In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud's theories of psychoanalysis, slowly but powerfully, caught on in America (Fancher, 1998). America has always been, historically and philosophically, a land of individualism, personal discovery, and drive toward self-knowledge and self-actualization. Therefore, Freud's theory of psychoanalysis - with its key emphasis on self-discovery through intricate self-analysis, offered Americans ideas much akin to those with which they were already comfortable - self-actualization; self-knowledge; self-understanding. .
Some Americans knew already of Freud's preliminary groundbreaking works, The Interpretation of Dreams (1899, 1900) and the bestselling Dora [also known as "Fragmented Analysis of a Case of Hysteria"] (1900). However, what was perhaps most intriguing about Freud's theories, to Americans, was the idea that happiness was within the grasp of the individual.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was the founder of modern-day psychoanalysis, in Vienna, in the early years of the 20th century. Freud developed the theory of the unconscious, including the theory of the id-ego-superego triad that governs, from within, human behavior. .
Further, as Freud argued in Civilization and its Discontents (1961), we are inherently driven by our desires (the id), which are unconsciously controlled by the superego (a sort of internalized parent, just as the id is similar to an internalized child). Our ego functions as both a sort of unconscious mediator between the two extremes of the ego and the id, and also reflects the tension and interplay between the id and the superego. The ego, then, tells us who we are, often uneasily. Under that theory, it would follow logically, then, Freud argues, that our behavior is internally rather than externally shaped; our external behavior within society is merely the end result of those purely internal behavior-shaping processes.