Illustration of Libido

1895 Libido

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Sigmund Freud psychology Illustration of Libido


For Sigmund Freud, everyone’s unconscious mind was characterized by libido, that is, sex drive. Hysteria and neurotic obsessions, he asserted, were always caused by childhood sexual trauma, and masturbation, repressed sex, sexual confusion, and sex characterized the unconscious mind of even the healthy person, he said. The unconscious mind became a fruitful field for unprovable assertions and quackery. One cannot speak for one’s own unconscious mind and it has remained unable to speak for itself, but psychiatrists have spoken for it without inhibition.

Anna O.

Freud set up his private practice to help people with nervous disorders. He diagnosed his first patient, Anna O., with hysteria and explained that its cause was her resentment of her father. Actually, she had epilepsy.

Sorry, Doctor Freud

Sorry, Doctor Freud, about your cocaine addiction. Cocaine wasn’t the cure-all you claimed, and it wasn’t easy when it started to eat the lining of your nose. Sorry, Doctor Freud, that your tobacco addiction resulted in oral cancer that threatened your life. You explained that addictions were substitutes for masturbation; maybe you should have stuck to masturbation. Sorry, Doctor Freud, that you were wrong about Anna O. Who would have thought back then that her condition could have been temporal lobe epilepsy exacerbated by drug dependencies? Oedipus would have been amazed to hear he was attracted to his mother. Sorry that you were attracted to yours. Maybe having had a wet nurse denied you the early intimacy that tells us who our mothers are. I’m also sorry for the women who came to you for help. When you argued that they merely fantasized about relations with their fathers and uncles, you denied that many of them had been molested since they were children. Your ideas, really, were brilliant, Doctor Freud. Too bad they had so little connection to reality.

Sigmund Freud wasn’t the first to seek causes for mental problems in the mentality of the patient. A book by Paracelsus pointed out that psychology affects physiology in 1567.

He coined the term libido for the motivation of the id, that is, the unconscious mind. The id is a theoretical psychic energy in Freud’s model of the mind, along with the ego and the super-ego. None of these exist except in the mind—forming a kind of zodiac of the psyche. Freud’s theories had a huge influence on Western culture, but none of them have been validated scientifically or in practice.

See also in The book of science:

Readings in wikipedia:

Other readings: