Rabu, 15 Agustus 2007

Psychoanalysis Applications: Modern Problems of Religion

By Jean Chiriac, President of AROPA

The most striking crisis of modern religious feelings today may be its inability to define the image of God from a theological, moral and cult related perspective.

For some people, God is anthropomorphic and governs mortals' lives from his heavenly abode; for others, he is a metaphysical spirit or entity, a principle, cosmic energy, universal conscience, the very carbon as the elementary structural unit of matter. In one word, God may be anyone and anything.

The more serious thing is that by applying a kind of unifying rule to all these states, people go further to apply the peculiarities of a mystic God to all its expressions. That is how total confusion is brought about with regard to the object of faith.

Secondly, faith itself as finality , a horizon of expectance and hope is ambiguous.

Christian faith, as well as all archaic faith in general, leads to redemption: Resurrection, Eternal Life, the Happy Isles, etc. Primitive populations' faith is related to the relationship with the tribe's ancestors or totemic symbol and brings about protection, well being and health. The same is true for rudimentary faiths.

For modern man though, faith brings redemption no more - it is a profession of faith and no one wonders about its finality. Faith becomes a social emblem , just like citizenship or ethnic background, for instance.

This very confusing context regarding faith, its finality and object makes one wonder about the contribution psychoanalysis can make to the study of these issues.

My opinion is that psychoanalysis may partially touch on all these aspects. It can tell us a lot about unconscious resources of faith, of its finality and object. Up to one point, it can even interfere with the much "stickier" field of religious experiences. Let us remember Freud, so convincingly writing about the oceanic feeling, underlying all religious experience, which he reduces to the newly born's diffuse and confused perception in its first moments of life ("Civilization and its Discontents" - 1930).

Psychoanalysis Applications: Child Counseling and Psychoanalysis

What we should take into consideration when we confront
the difficulties in children's behavior.

By Jean Chiriac, President of AROPA

One of the applications of psychoanalysis is in the field of children's education. This field could be divided in several categories: psychoanalysis of the child up to five years, psychoanalysis of the puberty and the one of the teen-age. Each of these stages, as we could expect, presents their own peculiarities and difficulties. We wouldn't insist upon each of them, but we'll try to sketch the trends in approaching child's problems.

The development of psychoanalysis during the first decades of the last centuries, the increase of the number of the adherents to its techniques led to a sort of excessive appreciation of its virtues. Soon, psychoanalysis was thought to understand everything, and especially to interfere in every sphere of human life with an absolute authority. The alarm signals of the specialists who were not psychoanalysts and were severely criticizing the superficiality of the psychoanalysts, who were approaching fields that exceeded the proper therapy in a one-sided and even nonscientific manner, didn't come to any echo for a long time. Psychoanalysis claimed for a prominent position, if not even the main position in the study of mythology, religion, sociology, anthropology, work of art, etc.

Also in the field of education and pedagogic the involvement of psychoanalysis generated specific works. For example: Stekel's book, one of the first disciples of the Freudian psychoanalysis: "Psychoanalytical Recommendations for Mothers". The work abounds in suggestions and guidelines addressed to mothers, things that seem to be consecrated by experience and which are above any doubts.

When we read such books, we could think that psychoanalysts finally worked out the toilsome matter of child's education.

The same happens with the works of A. Adler, who later on deviated from the Freudian movement, but didn't gave up that attitude of omniscient sufficiency concerning the education problem. Everyone who reads Adler's books and has some acquaintance with psychoanalysis is stricken by the many and grievous errors made by the author when he approaches children problems. Adler's mistakes also result from his ardent wish to see that his working assumptions are confirmed rather than to have a natural scientific relationship with the studied phenomena, as a cautious observer.

The enthusiasm manifested by the psychoanalysts when they hasten to annex the field of child's education, which was justified when psychoanalysis was spreading due to the originality of the new discoveries, is not justified in reality. I mean that leaving out the indications and suggestions that come from the common sense experience (such as: it's not right to beat the child because he revolts and, moreover, this is a cruel and blameworthy method, etc.), those which could be derived from the psychoanalytical theories could hardly be taken into consideration seriously. I don't mean to say that Freud's sexual theory that also embraces infantile sexuality is improper. The infant child really has a curiosity concerning the anatomy and activity of his/her sexual organs, curiosity that could become unhealthy when repressed. However, this curiosity is not, in most cases, anything else but curiosity or, as it was also called epistemophily. Psychoanalysts did not profoundly approach the exploring curiosity. Or it was here and there connected or derived from the interests of sexual nature...

In other words, I want to say that the psychoanalytical works dedicated to the education of the child are not by far so complete as they seem to be. The classical works were written under the momentary impulse of the first psychoanalytical discoveries and are characterized rather by a prepossessed spirit than by a scientifical one. They are more useful to the promotion of psychoanalysis to the great public than to the psychoanalytical knowledge itself. Consequently, they couldn't be taken into consideration.

The later works also bear the consequences of the same error: the dogmatical application of the psychoanalytical theory. The well-known work of Françoise Dolto is also included to this category!

The conclusion called for is that we could not expect these works to give us some collections of counsels in readiness, which are generally valid and applicable to the sphere of child's education. Those parents who wish to rise to the emergency of their difficult task wouldn't find inside these books a complete lesson that could be learned by heart. Child's education is a living and direct process, which requires our total, physical and spiritual participation and calls for an opening toward its problems, which is free from any preconceived ideas, even psychoanalytical. This opening that reminds, in fact, of the attitude of the psychoanalyst – reserve/caution, suspended/poised attention – imposed by Freud himself, is useful for exploring the significance of the infantile behavior. Of course that our experience with our own unconscious protects us against the counter-transference, namely the temptation to project upon our child our own childhood experiences, our expectations, which were those of our parents, etc., but this experience results from our own analysis rather than from the analysis of someone else (even children). Consequently, it's obvious that a parent who wants to help his/her child should, first of all, know and be able to analyze himself/herself.

Nota bene:
- Self-analysis also brings up our memories from our childhood. Meditating on them, with the mind of the nowadays adult, we could better understand the significance of the psychological mechanisms that operate in the first years of life and are expressed by drams, delusions, and various symptoms. The self-analysis is by this way the starting point in the extremely difficult process of child's education.

- In the second place, we should give up by any means to the dogmatical ideas concerning education. All the automatic goads such as: "you should do this or that", must be filtered by the faculty of reasoning: why do we have to do this thing or that thing? The collective experience also collected a lot of worthless stuff, which has to be eliminated if we want to have a sound relationship with our child.

- In the third place, last but not least, we need genuine love for the child. Love gets to know in other ways. It has something magical and saving when it's exercised freely, without any dogmatical constraints. Love is the most reliable path to know the needs of your fellows. If there is no love or compassion, our mind will try to fill this void of relationship with well-known things, which are often, as we tried to show here, totally erroneous.

Experience proves that child's education shouldn't be established on a priori ground. The knowledge in this delicate field is extremely flexible. Therefore, when we deal with works concerning this field, even reference works, we should act extremely cautiously.

Paper published on this site.
Translation by Ochea Corina

Psychoanalysis Applications: Symbol and Symbolism with Freud and Jung

By Jean Chiriac, President of AROPA

What is a symbol? For Freud it has always been a one-term comparison. For example, if we compare a hat to a cloud, the cloud is the symbol replacing the hat as its perfect substitute. As a result, symbols can be interpreted – both those in dreams and those brought about by free associations or coming from cultural and spiritual representations.

In his work "Introductory Lectures of Psycho-Analysis" (1916-1917), Freud provides us with a list of symbols that may occur in dreams, compared to sexual elements (symbols are not all sexual, of course). Generally speaking, they may be classified as objects and actions evoking or representing sexual life, sexual arousing, the anatomy of sexual organs, their behaviour (such as the erection of the male genitals). Here are a few examples:

Books quoted in this paper

- Sigmund Freud:
Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis

- C.G. Jung:
Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido

The male genitals, then, are represented in dreams in a number of ways that must be called symbolic, where the common element in the comparison is mostly very obvious. To begin with, for the male genitals as a whole the sacred number 3 is of symbolic significance. The more striking and for both sexes the more interesting component of the genitals, the male organ, finds symbolic substitutes in the first instance in things that resemble it in shape - things, accordingly, that are long and up-standing, such as sticks, umbrellas, posts, trees and so on; further, in objects which share with the thing they represent the characteristic of penetrating into the body and injuring - thus, sharp weapons of every kind, knives, daggers, spears, sabres, but also fire-arms, rifles, pistols and revolvers (particularly suitable owing to their shape). In the anxiety dreams of girls, being followed by a man with a knife or a fire-arm plays a large part. This is perhaps the commonest instance of dream symbolism and you will now be able to translate it easily. Nor is there any difficulty in understanding how it is that the male organ can be replaced by objects from which water flows - water-taps, watering-cans, or fountains - or again by other objects which are capable of being lengthened, such as hanging-lamps, extensible pencils, etc. A no less obvious aspect of the organ explains the fact that pencils, pen-holders, nail-files, hammers, and other instruments are undoubted male sexual symbols.

The female genitals are symbolically represented by all such objects as share their characteristic of enclosing a hollow space which can take something into itself: by pits, cavities and hollows, for instance, by vessels and bottles, by receptacles, boxes, trunks, cases, chests, pockets, and so on. Ships, too, fall into this category. Some symbols have more connection with the uterus than with the female genitals: thus, cupboard, stoves and, more especially, rooms. Here room-symbolism touches on house-symbolism. Doors and gates, again, are symbols of the genital orifice. Materials, too, are symbols for women: wood, papery and objects made of them, like tables and books. Among animals, snails and mussels at least are undeniably female symbols; among parts of the body, the mouth (as a substitute for the genital orifice); among buildings, churches and chapels. Not every symbol, as you will observe, is equally intelligible. (Freud - Complete Works. Ivan Smith 2000. All Rights Reserved.)

Nevertheless, there are symbolic circumstances reiterated in all people's dreams and, in Freud's perspective, they all bear the same significance. Dreams of flying, for example, fall into this category and are explained by sexual type contents too:

…Dreams can symbolise erection in yet another, far more expressive manner. They can represent the sexual organ as the essence of the dreamer's whole person and make him himself fly. Do not take it to heart if dreams of flying, so familiar and often so delightful, have to be interpreted as dreams of general sexual excitement, as erection-dreams. Among students of psycho-analysis, Paul Federn has placed this interpretation beyond any doubt; but the same conclusion was reached from his investigations by Mourly Vold, who has been so much praised for his sobriety, who carried out the dream-experiments I have referred to with artificially arranged positions of the arms and legs and who was far removed from psycho-analysis and may have known nothing about it. And do not make an objection out of the fact that women can have the same flying dreams as men. Remember, rather, that our dreams aim at being the fulfilments of wishes and that the wish to be a man is found so frequently, consciously or unconsciously, in women. Nor will anyone with knowledge of anatomy be bewildered by the fact that it is possible for women to realize this wish through the same sensations as men. Women possess as part of their genitals a small organ similar to the male one; and this small organ, the clitoris, actually plays the same part in childhood and during the years before sexual intercourse as the large organ in men. (Freud - Complete Works. Ivan Smith 2000. All Rights Reserved.)


