Psychoanalysis is a talk therapy used for treating mental trauma and it is said to be the origin of all psychotherapies. It is called a talk therapy because it uses talking instead of medication. It is theoretically extremely complex and has been revised many times over the years since its first conception in the late 1800’s. It takes 4 years + at post graduate level to train as a Psychoanalyst in Ireland.
A few basic factors that distinguish psychoanalysis from other therapies are that it involves free association, the aim is to make the unconscious conscious through the use of language and resolve unconscious conflicts.
Freud introduced the concepts of the ID The EGO and The SUPEREGO.
The ID represents other instinctual part of our personality, sometimes called our primitive mind. The ID is unconscious and made up of both inherited characteristics we are born with and learned characteristics which have been repressed.
the EGO is our concept of self,
The SUPEREGO which keeps the ego in check, involves setting ideals and observing if we follow them, it is like a judge that tells us what we should do, making us feel guilty when we don’t conform to the ideals. Unconscious conflict arises when our ‘shoulds’ are in conflict with our unconscious desires or wishes.
Psychoanalysis takes into account unconscious processes, unlike many of the behavioural therapies which deal with the consciously observable processes.
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that is based on psychoanalytic principles. The most striking difference between this and cognitive therapies is that psychoanalytic psychotherapy takes into account unconscious processes.
How many times have you known the logical step to take and yet actively done something else? How many of your friends, family or acquaintances wreck your head because they keep making the same mistakes (repetition compulsion) or because they ignore all advice and seem to repeat the illogical behaviour. Have you ever wanted something and not wanted it at the same time? Have you ever loved and hated somebody at the same time? Have you ever really wanted something and felt disappointed when you achieved it? These are all due to unconscious processes which fly in the face of the logic of conscious thought.
When there is a conflict between unconscious desires and conscious thought processes we experience anxiety. In other words when you find yourself doing what you feel you ‘should’ do. For example the student who is studying law because that is what their parents want, he feels ‘he should keep his parents happy’ or the person in a relationship with a person who they feel they ‘should’ love.
These are imperatives of the superego and largely what cause problems for the individual when they are in conflict with their unconscious desires. Cognitive therapies reinforce the conscious beliefs and give more reasons to support the should system. “I should be happy because I have everything”, “I should take the job offer because it pays better and has more security”, “I should work on my marriage because I have so much invested in it”. “I should be grateful for what I have when there are so many people who have nothing” Psychoanalytic psychotherapy on the other hand does not try and make us artificially happy and grateful.
Sigmund Freud was the first to highlight that when we have unresolved psychical conflict the symptom can appear on the body, that is we can have physical symptoms.
Although 100 years ago he had no way of verifying such an apparently outlandish idea, neuroscience has managed to identify and verify the links which Freud first alluded to.