...During the last few generations mankind has made an extraordinary advance in the natural sciences and in their technical application and has established his control over nature in a way never before imagined. The single steps of this advance are common knowledge and it is unnecessary to enumerate them. Men are proud of those achievements, and have a right to be. But they seem to have observed that this newly-won power over space and time, this subjugation of the forces of nature, which is the fulfillment of a longing that goes back thousands of years, has not increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect from life and has not made them feel happier. From the recognition of this fact we ought to be content to conclude that power over nature is not the only precondition of human happiness..."

Other Quotes

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

As early as 1905 Freud said that "a child sucking at his mother's breast has become the prototype of every relation of love. The finding of an object is in fact a refinding of it; and, furthermore, introducing object loss as an unavoidable step in the path to mental evolution, that it is only later that the instinct loses that object, just at the time, perhaps, when the child is able to form a total idea of the person to whom the organ that is giving him satisfaction belongs."

"After all, we did not invent symbolism; it is a universal age-old activity of the human imagination."

When Wittels took a strong antifeminist position by opposing the study of medicine by women, his position was attacked by Federn and Hitschmann (I, pp. 195, ff.). Freud said during the ensuing discussion: "Woman, whom culture has burdened with the heavier load (especially in propagation) ought to be judged with tolerance and forbearance in areas where she has lagged behind man."

"The business of analysis is to secure the best possible conditions for the functioning of the ego; when this has been done analysis has accomplished its task."

"The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization."

Honesty

"Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise."

Insanity

"A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes, but to get into accord with them; they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world."

Normality

"Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent."

Self-discovery

"Look into the depths of your own soul and learn first to know yourself, then you will understand why this illness was bound to come upon you and perhaps you will thenceforth avoid falling ill."

Society

"It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggression."

Wisdom

"Just as a cautious businessman avoids investing all his capital in one concern, so wisdom would probably admonish us also not to anticipate all our happiness from one quarter alone."

Resources

Biography of Sigmund Freud

Regarding Freud's Work

"... I do want to say something about what you might call Freud’s dream. Whatever the subsequent efforts he made in the latter parts of his life, you are aware of the fact that his ecstatic entry, premature admittedly but brave, into neurology in his Project for a Scientific Psychology remains one of the most remarkable intellectual adventures."

Gerald Edelman, M.D., Ph.D.
Nobel Laureate and honorary APsaA member