Psychoanalytic Inquiry: Where the Mind and the Brain Meet on the Frontier of Thought™
What is Psychoanalysis?
“Psychoanalysis exists as a body of theory based on Freud's understanding of neurosis and its treatment, starting in the 1890's, and built on and elaborated since then by Freud and his followers. This body of theoretical concepts, extraordinary at the time, enabled the development of clinical practice by Freud and those around him until, subsequently, psychoanalysis spread throughout Europe, America, South America and is now expanding into Asia. Freud's theories of the origins of the neuroses grew to encompass a general model of the mind and mental functioning, which went hand in hand with the development and constant refinement of clinical treatment. Freud's understanding of the drives, aggression and sexuality, recognized in his adult patients and which he traced to childhood…is now recognized as basic to the understanding of child development, childhood disorders, the struggles of adolescence and all aspects of adult mental functioning.
The keystone of psychoanalysis is the concept of the unconscious, the deep structures in the personality of which the person is unaware but which exerts a huge influence on life and behaviour. Each person has resistance to acknowledging these unconscious elements and establishes defences; when the internal world is explored in analytic treatment, discoveries are made that reveal how current relationships and life patterns are influenced by experiences from the past, often as repetitions of dysfunctional or maladaptive behaviour. An understanding of the elements of early relationships, as well as the relationship with the analyst, will be sought. Recognising the emotional power of early relationships, how the past influences the present, in setting patterns of behaviour in adulthood can give people choices not experienced before.
There is a range of problems that are treatable by psychoanalysis: depression, anxiety, obsessions, dissatisfaction within relationships, both personal and professional, and problems with self-image, somatic symptoms, and mood and thought disorders. Not only symptom relief can be experienced, but also through the reflective process, greater self-knowledge and a firmer sense of self and one's own mind can be found, as well as furthering potential in the external world.
Psychoanalysis is distinguished from other therapies in its defining concepts of free association, interpretation and transference. The treatment usually involves four to five sessions weekly and continues for a number of years. This is to enable the resistances encountered in bringing repressed material into a patient's conscious mind to be worked through and resolved. The patterns of disturbance that bring someone into psychoanalysis require work and commitment on the part of both analyst and patient to allow for psychic change. In intensive work, there is a continuity of experience, a building up of trust in the analytic setting, within which a patient can feel secure enough to explore his internal world. Most analysts recognize and use dreams as an opportunity to understand the unconscious; dreams act helpfully as a guide to unconscious elements, early experiences, hidden wishes, as well as external experiences.
The psychoanalytic setting, i.e., regular sessions, use of the couch, the basic rule of free association (saying what comes to mind), is important in establishing the treatment. The analyst "hears" both verbal and non-verbal communication and helps the patient to understand his unconscious conflicts and hidden unconscious meanings, which can lead to insight in the patient and profound changes in his life. It is of great importance that the analysis should be brought to a proper ending, where the patient leaves an important relationship intact and autonomous, with new horizons in view and a new way of thinking at his disposal.
Who is Psychoanalysis for?
Psychoanalysis is an effective treatment for many people whose difficulties range from mild to moderate to severe; this includes those who are either seeking treatment for the first time or who may have experienced unsuccessful attempts with other types of treatment or briefer therapies in the past. The psychoanalytic method recognizes that the difficulties for which potential patients seek help are often the tip of the iceberg, with deeper underlying causes that require effective mental space for their understanding and elucidation.
As analysis is a highly individualized and personal treatment, anyone wanting to know if she/he would benefit from it should first seek a consultation ... However, in our experience the person who may best be able to undergo psychoanalysis is someone who, no matter how incapacitated at the time of the assessment, is basically an individual who has some strengths and the potential for change. This person may often have already achieved important satisfactions with friends, marriage, work, or through interests and hobbies, but nonetheless feels significantly impaired by symptoms. These can be problems such as depression, anxiety, sexual incapacities, obsessions, or physical symptoms without any obvious demonstrable underlying physical cause.
Many people come to analysis because they experience a pattern of repeated failures in work, love or in their relationships. This may be due to self-destructive patterns of behaviour, or repetitive actions or experiences that they feel unable to change. Some people may feel a profound and painfully vague sense of detachment, unease and emptiness, whilst others seek analysis to resolve psychological problems that were only temporarily or partially resolved by other approaches.” (Quoted from the British Psychoanalytic Association's websitehttp://www.psychoanalysis-bpa.org/)
Psychoanalysis As A Theory of the Mind
“Psychoanalysis is the name given to the theory of mind developed originally by Sigmund Freud, a theory which has had and continues to have an enormous impact on culture and intellectual life. Although there has been considerable development in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis since Freud’s day, certain key ideas have retained their place and vitality within the theory.
As a method of psychological help, psychoanalysis is based on the theory that early relationships with parents, childhood experiences of, love, loss, sexuality and death all lay down patterns in the mind which provide, as mentioned above, unconscious ‘templates’, which have enduring effects on psychological functioning and are the source of conflicts which can block development. Psychoanalysis provides a setting within which these unconscious patterns can be brought into awareness creating the possibility for a patient of being understood at a deep level, and so come to recognise the unconscious forces shaping his life and creating repetitive disturbing or empty relationships.
To a greater or lesser degree, everyone is affected by deep-seated unconscious, archaic relationships and conflicts and psychoanalysis can help free people to live their lives in a richer and more fulfilling way.
Frequently Asked Questions