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Psychoanalysis

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Psychoanalysis

Have you ever heard someone say they have a deep-seated fear? Maybe a deep-seated fear of fruit or plants? Sigmund Freud would likely attribute these fears to a repressed unconscious fear or impulse that needs to be brought to the surface.

  • Who started psychoanalysis?
  • Who is Sigmund Freud?
  • What are the main principles of psychoanalysis?
  • What impact has psychoanalysis had?

Who was the Father of Psychoanalysis?

Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was born May 6, 1856. Freud’s development of psychoanalysis began with his involvement with patients suffering from hysteria and neurosis.

Hysteria was a diagnosis used for patients (often women) whose physical symptoms and emotional disturbances did not have an apparent physical cause. 1

Many of Freud’s early patients were also frequently suffering from traumatic sexual experiences, which would later form a primary focus in Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.

Freud and Josef Breuer

During the 1890s, Freud began collaborating with Josef Breuer, an Austrian physician who used hypnosis as a means of treating patients suffering from neurosis. During their studies, Freud and Breuer found that patients who were under a hypnotic state showed improvement. They theorized that this was due to the patients’ deepest impulses being brought to the surface of their consciousness. By 1896, Freud was using the term "psychoanalysis".

Psychoanalysis in Psychology

Psychoanalysis is considered both a theory as well as a therapeutic practice. It uses the interaction between the conscious and unconscious mind as a means of treating mental disorders by bringing a person's deepest fears, impulses, and childhood experiences in the unconscious mind to the surface of the conscious mind.

Conscious Vs. Unconscious

Let’s take a look at the differences between the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.

ConsciousUnconscious
Mainly controls intellectual functions.Mainly controls physical functions.
Controls planning, decision making, communication, and logic.Basic functions such as breathing, feeling, digestion, and emotion.
Part of the mind that is fully aware.Part of the mind that is not fully aware.

Freud believed that any mental distress a person experienced was due to the build-up of repressed feelings, sexual impulses, and fears found deep within their unconscious minds. This would happen over the course of many years.

Freud's Structure of Personality

Freud developed a structure of personality made up of our conscious and unconscious selves. The structure was made of three parts: id, ego, and superego.

The Id

The id is the part of our unconscious mind that controls our most basic, primal impulses. Freud believed babies solely operated from the id, as their behavior was almost completely controlled by their most primal urges such as eating and sleeping.

The Ego

The ego operates on the level of executive function, dealing with perception, cognition, etc. It operates on both preconscious and conscious levels of awareness. The ego controls the id’s urges to simply satisfy our most basic needs, and helps us to behave in ways that are more socially acceptable.

The Superego

The superego is where we hold our ideals and values. It acts as a censor for both the id and ego in our personality. The superego helps us to behave in a way that is in line with our morals.

Defense Mechanisms

The use of defense mechanisms is the ego’s way of protecting itself from distress. Family and culture can influence how we learn these defense mechanisms, which most commonly take the form of repression.

Repression is where a person may try to push down distressing thoughts or impulses into their unconscious mind, out of a fear that their conscious mind will not be able to handle them.

Freud believed that sexual impulses are the most common impulse being suppressed. This led to the development of his Psychosexual Theory of Development. Freud often used this theory as a psychoanalytic method to bring these repressed unconscious thoughts to the conscious mind.

What is the Psychosexual Theory in Psychoanalysis and Psychology?

The psychosexual theory is made up of five stages Freud believed marked the development of adolescence. Those five stages are oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital.

Examples of Psychosexual Theory: 'Little Hans'2

In this case study, Freud worked with a five-year-old boy, "Little Hans", who had a severe phobia of horses. Hans' fear was so intense, he was often unable to leave the house in fear of encountering a horse. Freud believed that this was due to Hans being in his phallic stage of development, in which he began to be aware of genitals. Freud linked this to a horse’s large genitals; he further believed Hans was displacing his fear of his father onto his fear of horses. This developed into one of Freud’s most controversial ideas, the Oedipus complex.

