A Theory of Mind
The Human Conversation—Embracing complexity, Understanding below the surface.
Psychoanalysis arose from an appreciation of the power of people talking directly to one another about questions that matter and issues that are difficult to understand. As human beings are built for communication, we aim to understand, and be understood. When reading the news, interacting on social media, or in everyday conversation, many of us seek to understand “what motivates people?”. And many of us are asking why people behave counter to their own interests.
Historical, political and economic explanations provide important insight into the irrationality of everyday life. Psychoanalysis, however, offers another perspective.
In examining what lies beneath the surface of human behavior, psychoanalysis teaches us about the unconscious psychological forces within us outside of everyday awareness.
Psychoanalysis, in providing multi-layered and multi-dimensional explanations, seeks to understand complexity.
How Psychoanalytic Treatment Works
Psychoanalytic treatment is based on the idea that people are frequently motivated by unrecognized wishes and desires that originate in one’s unconscious.
These can be identified through the relationship between patient and analyst. By listening to patients’ stories, fantasies, and dreams, as well as discerning how patients interact with others, psychoanalysts offer a unique perspective that friends and relatives might be unable to see. The analyst also listens for the ways in which these patterns occur between patient and analyst. What is out of the patient’s awareness is called, “transference” and out of the analyst’s awareness is called “countertransference”.
Talking with a trained psychoanalyst helps identify underlying problematic patterns and behaviors. By analyzing the transference and countertransference, analyst and patient, can discover paths toward the emotional freedom necessary to make substantive, lasting changes, and heal from past traumas.
Typically, psychoanalysis involves the patient coming several times a week and communicating as openly and freely as possible. While more frequent sessions deepen and intensify the treatment, frequency of sessions is worked out between the patient and analyst.
The couch, which has become so intertwined with the public image of psychoanalysis, is no longer required. While many analysts and patients find that the couch is beneficial and helps patients relax and be more open, others feel a face-to-face arrangement works better for them. Read this article about the history, benefits as well as disadvantages of the couch in psychoanalytic treatment.
About Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Sometimes also called psychodynamic psychotherapy, this treatment method is based on the theory and technique of psychoanalysis. The primary difference is that the patient and analyst meet less frequently, sometimes only once a week. As with psychoanalysis, the frequency of sessions can be customized to the needs of the patient. Another difference is that the patient usually sits upright and opposite the therapist, rather than reclining on a couch with the therapist out of view.
Other than these differences, psychoanalytic psychotherapy is very much like analysis in its use of free association, the importance placed on the unconscious, and the centrality of the patient-therapist relationship.
About Applied Psychoanalysis
Applied psychoanalysis describes the practice of using psychoanalytic theories and methods to explain social, cultural and political phenomena and has been going on since psychoanalysis first began.
Applied psychoanalysis takes the search for meaning and motivations outside of the doctor’s office, using psychoanalytic principles to make sense of the world.
Psychoanalysts have been known to work as consultants in community settings, such as schools, businesses and corporations.
The connection between neuroscience and psychoanalysis goes back to Sigmund Freud, who was a neuroscientist and neurologist by training. It was Freud’s interest in the workings of the brain and the mind that led to the development of psychoanalytic theory.
The great advances in neuroscience since Freud’s day have led to a better understanding of how the brain -- and the mind – works leading neuroscientists to explore topics that have usually been considered psychoanalytic in nature, such as memory, repression, and dreams. Neuropsychoanalysis creates a mutually beneficial dialogue between the two fields.