* Jung's opinion

It is interesting to see the way in which the theory on symbols and symbolism is different in Freud and Jung. Jung is known to have been Freud's disciple for a long time, even the follower appointed to carry on his work. Nevertheless, Jung took another way, accusing the excessive involvement of sexuality in etiology. Later on, he focussed on the study of the archetypal unconscious. The symbol was the object of extended study. In Jung's opinion, the symbol shows some unknown reality. There is no comparison here to replace an object with its substitute. For Jung, the symbol refers to a psychic content that has never been the object of personal experience. The symbol of the cross, for example - which, may we add, can get a sexual significance with Freud - with Jung it undoubtedly refers to the idea of conjunctio, a unification of contraries, where antagonistic elements, specifically conscious and unconscious merge in a unity that goes beyond the boundaries of human consciousness. The symbol therefore describes an experience (or the bias to one) of extreme complexity including but not limited to instinctual life.

Sexuality in itself is the symbol of a different reality not limited to instinctual life. Jung makes open reference to that, which has in fact led to his separation from Freud and the Freudian movement. Here we quote an excerpt from his work "Psychology of the Unconscious: A Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido."

There certainly exist dreams and typical dream patterns whose meaning is easily unravelled if considered in the perspective of sexual symbols. We could use this way of seeing things without necessarily concluding that the content thus expressed is itself of sexual origin. We know that language is full of erotic metaphors that may be applied to contents that have no relationship with sexuality whatsoever. At the same time, we are aware sexual symbolism by no means implies that the concern that used it were sexual in nature itself. Sexuality is one of the most significant instincts and it makes the basis and cause for the countless emotions, which are known to persistently influence language. Emotions and sexuality cannot be entirely identified as they may come from a certain conflicting situation: for example, the preservation instinct may also give rise to numerous emotions.

The following dream belongs to a woman and it is less complicated: she can see Constantine's triumph arch. There is a cannon at the front, a bird on the right and a man on the left. The cannon is thundering, the missile hits her and goes into her pocket, into her wallet. The dreamer holds the wallet as if there were something precious inside. The image then fades and all she can see is the cannon with Constantine's adage written above: "In hoc signo vinces". The sexual symbolism of this dream is extremely clear to substantiate the naive person's bothered wonder. If one proves the dreamer herself is unaware of the dream's sexual allusions and that these compensate for a gap in her conscious guidance, then the dream is actually interpreted. If, on the contrary, that is a current interpretation and familiar to the dreamer, it then is no more than meaningless repetition. In such case we have reason to suspect that sexual symbolism is used as dream language just as any other manner of speaking". ("Psychology of the Unconscious…").

To conclude, we may say that, whereas in Freud's opinion symbols refer to some sexual content, Jung thinks the symbol, without completely excluding sexuality, requires a much more complex reality. It is of course hard to admit that the cross, the central symbol of Christianity, could be reduced down to some sexual interpretation. The cross is a cuaternity and, referring to that notion we may add speculations related to the philosophy of elements that was familiar to Ancient Greece but also to Middle Ages alchemy. The same cross (the swastika) evokes a turn (an alternative movement) familiar to Taoist philosophy - the movement of the Heaven or the Tao of Heaven – where Yin and Ying principles succeed to each other. The cross is finally a reference to Christ's crucifixion, a central symbol of normative and esoteric Christian belief.

Translation by Mihaela Cristea.

Psychoanalysis Applications: Therapy by Faith

By Ovidiu Dima

Jesus healing
Jesus healing a blind man
Therapy by faith is no late discovery. It pervades the "New Testament", related as it is to Jesus Christ's life and divine mission on Earth. The Holy Books are abundant in stories of miraculous healing performed by Jesus and his disciples. Their authors mainly quote those cases when Jesus approaches his "patients" by asking: "Do you trust me I can heal you?"

Right after the healing (quite often performed in the absence of patients themselves, by means of a human agent confident in Jesus' charisma), Jesus would say: "It's been your faith that has saved you". What do his words mean?

Belief in Jesus and his healing capacities involve some strong emotional excitement, some devotional fervor. That which psychically characterizes the faith phenomenon is the strong stimulation of the Eros - a sublimated Eros, of course, freed from its sexual function. That Eros in fact represents the agent and vehicle of healing.

The transfer of love stimulated by Jesus' charismatic person (but also by that of nowadays' therapists, people with a reputation and a public image) is also known to therapy by hypnosis. Psychoanalysis itself is well acquainted with emotional transfer and its beneficial effect on the patient. In one of his letters to his younger fellow scientist Jung, Freud stated that the main agent for the healing of neurotic people is the fixation of the unconscious libido - providing the strength necessary to the "perception and translation of the unconscious".

In other words, where there is love on the patients' part, one can notice their beneficial participation in the healing process. After all, Freud would conclude, what we are dealing with here is healing by love. And this specific healing shows that "neuroses depend on erotic life".

The above also simply demonstrate the range of diseases accessible to therapy by faith. Jesus' "patients" mostly suffered from diseases palsy, blindness, psychomotor disabilities, etc.

Whereas today almost all specialists have agreed on the psychic nature of these diseases in biblical casuistry, they say, we are dealing with neurotic disorders and mainly hysteria.

The fact that these specific diseases (hysteria) have to do with disorders of the Eros is no more novelty to anyone. Therefore, the deliverance of the Eros from traumatic or moral inhibitions is the main credit of therapy by belief.

Collective healing by hypnosis
A collective healing by hypnosis performed by a hypnotherapist
There are diseases in the Holy Books, nevertheless, that cannot be reduced to some traumatic etiology - the so-called initiation disorders. But we shall deal with these on a later opportunity.

We shall limit ourselves now to saying that love (with or without some material object) generally has therapeutic value. Where there is love, there is little room for neuroses. And love can be stimulated by faith. Faith in Jesus, in his beneficial charisma or in the healing "abilities" of a therapist in flesh and blood.

Paper first published in OMEN - Psychoanalytic Journal , no. 1, 1998.
Translation by Mihaela CristeaPs

Psychoanalysis Applications: Psychoanalysis and Religion

By J.C. Popa

After Freud's example, psychoanalysis is well known to have adopted a critical, atheist position towards religion. The following fact is less known: the atheism of psychoanalysis does not originate in some nihilistic, irrational opposition to religion. It springs from two important considerations that the present article is going to explain.

* From obsessional neurosis to religion

First of all, experience acquired in psychoanalytic therapy - and we mean obsessional-fobic neuroses mainly - has revealed striking similarities between ritual-religious behavior and the conduct of obsessive neurotic persons. Hence, the widely spread assertion that religion is nothing but obsessional neurosis stretched to collective scale. The overestimation of mental activity, of wish, more specifically the belief in the power of thoughts to materialize concrete realities can in fact be found in both the obsessive neurotic person and in animist magic practices, expanded in the ritual of prayer. Neurotic persons are obsessed with the materialization of their hostile wishes and defend themselves against such threats by assuming defensive psychic positions, in fact truly extremely intricate rituals associating the weirdest of superstitions. We can meet similar in religious practices, with one amend though: with religious ideology, evil is projected outside the individual, personified in satanic, demonic images. The exteriorisation of the intra-psychic conflict (1) gives way to the illusion of a life and death struggle between the worshipper and autonomised Evil. Biblical tales about demonized people and exorcising rituals also present in Christian Church are the practical consequences of this ideology.

It was then shown that belief in an anthropomorphic, almighty God originates in impressions and feelings in the individuals' childhood that were initially related to their parents' images. Children feel vulnerable confronted with surrounding nature and therefore they look for refuge next to their parents, endowed with supernatural powers. The fact that we can find belief in God with adults too should not come as a surprise. Adult life is no less exposed to real and imaginary dangers! Adults' extended knowledge on nature and society does not shield them from anxiety; on the contrary: the more they know, the more they can realize the void of their knowledge. Hence the need for divine protection and the restoration of infantile relationships - endowed with religious significance - with parental imago.

The fact that, at the beginning, the child does not make clear distinction between maternal and paternal protection explain both the equal distribution of religions of the Mother and the ambivalent character of God - Father (He is merciful, forgiving but also rough, uncompromising, a tyrant and a devastator). Is it no surprise for us that in many religions God is even called "Father"? We could add: an idealized father mainly preserving His numinous qualities (2).

As already shown in short, experience psychoanalysis acquired in the therapeutic field can pretend some reevaluation of religious conduct. It is as true, at the same time, that it does not consume all deeds of religious life. In this sense, Jungian psychoanalysis, seemingly going beyond the "limited" perspective of Freudian psychoanalysis, has identified the archetype of religious life in human soul. This archetype, (= pattern of behavior) is the empirical basis C. G. Jung laid his entire conception of individuation on (3). We conclude that, from the perspective of psychoanalysis, the revision of religious experience has imposed an atheist attitude with regard to religion centered on the deification of parental image. This has to do with the same complex of ideas, representations and mystic rituals related to the exacerbation of obsessional neurosis.

* Scientific Exigency

Secondly, we have to demonstrate that psychoanalysis participates in the so-called scientific mentality. It lays stress on the investigation of phenomena, on the rational reflection on their nature. Rejecting the famous saying "Trust and don't search", scientific exigency focuses on what we call "research". In addition, it includes the possibility to reproduce similar phenomena, according to natural laws derived from studied phenomena. When the famous French doctor Charcot was able to hypnotically induce certain hysteria symptoms to his patients, he then scientifically proved that hysteria is no organic disturbance (even if it assumed a certain constitutional bias towards such manifestations). The influence of this demonstration, quite amazing at the time, was also felt in the elaboration of psychoanalytic methods and theories. Speculating things a little, we could say that psychoanalysis wouldn't have been born unless Freud the scientist had witnessed these demonstrations himself (4). The psychiatry of the time had been engulfed in materialist conceptions maintaining that neurotic disturbances - that were to be studied of psychoanalysis later on - were due either to patients' simulations or to symptomatic effects of their "burdened" heredity or to somatic lesions as yet undiscovered.

To conclude, let us formulate things as follows: psychoanalytic practice and experience, scientific exigency are responsible for assuming an atheist position with regard to psychoanalysis. But we then saw that the atheism of psychoanalysis is no parti pris once and forever. Psychoanalysis takes no glory in the unconditioned repression of belief in God. The entire Jungian work, in the field of religious life archetype, of the individuation process show the extremely up-to-date and concrete way in which psychoanalysis understands to creatively approach the problem of religion.

1. The outward projection of Evil is a vivid phenomenon also present in neurotic disturbances, mainly in psychotic ones. In paranoid delirium, for instance, the patient has the sharp feeling of some prejudice, some evil made to him from the outside. The patient ascribes his own feelings to characters in their own social sphere.
In religious conduct, the outward projection of Evil spares the human subject an explanation with his/her own moral censorship. Even more, this procedure offers an extremis solution towards humans' moral rehabilitation: if Evil is projected, then it can also be symbolically suppressed by means of the scapegoat practice, for instance, or by exorcising and purification rites, so widely spread in religious communities.
The Good too is sometimes projected, in instances when we are told that the divine being is the expression of the highest perfection (it does not participate, in any way, or only transitorily, to our earthly condition). In that case, the exigency of becoming morally perfect (as in the urge: "Be perfect as your Father in the Heavens!"), imposes on the individual the illusion of some future rehabilitation depending on his/her efforts in belief and prayer.
2. The term "numinous" refers to those aspects inspiring paroxysmal feelings in the series terror - ecstasy.
3. The process of individuation refers to the accomplishment of the Self in Jungian understanding. A process of conjunction of the contraries, of union between conscious and unconscious, in short of unification of the being. This process is not restricted to moral integration - it also involves emotional integration.
4. Between 1885-1886, Freud had a stage with Charcot in Paris. He presents the vivid memories from his scientific evolution in his later writings and autobiographical specifications

*Translation by Mihaela Cristea.

