eli5: Why is Freud concidered to be “the father of modern psychology” but at the same time, every psychologist hates freudian analysis?



eli5: Why is Freud concidered to be “the father of modern psychology” but at the same time, every psychologist hates freudian analysis?

In: Other

Being first doesn’t mean that you got it right, after many years people have been able to study in depth everything that Freud thought was correct and take it apart. Newton was the father of gravity, but his views on gravity are now dated.

His theory on Conscious and Unconscious mind was innovative. He also was a founding father of “Talk Therapy” (Freud and Breuer; Studies on Hysteria)
Don’t get me wrong, I disagree with 90 percent of what he says but I still think he paved a route.

Also more psychologists wanted to prove him wrong so a lot more theories were created to bash his studies.

Lots of psychologists practice psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) that looks very similar to Freud’s methods. Since then, behaviorism has risen in popularity due to the fact that it relies more on empirical tests rather than unobservable constructs to explain behaviors. Most of the “hatred” comes from people who insist on using these constructs to explain concepts instead of testable hypotheses. But for the most part people don’t “hate” Freud so much as they recognize that a lot of things that he said were later proven wrong, which is to be expected as the field progresses. People also tend to dislike popularizers, and many armchair psychologists are only exposed to Freudian concepts leading to mass misinformation, which would be frustrating to experts in any field.

He was the founder of psychoanalysis, which in itself is very controversial, but included having people talk about their problems. You’ll notice the “talk about it” thing from pretty much every modern therapist etc., who may have you sit down and talk about things so they can understand you better and hopefully help you. Freud was instrumental in getting that sort of treatment off the ground, and for this he is recognized. But he also had a lot of strange theories, some hotly contested or proven false, such as an obsession with the Oedipus Complex.

It’s like we can recognise prehistoric examples of trepanation and say they were founders of the idea of surgery for health, while also being against trepanning because there’s much better ways to do things these days.

Imagine that its caveman times and you’re the first person to invent a wheel. Except your wheel isn’t round, its an octagon. When you invent the octagon its a vast improvement over everything that had come before since no one else had ever thought of moving something along the ground by rotating it.

Humanity spent 3,000 years pushing squares through the mud. But your idea that you can move by rotating something is so revolutionary that now, a mere 150 years later, people have refined your octagon to a fully functional circular wheel. People with access to a circular wheel would look back and say “wow, why the hell would we ever use octagons?” But that doesn’t mean that the octagon didn’t revolutionize the field of pushing stuff.

Freud is the octagon of psychology. Prior to Freud no one believed that mental health disorders even existed – people believed that mental health problems were the result of demonic possession and that had remained unchanged for thousands of years.

150 years later we now know that most of what Freud believed in terms of the cause of mental health disorders is completely wrong, including his ideas on how to treat them. But the fact is that Freud’s view that mental health disorders were actual diseases that could be treated by means other than exorcism was revolutionary.
His popularization of that outlook is what allowed modern psychology to evolve to the point that currently is.

So yes, Freud was wrong. But without him the standard treatment for mental health disorders would continue to be shoving garlic cloves up the person’s ass while sprinkling holy water on them and praying.

The Ford model T is considered to be the grandfather of modern automobiles. Very few people today would want to own and drive an unaltered one, though.

We still credit Darwin for popularizing evolution. Even though many of his specific ideas are now outdated and proven wrong, he established the methodologies through which further advancement and study was possible.

Freud is in much the same boat.

He invented therapy. Good. Father of psychoanalysis. Duly deserved.

Why he gets so much flak is because he completely ignored the scientific method for much of his work. Carl Popper invented the term pseudoscience to describe the lack of scientific rigor in Freud’s work.

Einstein (a contemporary) made predictions and then set out to take measurements. If the measurements did not match his predictions then he would know his work was flawed.

Freud would say a woman had penis envy and then twist any data to fit that conclusion. Abusive father? Well your penis envy is born of resentment. Loving father? Your penis envy is born of confusion and wanting to be your father.

Freud normalized some very important tools for mental health treatment but he was simply bad at his job as a researcher and scientist.

That’s why he’s treated differently than other scientific figures. Newton and Darwin and Curie did important work without having some key insights or modern methodology, but for the time and tools available they did great actual work.

Freud’s work was just fatally flawed in many ways.

Well…i hate to be that guy, but as a psychology graduate…Freud is not considered the father of modern psychology at all. The father of modern psychology is recognized as Wilhelm Wundt.

Everyone has given some interesting responses to your question though as to why Freudian theory is still talked about within psychology. That being said, in psychology courses his work is never really referenced nor used as a basis of analytical framework for the different disciplines in psychology.


Edit: Ok to answer your question

Freud wasnt a psychologist, he was a philospher. Freud didnt do anything other than think about different ways to explain issues people were dealing with. He would think, he would come up with some explanation, and he would share his explanation. This made it possible to consider why some people had mental health issues, it opened up a gate. But thats all he did. The sad part is that unless you do a deep dive into his life, you will never know how many crazy theories he came up with that people dont talk about or know about. Thats why modern psychology dislikes him, he never tried to do anything to prove how the things he thought up were correct or incorrect, he would just think and share, and built a reputation over time that people started to take his word as truth.


