What is Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is the name given to the theory of mind developed originally by Sigmund Freud, a theory which has had and continues to have an enormous impact on culture and intellectual life. Although there has been considerable development in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis since Freud’s day, certain key ideas have retained their place and vitality within the theory.
- the discovery that there are large aspects of our psychological functioning which, though having a profound determining effect upon us, are largely hidden, that is, they are unconscious
- the recognition of the ubiquity of unconscious conflict
- the understanding that when human beings become involved in relationships with others, they bring to those relationships ‘templates’ derived from early childhood situations and transfer them into the current situation, that is they form transferences
- the recognition of the centrality of sexuality and aggression in mental life and that important aspects of this are laid down in childhood
Psychoanalysis has shown itself to have very broad relevance and finds a home in many diverse contexts including art, literature, philosophy, politics, sociology and film studies. It has made seminal contributions to the understanding of cultural phenomena such as group functioning, institutional process, and wider socio-cultural phenomena such as paranoia and racism.
As a method of psychological help, psychoanalysis is based on the theory that early relationships with parents, childhood experiences of, love, loss, sexuality and death all lay down patterns in the mind which provide, as mentioned above, unconscious ‘templates’, which have enduring effects on psychological functioning and are the source of conflicts which can block development. Psychoanalysis provides a setting within which these unconscious patterns can be brought into awareness creating the possibility for a patient of being understood at a deep level, and so come to recognise the unconscious forces shaping his life and creating repetitive disturbing or empty relationships.
To a greater or lesser degree, everyone is affected by deep-seated unconscious, archaic relationships and conflicts and psychoanalysis can help free people to live their lives in a richer and more fulfilling way.