Oedipus Complex is the idea that boys, due to their fear of losing the love of their mothers, feel threatened by, and resentful of their fathers.

Freud believed this was the true source of Little Hans’ fear of horses. The psychoanalytic theory often pointed to the sexual impulses that were being repressed into the unconscious mind.

Techniques of Psychoanalysis

Freud developed several psychoanalytic techniques which he used to reveal the unconscious mind, including transference, free association, and dream analysis.

When Freud first began practicing psychoanalysis, he would often have patients lie on a couch and talk about their childhood memories or dreams while he took notes.

This was a lengthy process requiring 2-5 sessions per week. However, he found it necessary to disarm the patient’s defense mechanisms.

Psychoanalysis Therapist and Psychoanalysis Techniques StudySmarter

Psychoanalyst takes notes. pixabay.com

Transference

Freud thought it important for the analyst to be a completely blank slate to the patient, being careful not to disclose very much information about themselves. This allowed the analyst to use a powerful psychoanalytic technique called transference.

Transference is the emotional attachment to the analyst created by the patient, that is meant to resemble the patient's relationship with parental figures.

Freud often focused heavily on the mother-child transference of the patient. For this to be an effective psychoanalysis technique, the analyst must create a non-judgemental and accepting environment. Once transference is established, analysts can use their observations on the relationship to interpret what parts of the unconscious mind are coming to the surface.

Free Association

Free association was one of the psychoanalytic techniques Freud used to replace hypnosis in treating neurotic patients.

Free association is the uncensored expression of words, thoughts, or feelings on a certain topic.

The idea is to allow the patient to say whatever comes to their mind before they begin to repress their thoughts or feelings. In practice, the psychoanalyst gives the patient a word or idea, then allows them free rein. The analyst’s goal is to identify any repetitive topics or patterns.

Freudian Slips

A Freudian slip is a term used to describe a moment where a person says or does something they didn’t intend, that is a reflection of some inner conflict of the unconscious mind. The psychoanalytic perspective believes these are important moments where a patient might reveal something their unconscious mind is repressing from their conscious mind.

Dream Analysis

To Freud, dream analysis was one of the most important of all psychoanalytic techniques. He wrote an entire book entitled Interpretation of Dreams. He believed dreams were the best path to the unconscious mind, as they revealed the patient's most repressed feelings and impulses.

Dream analysis is the process of using a person's dreams to identify repressed subconscious thoughts and impulses.

'The Wolf Man3

In this case study, Freud treated a man named Sergei Pankejeff, or the "Wolf Man". He had an intense fear of wolves as well as other animals and insects. During their sessions, Pankejeff revealed a dream that Freud would later use in his psychoanalysis. In this dream, Pankejeff was lying on his bed when suddenly, the window revealed six or seven white wolves.

Pankejeff described these wolves as having fox-like tails, with their eyes fixed on him. Freud would later tie this dream to childhood trauma and consider it as a turning point in Pankejeff’s treatment.

Psychoanalysis Wolves and Psychoanalysis Examples StudySmarterThe 'Wolf Man' saw white wolves in his dream that linked to childhood trauma. Pixabay.com

What Are the Impacts of Psychoanalysis?

Freud's work was so impactful that many of its terms have become part of day-to-day speech. It set the stage for neo-psychoanalysts such as Carl Jung and Albert Adler, and has echoes in today's psychotherapy.

Psychoanalysis and Modern Psychotherapy

The psychoanalytic theory has influenced several modern-day practices in psychotherapy. It has been the framework for mental health treatments for conditions such as:

  • Depression

  • Eating disorders

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Somatic disorders

The talk therapy structure of psychoanalysis opened a path that would be used to help alleviate a person’s psychological distress. It also led to the development of experimental psychology.

