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Freud's Sexual Theory

Freud's observations about repression and defense mechanisms were some of his best work, according to present-day researchers. That is why we have spent some time with them. But to Freud, the sexual theory was his most important work. He explained almost all unusual psychological phenomena with references to sex. For example, Freud explained the déjà vu experience by saying it was an unconscious memory of the mother's genitals (Slochower, 1970). That may sound extreme but it is actually typical of how Freud thought.

Which part of this theory did Freud think was most important? How did Freud's early associates react to his ideas?

Many of Freud's early associates objected to the extreme and rather exclusive emphasis he put on sex. They preferred to think that sexual impulses were involved in some, but not all, mental problems. Freud insisted his sexual theory applied to all mental illness. Freud himself described his sexual theory as having all the popularity of "a freshly painted wall." But Freud stuck to his theory and would not agree to any modification of it. Breuer, an early mentor and colleague of Freud's, wrote that Freud was "a man given to absolute and exclusive formulations."

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