chapter
11 Pages

Childhood has meaning of its own

Freud and the invention of psychoanalysis
WithSeligman Stephen

Psychoanalysis launched one of the great cultural revolutions of the ­twentieth century: childhood was now vested with meaning on its own terms and seen as the key source of adult emotional suffering and mental health. Freud’s “revelation of childhood” was one of the essential elements of this remarkable transformation: his core formulation of the childhood libidinal stages established the more general conceptualization of developmental phases. This intertwined with a model of an irrational unconscious life that was oriented to instinctual gratification. Regression and fixation to childhood traumas was at the core of his theory of psychopathology and analytic therapeutic action. Freud brought the emotional and physical experience of being a child into view in a way that changed both popular and clinical thinking.