Psychoanalysis Applications: Psychoanalysis and Fairy-Tales

A definition of the fairy-tale should include the idea of artistic creation and also the one of aspiration of the human soul. Therefore, a collective aspiration which found a way of expressing itself through what we call fairy-tale (a form of written and oral literature).

Of course, another characteristic feature of fairy-tale is its fantastic structure. In fairy tales we find supernatural beings and experiences. That's why fairy-tale had among its functions one related to the pleasure of following stories in which the borders of the sensitive world are overreached.

Although, beyond its fantastic character we find aspirations without anything fantastic, shared by people (or by collective soul).

In the fairy-tale "Youth without Aged and Life without Death" we find collective and individual aspirations. The hero's birth in this fairy- tale brings about the messianic expectances of the people: people hoped to have an intelligent/enlighten ruler as Emperor Solomon, says the fairy- tale. But the hero doesn't taste the public life and chooses the search of immortality as the ideal of this ego.

The fairy-tale explains us that at birth the child was crying in his mother's belly and that's why, in order to calm him, he was promised youth without aged...

At the age of adolescence he refuses any social temptation and asks his parents to keep their promise. Thus he goes in search of this ideal, helped by the fantastic horse and by many other magic instances.

At first sight, the analysis of this fairy- tale doesn't raise any difficulties - it is not about unconscious desires, but about clear ideals.

But psychoanalysis doesn't linger on the level of the ego's analysis. It pierces through the crust of appearance and deepens in the investigation of the unconscious processes. There, in the depth of the unconscious mind it finds the resorts of the conscious world, of the motives consciously stated.

In our case, the hero's desire must be understood differently as relating to his refuse to grow up. The title of the fairy-tale may be also translated as it follows: "Forever Youth". But what does this mean?

A life fixed at the first years level, when the child lives in osmosis with his mother, who offers him protection and food without asking nothing in exchange. His whole libido has as object his own body as a source of pleasure with the occasions of satisfying the organic needs and of cultivating the erogenic zones. At this level sexuality is not yet genital. We have, thus, the pre-eminence of partial instincts.

All psychoanalysts do not, of course, admit this interpretation. Jung would certainly reject it, accusing it of reduction, and proposing a totally different one, in which the characters and the conflicts of the fairy-tale are symbols of our inner world.

The wolf as prima materia devours the dead King; in the background: the sublimation of prima materia and the king's rebirth.
Jung states explicitly that fairy-tales as well as myths are collectively elaborated fragments of some inner experiences which are alike in all respects with what he called individuation process.

Thus, to give a single example, the emperor in the fairy-tales is not a substitute for father (as at Freud), but a symbol of Jungian's SELF. This symbolic figure describes or personifies an autonomous complex of archetypal nature, which comes from the depths of the collective soul to get control over the subject's ego.

The symbol of the emperor is extremely often used in alchemist literature where it gets various meanings. There, for example, it represents an Ego incarnation which changes during the individuation process -in symbolic terms it dies in order to rebirth, renewed. In this way, in the work "Psychology and Alchemy" we see an illustration which bears the following significance: The wolf as prima materia devours the dead King; in the background: the sublimation of prima materia and the king's rebirth.

The king's rebirth - under the shape of the king's young son - represents the Ego's rebirth that was restructured through the infusion of a new spirit-ghost. It is the crowning of the individuation process, when the ego integrates the contents of the archetypal and personal unconscious.

Paper by Jean Chiriac
Translation by Nicoleta Onisoru

Applied Psychoanalysis

There is a branch of psychoanalysis that we can hardly connect with the neurosis or its therapy. This is called applied psychoanalysis . It was Freud's contribution that laid its foundations - Freud being the author of some famous extra-clinical works like "Delusions and Dreams in Jensen's Gradiva" (1907), "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood" (1910), "Totem and Taboo" (1912-1913), etc. They dealt with mithology, anthropology, religion and biography of famous persons.

Many specialist are actually still wondering whether psychoanalysis has the right to interfere into fields that has nothing to do with the psychoclinical work. In fact, this question doesn't takes into account since - willingly or not - all human activites share a fundamental element, that is the human soul. Or the human soul or psyche (since they are identical) are the very objects of psychoanalytic interest.

Otherwise, Freud had to study mythology, for example, because, even from the very beginning of the development of psychoanalysis, there were some persons of his circle that drew his attention to some striking similarities between the results of the clinical research and the mythological motifs and the religious ideas.

About Case Study in Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalytical casuistry is the most exciting domain of psychoanalysis. And that is because when reading a case analysis, we are usually inclined to apply psychic investigation methods upon ourselves and ponder on the conclusions.

case analysisThe casuistry published for the use of our readers, nevertheless, is no easy job. For lay audiences personally inexperienced with psychoanalysis, many of its statements may seem risky. That is why case reporting requires a lot of skill, the more so as the unconditional discretion rule must also be met!

In addition, the conditions for web publication impose a limitation of editing space and no comprehensive account of the analyzed individual' personal history will therefore be available. Everything is limited to a few hints the author of the article (and of the analysis too) provides hoping to render an as complete image as possible of the analyzed individual's psychic background. AROPA

A Case with a Legacy

The best method to acquire the psychoanalytical technique is to allow yourself to be psychoanalyzed. Just as with swimming, there's nothing you can do unless you go beyond theoretical information and dare dive to see the why and the how for yourself...

No matter how much we tried to simplify things, when the uninitiated are introduced to psychoanalyzed cases, we have to keep in mind that eloquence alone cannot replace the live experience of self-analysis. Our readers will certainly understand the impediment.

An example of successful analysis in record time will get us somewhat acquainted with the psychoanalytical technique. Several other illustrations will follow, without pretending to bring the subject to a close…

Ours is the case of a lady we shall call Amelia, about 35, married and the mother of a 10-year old; she works for an important company in X. The woman complains of a troublesome symptom: persistent insomnia. "persistent", as it defies any kind of conventional treatment. "Night after night, I make desperate efforts to sleep". She succeeds towards dawn, when, actually exhausted, she finally falls asleep.

To her sleeplessness, there adds a weird mood of apprehension, an uneasiness psychoanalysts use to call anxiety. My question is:
- What brings about this condition?
- Something like an anticipation; as if I were expecting something and were not sure what...
- Would you please try to remember some circumstance when you experienced the same thing? I insist.
- Exams, maybe, when I was at school? Or, Christmas Eve rather, when I used to wait for Santa. Or, why not, when I would plan a trip or a celebration and would eagerly count every minute to it...
- Any trouble at work, I ask, any tests, exams for a higher position or things like that?
- None, came the unwavering reply, nothing special.

I then inquire about Amelia's economic standing. I find both she and her husband earn enough to make a decent living. There would be room for some additional income, though. "You know how it goes", she adds, " the more you have, the more you want".

I consider the associations Amelia has made concerning her anxiety. Exams, Christmas, Santa, family celebrations and reunions with friends etc. Anxiety is obviously a state of anticipation, just like when you are looking forward to an extremely important event you crave for. But what could that event be? Let us also keep in mind her insomnia, suggesting the same powerful, irrepressible experience. Sleeplessness and anxiety go hand in hand. Both are indicative of an intense concentration of emotions towards a certain direction we expect a lot from...

Psychoanalysts often need moments of insight, more precisely the feeling they know what a certain case is about. Theirs is an intuitive job (which we also call empathy ). That "clairvoyance" urges us to articulate it and, obviously, ask patients the key question giving instant clarification to the nature of their disturbance. In this case, the question I asked was:
- Do you happen to have a dying relative, are you looking ahead to some inheritance?
The answer was immediate, betraying Amelia's bewilderment:
- Yes! It's my uncle, she assured me, he's over 80 and he's awfully rich!
- Are you his heiress?
- His one and only heir!, she specified.
- Your case is solved then, I replied. Your eagerness to get the inheritance is to blame for both your insomnia and your anxiety. Given your uncle's age, you think the long dreamed-of moment for getting your heritage is drawing nearer by the day. Hence your anxious anticipation and sleeplessness, betraying your wish for this moment to arrive as soon as possible, just as you used to eagerly wait for your Christmas presents.

NB: Not all psychoanalyzed cases are solved on the first session. The case above was a "fortunate case", which is a rare occasion. But let us keep one thing in mind: although aware of her own wish (to lay hands on the inheritance), the patient was unable to relate it to her symptoms; hence her concern for her own health. The meaning of her symptoms clarified, Amelia was reassured (the enigma of the disease itself is reason for concern) and she was finally able to get back her wholesome sleep.

Translation by Mihaela Cristea

Dream Interpretation: Dreaming about Dying

By Jean Chiriac

Generally speaking, death cannot be represented in dreams as such, as it is no psychic content to be experienced, lived. Hence the conclusion that, when dreams about dying do occur, we have to interpret this in a completely different direction.

Personally, I have had no such dreams but seemingly dreams about dying are not infrequent. We have to conclude that such dreams are also part of the category of collective dreams, shared by many people.

Another dream about dying is that when one is aware of one's invisibility, at the same time being able to watch what everybody else is doing. The explanation would be that there are people who would like to put their fellows' love on trial and therefore produce dreams picturing themselves as dead, in order to be able to see the others' reaction. There are also sadistic persons willing to emotionally blackmail their fellows and whose dreams simulate death in order to receive more affection. Such persons displace what they would like to do in real life to the province of dreams. Nevertheless, in dreams about dying (sometimes symbolic death, as in dreams about invisibility) death is just a tool dreamers use to meet their own affection needs related to their likes.

There are yet dreams about the death of others - more or less close people. When dreaming about the death of close people, we have to discover some adverse feelings. Dreamers re-enact these feelings of adversity for relatives and friends, etc, in their dreams (feelings usually placed in one's childhood). Such feelings nevertheless are only very rarely present under their real shape and therefore corresponding dreams have to be interpreted in a different manner too.

When dealing with dreams about dying we also have to take into account the symbolism of death. Death is a structural transformation of the being - during the Ego development process we often undergo successive symbolic deaths and re-births: something of us is dying and another thing is emerging.

Death in dreams finally may point to a contrary meaning: birth, life, etc. In this context, this specific aspect should be considered in the interpretation of death.

Translation by Mihaela Cristea

The "Key of Dreams" and Psychoanalysis

A comparative analysis of the classical and psychoanalytical
method in the interpretation of dreams points out striking similitudes.

By Horia Vasilescu

In his peerless work dedicated to dreams and their interpretation in psychoanalysis - Traumdeutung ["The Interpretation of Dreams", 1900] - Freud also mentions the famous "keys of dreams", these genuine interpretation guides of common use. Considering the fact that the popular mentality grants signification to the dreams, unlike the scientists contemporaneous with him to whom dreams appear only as aberrant nervous manifestations, Freud doesn't linger in bringing them forward in a critical manner.

