Freud and Psychoanalysis
Sigismund Schlomo Freud, better known as Sigmund Freud, was born in Austria on May 6, 1856. One of eight children of Jacob Freud, a wool merchant, Freud’s genius and persistence took him from humble beginnings to one of the most influential men of his time. After graduating from the University of Vienna in 1881, he began his medical career in neurology. Freud, during a long and illustrious career, demonstrated an inquisitive mind by studying a vast amount of genres, such as his analysis of Michelangelo, but he is best known for developing the Psychoanalytic Theory. His theory, while controversial when introduced, ultimately revolutionized the treatment of neurosis.
Psychoanalytic theory was first published in the book Studien Uber Hysterie, in 1895, written in collaboration between Freud and the prominent physician, and Freud’s close confidant, Josef Breuer. Within the book, Freud and Breuer hypothesized that, “…hysterical symptoms originate through the energy of a mental process being withheld from conscious influence and being diverted into bodily innervation (“Conversion”)” (Freud, 2013). The task of perfecting his methods of treatment would utterly consume his thoughts and actions throughout the rest of his life. Although he would treat many sick patients during his career, the case of Anna O, illustrated in this book, would prove as the corner stone of his theories.
Anna O was initially a patient of Breuer, but would become synonymous with the name Sigmund Freud. Anna O presented Breuer and Freud with puzzling symptoms. After taking care of her ailing father, “She developed a bad cough that proved to have no physical basis. She developed some speech difficulties, then became mute, and then began speaking only in English, rather than her usual German” (Boeree, 2000). After analyzing her, Freud determined that all hysteria derives from a traumatic event (i.e. Anna’s father), and ultimately has its base in sexual desires. Although psychoanalytic theory doesn’t revolve around Anna O, three of the main aspects, repression, instincts, and transference, can be witnessed through this one crucial patient.
One of the most important and widely accepted aspects of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is repression. Repression is considered to be the patients attempt to fight back their urges and wants, in order to satisfy the needs of the unconscious. Freud, unlike many of his colleagues, believed that all repression begin early in the person’s life. According to Freud, “repression is the corner-stone on which the whole structure of psycho-analysis rests. It is the most essential part of it” (Zepf, 2012). Freud believed that without acknowledging the patients repressed feelings, the path to recovery would forever be blocked.
Repression involves the distinction between the conscious and unconscious minds. Freud believed that within every person existed conscious thought, what we see, and unconscious thought, our unseen drives. “In many cases”, according to Freud, “they succeed in making their influence felt by circuitous paths, and indirect or substitutive gratification of repressed impulse is what constitutes neurotic symptoms” (Freud, 2013). Past events have been repressed deep inside of the unconscious, and it is the job of the analyst to get the patient to bring the events to the conscious mind.
In order to determine what lies inside the patient’s unconscious, dream interpretation was the viable option for discovery. Shortly after publishing his book featuring Anna O, Studien Uber Hysterie, Freud had one of his most important dreams. The dream Freud had, referred to as the Injection of Irma dream, involved Freud and his patient Irma. In short, the dream was about a patient getting improper medical treatment. After analyzing the dream, Freud determined that it meant that the treatment that Anna O received from Breuer was not proper. Thus, “…both the dream and its interpretation form whole, which, if properly analyzed, could offer a significant insight not only into Freud’s unconscious, but also into the structure of the unconscious in general” (Kovacevic, 2013). The importance of the Anna O case, in regards to how Freud’s understood repression, was imperative, but the interpretation of the Irma dream is imperative to other aspects of psychoanalysis as well.
Along with revealing the importance of repression, the Irma dream shows how a person’s instincts interact. Within psychoanalysis, Freud put great importance on a patient’s ego. Within each human being, there are three types of egos; the id, the ego, and the superego. Although all parts of the ego work together, they each play a distinct role in every individual. The different functions of the three parts of the ego are: the id is based on pleasure principles; the ego is based on reality principles; and the super ego is the patients conscious. Freud believed that, in a healthy patient, that it was the job of the ego to balance the needs of the id, and not upset the super-ego (2011).
Along with the id, ego, and super-ego, Freud emphasized the role of the sexual instincts. Many experts believed, and still believe, that sexual desires and instincts begin at the first sign of puberty, but Freud would argue that they are wrong. He believed that sexual urges start at a very young age, and have a fundamental effect on the person. Freud believed that it was the patients, such as Anna O, libido that played a large role in their conscious and unconscious decisions. “The infantile fixations of the libido” states Freud, “are what determine the form of neurosis which sets in later” (Freud, 2013). Thus sexual instincts have a large effect on the person’s ego, and how the three different parts interact with each other.
As in the revelation of repression and instincts, the Irma dream played a vital role in the discovery of the sexual instincts. After analyzing his dream, it can be determined that, “everything blends in and becomes associated in this image, from the mouth to the female sexual organ . . . [it is] the flesh one never sees, the foundation of things…” (Kovacevic, 2013). Interpretation of the dream, demonstrates that Freud’s sexual instincts are rising to the top of his unconscious. These urges, apparent during the patients dream state and during analysis, determine the person’s actions during therapy, and ultimately leads some patients to develop neurosis.
While repression and instincts play vital roles in the psychoanalytic theory, the largest, most controversial part for Freud was transference. According to the psychoanalytic theory, “transference refers broadly to patterns of thought, feeling, motivation and behavior that emerge in the therapeutic relationship and reflect enduring aspects of the patient’s personality and interpersonal functioning “(Bradley, 1963). Transference, according to Freud, is a fundamental part of the patients psyche, and is an obstacle the analyst has to overcome. What made the theory so controversial was that he believed, like most other part of his theory, that all transference is sexual in nature.
According to Freud, there are two types of transference: loving transference and hostile transference. Loving transference, the most common form, is the form that is most likely to aid in the recovery of the patient. While far less common, hostile transference was prevalent in the Anna O case study. In this intriguing case, Freud believed that that Breuer failed to completely heal her because he failed to recognize her transference. Not long after finishing up treatment, Breuer was summoned to Anna’s house. Upon entering the room, he found her upon the bed, in excruciating pain. In a fit of pain, she yelled “Now comes Dr. B’s child. Recognizing a pseudocyeis (hysterical pregnancy), Breuer hastily hypnotized her to remove the symptoms and fled the house.” (Kaplan, 2004) Freud believed that the treatment failed solely because of his failure to recognize that her unconscious was using deference in order to sabotage the healing.
Although each individual case of transference is different, the resistance itself has two distinct problems. The two problems are, “…more neurotic people have more thwarted libido, and therefore, a more intensive transference…and …transference becomes the strongest resistance against treatment in psychoanalysis- in spite of being originally an important bearer of healing and condition for success” (Haan, 2011). In other words, the biggest problem with transference is transference itself.
In Freud’s vision for psychoanalytic theory, repression, instincts and transference play large roles, but are by no means the only aspects. I chose to write on this topic because I feel that the understanding of the basic aspects of psychoanalysis is important for anyone interested in psychology. For many decades Freud’s work was held in high esteem, but unfortunately, Freud’s evidence he used in creating his theory was not based on the proper evidence, so much of his work has been discredited over the last several decades. “With the invention of tools like the PET scan that can map the neurological activity inside a living brain, scientists discounted the windy speculations of psychoanalysis and dismissed Freud himself as the first media-savvy self-help guru” (Guterl, 2012). Although many psychologist and psychiatrist do not adhere to the psychoanalytic theory, Freud’s work was pivotal in enlightening generations of new psychologists. Within the psychological and academic world, Freud will always be known as an innovator, and the father of psychoanalysis.
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