Many of you have probably heard about the show on VH1 called “Behind the Music.” This show tells us the juicy biographical facts about our favorite musicians, and while many people might not know the specifics of Courtney Love’s drug abuse or LL Cool J’s troubled childhood, nobody is surprised when famous musicians have skeletons in their closets. However, what most people don’t know is that psychologists/psychiatrists also have sordid pasts.
Let us start with the most famous rock star of psychology, Sigmund Freud. Although his theories about the id, Oedipus complex, and psychoanalysis are well-known, his obsession with cocaine has been forgotten. Freud, an avid cocaine user, believed that nothing that felt so good could be bad. He decided that cocaine was a miracle drug and wrote a paper about the curative properties of this white powder. Fortunately for Freud, another cocaine connoisseur published a paper about the wonders of this drug before him, and although Freud was upset about it at the time, the author of the cocaine paper has long been forgotten while Freud is mentioned in every psychology textbook.
One his most famous theories is that every part of life has to do with sex. If you have a dream about riding on a train you might think that you have a subconscious desire to go on vacation, but Freud would say that you actually want to sleep with your mother. Freud saw sex in everything: Cigars, depression, sibling conflict. One might assume that someone this obsessed with sex was constantly copulating, after all he did have six children. However, the exact opposite is true. Freud was not a man of great wealth and he felt that having too many children would bankrupt him. Since he felt that coitus interruptus (known today as the “pull out method”) and masturbation were unhealthy, he abstained from all types of sex. Just like a hungry man sees hamburgers everywhere, Freud saw sexuality in all aspects of life.
It is not only Freud that had a questionable past. His opponent, Karen Horney, also had a closet full of skeletons. Horney took great offense to Freud’s theory about penis envy. She stated that if there are women who wish they had a penis, then there are men who wish they had a uterus. The transgendered population would probably agree with her! If her theory sounds a bit feminist too you, it’s because she is the creator feminine psychology. And if you are thinking she must have had bad experiences with men to become a feminine psychologist, you are also correct. She had a stern father for whom she felt little affection. Unfortunately, just like many other young women, she picked a husband that had the same bad qualities. After her marriage became unbearable, she separated from her husband and moved to another continent. It was during this time she became an advocate for feminine psychology.
Despite the fact that Horney’s father was an unpleasant man, Abraham Maslow would have gladly switched parents with her. His claim to fame was the “hierarchy of needs” pyramid. If you are unfamiliar with it, this pyramid states that you cannot have high self-esteem unless you have food, safety, and love in your life. Maslow must have realized how important these three things were because he was lacking all three while he was growing up. His father thought that he was ugly, and to ensure that Maslow never forgot this, he would announce it publicly. His mother kept the refrigerator locked and only opened it if she was in a good mood. Her punishments were needlessly cruel. One time she discovered that Maslow had sneaked some kittens inside the house, and instead of simply telling him that he has to put them back outside, she made him watch as she smashed their heads against the wall. Maslow should have named his pyramid “everything that was missing from my childhood.”
While Maslow probably wished that he never knew his father, Eric Erikson had an opposite desire. During his childhood, Erikson thought that the husband of his mother was his father, and he didn’t understand why he looked Scandinavian when both his parents were Jewish. This riddle was solved when he discovered his father was actually his stepfather. Most people know Erikson as the creator of psychosocial development; however, he is also the creator of identity statuses. As a person who struggled with his own identity (he even created his own last name), he wanted others to have a vocabulary to describe their identity crises.
It seems that both musicians and psychologists/psychiatrists become famous because they are able to transform their bad life experiences into something profitable. If Ozzy Osbourne didn’t take drugs and Abraham Maslow had loving parents, who knows how the music and psychology industry would have turned out. Perhaps the words of the famous psychiatrist Thomas Szasz (who didn’t make this post) are correct, “there is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography.”