Sigmund Freud's theory of Psychoanalysis is a complex system of ideas about psychopathology, the nature of psychic life, the treatment of mental illness, and ultimately, the nature of the human subject. For that reason it defies easy categorization and his elicited many adherents and detractors as well.
It is characteristic on late nineteenth and early twentieth century social thought in that it presents a "grand theory." In this regard, like Marxism and other theories from the era it has been compared to religion for the scope and nature of its ideas as well as for the system of discipleship and intensity of belief on the part of its adherents. This, of course, is somewhat ironic given that Freud always insisted that he was founding a science.
Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Noble Savage, Freud writes his own myth about the origin of human problems that replaces the Adam and Eve story with one of intrapsychic conflict of illicit sexual desire in the child. In this regard, there are interesting parallels between Freud's theory and the Unification interpretation of the Fall of Man.
In his attempt to create a grand theory, Freud created a model of the human person that was built upon conflict. The object of the desire, the Mother, cannot be attained. All of life is a kind of compensation for that original loss. In the early days of psychoanalysis, Freud still believed in a "talking cure," but over time he recognized that based on his theory, "the truth will not set the patient free," but only allow them to overcome major dysfunction, and in turn, accept the common misery of life. There was to be no cure for the "discontents of civilization." The price of civilization forbids it. This pessimism which characterizes his later theories suggests the fundamental problem with the human subject. Man replaced God at the center of the universe from the Cartesian cogito on, but is unable to define his or her own being. Freud's own theory of the unconscious put the final nail in the coffin, undermining the very notion of subjectivity, locating human behavior in the "other" which is a law operating in me that I did not authorize. Two paths are open after psychoanalysis: one is back to God, the other is to muddle along without hope.