Psychoanalysis concomitantly implies a trinity of meanings, comprised of the method of investigating the mind (the unconscious), the therapy of neuroses inspired by the above-mentioned method, and the self-standing psychoanalytical discipline based on the knowledge accumulated through the careful application of the investigation method and through clinical experimentation. To put it differently, psychoanalysis is a specific technique of investigating the mind and a therapeutic practice inspired by this technique. The novelty of Freud’s concepts resided in the recognition of the importance of unconscious psychological processes.
According to Freud (2001), under the influence of the unconscious, thoughts, and feelings that seem inextricably tied to each other can dissociate and move apart, until the climax of a conflictual state is achieved. According to Erich Fromm (1992), psychoanalysis as a therapeutic method works on the assumption that unprocessed childhood experiences of a certain gravity are pushed aside into the unconscious because otherwise, the child’s immature personality could not be able to withstand the conflictual experience. No child can endure, for instance, that he/she is unwanted by one of the parents, thus resulting in the development of certain pathologies. Psychoanalysis aims to direct the patient to the point of healing by allowing his/her conflictual states, deeply repressed in the unconscious, to emerge to the surface of consciousness. It is necessary that these states be brought to consciousness in order for them to be integrated into one’s own personality. Their bringing forth into consciousness and their acceptance as a part of the personality and of an individual’s life history are achieved with the aid of the psychoanalyst, during the psychoanalysis hours. Psychoanalysis is a long term therapy, sometimes even lasting for years, bearing in mind that it aspires to reach the most remote points of the human mind and bring into the light truths that the individual him/herself avoids or runs away from.
The one who founded psychoanalysis and who still remains the symbol of classical psychoanalysis is Sigmund Freud. With a medical background (he was a neurologist), Freud wanted to find healing methods for his patients that exhibited neurotic symptoms. Thus, beginning with the year 1890, Freud starts exploring the unconscious mechanisms that are at the core of many mundane actions and behaviors of people with neurotic symptoms and regular people alike. Freud realized that the answers must be found somewhere in the experiences of childhood that, even if not consciously remembered by individuals, are being stored in their unconscious, from where they are acting to influence the individual in pathological ways. Freud refers to sexual drives from early childhood and to psycho-sexual phases of development in children (oral, anal, phallic-oedipal), shedding light on a subject that was rather difficult to digest at the time by his contemporaries. However, his theories catch on and shortly become massively popular. Freud develops his theories and psychoanalysis as a healing method.
After him, many schools of psychoanalysis have been formed, presently numbering 22 different psychoanalytical orientations across the world. Psychoanalysis continues to be appreciated in many countries across America and Europe, as psychological theory and healing methods alike. It can be rightfully stated that psychoanalysis was the cornerstone of modern psychotherapy and surely each school of psychological thought that followed recognizes this merit.
Psychoanalysis – a long-term therapeutic method:
As a therapeutic method, classical psychoanalysis functions as follows:
With the psychoanalyst’s aid, the patient will escalate the problems that he/she is going through by making incursions into his/her unconscious and analyzing its products. Dreams failed acts, fantasies, resistances – all have something to communicate about the patient and his problems.
What the meaning of a certain dream is or why a patient said another word than what he/she intended (failed act) will be uncovered during analysis. For these, it is essential for the analyst to want to achieve progress, to fully devote him/herself, and have great trust in his/her analyst (if not, he/she may renounce therapy at the first sign of resistance). At the same time, it is good to know that psychoanalysis is a therapy with a long duration, with life-long results. Implicitly, the investment of time and money is bound to be of the same caliber. Even if it may not seem complicated, psychoanalysis is much more than laying on a couch – a cliché regarding psychotherapy – and speaking about your feelings towards your mother. It needs sustained exploring together with the therapist, who asks questions, clarifies what the patient says and does (resistances, dream symbols, etc.). The two form a team, and with the development of psychoanalysis, it can be stated that the cold, clinical relationship, in which visual contact between the analyst and the analyzed was almost completely absent, has become a much warmer and personal one (see modern psychoanalysis that puts the accent on sustaining the client and on empathy (see Kohut)).
The applicability of psychoanalysis has been proven in the treatment of children as well, not being limited to adults suffering from various mental health disturbances (Wallerstein, 2000). Moreover, it can also be applied to the analysis of various artistic products, from music to film, books, and even paintings. Speaking from the psychoanalytical perspective, any human product contains an unconscious dimension that has to lead to its apparition, a dimension that a well-prepared psychoanalyst or an individual interested in the study of psychoanalysis can uncover.
Closing, it must be stated that psychoanalysis is not a universal treatment and that not all conditions can be healed through it. Medication is oftentimes necessary, however, in certain phases of conditions (when the gravity is not that great) or with certain conditions that are only solvable through therapy, psychoanalysis can prove to be of real help. The most recommended pathologies to be approached with psychoanalytical treatment are: sexual or couple dysfunctions (erectile or orgasm dysfunctions etc.), character issues (shame, workaholism, meanness, hyper-emotionality, etc) as well as phobias, compulsion disorders, obsessions, and even anxiety and depressive disorders. Only a highly trained psychoanalyst can help a person in finding the cure. Even though the results are not immediately visible and oftentimes the resistances met are quite great (bearing in mind that repressed feelings are being pulled into the conscious), the effort is surely worth it. You only need determination and the conviction that once you take your first step on this road, you are ready to fully invest in it.
If you’re interested in learning more about psychology and how psychological therapy can help you, visit Estadt Psychological Services.