Psychoanalytic approach in terms of historic perspective
“One might almost believe that half of our thinking takes place unconsciously…” Such words could belong to Sigmund Freud, but they belong to another outstanding personality, philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who died long before Freud introduced his famous theories. Admittedly the essence of the importance of human unconsciousness was considered long before the early XX century. According to Fiske et al. (2010) it is possible to admit that the first written mentioning of the “possibility of unconscious psychological processes” is dated as far as the third century AD by Plotinus, the Greek philosopher.
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However, the psychoanalytic approach started his development in the XX century and since then it was generally accepted and criticized heavily. Of course, many people succeeded in overcoming their problems with the help of this approach. Admittedly, psychoanalytic approach affected many areas of life and even individuals. Moreover, there can be no one (at least in the western culture) unaware of this approach and its major postulates. The paper considers the psychoanalytic approach tracing the history of its development, defining its main principles and contemporary techniques and theories, and it also reveals my personal evaluation of the approach.
Psychoanalytic approach evaluation in terms of its development and methodological peculiarities
Sigmund Freud theories and their development
Admittedly, psychoanalysis is one of the most disputable approaches in psychology and psychiatry. It is still criticized by many scholars and practitioners. However, it is still popular worldwide and it is considered to be an effective approach. In fact, the psychoanalytic approach is the most widely criticized among other approaches which study personality, but it still “raises questions that the rest of psychology sometimes ignores” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673). The creator of this approach is the well-known physician Sigmund Freud who believed that the adult life of people was determined by their childhood experiences. Moreover, he suggested that unconsciousness played an important role in different neurotic disorders.
This idea came into his mind when he was working with aphasic children. Thus, he published his first works and continued his researches in this field. Later he defined the exclusive role of dreams in understanding of possible reasons for disorders. He was determined that dreams were just symbols sent by unconsciousness for interpretation. Later he introduced his famous “structural theory” which later marked the development of several theories (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 672). These theories were developed by the so-called neo-Freudians, “Alfred Adler, Carl Jung, Erick Erickson, and Karen Horney” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 672). The most famous of these theories were Ego psychology (developed by Bleuler, Kernberg, Hartmann), Object relations theory (developed by Frosch, Mahler, Erikson), Lacanian psychoanalysis (Lacan), Modern psychoanalysis (Spotnitz) and many others.
The main postulates of psychoanalytic theory
Admittedly, there are “five key postulates of psychoanalytic theory” which are generally accepted (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673). The first postulate is concerned with the understanding that people “may do or think things that they do not themselves understand” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673). The second postulate states that human mind operates several mental processes simultaneously, such “parallel processing” causes different “conflicting thoughts and behavioral impulses” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673).
The third postulate is concerned with the importance of the early experiences which determine the further life of an individual. The fourth postulate says that “social interactions are shaped by psychological representations of the self, others, and relationships” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673). Finally, the fifth postulate is concerned with the understanding that “an individual moves from immaturity and dependence on others to maturity and independence” (Fiske et al., 2010, p. 673). Thus, these five postulates reveal the essence of psychoanalytic approach defining its main purpose to make unconsciousness revealed via people consciousness. In its turn, this enables people to overcome their mental and emotional difficulties.
Basic assumptions about human functioning
Many physicians believe that the most important reflection of the human inner world and human functioning is expressing different emotions. For instance, Safran and Greenberg (1991) point out the exclusive role of emotions in human functioning. Thus, Safran and Greenberg (1991) define three basic assumptions about human functioning. The first basic assumption is that people are “fundamentally motivated toward growth and wholeness, toward developing their full potential” (Safran and Greenberg, 1991, p. 197).
The second basic assumption, according to Safran and Greenberg (1991) is that people can trace their present state, they can be aware of their physical and emotional state. The third assumption about human functioning is that “in working with affectively toned experiences, it is important for the therapist to respond differentially to different” clients emotions and reactions (Safran and Greenberg, 1991, p. 200). These assumptions are very important in terms of consulting and treating clients since the therapist can perceive the slightest changes in emotions and lead the client to the essence of the problem.
The peculiarities of contemporary psychoanalytic approach
The contemporary psychoanalytic approach is different from the initial Freudian approach. At the moment it is not concerned with the past only. Modern therapy presupposes appealing to the past and the present (Corey, 2007, p.122). Thus, therapists transfer the client from his/her childhood to the recent event, and then shift the client back to the past. Admittedly, this is the most comprehensive approach which gives the thorough depiction of all clients’ experiences. Nowadays it is generally accepted that not only childhood affects client’s unconsciousness and consciousness.
