150 years of Freud, sex and controversy marked in Old Town exhibit

A new exhibition in Prague's Old Town Hall marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud. It is just one of several memorial events scheduled to take place in cities around the world to honor Freud, the man regarded as the father of psychoanalysis.

"Life is but a dream" is an appropriate title for an exhibition dedicated to the man who read more into the subconscious than perhaps anyone else. Sigmund Freud developed the field of psychoanalysis by examining a patient's dreams and random thoughts in search of hidden feelings, fears and desires.

His work impacted many noted personalities of the 20th Century, including Albert Einstein and Salvador Dali. The exhibit gives visitors a chance to see the very couch where patients spoke their minds to Freud. More than 11 museums and private collections provided works for the exhibit, but the president of the Czech Psychoanalytic Society, Vaclav Mikota, says "Life is but a dream" is not just for those familiar with Freud.

"This gallery is for people who don't know Sigmund Freud who want to be introduced to his life and work."

Freud's life began in 1856 in the Czech Republic in Freiburg, now Pribor, in Moravia. Photos show him as a boy reading books that are almost bigger than he is. When Freud was very young his family moved to Vienna. There he spent most of his life and later worked in private practice.

He explored the influence of instinct, particularly sexual instinct, on the human psyche. His controversial ideas faced often hostile opposition throughout the 20th century.

"The Communists, like the Nazis, were against Freud's psychoanalysis. You probably know that Nazis called it Jewish Bolshevik pseudoscience, and Communists called it Bourgeois pseudoscience.

Now his psychoanalysis is accepted by some universities in some countries. Our Charles University accepts Freud's ideas with hesitation, not fully."

Perhaps Freud's best known work is "The Interpretation of Dreams", which he published early in 1900. He was a prolific writer - 24 volumes of his work were translated to English. With so many ideas, some were bound to be discarded over time.

Photo: CTK
"According to Freud, as soon as a little girl sees that she is not a man, she is full of rage and jealousy until her death. We can't agree with this."

Since Freud's death in 1939, most of his theories have remained relevant. However, Mr. Mikota says psychoanalysis has fallen out of favor now that pricey drugs are often used to treat mental conditions.

"From the beginning of the 80s with the development of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, the interest of psychiatrists had declined from psychoanalysis.

I think that one of the reasons was money. Because the pharmacological companies are very rich and they could motivate psychiatrists to do some trials with new drugs than to analyze patients."

"Life is but a dream" is open now until the fourth of June.