What is Psychoanalysis ?
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In his effort to understand what caused the hysterical symptoms he was trying to treat, Freud discovered that symptoms were induced by unconscious psychic processes related to infantile sexuality. The study of his own dreams confirmed the extent to which the unconscious determination predominated. He was also able to show the presence of the unconscious psychic processes in several phenomena (slips of the tongue, parapraxes, jokes) which had not been adequately explained by the psychology of consciousness. In 1922, Freud gave psychoanalysis a complex definition which distinguishes three aspects:
Psychoanalysis is the name of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way and can be the object of serious investigation. This procedure is called free association. Used in the carefully defined setting and structure of the analytic situation, it becomes the “fundamental rule” that is to say, the analysand is requested to say whatever come to mind. Thus appear and organize the phenomena known as the transference relationship to the analyst, which constitute the analytic process.
Psychoanalysis is a method of treatment of a certain range of psychic disorders, in particular, neurotic disorders. In fact, the therapeutic dimension of analysis (the analytic treatment) emerges from the psychic transformations induced by the awareness of the unfolding process: the modification of the relationship of the Ego to the Unconscious translates into –in addition to the relief from psychic suffering—an increased capacity to love and work. All other psychoanalytic treatments are to a greater or lesser degree derived from this model of treatment, respecting the range of clinical diversity.
Psychoanalysis is a theory organizing the knowledge obtained from practical experience, which it then inspires, in return. Because it is primarily concerned with what is beyond consciousness, that is, unconscious psychic reality, Freud called the theory Metapsychology.
Psychoanalysis is concerned not only with the singular experience of an individual analysis, but is equally preoccupied with and applied to the entirety of human phenomena in which the unconscious is involved.
There is thus a connection as well as a distinction to be made between:
- the method of investigation required by the specific characteristics of the unconscious ;
- the effective transformation, inherent to the psychoanalytic process, which goes far beyond symptom relief ;
- the theory which is both limited in its specificity, while nevertheless open to all disciplines which concern humankind.