A "key of dreams" is, in fact, a "deciphering method", " because it treats the dream as a secret writing, in which case every sign is translated by a correspondent sign, by means of a certain key" (1). Starting from the deciphered key words, all we have to do is to comprise them in a relation, regarded in a future's prospect. Because, we shouldn't forget, in the popular mentality dreams are always premonitions concerning future events.

- Sigmund Freud:
The Basic Writing of Sigmund Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams)

- Artemidorus:
Interpretation of Dreams: Oneirocritica

- Macrobius
Commentary on the Dream of Scipio

- Eric R. Dodds
Greeks and the Irrational

That's how we could use such a "deciphering method". Let's suppose I have dreamt the following: I went to the station to take up the train and I suddenly discovered that I had forgotten my luggage home.
I open a key of dreams and find out that: "going by train" means "a trouble that lies in wait for you from an unexpected direction". "Luggage" means "good news" or "rapid unexpected enrichment". "To forget" (the luggage) - "something you don't know about yet, but you'll find out in its season"; "news (from the other end of the world)".
It's easy to elaborate the interpretation of dream if I build up a logical connection between all these elements: Overnight enrichment due to a misfortune (probably decease) of a distant person (relative); inheritance.

There is another alternative to this method, Freud continues, expounded in the writings of Artemidor from Daldis: "Here we take into account not only the content of the dream, but also the personality and circumstances of the life of the author of the dream: so-and-so detail has different significances from one individual to another, as he/she is rich or poor, married or single, orator or merchant"(2). What is characteristic to this proceeding is the fact that "the interpretation doesn't take into account the whole dream, but each of his content elements, as if the dream would be a conglomerate in which each mineral fragment demands a special determination"(3).

"The deciphering method", Freud concludes, cannot be used in the scientific treatment of the dreams. Because it depends upon a "key", and therefore it lacks any warrant"(4). It's impossible for us to detect how was drawn up this correlation between the raving element and its significance from the "key of dreams". For instance, we can't see how we could come from "going by train" to "trouble that lies in wait for you from an unexpected direction", or from "luggage" to "good news, rapid unexpected enrichment".

* Psychoanalytical method

We must emphasize that psychoanalysis doesn't consider dreams as a product of our mantic aptitude, neither as gods' messenger. The scientific approach, which Freud himself hints at, rejects those "virtues" of the dream that cannot pass the examination of the scientific investigation.
As far as it concerns him, Freud states that dream is always the hallucinating expression of a repressed wish. He insists on the fact that the interpretation cannot be deprived of the dreamer's associations, of his recollections and impressions that the elements of the dream, considered separately, evoke to him. In the above quoted dream, Freud would obtain the following information:

- Travel by train . It suggests to the dreamer a travelling manner, which he doesn't like. Because it's uncomfortable. He (the dreamer) prefers to go by his personal car, especially when he spends his weekend in a trip to the mountains or at the seaside.

- Forgetting luggage. The dreamer complains of the fact that, from some time, he noticed a suspect change of his character. He forgets easily, he is absent-minded, confused, inattentive, with his thoughts far away. All these happenings, apparently harmless annoy him. Adding to these, he was never so "scatter-brained" and, of course, he imitates his wife, who embodies the distraction itself, by this behavior.

Further examining dreamer's impressions, Freud would find out that dreamer's wife behaves like a "little princess" to him, arrogant and all airs and frills, she looks down on her husband, she treats him with an air of self-satisfied superiority. The conclusion of the dream imposes so without saying: it expresses dreamer's wish to change places with his wife (this is where the idea of imitating her comes from), for him to be "the prince" and his wife "the servant"(5).


Freud's statement that dream is the accomplishment of an unconscious desire creates the impression that psychoanalysis brought a revolutionary contribution in the realm of interpretation. Because it is supposed to posses, in this regard, a vision considered as "scientific", radically opposite to the popular or traditional one.

The facts are not at all like that. Anyone that studies the classification of dreams in the Antiquity period, and I especially refer here to Macrobius' work "Comments upon Scipio's vision", would notice that the tradition also remarked the dreams with a "scientific" content, the same type as those approached by psychoanalysis.

On short, Macrobius distinguishes four categories of dreams. Three of them are interesting to the interpretation effort, while the last one remains, so to say, the appanage of common people. The first three categories include: symbolical dream, vision dream and oracular dream (6). The last one refers to the dreams that comes from the nocturnal ebullition of our daytime impressions. We could clearly notice that the last category defines the dreams examined by Freud.

The conclusion imposing to us as a consequence of the above-mentioned (facts) would be: the ancient mentality also had the knowledge of the dreams of "profane" nature, namely those that aren't worth to interpret them, but which, later on, represented the subject matter of the psychoanalytical "scientific" research. On the other hand, it's obvious that, being interested in the "profane" dreams, having doubts concerning the traditional mentality, from a scientific position, Freud ignored the sacred dreams (the first three categories at Macrobius). He gave the sensation that these could be included to the chapter of desire-dreams, familiar to him, when they are not the result of the poetical creation or of an ideological conjuncture.

1. S. Freud, "The Interpretation of Dreams", Science Publishing House, 1993, p. 91.
2. Ibid. p. 92.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. It's clearly understood that the dream is not fully interpreted through psychoanalytical method illustrated here. We have restricted to an example of psychoanalysis applied to dream, simplified at the most.
6. The symbolical dream "covers in metaphors, as in a riddle, a significance that cannot be understood without interpretation". The vision dream, horama, "is a premonitive development of a future event". The oracular dream, or chrematismos, is recognized when, while sleeping, the parent of the person who dreams or some other respected or impressive person, maybe a priest or a god, reveals, without any help of the symbols, what will happen, what should or shouldn't be done". (Eric R. Dodds, "Greeks and the Irrational", Meridiane Publishing House, 1983, p. 130).

Translation by Ochea Corina

Dream Interpretation and Psychoanalysis (2)

In the first pages of his work "New Introductory Lectures On Psychoanalysis", dated December 6th 1932, Sigmund Freud clearly asserts that the theory of dreams "occupies a special place in the history of psychoanalysis and marks a turning-point; it was with it that analysis took the step from being a psychotherapeutic procedure to being a depth-psychology" . The theory of dreams is the most characteristic and singular aspect of psychoanalytic science, "something to which there is no counterpart in the rest of our knowledge, a stretch of new country, which has been reclaimed from popular beliefs and mysticism."

Dream analysis, in psychoanalysis, provides the possibility to decipher the mystery of neurotic disorders, specifically hysteria, and secondly, it opens the road towards unconscious. Freud's phrase: "The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious" has become famous. (1)
The first great dream related intuitions were materialized in 1895, when Freud considered he had discovered the mystery of dreams. That concerns the famous dream of Irma's injection, which Freud almost thoroughly analyzed and published in his grandiose work "The Interpretation of Dreams" (1900).
Dream was approached in a manner, which was to become specific for the practitioners of psychoanalysis: by means of the dreamer's associations.

Dream analysis (details are provided in the quoted book) reveals Freud's feelings of guilt towards Irma, one of his young patients, whose treatment had not yielded the expected results. Freud defends himself from these negative feelings in his dream, blaming his very patient who, apparently, were not a submissive and compliant patient, or dr. Otto, one of his colleagues, guilty of a careless medical intervention (an injection with an infected syringe).
After analyzing his dream, most coherent as it proved, Freud justly declared that dreams "are not meaningless, they are not absurd; they do not imply that one portion of our store of ideas is asleep while another portion is beginning to wake. On the contrary, they are psychical phenomena of complete validity - fulfilments of wishes [our emphasis J.C.]…" Dreams therefore require integration into the range of intelligible waking mental acts; "they are constructed by a highly complicated activity of the mind". (op. cit., chapter "A Dream is the Fulfilment of a Wish".)

This assertion in fact expresses a great opening towards the activity of abysmal psyche, and mostly the belief in psychic determinism, in the idea that all psychic deeds have their own meaning and connect to day activities, even in a somewhat less visible manner. Contrary to the general opinion of his time's scientific world, Freud thinks dreams are a coherent psychic activity, that can be analyzed in depth.

Nevertheless, the comprehensive definition of the dream includes other discoveries too, the true sign of Freudian approach original character: "a dream is a (disguised) fulfilment of a (suppressed or repressed) wish". (op. cit., chapter "Distortion in Dreams".)

This definition emphasizes two key aspects of the theory of dreams: 1. Dreams are a disguised fulfilment of a wish, and 2. This is repressed wish. We can therefore conclude that disguise is caused by repression. That is the reason why all dream researchers before Freud were not able to discover these facts: they only analyzed the manifest content of the dream, that is its outer shape at wakening time, its façade, not caring about latent thoughts giving rise to its becoming, thoughts we reach by means of the method of associations devised by Freud.

Freud goes even further to analyze the nature of distortion by the dream, partially the work of dream-censorship and partly of dream-work , a complex process by means of which latent thoughts are turned into dreams as such. Freud's analysis includes dream-work, and the end of his book also provides us his opinions concerning the psychology of the dream process: primary and secondary processes, repression, unconscious, etc.

That is why "The Interpretation of Dreams" represents the major work on dreams and unconscious life, not equaled so far! It remains an essential stage in the study of psychoanalysis!In spite of the importance of dream-analysis for the discovery of abysmal psyche functioning as well as for therapy as such, this crucial field of psychoanalysis has no more concerned psychoanalysts after Freud's research. The same work quoted at the beginning of the present article records Freud's own bitter remark: "In the earlier volumes [of Internationale Zeitschrift für (ärztliche) Psychoanalyse (2)] you will find a recurrent sectional heading 'On Dream-Interpretation', containing numerous contributions on various points in the theory of dreams. But the further you go the rarer do these contributions become, and finally the sectional heading disappears completely."

In spite of this constant lack of concern for dream theory, lack of regard nowadays materialized in schematic, abstract approach of dream in psychoanalytic therapy, the importance of this area of research is crucial. That is why we have to give it the place it deserves.

1. "…it is the securest foundation of psychoanalysis and the field in which every worker must acquire his convictions and seek his training. If I am asked how one can become a psychoanalyst, I reply: By studying one's own dreams."("New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis".)
2. "The International Journal of Psychoanalysis".

Paper by Jean Chiriac
Translation by Mihaela Cristea

Dream Interpretation in Psychoanalysis

Interpretation of dreams is the most exciting field of psychoanalysis. Many messages we receive require the interpretation of dream symbols or dreams themselves. The fascination dreams exert on us is surely a result of the belief that dreams convey messages outside ourselves, coming from spiritual entities or God himself, messages either showing us what is about to happen or warning against unpleasant future events.

* Dreams and the unconscious

First we should agree that this is not the context predictive, spiritual, that psychoanalysis approaches dreams in. Dream interpretation in psychoanalysis is a tool aiding in the discovery of psychic contents - latent ideas which represents repressed emotions and drives - within the unconscious mind, contents pathologically manifest in neurotic symptoms. Dreams interpretation is the royal path to unconscious, as Sigmund Freud holds.

It is also Freud who first opened the road to the use of dream interpretation/analysis as a means of psychic investigation.

This less spectacular aspect imposed by psychoanalysis should never be overlooked when visiting pages dedicated to dream interpretation on this site. Articles published here do have this constant trait: shared preoccupation for the technical approach of dreams, in the spirit of the psychoanalytic use of interpretation.