Modern psychology isnt like that. We think of a problem in our world, we ask why its like that, we come up with a theory, and then we rigorously test our thoughts. When we’re wrong, we acknowledge it and think some more and test new theories.

Edit2: i misspelled freud as often as i could to block out the inevitable mental images of some horrendous sexual acts. So close to valentine’s too tsk tsk. My weekend is ruined.

Edit 3: jesus guys its an “explain like im 5” subreddit and a lot of people are drawing all these conclusions based on my ELI5 answer. OP wants to know why we talk about Freud in psychology when most psychologist have moved away from Freudian theory. I gave a simplified answer to an incredibly nuanced and complicated issue. Calm down. Uhg.

Sometimes the best way to get the right answer is to post the wrong one and let everyone vigorously and thoroughly explain the correct answer.

Freud is considered as that because most people equate “psychology” with “clinical psychology”. There’s not really a good case to be made for father of psychology (where William James, Wilhelm Wundt, Hermann Ebbinghaus, etc. would be good candidates). But when it comes to clinical psychology, his efforts can’t be overstated. Most everything in clinical psychology, even rivaling theories from cognitive/behavioural perspectives, all reacted to and developed from Freud. If you go to r/psychotherapy or explore clinical writings, you will find that it’s simply not true that every psychologist hates freudian analysis. In fact, psychodynamic therapy is one of the most common treatment modalities that are practiced, and it has a direct heritage from Freud.

When it comes to why Freud is “hated” this might come from a serious schism between academic psychology and practical clinical psychology, or a researcher/practitioner divide. In research one approximates scientific ideals, to alleviate bias and aim towards generalizability. In the practicing field you deal with bias, subjectivity and individualized phenomena. The practicioner will respect Freud for trying to find a language to describe the latter, and be suspicious of science as something that triest to explain it away.

Freud is to psychology what Henry Ford is to the automobile. Had groundbreaking theories, paved the way for the people after him, and his ideas were the beginning of a new field, really.

Without Freud we couldn’t have Jung, who agreed with some of Freud’s work but not all of it so he started his own school of thought. We have the first wave of psychology which was Freud and Jung, the second wave people were more emotion focused, and the third wave people are more behavioral focused. But none of it would have been possible without Freud.

As someone said already, Freud has tons of ideas (most, if not all, or which he retracted before he died), but if it wasn’t for his crazy ideas no one would have tried to do it better, this giving birth to better understanding of mental health that we have today.

Once upon a time there was no way to help people who were mentally sick, nor were they seen as mentally ill, they were just viewed as crazy weirdos. Then Freud came along and said I have a way of helping people with their mental difficulties, of which worked very well. The majority of his clients that he treated were labelled as “hysterical women” which would be considered to be by todays terms as clients with borderline personality disorder. He would help them resolve their psychological turmoil through talk therapy, a brand new style of treatment which had not been employed before. This treatment style is employed by all therapists, however it has evolved and adapted over the years. A lot of modern day psychologists veered strongly to empirical/scientific study… so strongly that they could only believe something is useful if statistical ananlysis said so. This leads many psychologists to become narrow sighted and prescriptive, they would not “see” their clients as people, only a problem that required a formulatic response, and they would only use robotic formulas and prescriptive treatments (REBT, CBT, Behaviourist treatments) as a means of “curing” their client. They built up resentment towards Freud, psychoanalysts, and also humanist/psychodynamic treatments (Gestalt, Person centred therapy), because the psychodynamic treatments aren’t so easy to scientifically observe or understand, and I believe because their treatments would not work on clients with severe mental illness. However, there is a drastic shift away from these prescriptive treatments, and back towards psychodyanic/humanist talk-therapies because science has advanced and is now actually capable of showing evidence (due to neuro imaging) that strongly support the old ways of treatment. I mean, every mainstream psychologist is now in support of therapeutic treatments such as mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, and accept psychoanalytic concepts such as the unconscious, defence mechanisms, and transference, or recently found neurological aspects such as mirror neurons that facilitate empathy, and other aspects such as the embodiment of experience as a means of connecting to others etc.

Also, not all psychologists hate Freud, the Uni’s have just shifted so much of their focus away from psychodynamic treatments, that most psychologists don’t even understand nor read his works. If you listen to or read any of his stuff, you will begin to understand the sort of genius that he is. Many young psychologists early on in their career will dimean his work, but you will find a large majority of them gradually veer towards psychodynamic/humanist therapies because their prescriptive styles will not work for clients suffering severe mental illnesses.

For reference I have a B.Pscyh & M. Counselling & Psychotherapy

Edit: It is important to note that his theories evolved and developed over time, and although his concepts were extraordinary and out there, the way in which he got to the conclusion of his hypothesis’ was through intensively meticulous, and conservative scientific observation.

Oh and a huge reason he is unpopular is because it’s super trendy, particularly by feminists, simps, and hipsters to call him a coke head or a misogynist. Because apparently doing drugs, or being a male helping women is misogynist. But hey, he only revolutionised and formalised the way we view ourselves, the way we help one another overcome mental difficulty, and the fact that he spent his life mainly assisting women overcome the turmoil of their time…

Because we all hate our fathers and wish to destroy/replace them (with our own psychological theories)