Psychoanalysis




Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a system of psychology originated by the Viennese physician
Sigmund FREUD in the 1890\'s and then further developed by himself, his students,
and other followers. It consists of three kinds of related activities: (1) a
method for research into the human mind, especially inner experiences such as
thoughts, feelings, emotions, fantasies, and dreams; (2) a systematic
accumulation of a body of knowledge about the mind; and (3) a method for the
treatment of psychological or emotional disorders.

Psychoanalysis began with the discovery that HYSTERIA, an illness with physical
symptoms that occurred in a completely healthy physical body--such as a numbness
or paralysis of a limb or a loss of voice or a blindness--could be caused by
unconscious wishes or forgotten memories. (Hysteria is now commonly referred to
as conversion disorder.) The French neurologist Jean Martin CHARCOT tried to rid
the mind of undesirable thoughts through hypnotic suggestion, but without
lasting success. Josef Breuer, a Viennese physician, achieved better results by
letting Anna O., a young woman patient, try to empty her mind by just telling
him all of her thoughts and feelings.

Freud refined Breuer\'s method by conceptualizing theories about it and, using
these theories, telling his patients through interpretations what was going on
inside the unconscious part of their minds, thus making the unconscious become
conscious. Many hysterias were cured this way, and in 1895, Breuer and Freud
published their findings and theories in Studies in Hysteria.

CLASSIC PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY

Traditional psychoanalytical theory states that all human beings are born with
instinctual drives that are constantly active even though a person is usually
not conscious of thus being driven. Two drives--one for sexual pleasure, called
libido, the other called aggression--motivate and propel most behavior. In the
infant, the libido first manifests itself by making sucking an activity with
pleasurable sensations in the mouth. Later similar pleasures are experienced in
the anus during bowel movements, and finally these erotically tinged pleasures
are experienced when the sexual organ is manipulated. Thus psychosexual
development progresses from the oral through the anal to the phallic stage.
(Phallic, in psychoanalytic theory, refers to both male and female sexual
organs.)

During the height of the phallic phase, about ages three to six, these
libidinous drives focus on the parent of the opposite sex and lend an erotic
cast to the relation between mother and son or between father and daughter, the
so-called Oedipus COMPLEX. However, most societies strongly disapprove of these
sexual interests of children. A TABOO on incest rules universally. Parents,
therefore, influence children to push such pleasurable sensations and thoughts
out of their conscious minds into the unconscious by a process called repression.
In this way the mind comes to consist of three parts: (1) an executive part, the
EGO, mostly conscious and comprising all the ordinary thoughts and functions
needed to direct a person in his or her daily behavior; (2) the id, mostly
unconscious and containing all the instincts and everything that was repressed
into it; and (3) the superego, the conscious that harbors the values, ideals,
and prohibitions that set the guidelines for the ego and that punishes through
the imposition of guilt feelings.

Strong boundaries between the three parts keep the ego fairly free from
disturbing thoughts and wishes in the id, thereby guaranteeing efficient
functioning and socially acceptable behavior. During sleep the boundaries
weaken; disturbing wishes may slip into the ego from the id, and warnings may
come over from the superego. The results are intrapsychic conflicts, often
manifested in dreams (see DREAMS AND DREAMING), sometimes even in frightening
NIGHTMARES. Freud elucidated this concept in his first major work, The
Interpretation of Dreams (1900; Eng. trans., 1913). Something very similar to
the weakening of boundaries during sleep sometimes happens during ordinary
daytime activities when some impulses from the id manages to cross the
repression barrier to invade the ego and cause faulty actions such as slips of
the tongue. Psychoneurotic symptoms occur if psychologically hurtful experiences
during childhood have left the repression too weak or have distorted the ego, or
if overstimulation has left the id wishes too strong, or if the delicate balance
between ego, id, and superego has been upset by injury or other events. Any kind
of psychic trauma may lead to the ego becoming an area of intrapsychic conflict
between the intruding id, the threatening superego, and the powerful influences
emanating from the surrounding environment. Furthermore, the damage done to the
basic psychological structures by traumatic experiences leaves those structures
weakened and with defective functioning.

Such conflicts and defects can cause intense ANXIETY and severe DEPRESSION. In
order to keep functioning effectively, the ego attempts to maintain control by
achieving some sort of compromise between