Dream Interpretation by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud's
Dream Interpretation
Here are a few very useful reference works for anybody willing to study dreams - the term "study" being the best in this context:

icon Sigmund Freud is the author of a monumental work on dream interpretation, irreplaceable to this day: The Interpretation of Dreams . An abridged version of the book has also been produced, bearing the same title and addressing the wider public. You may follow these links to Amazon.com bookstore:

* The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud... the Dream Interpretation
Dream Interpretation

icon The study of dreams can be historically pursued if you take our online course on dream-interpretation. Further information here. There is a downloadable PDF version of our online course on dream interpretation which may be purchased from here.

iconYou may learn more on dream interpretation in psychoanalysis by taking our initiation into psychoanalysis email course, module 4.

Psychoanalytic Techniques

As we know, psychoanalysis is a method of investigating the unconscious mind. This task imposes the necessity of applying some special investigating "tools" like:

iconAnamnesis - which resembles perfectly to a certain extent the classical anamnesis known in the practice of general medicine. Usually, the interpretation of the biographic (personal) events during the psychoanalytical cure is sufficient to be able to settle the neurotic frame of the individual's psychopathology.

iconFree associations method - Freud's most striking invention and many times neglected by the specialists. Gathering the free associations produced by the patient makes possible a direct access to his psychic, private intimate conflict, and altogether it reveals the analyst a vivid image of the neurotic etiology of the subject analyzed.

online psychoanalytic courseOnline introduction to the psychoanalytic techniques

Learn about psychoanalytic techniques by taking our initiation into psychoanalysis email course, module 4.
Learn more...

icon The interpretation of faulty acts (slips and mistakes) - another remarkable contribution of the father of psychoanalysis. For most of us the "faulty acts", as for instance lapses, slips of all kinds have no contextual significance for our psychic life. Freud is the first to detect the logic of the faulty acts, starting from the premise, acknowledged in practice, of the determinism of all our psychic manifestations.

iconThe interpretation of dreams - based on the ideas and examples published in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams issued in 1900.

iconThe interpretation of symbols - in the same way characteristic of psychoanalysis, the symbols - be it delirious, or those related to archetypal situations - bring their contribution, by their interpretations, to the neurotic aethiology.

What is Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a method for the investigation of mental processes inaccessible by other means. At the same time, psychoanalysis is also a therapeutic method for neurotic disorders.

Freud on Tabor street
Sigmund Freud is the creator of psychoanalysis (here Freud on Tabor Str by Joachim Torr)
As therapeutic technique, psychoanalysis is different from psychiatry and psychotherapy in general, as it stipulates the existence of a psychic unconscious, and insists on analysis and the integration of the contents of unconscious as therapeutic procedure.

The psychoanalysis gradually built on clinical observation and research, accompanied by reflections and theoretical ideas concerning the structure of the psychic apparatus, the dynamic of mental processes, repression, resistance, transference, and more...

iconDefinition of psychoanalysis includes knowledge acquired from psychic unconscious research and analysis. Such knowledge has gradually made up a new body of science called psychoanalysis.

iconPsychoanalysis is also applied to the study of social, cultural, and religious phenomena. In this latter aspect, demanding for a re-evaluation of the mechanisms and meanings of culture, psychoanalysis has penetrated the consciousness of the wider public beyond its therapeutic limits.

Psychoanalysis was Born in Vienna

Psychoanalysis was born in Vienna by the end of the 19th century and spread with the contribution of Freudian disciples and dissidents, who, more or less loyal to Freudian theories, have issued currents and schools of psychoanalysis with various shades of difference. That is the case of analytic psychology forged by C. G. Jung, as well as that of individual psychology, made up by Alfred Adler.

online psychoanalysis courseOnline Psychoanalysis Course
Study psychoanalysis online by following our course especially designed for beginners. Learn more...

Psychoanalysis together with elements of psychoanalytical doctrine and practice are also to be found in modern psychotherapeutic currents, under various shapes and blends.

Sigmund Freud on Psychoanalysis

Psycho-analysis is the name (1) of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (2) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline. (From "Two Enciclopaedia Articles", 1923)

Psycho-analysis may be said to have been born with the twentieth century; for the publication in which it emerged before the world as something new - my Interpretation of Dreams - bears the date '1900'. But, as may well be supposed, it did not drop from the skies ready-made. It had its starting-point in older ideas, which it developed further; it sprang from earlier suggestions, which it elaborated. (From "A Short Account of Psycho-Analysis", 1924)

Freud […] made an alteration in their technique, by replacing hypnosis by the method of free association. He invented the term 'psycho-analysis'. (From "Psycho-Analysis", 1926). AROPA

A Brief Outline of Psycho-analytic Theory

Freudian, Lacanian and Object Relations Theory

Freudian Theory

Freud's psychoanalytic theory, coming as it did at the turn of the century, provided a radically new approach to the analysis and treatment of "abnormal" adult behavior. Earlier views tended to ignore behavior and look for a physiological explanation of "abnormality". The novelty of Freud's approach was in recognizing that neurotic behavior is not random or meaningless but goal-directed. Thus, by looking for the purpose behind so-called "abnormal" behavioral patterns, the analyst was given a method for understanding behavior as meaningful and informative, without denying its physiological aspects.

The Pre-Oedipal Stage

Freud claimed that all human beings are born with certain instincts, i.e. with a natural tendency to satisfy their biologically determined needs for food, shelter and warmth. The satisfaction of these needs is both practical and a source of pleasure which Freud refers to as "sexual". Thus, when the infant, sucking at its mother's breast discovers the pleasure inherent in this activity, the first glimmers of sexuality are awakened. The child discovers an erotogenic zone which may be reactivated later in life through thumbsucking or kissing. Through this intimate interaction with the mother, upon whom the child is dependent, a sexual drive emerges. As this drive is separated out from its original function as a purely biological instinct, it achieves a relative autonomy.

During the early stages of childhood development, other erotogenic zones emerge. The oral stage, associated with the drive to "incorporate" objects through the mouth, is followed by the anal stage during which the anus becomes an erotogenic zone as the child takes pleasure in defecation. This pleasure is characterized by Freud as "sadistic" because the child is understood to be taking delight in expulsion and destruction. The anal stage is also associated with the desire for retention and possessive control (as in "granting or withholding" the faeces).

The next stage the child enters is the phallic stage when the sexual drive is focused on the genitals. (Freud refers to this stage as "phallic" rather than "genital" because, he claims, only the male organ is recognized as significant.)

What is happening in this process -- though the stages overlap, and should not be seen as a strict sequence -- is a gradual organization of the libidinal drives, but one still centred on the child's own body. The drives themselves are extremely flexible, in no sense fixed like biological instinct: their objects are contingent and replaceable, and one sexual drive can substitute for another. What we can imagine in the early years of the child's life, then, is not a unified subject confronting and desiring a stable object, but a complex, shifting field of force in which the subject (the child itself) is caught up and dispersed, in which it has as yet no centre of identity and in which the boundaries between itself and the external world are indeterminate. Within this field of libidinal force, objects and part-objects emerge and disappear again, shift places kaleidoscopically, and prominent among such objects is the child's body as the play of drives laps across it. One can speak of this as an 'auto eroticism', within which Freud sometimes includes the whole of infantile sexuality: the child takes erotic delight in its own body, but without as yet being able to view its body as a complete object. Auto-eroticism must thus be distinguished from what Freud will call 'narcissism', a state in which one's body or ego as a whole is 'cathected', or taken as an object of desire.[1]

The child in this state is described by Freud as "anarchic, sadistic, aggressive, self-involved and remorselessly pleasure-seeking" -- wholly within the grip of the pleasure principle. It is also ungendered. That is to say, even though it is riddled with sexual drives, it draws no distinction between the gender categories masculine and feminine.

The Oedipus Complex: Gendering the Subject

At the center of Freud's theory of childhood development is the Oedipus Complex. According to Freud, a boy's close relation to his mother, as the primary love-object, leads to a desire for complete union with her. A girl, on the other hand, who is similarly attached to the mother and thus caught up in a "homosexual" desire, directs her libido (love, sexual energy broadly construed) toward her father (for reasons which we'll consider shortly). This produces a triadic relationship regardless of one's sex, with the parent of the same sex cast in the role of a rival for the affections of the parent of the opposite sex.

The boy will eventually abandon his incestuous desire for his mother out of fear of being castrated by his father. (This fear arises when the boy comes to realize that females are "castrated" and imagines that this may be his fate if he does not subordinate his desire for the mother.) Thus, the boy represses his incestuous desire, adjusts to the reality principle, and waits for the day when he will be the patriarch. In this way the boy identifies with his father and the symbolic role of manhood.

The girl's route through the Oedipal stage is far more problematic in Freud's view. "Realizing" that she is castrated and thus inferior, the girl turns away from her similarly castrated mother and attempts to "seduce" her father. When this fails, she returns to the mother and identifies with her feminine role. However, she still envies the penis that she will never have; so she unconsciously substitutes a desire to have her father's baby. (How she goes about giving up this desire is not made clear. Since she is already "castrated", fear of castration will not do the job.)

Needless to say, Freud's theory shows little insight into femininity and the experience of women. His claim that female sexuality is a "dark continent" says as much.

The Unconscious

As we say, the unconscious is that part of the mind that lies outside the somewhat vague and porous boundaries of consciousness, and is constructed in part by the repression of that which is too painful to remain in consciousness. (Not everything in the unconscious is repressed. However, repression is the ego's primary defense against disruption.) Freud distinguishes repression from sublimation -- the rechanneling of drives that cannot be given an acceptable outlet. The unconscious also contains what Freud calls laws of transformation. These are the principles that govern the process of repression and sublimation. In general we can say that the unconscious serves the theoretical function of making the relation between childhood experience and adult behavior intelligible.

Ego, Id and Super-Ego

According to Freud, the ego is an aspect of the subject that emerges from the id -- the biological, inherited, unconscious source of sexual drives, instincts, and irrational impulses. The ego develops out of the id's interaction with the external world. It is produced from the non-biological (social and familial) forces brought to bear on one's biological development and functions as an intermediary between the demands of the id and the external world.

Thus, the ego can be thought of as a variable aspect of the subject constructed as a system of beliefs that organize one's dealings with the internal and external demands of life according to certain laws referred to by Freud as secondary process. It reconciles the biological, instinctual demands and drives (both unifying and destructive in nature) of the id (governed by primary process) with the socially determined constraints of the super-ego (internalized rules placing limits on the subject's satisfactions and pleasures) and the demands of reality.

The healthy, mature ego translates the demands of both the id and the super-ego into terms which allow admission of them without destruction. Thus, constructive acceptance and transformation of the demands made by both the id and the super-ego are techniques of the ego and essential elements of mental health.

Psychoanalytic therapy involves reliving repressed fantasies and fears both in feeling and in thought. This process involves a transference, i.e. a projection of the attitudes and emotions, originally directed towards the parents, onto the analyst. This is necessary for successful treatment. Access to these repressed fears is gained often through dream interpretation, where the manifest content in dreams is understood as a symbolic expression of the hidden or latent content. (Internal censorship demands that the wish be transformed, leading to a disguised or symbolic representation.) The sources of dream content results from

lost memories
linguistic symbols
repressed experiences
"archaic" material inherited but not directly experienced.

