LONDON (Reuters Life!) - What was life like for the father of psychoanalysis who made a profession of analyzing the lives of others?
Insights into how Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis whose work on human sexual repression led to terms as “Freudian slip” and “Oedipus complex,” lived can be found at the Freud Museum London which celebrates its 25th anniversary on Thursday.
The large brick, early 20th-century house in north London is where Freud spent his final year after fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938 before dying on September 23, 1939, at age 83.
Anna Freud, the youngest of his six children who was also a psychoanalyst, had arranged before her death in 1982 to have the house transformed into a museum in 1986. The museum now receives 20,000 visitors a year, according to director Carol Seigel.
“His work has permeated many aspects of our contemporary culture,” she said. “We’re moving into a period where people are taking a bit more of a long view and recognizing that even if there is criticism of certain aspects of his work and certain theories, Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential world-changing thinkers of the 20th century.”
Visitors to the museum can see his couch in the study where patients underwent psychoanalysis, his desk and valuable antiquities collection, preserved as they were while he was alive.
Freud’s much-loved figurines and objects from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and China, reflect his interest in religious beliefs and the supernatural. Many of these objects are on display in his study and library. His coat, boots, wedding ring and other personal items are also on show.
Freud’s discoveries about the unconscious mind altered popular perceptions of self and society. He abandoned more traditional ways of treating mental disorders in favor of listening to his patients talk, allowing them to free associate ideas.
His observations led to a belief that neuroses resulted from repressed sexual trauma, which patients needed to release in order to recover.
In “The Interpretation of Dreams”, published in 1899, Freud theorized that dreams represented the fulfillment of distorted infantile desires and wrote about the “Oedipus complex”, the child’s desire for the parent of the opposite sex.
In 1901, in “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” he proposed that a “slip of the tongue”, forgetfulness or the loss of an item may occur because of the unconscious repression of a desire or thought. The concept is known as a “Freudian slip”.
The museum also features contemporary art exhibitions related to Freudian concepts and a short documentary film about Freud and his family narrated by Anna Freud.
A 1938 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recording features Freud speaking about his discovery of psychoanalysis.
“People did not believe my facts and thought my theories unsavory,” he said in the muffled recording. “Resistance was strong and unrelenting. In the end I succeeded in acquiring pupils and building up an International Psychoanalytic Association, but the struggle is not yet over.”
As the museum celebrates its anniversary it will launch a campaign for funds to preserve and modernize it. The museum is financed by the New-Land Foundation and its own fundraising efforts.
The campaign, which will kick off with a celebratory tea in the museum garden, will also include an auction of the works of British artists Susan Hiller, Antony Gormley and Maggi Hambling among others.
“We are seeing the anniversary as a turning point. We’ve been thinking about our own developments in areas where we’d like to improve and 25 years seems like a good time to take stock and think about how to look forward to the future,” Seigel said.
Reporting by Julie Mollins; editing by Patricia Reaney