Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis. Interested in philosophy as a student, Freud later decided to become a neurological researcher in cerebral palsy, Aphasia, and microscopic neuroanatomy. Freud went on to develop theories about the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression and established the field of verbal psychotherapy by creating psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. The most common problems treatable with psychoanalysis include phobias, conversions, compulsions, obsessions, anxiety, attacks, depressions, sexual dysfunctions, a wide variety of relationship problems (such as dating and marital strife), and a wide variety of character problems (painful shyness, meanness, obnoxiousness, workaholism, hyperseductiveness, hyperemotionality, hyperfastidiousness).
The Basic Tenets of Psychoanalysis
The basic tenets of psychoanalysis include the following:
- First, human behavior, experience, and cognition are largely determined by irrational drives.
- Those drives are largely unconscious.
- Attempts to bring those drives into awareness meet psychological resistance in the form of defense mechanisms.
- Besides the inherited constitution of personality, one's development is determined by events in early childhood.
- Conflicts between conscious view of reality and unconscious (repressed) material can result in mental disturbances, such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depression etc.
- The liberation from the effects of the unconscious material is achieved through bringing this material into the consciousness.
Psychoanalysis as Treatment
Freudian psychoanalysis refers to a specific type of treatment in which the "analysand" (the analytic patient) verbalizes thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst induces the unconscious conflicts. This causes the patient's symptoms and character problems, and interprets them for the patient to create insight for resolution of the problems. The specifics of the analyst's interventions typically include confronting and clarifying the patient's pathological defenses, wishes, and guilt. Through the analysis of conflicts, including those contributing to resistance and those involving transference onto the analyst of distorted reactions, psychoanalytic treatment can hypothesize how patients unconsciously are their own worst enemies: how unconscious, symbolic reactions that have been stimulated by experience are causing symptoms.
The Id, The Ego, Super-Ego
Freud hoped to prove that his model was universally valid and thus turned to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative material. Freud named his new theory the Oedipus complex after the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. The Oedipus conflict was described as a state of psychosexual development and awareness. In his later work, Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into three parts: Id, ego, and super-ego. The id is the completely unconscious, impulsive, child-like portion of the psyche that operates on the "pleasure principle" and is the source of basic impulses and drives; it seeks immediate pleasure and gratification. The ego acts according to the reality principle (i.e., it seeks to please the id's drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief). Finally, the super-ego aims for perfection. It comprises that organized part of the personality structure, mainly but not entirely unconscious, that includes the individual's ego, ideals, spiritual goals, and the psychic agency that criticizes and prohibits his or her drives, fantasies, feelings, and actions.