Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.
“I cannot imagine life without work as really comfortable,” Freud wrote to a friend in 1910. With his wife, Martha, to efficiently manage the household–she laid out Freud’s clothes, chose his handkerchiefs, and even put toothpaste on his toothbrush–the founder of psychoanalysis was be able to maintain a single-minded devotion to his work throughout his long career. Freud rose each day by 7:00, ate breakfast, and had his beard trimmed by a barber who made a daily house call for this purpose. Then he saw analytic patients from 8:00 until noon. Dinner, the principal meal of the day, was served promptly at 1:00. Freud was not a gourmet–he dislike wine and chicken, and preferred solid middle-class fare like boiled or roast beef–but he enjoyed his food and ate with quiet concentration. Although normally a genial host, Freud could be so absorbed by his thoughts during the meal that his silence sometimes discomfited guests, who would struggle to carry a conversation with the other members of the family.
After dinner, Freud went for a walk around Vienna’s Ringstrasse. This was not a leisurely stroll, however; his son, Martin, recalled, “My father marched at terrific speed.” Along the way he would often purchase cigars and collect or deliver proofs to his publisher. At 3:00 there were consultations, followed by more analytic patients, until 9:00 at night. Then the family ate supper, and Freud would play a game of cards with his sister-in-law or go for a walk with his wife or one of his daughters, sometimes stopping at a cafe to read the papers. The remainder of the evenings was spent in his study, reading, writing, and doing editorial chores for psychoanalytical journals, until 1:00 A.M. or later.
Freud’s long workdays were mitigated by two luxuries. First, there were his beloved cigars, which he smoked continually, going through as many as twenty a day from his mid-twenties until near the end of his life, despite several warnings from doctors and the increasingly dire health problems that dogged him throughout his later years. (When his seventeen-year-old nephew once refused a cigarette, Freud told him, “My boy, smoking is one of the greatest and cheapest enjoyments in life, and if you decide in advance not to smoke, I can only feel sorry for you.”) Equally important, no doubt, were the family’s annual three-month summer vacations, which they spent in a spa or hotel in the mountains, going on hikes, gathering mushrooms and strawberries, and fishing.