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Quotations from Sigmund Freud


A certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist.

Fragments of an Analysis with Freud, chapter 3 (January 22, 1935)

A strong egoism is a protection against disease, but in the last resort we must begin to love in order that we may not fall ill, and must fall ill if, in consequence of frustration, we cannot love.

On Narcissism: An Introduction (1914)

All dreams are in a sense dreams of convenience. They serve the purpose of prolonging sleep instead of waking up. Dreams are the guardians of sleep and not its disturbers.

The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success.


Analysis does not set out to make pathological reactions impossible, but to give the patient's ego freedom to decide one way or another.

The Ego and the Id, chapter 5 (1923)

Devout believers are safeguarded in a high degree against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; their acceptance of the universal neurosis spares them the task of constructing a personal one.

The Future of an Illusion, chapter 8 (1927)

Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.

Analysis Terminable and Interminable, section 5 (1937)

He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.

Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905)

Human life in common is only made possible when a majority comes together which is stronger than any separate individual and which remains united against all separate individuals. The power of this community is then set up as 'right' in opposition to the power of the individual, which is condemned as 'brute force.'

Civilization and its Discontents, chapter 3 (1930)

I am actually not at all a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker. I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador - an adventurer, if you want it translated - with all the curiosity, daring and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort. Such people are customarily esteemed only if they have been successful, have really discovered something; otherwise they are dropped by the wayside. And that is not altogether unjust.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (February 1, 1900)

I do not think our successes can compete with those of Lourdes. There are so many more people who believe in the miracles of the Blessed Virgin than in the existence of the unconscious.

New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, lecture 34 (1933)

I have found little that is "good" about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.

Letter (October 9, 1918)

I seem to remember having heard somewhere that only dire need brings out the best in man. I have therefore pulled myself together… and have made peace with my circumstances.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (May 8, 1901)

If we attribute significance to an external accidental happening, we project to the outside our knowledge that our inner accident is invariably intentional (unconsciously). This dark knowledge therefore is the source of our belief in the appropriateness of accidents, hence of superstition.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (September 14, 1900)

In Aussee there was a folk poet whose saying we still frequently quote: Things never turn out as we intend, they always turn out as they will.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (July 8, 1899)

Incidentally, why was it that none of all the pious ever discovered psycho-analysis? Why did it have to wait for a completely godless Jew?

Letter (October 9, 1918)

It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggression.

Civilization and Its Discontents, chapter 5 (1930)

One becomes gradually accustomed to a new realization of the nature of 'happiness': one has to assume happiness when fate does not carry out all its threats simultaneously.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (March 24, 1901)

One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be "happy" is not included in the plan of "Creation."

Civilization and its Discontents, chapter 2 (1930)

Opposition is not necessarily enmity; it is merely misused and made an occasion for enmity.

Civilization and Its Discontents, chapter 5 (1930)

Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the reasons for the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for replacing the effects of repression by the results of the rational operation of the intellect.

The Future of an Illusion, chapter 8 (1927)

Sadism is all right in its place, but it should be directed to proper ends.

Fragments of an Analysis with Freud, chapter 3 (January 22, 1935)

Such spiteful glee, such satisfied thirst for revenge plays an important role in my case; so far I have savored too little of this delicious fare.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (July 1, 1900)

The act of birth is the first experience of anxiety, and thus the source and prototype of the affect of anxiety.

The Interpretation of Dreams, chapter 6 (1900)

The ancient gods still exist, because I obtained a few recently, among them a stone Janus who looks at me with his two faces in a very superior manner.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (July 17, 1899)

The derivation of religious needs from the infant's helplessness and the longing for the father seems to me incontrovertible, especially since the feeling is not simply prolonged from childhood days, but is permanently sustained by fear of the superior power of Fate. I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.

Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, XXI.72

The doctor should be opaque to his patients and, like a mirror, should show them nothing but what is shown to him.

Recommendations to Physicians Practicing Psycho-Analysis (1912)

The ego is not master in its own house.

A Difficulty in the Path of Psycho-Analysis (1917)

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.

The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization.

Civilization and Its Discontents, chapter 3 (1930)

The only thing August is good for is nature and friendship.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (July 25, 1894)

The psychoanalysis of individual human beings, however, teaches us with quite special insistence that the god of each of them is formed in the likeness of his father, that his personal relation to God depends on his relation to his father in the flesh and oscillates and changes along with that relation, and that at bottom God is nothing other than an exalted father.

Totem and Taboo, part 4 (1913)

The time comes when each one of us has to give up as illusions the expectations which, in his youth, he pinned upon his fellow-men, and when he may learn how much difficulty and pain has been added to his life by their ill-will.

Civilization and Its Discontents, chapter 5 (1930)

The world is full of wild things; stupid ones as well. The latter, however, usually are people.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (December 4, 1896)

The worshipper of success professes faith in one of the most popular religions of the world, to which all weak characters adhere.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (May 16, 1900)

There are so many more people who believe in the miracles of the Blessed Virgin than in the existence of the unconscious.

New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, lecture 34 (1933)

They [gods invented by religion] must exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings which a civilized life in common has imposed on them.

Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, XXI.18

Unite in the mind what the vicissitudes of life tear apart.

Letter to Wilhelm Fliess (December 29, 1899)

We are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and dissolution and which cannot even do without pain and anxiety as warning signals; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction; and finally from our relations to other men. The suffering which comes from this last source is perhaps more painful than any other.

Civilization and Its Discontents, chapter 2 (1930)

We may insist as often as we like that man's intellect is powerless in comparison with its instinctual life, and we may be right in this. Nevertheless, there is something peculiar about this weakness. The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest till it has gained a hearing. Finally, after a countless succession of rebuffs, it succeeds.

The Future of an Illusion (1927)

We must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavorable to the realization of complete satisfaction.

On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love (1912)

What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.

On the public burning of his books in Berlin in 1933

Where id was, there ego shall be.

New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, lecture 31 (1933)

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