Psychoanalysis

News Excerpt:

Recently, six individuals accused in the Parliament breach incident underwent psychoanalysis to ascertain their motives.

About Psychoanalysis:

  • Psychoanalysis isn’t a form of psychotherapy but, in fact, a worldview.
  • It was the first modern Western system of psychotherapy
  • The Viennese psychiatrist Sigmund Freud coined the term and developed psychoanalysis as a treatment modality for people presenting with symptoms that other physicians were unable to treat.
  • Its evolution has been influenced by developments in neurology, psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, and the social and natural sciences.
  • It aims to give people greater agency by facilitating awareness of their unconscious wishes and defences.
  • According to psychoanalysis, the therapeutic relationship is itself a change mechanism.

What is the unconscious?

  • The unconscious is conceptually central to psychoanalytic theory. 
  • Freud posited that certain memories and associated effects are cut off from consciousness because of their threatening nature. 
    • He believed that instinctual impulses and associated wishes – and traumatic memories – were also not allowed into awareness. This happened via cultural conditioning, in which people believed such instincts were ‘unacceptable’.
    • For example, a person angry with their colleague may disavow these feelings and push them out of awareness by repressing them. 
    • Repression is an important psychoanalytic construct characterised by the unconscious forgetting of painful ideas or impulses to protect the psyche.

What are fantasies, defences, and resistance?

  • Fantasies:
    • Freud posited that fantasies served numerous psychic functions, including the need to feel safe, regulate self-esteem, and overcome traumatic experiences. 
    • According to him, fantasies are linked to sexual or aggressive wishes and provide imaginary wish fulfilment. 
    • Since fantasies are expected to motivate a person’s behaviour, he believed exploring and interpreting them was vital for psychoanalysis.
  • Defence:
    • A defence is an intrapsychic process that helps individuals avoid emotional pain by pushing thoughts, wishes, feelings, and fantasies out of conscious awareness. 
    • People can attribute their own threatening feelings or motives to another person via projection. 
    • And via reaction formation, they can deny a threatening feeling by claiming they’re experiencing the opposite.
  • Resistance:
    • Freud formalised the concept of resistance when he found his clients were reluctant to work with him. 
      • He asked them to engage in free association: they could say anything that came to their minds without self-censorship.

What are transference and countertransference?

  • Transference:
    • It wasn’t uncommon for his clients to view him as unjust if they had a tyrannical father.
      • In Freud’s view, his clients were transferring a template from the past into the present.
      • He believed transference provided a window of opportunity for a person to gain insights into the effects of adverse past experiences on current behaviour.
  • Countertransference:
    • Freud held that the therapist may have unresolved unconscious conflicts and that they paved the way for the therapist to develop feelings towards the client. 
    • So, in his view, the therapist had to work through their own countertransference via personal supervision or self-analysis.

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