A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis

by Sigmund Freud

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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 316

A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, arguably the most popular work by Sigmund Freud, lays out some of his most famous theories. The takes the form of a lecture, which helps with the polemic style—a form of debate or attack on an idea—that Freud employs to get his ideas across to the audience or reader. One of the most well-known of his theories, explaining “Freudian slips,” is outlined in the book and would later become a common term in the English language, which helped Freud become somewhat of a pop culture figure.

In the first section of the book, in which he discusses Freudian slips, Freud sets the foundation for other related theories, such as the interpretation of dreams. This is another famous theory that is well known theory among the general public. Freud, using the polemic style, allows himself to play the devil’s advocate in countering his own theories, which then allows Freud to defend and further articulate those theories. This gives his lectures an energy that is found in his actual oral lectures and speaking engagements.

This engaging nature of the book makes it easy to read for the general public. Freud offers various arguments and counterarguments on his theories regarding subconsciousness. He also frames the theories within the real world, or, in other words, he offers case studies that the general audience can relate to. He uses real examples of how the subconscious part of the mind could interpret external stimuli or experiences.

In the case of dream interpretation, Freud cites examples from previous patients, while still protecting their privacy, to articulate how dreams—which are mechanisms and products in the subconscious—can be hints of childhood traumas or suppressed emotions and taboo desires. Freud would go on to use these same polemic techniques to write about famous case studies that emphasize the interpretation of dreams, such as The Wolf Man.

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