Dreams are "guardians of sleep", i.e. wish fulfillments that arise in response to inner conflicts and tensions whose function is to allow the subject to continue sleeping. Dream-Work is the production of dreams during sleep -- the translation of demands arising from the unconscious into symbolic objects of the preconscious and eventually the conscious mind of the subject. Dream Interpretation is the decoding of the symbols (manifest content) and the recovery of their latent content, i.e. the unconscious and, hence, hidden tensions and conflicts that give rise to the dreams in the first place.


Some of the problems typically raised in response to Freudian theory are:

1. Freud's hypotheses are neither verifiable nor falsifiable. It is not clear what would count as evidence sufficient to confirm or refute theoretical claims.
2. The theory is based on an inadequate conceptualization of the experience of women.
3. The theory overemphasizes the role of sexuality in human psychological development and experience.

Lacanian Theory

The Imaginary

French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan has reinterpreted Freud in structuralist terms, bringing the theory into the second half of the Twentieth Century. Like Freud, Lacan discusses the importance of the pre-Oedipal stage in the child's life when it makes no clear distinction between itself and the external world; when it harbors no definite sense of self and lives symbiotically with the mother's body. Lacan refers to this stage as the Imaginary.

The Mirror Stage

Lacan characterizes the period when the child begins to draw rudimentary distinctions between self and other as the mirror stage. This is the period when the child's sense of self and the first steps in the acquisition of language emerge. The "I" (which is constituted as the still physically uncoordinated child in the "imaginary" state of being) finds an image of itself reflected in a "mirror" (i.e. other people or objects). The "mirror" is at once self and not-self. The child typically takes pleasure in this process.

The image which the small child sees in the mirror is...an alienated one: the child 'misrecognizes' itself in it, finds in the image a pleasing unity which it does not actually experience in its own body. The imaginary for Lacan is precisely this realm of images in which we make identifications, but in the very act of doing so are led to misperceive and misrecognize ourselves. As the child grows up, it will continue to make such imaginary identifications with objects, and this is how its ego will be built up. For Lacan, the ego is just this narcissistic process whereby we bolster up a fictive sense of unitary selfhood by finding something in the world with which we can identify.[2]

The Phallus: Entry Into the Symbolic Order

Prior to the entry of the father, the infant's life can be characterized as unified and "full". The appearance of the father in the Oedipal stage opens the child up to sexual difference (denoted by the phallus) and initiates the construction of the unconscious, i.e. the repression of incestuous desire. This Oedipal stage is reinterpreted by Lacan in linguistic terms. (Here is where the influence of structuralism becomes more apparent.) Thus the child can be thought of as a signifier; and the image it sees in the mirror is the signified, i.e. the meaning that the child gives to itself.

The symbols referred to here are not icons, stylized figurations, but signifiers, in the sense developed by Saussure and Jakobson extended into a generalized definition: differential elements, in themselves without meaning, which acquire value only in their mutual relations, and forming a closed order -- the question is whether this order is or is not complete. Henceforth, it is the symbolic, not the imaginary, that is seen to be the determining order of the subject, and its effects are radical: the subject, in Lacan's sense, is himself an effect of the symbolic....According to Lacan, a distinction must be drawn between what belongs in experience to the order of the symbolic and what belongs to the imaginary. In particular, the relation between the subject, on the one hand, and the signifiers, speech, language, on the other, is frequently contrasted with the imaginary relation, that between the ego and its images.[3]

Thus, as a result of the transition from the imaginary to the symbolic order -- to the construction of the self-image and the acquisition of language -- the child is socialized into the family through acknowledgment and acceptance of difference (in gender) and absence (of the mother's body).

The Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real

It is the repression of desire and, hence, the unconscious, that determines human behavior. The relation between language and desire is described in Ecrits in the following way:

The human individual sets out with a particular organism, with certain biological needs, which are satisfied by certain objects. What effect does the acquisition of language have on these needs? All speech is demand; it presupposes the Other to whom it is addressed, whose very signifiers it takes over in its formulation. By the same token, that which comes from the Other is treated not so much as a particular satisfaction of a need, but rather as a response to an appeal, a gift, a token of love. There is no adequation between the need and the demand that conveys it; indeed, it is the gap between them that constitutes desire, at once particular like the first and absolute like the second. Desire (fundamentally in the singular) is a perpetual effect of symbolic articulation. It is not an appetite; it is essentially excentric [sic] and insatiable. That is why Lacan coordinates it not with the object that would seem to satisfy it, but with the object that causes it...[4]

Thus, to acquire language is to subject oneself to the inevitability of desire. As language articulates the "fullness" of the imaginary and cuts it up into parts, it also cuts one off from the Real -- that which is beyond the symbolic order.

The 'real' emerges as a third term, linked to the symbolic and the imaginary: it stands for what is neither symbolic nor imaginary, and remains foreclosed from the analytic experience, which is an experience of speech. What is prior to the assumption of the symbolic, the real in its 'raw' state (in the case of the subject, for instance, the organism and its biological needs), may only be supposed, it is an algebraic x. This Lacanian concept of the 'real' is not to be confused with reality, which is perfectly knowable...[5]
Object Relations Theory

Symbiosis and Separation/Individuation

Another adaptation of psychoanalytic theory known as "object relations theory" starts from the assumption that the psychological life of the human being is created in and through relations with other human beings. Thus, the object relations theorist distinguishes between the physical and the psychological birth of the individual. While the physical birth is a process that occurs over a specific and easily observable period of time, the psychological birth is typically extended over the first three years of life and can occur only in and through social relations. During this time, certain "innate potentials and character traits" (the ability to walk and talk) are allowed to develop in the presence of "good object relations". The quality of these relations affects the quality of one's linguistic and motor skills.

The first three years of life are characterized by (a) the establishment of a close (symbiotic) relationship to the primary caretaker (which is generally the mother), and (b) the subsequent dissolution of that relationship through separation (differentiating oneself from the caretaker) and individuation (establishing one's own skills and personality traits). A central element in this emerging "core identity" is one's gender, which tends to be determined within the first one and a half to two years. Unlike Freudian and Lacanian theories, in object relations theory this gendering of the subject has little to do with the child's own awareness of sexuality and reproduction. It does, however, involve the internalization of any inequities in the value assigned to one's gender, as well as the associated imbalance in power.

This psychological development of the child is part of a reciprocal process of adjustment between child and caretaker -- both must learn to be responsive to the needs and interests of the other. During the symbiotic stage (one to six or seven months) the infant, as we saw in Lacan's "imaginary", has little if any sense of distinction between self and other, and is extremely sensitive to the moods and feelings of the caretaker.

In order for this phase to be adequate [i.e. "good enough"], the mother must be emotionally available to the child in a consistent, reasonably conflict-free way. She should be able to enjoy the sensual and emotional closeness of the relationship without losing her own sense of separateness. She should be concerned for the child's well being without developing a narcissistic overinvestment in the child as a mere extension of her own self. Her infantile wishes for a symbiotic relationship should have been adequately gratified in childhood. If this was not the case, resentment and hostility may be aroused in her by the infant's needs. The mother requires adequate support, both emotional and material, during this period from adults who are able both to nurture her and reinforce her own sense of autonomy.[6]

The process of separation begins at around the sixth month and continues through the second year. During this time, the child experiences both pleasure and frustration as motor skills develop along with the corresponding awareness of one's limitations.

The child explores and continually develops its separateness, then returns to the mother for 'emotional refueling'. The potential presence of the relationship between child and mother allows the child to leave it. Gradually the relationship is internalized and becomes part of the child's internal psychic reality. Both members of the dyad must learn to let go of the early bond without rejecting the other. The ambivalence present throughout this process gradually intensifies. The child both wants to return to the symbiotic state and fears being engulfed by it. In 'good enough' social relations a resolution is achieved in which both members of the dyad come to accept their bond (mutuality) and their separateness. This is the basis of a truly reciprocal relationship with others.[7]

Self Identity and Gender Identity

The process of becoming a "gendered subject" adds further complications to the child's development during this period. Since its initial identity is fused with that of the primary caretaker, and since that role is generally filled by the mother, it follows that initially the child's gender is the same as the mother's. Thus, boys and girls are originally "feminine". To become "masculine", the boy must repress much of his early, symbiotic experience. (Girls are less likely to repress infantile experience.) By the age of five, the boy will have repressed most of the feminine components of his nature along with his earliest memories. He will deal with the ambivalence of the separation/individuation period by means of denial of having been identified with the mother, by projection of blame onto women as the source of the problem, and by domination.

These defences become part of ordinary male behavior toward adult women and to anything which seems similar to them or under their (potential) control -- the body, feelings, nature. The ability to control (and to be in control) becomes both a need and a symbol of masculinity. Relations are turned into contest[s] for power. Aggression is mobilized to distance oneself from the object and then to overpower it. The girl, on the other hand, seeks relationships, even at the expense of her own autonomy. The two genders thus come to complement each other in a rather grotesque symmetry.[8]

As we can see, there are two important aspects of child development: self-identity and gender-Identity. In the traditional context of the nuclear family, we must also be able to account for the contribution of the father to the separation/individuation process. Since the child must move away from the mother in order to achieve autonomy, the father offers an alternative with which to identify. This is less problematic for the boy since the father also facilitates gender identification. Thus, the boy tends to develop strong self-identity but weak gender-identity. Since the girl does not experience the same kind of gender transformation, but at the same time cannot identify as closely with the father, she will tend to form a weak self-identity, but a strong and less problematic gender-identity.

Reproduction of Social Patterns

Finally, it must be remembered that the key insight contained in object relations theory is that the human subject is largely the product of the interaction that it, as a developing person, has with its caretakers. And since those caretakers are themselves socially determined persons, they will pass on to the child their own personal tendencies and social experiences with respect to race, class and gender. In this way, social relations are constitutive of "human nature".

T. R. Quigley, 1998


[1] Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, 153-4.

[2] Ibid., 165.

[3] Jacques Lacan, Ecrits, ix.

[4] Ibid., viii.

[5] Ibid., ix-x.

[6] Jane Flax, "Political Philosophy and the Patriarchal Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Epistemology and Metaphysics", in Discovering Reality, 252.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 253.

::link source: http://homepage.newschool.edu/~quigleyt/vcs/psychoanalysis.html

The Common Ground of Psychoanalytic Practice

Kenneth Eisold, Ph.D.
285 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 874-7143

Freud is constantly claiming to be scientific. But what he gives is speculation -- something prior even to the formation of an hypothesis.

-- Wittgenstein

What is it about the work we do with others -- whether short or long term psychotherapy, or group work, or organizational consultation -- that makes it "psychoanalytic." By this, I do not mean what are the core theories or the theoretical common ground (Klein, 1976; Wallerstein, 1988, 1992) that all, or most, analysts share. I mean, apart from what psychoanalysts are supposed to believe, what do they actually set out to do?

My aim in this is to pull together what many have written on the subject. I do not aim to be original. Indeed, I aspire to be reductionistic. The value I hope to provide is simply in framing the problem and providing the beginnings of an answer. If what I say strikes you as obvious, in a sense, I will have succeeded.