Neo-Psychoanalysis

Many psychologists that followed Freud would later expand upon his ideas. Carl Jung, for example, believed the unconscious mind did not simply hold repressed desires; it also stored repressed memories specific to an individual’s ancestral past as well. He also believed that behavior was not only dictated by past experiences or early childhood, but also by a person’s future aspirations.

Albert Adler agreed with Freud that a person’s internal processes and early interactions shaped a large part of a person’s psychology. However, he believed that external factors should also be taken into account. This led him to form his own school of thought, called Individual Psychology.

Critiques of Psychoanalysis

While psychoanalytic techniques have made an important impact, this school of thought is not without criticism. The most common criticisms of Freud’s psychoanalytic techniques are:

  • They're not based on scientific research.

  • Focus too heavily on case studies and clinical observations.

  • There is too much focus on sexual deviancies.

  • Do not account for external or biological impacts on behavior.

Psychoanalysis - Key takeaways

  • Psychoanalysis is considered both a theory as well as a therapeutic practice.

  • Psychoanalysis uses the interaction between the conscious and unconscious mind as a means of treating mental disorders by bringing a person's deepest fears, impulses, and childhood experiences in the unconscious mind to the surface of the conscious mind.

  • Freud believed dreams are the best path to the unconscious mind, as they reveal the most repressed feelings and impulses of the unconscious mind.

  • Psychoanalysis has provided a framework for mental health treatments for conditions such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and somatic disorders.

1 Passer, M., & Smith, R. (2007). Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.

2Freud, S. (1909). "Analysis of a phobia of a five-year-old boy"; The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306.

3 Freud, S. (1918). "History of an Infantile Neurosis"; The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917-1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, 1-124.

Frequently Asked Questions about Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is considered both a theory as well as a therapeutic practice. It uses the interaction between the conscious and unconscious mind as a means of treating mental disorders by bringing a person's deepest fears, impulses, and childhood experiences in the unconscious mind to the surface of the conscious mind.

Cognitive psychology observes mental processes such as perceiving, thinking, decision-making, learning, and memory. Psychoanalysis observes the effects of the conscious and unconscious mind on behavior through methods of introspection. 

The goal of behavior therapy is to strengthen desirable behaviors and eliminate maladaptive behaviors.  This is often accomplished through various types of conditioning. However, the goal of psychoanalysis as a therapy is to bring unconscious thoughts, feelings, and emotions to the surface in order to understand and treat unwanted behaviors.  This can be accomplished through methods such as transference, free association, and dream analysis. 

Transference is the emotional attachment to the analyst created by the patient, that is meant to resemble the patient's relationship with parental figures.

Sigmund Freud.

Final Psychoanalysis Quiz

Question

Freud believed this psychoanalysis technique provided the most direct path to the unconscious mind.

Show answer

Answer

Dream analysis

Show question

Question

Psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy. True or False?


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

This term is used to describe a moment where a person says or does something they didn’t intend, reflecting some inner conflict of the unconscious mind.


Show answer

Answer

Freudian slip

Show question

Question

Psychoanalysis is traditionally a short process involving only one session a week.


Show answer

Answer

 False.

Show question

Question

The idea that boys, due to their fear of losing the love of their mother, feel threatened by, and resentful of their fathers is called:

Show answer

Answer

Oedipus complex

Show question

Question

What are the five stages of Freud's Psychosexual Theory?

Show answer

Answer

Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latent, Genital

Show question

Question

Psychoanalysis is often criticized for being too scientific and focusing too little on case studies. True or False?

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Carl Jung believed that behavior was not only dictated by past experiences or early childhood but also by a person’s:

Show answer

Answer

Future aspirations

Show question

Question

The 'Wolf Man' case study was an example of which psychoanalytic technique?

Show answer

Answer

Dream analysis

Show question

Question

What three parts make up Freud's structure of personality?

Show answer

Answer

Id, Ego, Superego

Show question

Question

This part of Freud's structure of personality holds our ideals and values and acts as a censor for both the Id and ego functions of our personality.

