What Is Psychoanalysis And How Can It Benefit Me?
Updated January 03, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
You've probably heard of psychoanalysis, but you may not know precisely what it is. It's one of the oldest forms of modern psychology, first popularized by Freud, and it's still used today. In this post, we will explain what it is and how it can help you in the modern world.
What Is Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is therapy and theory based on the unconscious mind. It was first adopted by Sigmund Freud at the end of the 19th century, and it has evolved since then. Let's look at the unconscious mind first.
The Unconscious Mind
A comparison that's cliché, yet perfectly describes what the unconscious mind is, is an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg that is coming out of the water is big and noticeable, and this is your conscious mind. Your feelings, desires, and other beliefs that you can observe. However, under the water is an unseen, and even larger, part of the iceberg, and this is unconscious. These are feelings, beliefs, traits, memories, and other thoughts that are not in the conscious mind. Despite not being observable under most circumstances, the unconscious mind is the puppet master, greatly affecting how you act and think.
Freud believed that the reasons as to why the unconscious exists are because if it were conscious, it would threaten or damage you. For example, some trauma may be in the unconscious, and if you remembered it, it could hurt you.
How The Unconscious Becomes The Conscious
There are many ways that the unconscious can slip into the conscious. Sometimes, it comes through dreams. Other times, it comes through slips of the tongue. For example, sexual desires are often express through slips of the tongue.
Other times, psychoanalysis is the key to getting the unconscious mind out in the open. One technique Freud uses is free association.
Free association involves the patient sitting down and telling the therapist anything that comes to their mind. The patient should not leave any thought censored, and instead give the therapist all their thoughts. This allows the therapist to see how the patient thinks. The point isn't to judge for the thoughts, but instead, be curious and figure out the person's desires.
It's very free-form, and neither party knows how it will go. Often, the therapist will link together different themes based on the thoughts and make assumptions about the patient's unconscious desires. However, the main goal is for the patient to discover themselves and learn more about what makes them tick.
Psychoanalysis is wrapped around in various tenets, and here are the six main ones.
Psychoanalysis believes that a person's traits and personality are not just inherited, but due to what happens in their early childhood. These events that occur in early childhood are often forgotten but can change someone's personality for better or worse. Every little incident you have as a child may shape you.
The unconscious mind brings out many of the behaviors that we have. Many of your personality traits may be due to unconscious desires that are hard to find.
When you try to make the unconscious into the conscious, there is going to be resistance. These may come in the form of repressed memories.
When Conscious and Unconscious Clash
Whenever you are experiencing conflicts between your conscious and unconscious mind, it may result in many side effects, such as depression or anxiety.
There are some ways you can see your unconscious. This can come in the form of dreams, slips of the tongue, and other behaviors you cannot explain.
How To Liberate Yourself
According to psychoanalysis, you can liberate yourself by bringing the unconscious to the front of the mind, and then use therapy to resolve your unconscious desires and memories.
Transference is referred to as the main centerpiece of psychoanalysis, and for a good reason. It's when the client starts projecting their feelings about someone else onto the therapist. It's quite common in therapy, and it can come in the form of positive experience, negative experiences, or even sexual, such as falling in love with the therapist.
Transference may be a conflict in therapy, but it can also enhance the experience as well. Let's look at the three forms of transference.
Positive transference involves taking good parts of your relationships with your therapist. For example, you may treat your therapist as a good friend, and think of them as that one friend who always listened to you no matter what.
Negative transference involves taking negative emotions and putting them on the therapist. For example, you may think pf your therapist as that one nagging teacher or some other authority figure who just doesn't get you.
Sexualized transference is quite interesting. You start feeling attraction to your therapist, be it sexual or romantic. You may transfer your feelings about your therapist from someone else you love.
Then there is another form of transference called countertransference. This is when the therapist projects their feelings to the client as well. The therapist has their struggles too, and countertransference could be the result of that.
If you feel like you're experiencing transference, you should discuss it with the therapist. It can be embarrassing to admit, but it must be done to help you progress with your therapy.
How A Session Works
When you go to a psychoanalytic session, you may go a few times a week for about an hour. The psychoanalysis office is the stereotype of the patient lying on a couch and talking to the therapist, who is usually out of sight.
What It Can Treat
Psychoanalysis can treat many problems, and it's good for a variety of situations. These include:
- Anxiety and depression. While severe depression needs harder treatments, there may be an unconscious reason why you feel so anxious or depressed. By talking to a therapist, you can get to the bottom of it.
- Sometimes, your phobias may come from an incident as a child, and you may not remember. Psychoanalysis can figure out the reason for your phobia, and you can learn how to treat it.
- Self-esteem issues. There may be an unconscious memory in your childhood that caused low self-esteem. From your parents harshly criticizing you to someone insulting you, there are a few reasons why you may have low self-esteem.
- Trauma can come in many ways. It doesn't necessarily have to be something big. For example, falling and hurting yourself when you're very young could be an unconscious trauma. A therapist gets to the bottom of your traumas and teaches you how you can move past them.
- Relationship troubles. Everyone has their marriage problem or family issue, and there may be an unconscious reason for this. From an old argument to an issue you had as a child, the therapist will help you bring these reasons to the forefront of your mind and allow you to get closure.
- Self-destructive behaviors. These include addictions, unneeded risks, self-harm, and other behaviors that don't have any advantages. Figuring out what these self-destructive behaviors are caused by can help you to improve your life.
- Sexual frustrations. Sex is more complicated than you would think, and sexual frustration is something that may be rooted in unconscious feelings.
Psychoanalysis is one of the oldest forms of therapy, making it quite controversial when used today. Freud was an influential figure on psychology, but many of his theories have little use in modern psychology. Since the late 1800s, there have been significant advancements in how the mind is studied and how we treat mental disorders. This has brought into question how useful psychoanalysis is today. Some places will treat it as a relic, while others still study and use it.
There's no doubt that many mental disorders require more treatment than a dive into the unconscious. Severe depression may require a variety of treatments to see results. Meanwhile, not everyone has had trauma as a child. This, along with how lengthy psychoanalysis can be, makes people think that psychoanalysis is no longer needed.
However, psychoanalysis has been shown to be effective when it comes to treating those with mild issues. Those who come in with life problems may be able to find themselves and live a better life. Psychoanalysis can still be effective, but it requires modern science and a new understanding of the mind. If you're looking to be treated, psychoanalysis is just one form of treatment you can use in a toolbox. It may work for you, or you may find that you need something else.
Finding a therapist can change your life for the better. While you may believe that you can talk your problems out yourself, you may have underlying issues that can only be brought to the forefront by a professional. Give therapy a try, and you may be surprised by the results.