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. This post will explain what it is and how it can help you in the modern world.
Psychoanalysis - What is it?
Psychoanalysis is therapy and theory based on the unconscious mind. Sigmund Freud first adopted it 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 an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg 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, 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 unconscious exists because if it were conscious, it would threaten or damage you. For example, some trauma may be 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.
The 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 inherited and 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 experiences, 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 of your therapist as that one nagging teacher or some other authority figure who doesn't get you.
Sexualized transference is quite interesting. You start feeling attracted 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:
Psychoanalysis is one of the oldest forms of therapy, making it quite controversial when used today. Freud was an influential figure in 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 is 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is psychoanalysis in simple terms?
Speaking simply, psychology is the study of the human mind, and psychoanalysis examines the hidden structure of the mind. Psychoanalysis is the process of uncovering subconscious thoughts and memories that shape a person’s behavior. Based on Sigmund Freud’s psychological theories, psychoanalytic therapy allows patients to reveal their innermost emotions and assumptions. This reveals the dynamics and biases that can be better addressed once they come to the surface.
What is an example of psychoanalysis?
A patient seeks out a therapist with concerns about her marriage. She feels ignored and unloved but also guilty about these feelings because her husband treats her well. Through psychodynamic psychotherapy, the patient begins talking about her past and playing out some of her thought processes. With the psychoanalyst’s help, she eventually realizes that the childhood neglect she experienced from her parents is lingering in her subconscious, which she has now discovered through psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has revealed the paradigm that she is now using in her domestic life. By processing these feelings in a clinical psychology setting, the patient can feel more comfortable and open in her marriage.
What is psychoanalysis in psychology?
Psychodynamic psychotherapy concepts were developed by esteemed psychologist Sigmund Freud, whose psychological therapies were seminal in the field. Freud believed that the mind was like an iceberg: the conscious, or visible, the portion is only a small part. Our formative experiences, socialization, trauma, and internal biases all build up a subconscious portion that drives most of our behavior.
The psychoanalytic approach is more than a theory. In modern psychology also includes a set of therapies based on the idea that these subconscious ideas need to be brought to light. This can lessen their impact on behavior. For example, identifying the root cause of a phobia can help the patient overcome their fear. This approach reflects a shift away from the historical beliefs that imbalanced fluids or energies led to mental illness. It’s simple psychology.
What happens during psychoanalysis?
During a typical psychoanalysis session, the patient will lie on a couch with the therapist out of view. According to psychoanalytic theory, this helps the patient avoid distraction and start a stream of consciousness. The therapist asks questions meant to get the patient talking. This arrangement helps the mind be freer to explore and remember. The patient will often recall dreams, memories, or narratives. Sometimes, the psychoanalyst will read words and ask the patient to say what comes to mind. While the patient is speaking, the therapist looks for common themes and helps them identify mental roadblocks, traumas, or negative thought patterns.
What is the purpose of psychoanalysis?
While other psychological therapy forms focus on helping patients process trauma or rewire their brains, psychoanalysis has one main goal: to bring hidden emotions and memories to the surface. This can help patients who feel unsettled or unhappy in their lives but aren’t sure why. It is more for general issues than mental illness, but studies show that treatment-resistant depression can be relieved by psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis in clinical psychology aims to help people function healthily by freeing their minds from bias and repression.
What is the goal of psychoanalysis?
The goal of the psychoanalytic approach is to help patients unlock hidden truths through psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis aims to bring subconscious thoughts, beliefs, biases, memories, and assumptions to the surface so that they can be acted upon, dismissed, or recategorized. This process is the basis of psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy. For example, Lacanian psychoanalysis focuses on finding the core wants and desires that motivate a person’s thoughts. According to the American Psychoanalytic Association, psychoanalytic treatment helps patients correct maladaptive behavior and fully integrate their sense of self into a healthy whole. Quite simply, psychology and psychoanalysis are meant to free the mind from its trappings.
Is Psychoanalysis used today?
Yes, many psychologists will use psychoanalytic therapy to help patients who are struggling but unsure of the cause. It is meant to help them uncover the root causes of their unhappiness so that they can pursue healthier relationships, lives, and goals. The practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy has changed quite a bit since Freud’s time, as some of his ideas fell out of favor. According to the American Psychoanalytic Association, current psychoanalytic training and clinical psychology have shifted toward positive psychology rather than abnormal psychology: it focuses on finding patterns, resolving trauma, and encouraging the patient to process feelings, rather than simply identifying one’s “Oedipal complex.” The core psychoanalytic theories and techniques are still very effective, though, with evidence that psychoanalytic therapy has longer-lasting treatment effects than other therapies.