Show answer

Answer

Superego

Show question

Question

Freud believed most babies operated from which structure of personality?

Show answer

Answer

Id

Show question

Question

The two key players in Neo-psychoanalysis were:

Show answer

Answer

Carl Jung and Albert Adler

Show question

Question

Who formed the school of psychology called Individual Psychology?

Show answer

Answer

Albert Adler

Show question

Question

What primary form of treatment did Freud and Josef Breuer use when treating neurotic patients?

Show answer

Answer

Hypnosis

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: 

____________ was a diagnosis used for patients (often women) whose physical symptoms and emotional disturbances did not have an apparent physical cause. 

Show answer

Answer

"Hysteria" 

Show question

Question

What method, or practice, did Josef Breuer use as a means of treating patients suffering from neurosis. 

Show answer

Answer

Breuer used hypnosis. 

Show question

Question

In what year did Freud create the term "psychoanalysis"? 

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Answer

In 1896

Show question

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Who was Freud's collaborator when studying hypnotic states? 

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Answer

Josef Breuer 

Show question

Question

True or False: Psychoanalysis is considered both a theory as well as a therapeutic practice. 

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Which of the following descriptions does NOT describe the conscious mind? 

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Answer

Part of the mind that is not fully aware. 

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Which of the following descriptions does NOT describe the unconscious mind?  

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Answer

Controls planning, decision making, communication, and logic. 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:

The use of defense mechanisms is the ______’s way of protecting itself from distress. 

Show answer

Answer

"ego"

Show question

Question

Priscilla has a baby named June. June will often cry when she's hungry or tired and her cries will not stop until she gets one of those two things. 

Which personality structure is June acting on in the description above? 

Show answer

Answer

The Id 

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Question

Maxine has been waiting in line for over 25 minutes. She is feeling impatient, but instead of acting out or complaining, she keeps quiet because she knows the restaurant is understaffed.

Which personality structure is Maxine acting on in the description above?  

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Answer

The Ego 

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Question

Taylor was very tempted to steal his friend's new bike. However, he knows stealing is wrong and that he could always ask to borrow it. Taylor does not steal the bike and waits on his friend instead. 

Which personality structure is Taylor acting on in the description above?  

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Answer

The Superego 

Show question

Question

Jason was a victim of an almost fatal car crash when he was 15. Jason can not remember anything when asked for his account even though the doctor said he did not get amnesia from the crash. 

This is an example of which type of defense mechanism? 

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Answer

Repression 

Show question

Question

Sarah is a psychiatrist who holds weekly counseling sessions for her clients. One method that Sarah uses, for her clients, is by asking them to say whatever comes to mind and this is done with no questioning or leading from Sarah. 

Which therapeutic technique is Sarah practicing? 

Show answer

Answer

Free Association 

Show question

Question

True or False: Carl Jung agreed with Freud that a person’s internal processes and early interactions shaped a large part of a person’s psychology. 

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: 

The talk therapy structure of psychoanalysis also led to the development of _________ psychology. 

Show answer

Answer

"experimental" 

Show question

Question

Which of the following is NOT a critique of psychoanalysis: 

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Answer

Psychoanalysis has tremendous heuristic value. 

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Question

True or False: Freud believed dreams are the best path to the unconscious mind, as they reveal the most repressed feelings and impulses of the unconscious mind.  

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

True or False: Freud authored the book titled "The Interpretation of Dreams". 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Maddy is having an emotional session with her marriage counselor. The topic they are on is very serious, but Maddy accidentally shares something that she wishes she never said. This is an example of: 

Show answer

Answer

A Freudian slip 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: 

Freud thought it important for the analyst to be a completely blank slate to the patient, being careful not to disclose very much information about themselves. This allowed the analyst to use a powerful psychoanalytic technique called _____________. 

Show answer

Answer

"transference" 

Show question

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