The answer I propose is that a psychoanalytic practice -- whether in the form of traditional psychoanalytic treatment on the couch or in face to face psychotherapy or in the form of work with families, groups, and organizations -- sets out to restore the capacity to think about human experience, a capacity that has been disabled by anxiety and fear. In other words, a psychoanalytic practice sets out to discover or rediscover what it is about our own experience that we do not or cannot grasp with our own minds, that has been rendered inaccessible or obscure.

Freud (1923) famously defined psychoanalysis as three things: "the name (1) of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (2) of a method (based on that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline." (p. 235) Laplanche and Pontalis (1973) reframed the third point as a group of "psychological and psychopathological theories."

My suggestion, in effect, is that we shift our focus away from points two and three. The proliferation of different forms of applied psychoanalysis -- the very idea of an applied psychoanalysis -- makes it difficult to hold on to point two. The "psychoanalytic" now refers to much more than a specific treatment modality for "neurotic disorders" -- though it includes that as well.

Point three is more complex. The emergence of applied psychoanalysis suggests that each applied psychoanalytic discipline requires its own body of theory. For example, the robust set of observations and theories about the persistence of early learning in shaping later relationships, so critical to traditional psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has less relevance to work with couples or groups. Conversely, Bion’s work on "Basic Assumptions" has little relevance to work with individuals. All such theories are useful and important, in their way. Nothing I will go on to say should be construed as challenging their importance. But we need to remind ourselves that they all do not add up to a coherent and consistent metapsychology but, rather, different domains.

There is a second point about theory: in this post-positivist and post-classical world, theory itself is seen as contingent and provisional. Psychoanalytic pluralism, in itself dictates this. But more: we have become skeptical of reality yielding its secrets to theory. We no longer believe in Truth -- but there are specific truths circumscribed by time and place.

Freud’s first point it the important one, I believe, in attempting to grasp the whole range of psychoanalytic practice -- but it has to be enlarged. His reference to "a procedure" suggests the notion of a standard technique, free association on the part of the patient and interpretation on the part of the analyst. But it is much clearer now than it could have been then that the essential clinical genius of psychoanalysis -- and here I am referring to the traditional practice of psychoanalysis itself -- has led to the development and elaboration of an array of procedures, a range and variety of techniques and methods that have been developed for exploring the puzzling and irrational aspects of human experience. It is not a matter of fundamental rules, of interpretive strictures with "parameters", etc. but of an multiplicity of methods to address an array of problems and issues.

Freud himself was more open on this point than he has often been credited with being. It is not merely that his own practice was fluid and idiosyncratic (Roazen, 1995; Lohser & Newton, 1996), he was tentative and cautious in prescribing technique for others. Moreover, he was explicit when he did write about the "rules" of treatment that he considered them "recommendations": "The extraordinary diversity of the psychical constellations concerned, the plasticity of all mental process and the wealth of determining factors oppose any mechanization of the technique." (Freud, 1913, p. 123).

What I believe we are rediscovering, in short, is that the essential work of psychoanalysis -- even before we introduce the complication of applied psychoanalysis -- is inherently problematic. The work of exploring the unknown aspects of human experience -- what has been disavowed, obscured, repressed, forgotten, displaced, dissociated, avoided, reframed, etc. etc. etc. -- the work of helping patients and clients to regain their capacity to think about the parts of their experience with which they are not in touch -- cannot be embodied in any particular set of theories or techniques. It can only be embodied in the role of the analyst. And by this I do not mean role in the sense of a part in a play, a costume, a set of lines, mannerisms, characteristic gestures, and so forth. I mean role in the sense of clarity of task, a secure grasp of the job to be performed.

As this view of psychoanalysis emerges more and more clearly, there is more interest in the analytic stance, in attempting to define how to live and work with highly charged uncertainty. Ghent (1990) has commented on the frequency with which Keats’ famous lines on "negative capability" has been cited in our literature to describe this clinical competency: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason." (Keats, 1958, I, 193)

It is Bion’s citation of these lines to describe the ideal analytic stance in Attention and Interpretation (1970) that is most frequently noted, though Ghent himself does not cite Bion. [Rosen (1960), Leavy (1970), and Beres (1980) all appear to have seized upon those lines even earlier.] Bion linked it to his idea that the analyst should be "without memory or desire," which is, in itself a gloss on Freud’s (1912) recommendation of evenly suspended attention. Symington (1996) argues that this is not to be taken literally, but more as an indication that, as in Buddhist meditation, the analyst must not be attached to his memory of or desires for the patient -- or his own theories or previous hypotheses. They will be present but not governing his responses.

Such attempts to define a clinical stance of openness contrast with a number of observations suggesting that no matter how prepared the analyst may attempt to be to receive the unknown, he will nonetheless make mistakes. Here the stress is on having the flexibility to recover and refind one’s bearings. As Levenson (1972) put it: "the ability to be trapped, immersed and participating in the system and then to work his way out." (p. 174)

It would be way past the scope of this paper to attempt to summarize the burgeoning literature on how the analyst can cope with uncertainty, confusion, and collusion in the analytic setting. Frankly, I think we can ill afford to ignore any of it. It would be even more impossible to survey the various techniques and strategies that have been developed in the various fields of applied psychoanalytic practice. I suggest that we simply take for granted that most such techniques have some value at some times and that none work at all times. Here I think nothing need be or should be ruled out.

The key issue is not how should the applied psychoanalyst work, what strategies or states of mind can be useful. The question is what is it that these various strategies or techniques aim to accomplish? What does the analyst have to accomplish to succeed at his task.

What follows is a beginning attempt to anatomize the task, to develop a theory about the praxis of a psychoanalytic orientation, whether in psychotherapy, group or organizational work -- or some form of three, four, or five times a week psychoanalysis proper. I believe we can identify three parts:

1) The task of identifying the unknown, that which needs to become known, the area or location of work.

2) The role of anxiety as the guardian, so to speak, of that which is being kept unknown.

3) The creation of the mental reflective space required for its emergence.


From the start, this has to be discriminated from the unconscious or that which was in psychoanalysis, historically, the locus classicus of the unknown. Clearly, to the extent to which the dynamic unconscious is still a viable idea, it too is an area of the unknown. But the unconscious is this original sense was essentially about that which was formerly conscious or immanently conscious and then rendered forcibly or actively unconscious. In this view, the work of psychoanalysis was to undo the mental activity that kept an idea or representation from re-entering consciousness.

The emergent alternative view is that psychoanalysis aims at enlarging the capacity to engage the fullness and complexity of current reality, to enhance openness to new experience, not simply recover old experience. Once the psychoanalyst has taken the patient to the point where particular repressions, scotoma, denials and so forth have been over come, and the mind has been freed of its repetitive ruminations over what it is afraid to face, or its compulsive need to hang on to what its believes it knows, it becomes able to truly question the unknown that is actually there.

There is a parallel shift in aim, from reconstructions of the past, interpretations aimed at helping patients grasp the story of their lives, the sequence of events that have shaped who they have become, to current realities. The shift is away from narrative altogether. The patient as a character in his story becomes an object to himself. The patient in the living moment is an inquiring subject. As Gardner (1983) put it: "We are always asking questions. Our questions are always in search of other questions, and of the questions of others." (p. 45)

There is a comparable shift in the notion of transference. Instead of thinking of transference as, in Freud’s term, "new editions" of old experiences, transference tends now to be seen as evocations of old experiences in response to troubling or problematic experiences in the present. The reconstruction can be useful, but uncovering or clarifying the present will often be more so. Gill (1982) has taken the lead in developing this notion of transference, but he made it into a new alternative dogma about technique. In his work, the analysis of transference became the defining method of psychoanalysis -- in my view, not a means to an end.

Bion’s (1970) notion of "O" is probably the best known expression of the idea in psychoanalysis that our ultimate aim is to approach the full, rich, infinite complexity of actual experience, a complexity that remains finally elusive. But interpersonalists have also embraced this perspective. Levenson (1983) has made the point forcefully: "The larger and wider the patient’s perspective, the better equipped he is to live in the real world; not the neat, contained, nursery world of hermeneutic doctrine, but the wider, infinitely more erratic, and perplexing world in which we meet and discover ourselves in each other." (p. 164) Or, more succinctly: "One hopes to enlarge the patient, not ‘shrink’ him." (p. 12)


There are reasons why the unknown is kept at bay in the present, reasons derived from old experience. If the notion of the dynamic unconscious is less viable as the locus of repressed impulses, it is none the less true that there are dynamic processes that actively work to screen our perceptions and curtail our activities in order to protect us from encountering what past experience has made us afraid to know. Anxiety, Freud argued, is the warning signal of remembered danger that invokes these dynamic processes.

But the unknown itself is a source of fear. We may be able to contemplate the vastness of space with awe, for example, but when we actually venture into it we become acutely aware of needing to know more than we do. Our relation to the unknown places demands upon us to know what we cannot know. We may call this fear, to differentiate it from anxiety, but I do not think that clinically it is possible to discriminate the two. Indeed it may be that the two become inextricably bound together, much as medieval map makers placed monsters in the midst of unexplored seas. When we are afraid of what we do not know, we start to become more afraid of what we know enough to fear.

The crucial point here is that it is the presence of anxiety or fear that helps us to locate the areas of the unknown that require exploration. There are a number of theories of anxiety, linked to various explanatory concepts and theoretical orientations. Unquestionably there are different sources of anxiety. But, whatever the sources, we may think of anxiety as the final common pathway, communicating danger to the mind, or, as Levenson (1983) has suggested, an "index of helplessness." (p. 157) That is, it is the indication that we are in the presence of something we must arouse ourselves to recognize and struggle to understand.

Sometimes this is quite straightforward: anxiety states, physical stress, phobias, and so forth identify points of inquiry. Other times, questions about one’s behavior point in the direction of the anxiety: repetitive patterns of failure direct us to the particulars of individual experience where anxiety is present. But sometimes the anxiety itself is quite successfully masked: Sudden shifts in attention, discrepancies in narration, illogical deductions, and so forth, are all signs for the astute clinicians that anxiety is being avoided. Something is amiss.

"Negative capability" -- "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason." (Keats, 1958, I, 193) -- is precisely the ability to tolerate anxiety and fear, to stay in the place of uncertainty in order to allow for the emergence of new thoughts or perceptions. But other stances can be useful too: humor, confusion, confrontation -- and, even, "irritable reaching after fact and reason" -- can be useful clues to the presence of anxiety, if one can stand back from the experience and reflect as to what clues it might be providing.


To "stand back," though, requires something analogous to a space in which to move. In an analytic treatment, the patient has to recover or develop the capacity to think about what has previously not been available for thought. For this to happen, a "opening" has to occur in the mind within which the new potential for thinking can occur.

I don’t mean this literally. "Space" here is a metaphor, but one of those "metaphors" -- in Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) felicitous phrase -- "we live by." It is where "perspective" can develop or "reflection" can occur. If we can "stand back" from an immediate experience, we are creating something that can be thought of as a "distance" allowing a new relationship between experience and thought. Or we can think of it in terms of time: a delay or a pause occurs between the act and the thought, a caesura, which makes it possible for the patient to listen and hear or feel himself in a new way.

