During the years 1930-32, Sigmund Freud and Einstein exchanged letters and discussed ways to avoid the situation of violence and war from taking place. Sigmund Freud wrote to Albert Einstein and suggested that ‘man has in him an active instinct for hatred and destruction’. Freud went on to contrast this “instinct to destroy and kill” with one he called ‘erotic’ an instinct “to conserve and unify, an instinct for love.” In continuation, Freud pointed out that it was these instincts that happened to function in the minds of every living human beings and he termed it as Thanatos (Greek) or the ‘personification of death’ (Mors in Roman mythology). Thanatos according to Freud was that force that had the capability to work in an individual’s body and turn it to ruins along with reducing the life force back into its primary and inert state of matter.
When Freud first came up with this theory of psychoanalytic, as ‘what drives a human being to act in a certain way’ it was not well received in the medical world. The only people who even acknowledged the importance or the scope it presented were individuals who were complete scandalised by the huge emphasis that it tend to put on sexuality of a humans. The importance of what he brought to light was only started to get recognised in the 1908 at the first International Psychoanalytical Congress.
In the present times, psychoanalysis is not considered to be a very common branch of science, but it surely continues to inspire and attract many individuals and organisations towards the depth of behavioural patterns exhibited by people. Human instincts or the basic human nature can no longer be dismissed as talks of some kind of scholarlyatavism. Instead going by Freud’s ideas and theory it is considered to be a very complex and amendable, furthermore it is recognised that human nature is far more difficult to be rationally controlled as suggested by what Freud had stated. Freud’s ideas about human nature are not scorned or rejected. Instead, they are being renounced to be immortal, practical yet dangerous.
The process of psychoanalysis as put forward by Freud had a strong influence on the imagination of the people for over a century and since its advent, the subject of psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud himself has remained as a great topic of controversy. The only other contemporary whose work has sought so many controversies and criticisms was yet another great thinker of his time, Darwin with his theory Evolution and Natural Selection. There were even speculations that the ideas of Freud were merely the product of his long standing stigma of addictions that possibly led to confusion. Freud knew the complexities that would arise out of his empirical discovery but being a genius and radical thinker, he chose to explain this to the world with his discovery as the theory of the unconscious that would have brought little less controversies and social rejections. Along with his book, ‘Interpretations of Dreams’ he furthered upon this idea of conscious and unconscious mind at work that inspired and attracted many scholars and continues to do so. Today even though Freud’s genius is not longer a doubt, but there are still long standing debates about the very nature of his achievement. It is to be believed that his ardent followers like Alfred Adler and Carl Jung espoused his doctrines with such enthusiasm and zeal that it was often considered that detractors of the ‘Freudian movement’ was nothing less than a secular religion in itself. It even had a stage of initiation where a probable or aspiring psychoanalyst would have to undergo the analysis himself first. The so called ‘gloomy mythology’ that includes warring instincts present in a human beings is condemned as of little worth and disparaged, sometimes it is rightfully considered sacrilege to deny the fact that there is fundamental nobility in his ideas.
Studies of unconscious and conscious mind further lead the discussion to sub-conscious and super-consciousness.
Psychotherapy as a practice which today is often commonly known as the talking-cure helped in the promotion of the idea that psychological conflict could possibly be overcome when the sufferer could gain an insight and recognise the early events in their life from where the basic problem had stemmed and shaped a character.
Even though many did not agree to the ideas, it could never successfully be proved that his theories were incorrect which in turn helped in proving that he was a visionary of great importance. What caused the scandal was not Freud’s constant insistence on eroticism or sexuality as a normal source of many instincts but the simple fact that all human beings are supposedly afflicted to a great deal by some sort of destructive impulse as the ability to cause damage. We could not have arrived at a solution without first addressing the problem.
Even though we seemed to have improved as a society with less violence and curing adverse extreme reactions exhibited by a few, there is still a lot more advancement left to be achieved to reach an ideal state. As mentioned in one of his letters to Einstein, “We know that is the course of evolution this state of things was modified, a path was traced that led away from the violence to law. But what was this path? Surely it issued from a single verity: that the superiority of one strong man can be overborne by an alliance of many weaklings; that L’union fait la force. Brute force is overcome by union”,
or unity makes the strength. In the beginning of the 20th century it was Freud’s ideas that had helped in explaining the most remarkable features that were a part of an individual’s intellectual life. It can be said that Freud’s work happened to be an attempt to resettle the idea of an unconscious mind at work in the domain of science. Freud originally wanted psychoanalysis to be a complete science in itself. Today the idea of the unconscious mind happens to be a major acceptance and important aspect in studies, and also has major significance in the field of neuroscience. These studies are sometimes done in completely controlled environments and have been successful in showing positive results that only strengthens the belief that Freud’s theory stands to be true and that he was an individual ahead of his time with a wider understanding of the instincts of human mind, and could be heralded as not only enlightened but also a visionary thinker. Freud’s model of the human mind is a challenge to the present day’s enlightenment-model that also happens to be an imminent part of philosophy.