Apart from this change the contemporary psychoanalytic approach often seeks for empirical evidence. Thus, therapists try not to be confined to their original data, but collect “further empirical data – for example, from questionnaires or frequencies from coding systems” (Dreher, 2000, p.14). Besides, it is necessary to add that the contemporary therapy is aimed at the group consulting, rather than individual therapy. According to Corey (2007) the group therapy is more effective since there are a lot of techniques which enable the therapist and individuals to find out the reason of their disorders or anxiety. The points stated beyond differentiate the contemporary therapy from the past psychoanalytic treatment.
A critical evaluation of the theoretical approach
As far as I am concerned the psychoanalytic approach can be called one of the most effective and comprehensive. It reveals the most ambiguous issue, however, making them quite logic. For instance, one of the psychoanalytic postulates states that people can sometimes fail to understand some of their thoughts and behavioral patterns. To illustrate such interesting phenomena it is possible to mention a girl that always screams and throws away everything she can hold in her hands whenever she is frightened.
When she is asked about the reasons why she acts like that, she fails to respond. She cannot explain. However, the answer is in her unconsciousness. Of course, it is necessary to admit that Freudian theories based on childhood experiences and sexuality has some weak points. Thus, I support the main techniques and postulates of the contemporary psychoanalytic approach. An individual can obtain some negative (or even positive) experience which can affect his/her further life. Thus, not only early experiences are essential.
For instance, there are many children who like swimming in their early years and only when they become adults they start being afraid of water. It means that an individual had some experience which made him afraid of swimming far after his childhood. Admittedly, people are developing throughout their entire lives. One more point I would like to add is that I agree with practitioners who pay a lot of attention to emotions. To my mind, emotions do reveal the inner world of an individual. In order to understand the reason of some difficulties it is necessary to discuss everything and mind the slightest change in emotions. They are the key to any problem solution.
Evaluation of this theoretical approach in terms of personal preferences
The modern society has become quite concerned with psychoanalysis issues. Thus, different media discusses lots of such problems. For instance, lots of movies about mental disorders and psychoanalysis were made. Besides, it is very often when newspapers articles depict some stories about mental diseases, crimes committed affective state, etc. Of course, many people are now involved in the discussion which can to some extent deal with psychoanalysis.
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As far as I am concerned, it is quite difficult to define when it was the first time that I thought of unconsciousness or psychoanalysis. To my mind, any person tries to understand what is going on in his/her own mind or soul. Even children sometimes try to interpret their own ideas, thoughts and dreams. For example, there is even a kind of a handbook of child’s contemplations about her own inner world which is, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Thus, psychoanalysis becomes a Cheshire Cat in each individual’s Wonderland.
Thus, I believe that the psychoanalytic approach is very effective in studying personality. To my mind, initially, an individual is self-developing due to some inner resources and only after this some social pattern and issues affect him/her. In fact, this approach is very effective for diverse population since it is concerned with inner individual’s world, not the social or cultural aspects which affect him/her. There is no big difference in people from different cultures if they are treated by the psychoanalytic approach. Every individual has his/her own thoughts, fears, emotions which have little to do with the outer world. Thus, this approach gives a great opportunity to find the reasons for this or that problem in any individual.
The psychoanalytic approach is very effective for studying personality
In conclusion it is necessary to state that the psychoanalytic approach has a long story. During the last 100 years this approach was developing. Many findings were made after Freud first introduced his theory. Thus, now psychoanalysis is not confined to the past and sexuality. Contemporary therapists make use of the past and present in treating clients. Moreover, it is also accepted that emotions play a great role in terms of this approach. These main points which characterize the modern psychoanalytic approach make me admit the effectiveness of this approach which I evaluate positively. Thus, it is possible to assume that psychoanalysis is very effective due to its individual oriented principles which enables therapist help their clients (even diverse groups) to overcome their mental and emotional disorders.
Corey, Gerald. (2007). Theory and Practice of Group Counseling. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Dreher, Anna Ursula. (2000). Foundations for Conceptual Research in Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac Books.
Fiske, Susan T., Gilbert, Daniel T., Lindzey, Gardner. (2010). Handbook of Social Psychology, 5th Edition, Volume One. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
Safran, Jeremy D., Greenberg, Leslie S. (1991). Emotion, Psychotherapy, and Change. New York, NY: Guilford Press.