This space originates in the relationship between the analyst and the patient, that is in a mutual activity that replays and reexamines what has occurred and what is occurring so that it can be seen in a new way. As Arlow (in Raymond & Rosbrough-Reich, 1997) recently put it: "We cause the patient to reflect upon his productions in the same manner as we have been reflecting upon his productions." (p.42)

Some have written as if this space must exist in the analyst. And, indeed, the analyst has to be capable of it. But the key point is that the space has to come to exist in the patient. There are a number of psychoanalytic concepts which refer to this notion: The "therapeutic alliance" (Zetzel, 1956) refers to the pre-conditions for such space to be created within the patient analyst relationship. Winnicott’s "transitional space," of course, refers to it directly, as Kohut’s notion of empathy indirectly implies it. The concept of the "observing ego" presupposes a space from which to observe.

There is an implicit theory of mind in this idea of space, a theory which we might also say belongs to psychoanalysis, but that certainly has been promoted by it. Westen’s (1998) recent discussion of the scientific standing of key psychoanalytic concepts highlights two that are of particular relevance: the idea of unconscious mental functions, which produce behaviors inexplicable to the subject, and the idea of parallel mental processes that can simultaneously produce conflicting feelings and motivations. This is a rudimentary theory, to be sure, and one subject to amplification and modification. Yet such theories point to what it is that is kept apart in thinking that requires the space to come together.


Let me give a few examples, first an example from my analytic practice, then one from my consulting work.

Rose was referred to me by a colleague of mine, an analyst who was treating a man with whom she had been carrying on a lengthy affair. She had demanded -- and received -- several joint sessions with her lover in order, presumably, to improve that relationship. Subsequently, to free himself of her continuing demands for those joint sessions, with his analyst’s assistance, he conceived of making the referral to me. She agreed to it, I believe in part, because she had the fantasy that her lover’s analyst and I would be in communication with each other. In this way, she believed, she could continue the joint sessions with him: she would influence me, I would influence my colleague, and he would influence her lover. But it was also true that she wanted help understanding her lover and what was happening in the often stormy relationship. And there was moments of quite considerable anxiety.

It immediately became apparent that Rose needed double sessions. She spoke with such intensity and such detail that 45 minutes simply wasn’t enough time in which to shape a satisfactory encounter between us. She was not circumstantial or repetitive; indeed, she spoke effectively and logically. Then, after a few weeks, it became apparent that we would not be able to schedule regular appointments. Again, this did not seem evasive or manipulative on her part, but based on the reality that she ran a firm that required not only many meetings with clients, often rescheduled at the last minute, but also many trips out of town. I accomodated as best I could.

Rose was a very successful woman. She was currently married to her second husband, with whom she had two children, and she was president and chief stockholder of a firm in a highly competitive industry. She had many friends, was active socially, and physically; in her youth, she had been a highly successful competitive runner. She was intelligent, energetic, and attractive, priding herself on not only her drive and successes but also her caring and thoughtful nature with her many friends and colleagues. She came from a family of high achievers, and she saw herself as part of that tradition.

What rather quickly emerged in the treatment was that beneath her ebullient and energetic manner, Rose was haunted by fears of abandonment. Subject to panic attacks that terrified her, she clung to relationships that seemingly promised reassurance and stability, though her anxiety often precluded her using good judgement in chosing and developing those relationships and they were profoundly influenced, as you might imagine, by patterns of early relationships with her parents. She also kept herself perpetually busy and, as a result, in contact with others and seldom alone. The hectic schedule contained her anxiety.

We developed rather rapidly a good therapeutic relationship. Having built a bridge of contacts from her lover to his analyst to me, feeling supported in this fantasied matrix, she found in me someone who adapted to her. That is, in providing double sessions and adjusting her times to suit the hectic demands of her work life, I think she became rather quickly assured that I would not abandon her. Having, then, together created a safe-enough environment against her fear of abandonment, we were able to work: I was able to point out to her how driven her life seemed to be by this fear -- and she was gradually able to see how pervasive and controlling that fear was.

Obviously here I can’t describe our work in any detail, but with her primary anxiety contained by our relationship she was more and more able, from that vantage point, to examine her other relationships: with her husband, employees, friends, as well as her lover. The psychic space opened up within her -- much as the safe space had developed between us -- within which she could tolerate an exploration of what had remained until now as the great unknowns in her patterns of relationship.

About a year after we started our work, her lover surprized her by giving her a piece of jewelery she had always coveted. Knowing for some time she had wanted it and refraining from giving it to her, it had become a sign of his unwillingness to make a committment to her. In giving it to her now he was clearly signaling his deeper level of engagement in the relationship. But the bigger surprize to her in receiving the gift was how cold and suspicious it left her feeling towards him. She understood clearly the meaning of the signal he was sending, but she said, "I felt a wall inside."

Her recognition of this "wall" was a turning point in the treatment because, of course, the wall was not only present in her relationship with her lover; it was a constant feature of all relationships of any depth. Clearly, her internal defense against the fear of abandonment, erected at an early age, it was the means she used to try to keep any attachment from getting too intense and important to her. But her recognition of the wall was also important because it marked a significantly enlarged capacity to gaze within and reflect on her own experience. Up to this point in the treatment, she had become increasingly aware of the anxiety she was restless defending against in her attachments to others, but the danger was always without. With the wall she could see for the first time how her own behavior stood in the way of her getting what she wanted.

My second example is about a consultation I did for an academic department within a professional school of a large mid-west university. I was hired by the chair who had been brought in to run the department a year before the consultation. It had been a difficult year for him, but he had steadfastly held to his determination not to make any significant moves in the department, apart from the necessary hirings and essential administrative business, until he had been there a year and understood the department better. Now a retreat had been scheduled with the department faculty and he asked me to run it.

In talking with him it was quickly established that there had been strife ever since the department had been created several years before by merging several smaller departments. Much of it seemed petty: allocations of support staff time, TA’s, supplies. There was a major on-going battle of several years duration about the use of one of the bathrooms. Feelings ran high. It seemed that the old departments never acquiesced to their shot-gun marriage, with the result that they could agree on virtually nothing. An aggressive new Dean who came to the school two years before had brought in the new Chair to set things straight. Now the Chair was bringing me in.

Two things seemed pretty clear to be from the start: first, the Chair was quite anxious about the department. He had a sterling record in research but little experience managing a strifetorn department. I suspected that his aloof first year in role, while superficially plausible as a means of gathering data for understanding the department, actually masked his fear of engaging the problem. Indeed, after a year, he had very few ideas to offer.

The second thing was that the department was also suffused with anxiety. On one level the old animosities concerned fears over who was going to profit from the merger. But, more deeply, I came to believe, was their anxiety over the future: What did the new Dean have in mind for them? Why had she hired this Chair? What was the real agenda?

So her first year on the job was a kind of stand-off, I suspected, in which both parties eyed the other suspiciously. The purpose of this retreat was to effect a rapprochement.

My plan was to put them into their original pre-merger configuration -- following some introductory work -- in order to discuss among themselves what they had lost and gained from the merger. An additional sub-group was composed of those, including the Chair, who had joined the Department since the merger; their task was to explore their perceptions of the department they had joined. There was some resistance to this plan -- less, actually, than I anticipated -- and then a lively engagement in sub-groups with the task I had set.

The report out was extremely animated, as I had hoped, and got the expression of the conflicts down to a more basic level than the familiar fighting over secretaries and the bathroom. They were able to speak not only of their animosities but also of their sense of loss and displacement, and they were able, as well, to speak of their worries about the future. And then, unexpectedly, a former Chair, who was something of an elder statesman in the Department, stood up and spoke bitterly about how the current Chair had made himself unavailable since his arrival. He felt he didn’t really care about the Department or the students, that he was only interested in his research, etc. Essentially, he accused him of being the source of the previous year’s dissension.

After an anxious pause, in which it was not clear he would respond, he rose to his defense: he reminded the faculty that he had adhered to the policy announced on his arrival of not acting definitively the first year and that, contrary to the accusation, he cared a great deal for the department and had, indeed, succeeded in a getting several faculty lines approved by the Dean. Then, angrily, he pointed out how few members of the Department had approached him in the past year. His door was open, but few had come in. He felt isolated by them.

Up until this point, what had happened in the retreat was a recapitulation of the issues along with a retracing of the dynamic pattern of anxieties and defenses riddling the Department. Putting them back into their original configurations allowed them to feel safe, building up the case against the other factions while projecting into them their resentments and fears -- much as they had for several years. Reporting out made it possible for each faction to see how much the other reflected back themselves; that is, far from being the enemy who was seeking to take things away or wrest control, each faction was able to see the other as wrestling with essentially the same problems as themselves. This created the potential for dialogue, but deprived them of their familiar projective defenses.

At this point, the former chair became the vehicle for identifying the new projective target, the new Chair, against whom all factions could now unite, feeling equally aggrieved. He, in turn, unleashed his resentment and anger at them. In doing so, he aggressively came out of his office, so to speak, not only overcoming for the moment his own anxieties about the role into which he had been cast and defensive isolation but also no longer allowing himself to be the receptacle for their hostile projections. His reply was cogent and effective. Suddenly, they could no longer use each other for their familiar projections. They had become too real.

It took awhile for the entire group to put out its feelings and settle down, but with this last exchange the essential task of creating the psychic space within the group had been accomplished, enabling it to step back from the positions in which it had been locked. From this point on, the group worked surprising quickly to put together a representative task force that was to work with the Chair to develop a new administrative structure for the Department, to which I was to consult, with a mandate to report back to the faculty as a whole in six months.

I am tempted to go on describing the fate of this extended consultation, illustrating the unremitting struggle with anxieties and defenses against anxiety in order continually to open up psychic spaces for reflection. But I would like to make a final point. As I came to learn in the course of the ensuing year, the big unknown that loomed over the Department was its future in the School that was being reshaped by the Dean. There was a real question about future role of the Department, a question that was not only obscured by the Department’s internal wrangling but which also required, I think, its concerted, best efforts to address. At this point, I am not sure that the Department has reached the point of being able to see that.

Let me briefly recapitulate. Although in both of these cases I used a great many psychoanalytic concepts, the common ground was in the essential method to restore the capacity to think, a method that employed a number of divergent strategies. With Rose, I was extremely mindful of the impact of early experience on her current relationships, including his relationship to me. With the academic department, I employed not only Bion’s notions of "basic assumptions" but also a variety of work that has been done on the phenomenon of the scapegoat and group relations. But while these core ideas were useful -- even indispensable -- I used them to guide me in creating circumstances where, taking my cue from current anxieties, largely manifested in defensive behaviors, a space for reflection could be opened up, leading to new thoughts.


Perhaps it appears that in seeking to find the common ground in psychoanalytic practice I have discarded most of what is valuable and interesting. As I said, this is a reductionistic exercise. Moreover, in attempting to clarify the essential aspects of psychoanalytic work I have left out vast territories of theory and practice -- indeed, most of what I find stimulating and engaging myself.

But the effort is worth the risk, I believe, because currently we are unable to say what it is that defines us as psychoanalysts or psychoanalytically-oriented practitioners. There are consequences for that, internally and externally. Internally, without clarity about the nature of the work we engage in, we are hampered in thinking about training and continuing professional development. Externally, we cannot clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition. Unable to do that, we are not only hampered in defending ourselves against attack but also unable to state cogently what it is we have to offer that sets us apart. The public is understandably confused.

We have many things to offer, of course. But if we could agree on some such central definition of our essential work as I am proposing, we could not only present ourselves to the world more clearly and convincingly, we might also be able to fight less among ourselves. We could, then, compete at trying to do it better.


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