freud


Psychoanalysis is a system of psychology originated by the Viennese physician Sigmund FREUD in the 1890\'s and then further developed by himself, his students, and other followers. It consists of three kinds of related activities: (1) a method for research into the human mind, especially inner experiences such as thoughts, feelings, emotions, fantasies, and dreams; (2) a systematic accumulation of a body of knowledge about the mind; and (3) a method for the treatment of psychological or emotional disorders.


Psychoanalysis began with the discovery that HYSTERIA, an illness with physical symptoms that occurred in a completely healthy physical body--such as a numbness or paralysis of a limb or a loss of voice or a blindness--could be caused by unconscious wishes or forgotten memories. (Hysteria is now commonly referred to as conversion disorder.) The French neurologist Jean Martin CHARCOT tried to rid the mind of undesirable thoughts through hypnotic suggestion, but without lasting success. Josef Breuer, a Viennese physician, achieved better results by letting Anna O., a young woman patient, try to empty her mind by just telling him all of her thoughts and feelings.

Freud refined Breuer\'s method by conceptualizing theories about it and, using these theories, telling his patients through interpretations what was going on inside the unconscious part of their minds, thus making the unconscious become conscious. Many hysterias were cured this way, and in 1895, Breuer and Freud published their findings and theories in Studies in Hysteria.

CLASSIC PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY

Traditional psychoanalytical theory states that all human beings are born with instinctual drives that are constantly active even though a person is usually not conscious of thus being driven. Two drives--one for sexual pleasure, called libido, the other called aggression--motivate and propel most behavior. In the infant, the libido first manifests itself by making sucking an activity with pleasurable sensations in the mouth. Later similar pleasures are experienced in the anus during bowel movements, and finally these erotically tinged pleasures are experienced when the sexual organ is manipulated. Thus psychosexual development progresses
from the oral through the anal to the phallic stage. (Phallic, in psychoanalytic theory, refers to both male and female sexual organs.)

During the height of the phallic phase, about ages three to six, these libidinous drives focus on the parent of the opposite sex and lend an erotic cast to the relation between mother and son or between father and daughter, the so-called Oedipus COMPLEX. However, most societies strongly disapprove of these sexual interests of children. A TABOO on incest rules universally. Parents, therefore, influence children to push such pleasurable sensations and thoughts out of their conscious minds into the unconscious by a process called repression. In this way the mind comes to consist of three parts: (1) an executive part, the EGO, mostly conscious and comprising all the ordinary thoughts and functions needed to direct a person in his or her daily behavior; (2) the id, mostly unconscious and containing all the instincts and everything that was repressed into it; and (3) the superego, the conscious that harbors the values, ideals, and prohibitions that set the guidelines for the ego and that punishes through the imposition of guilt feelings.

Strong boundaries between the three parts keep the ego fairly free from disturbing thoughts and wishes in the id, thereby guaranteeing efficient functioning and socially acceptable behavior. During sleep the boundaries weaken; disturbing wishes may slip into the ego from the id, and warnings may come over from the superego. The results are intrapsychic conflicts, often manifested in dreams (see DREAMS AND DREAMING), sometimes even in frightening NIGHTMARES. Freud elucidated this concept in his first major work, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900; Eng. trans., 1913). Something very similar to the weakening of boundaries during sleep sometimes happens during ordinary daytime activities when some impulses from the id manages to cross the repression barrier to invade the ego and cause faulty actions such as slips of the tongue. Psychoneurotic symptoms occur if psychologically hurtful experiences during childhood have left the repression too weak or have distorted the ego, or if overstimulation has left the id wishes too strong, or if the delicate balance between ego, id, and superego has been upset by injury or other events. Any kind of psychic trauma may lead to the ego becoming an area of intrapsychic conflict between the