The theory of psychoanalysis has developed for over a generation since its inception during the 20th century. The theory is accredited to Sigmund Freud who is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis. He laid a strong base on which psychoanalysts of the future would lay foundation and expound on the field as suggested by Sigmund. Donald Winnicott was a British pediatrician who studied babies and provided analytical theories describing the results of appropriate and inappropriate care giving. Edith Jacobson had a traumatizing experience when she was placed in the Nazi concentration camp at the height of Second World War.
Her experiences and that of her patients led her into modifying the instinctual drive theory that had been developed by Freud. Harry Stack Sullivan made comprehensive studies of the schizophrenics in the 1920s and concluded that psychopathology could be traced back to an individual’s interpersonal field of experiences. On another front, a contemporary psychoanalyst by the name Robert Stolorow holds the belief that both the experiences of the patient and the analyst should form the point of focus in the analysis.
This paper shall look at how the field of psychoanalysis has been shaping over the years ever since it was introduced as a branch of psychology by Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis as a psychological discipline has undergone numerous changes ever since Sigmund Freud made the classical explanation to the branch of psychology. Psychoanalysis has been able to develop from what was considered as a personal psychology to incorporate two people and then developed into the new multi-person experiential psychology. In the first instance, Freud ascribed psychological development to internal forces and drives within the body.
Winnicott, Jacobson, and Sullivan laid emphasis on the dual-person relations between individuals as important aspects in their analysis of patients. Stolorow has made major contributions in the development of modern day psychoanalysis through his focus on the analytical inquiry on experimental dynamics of the patient while adopting a multi-personal approach. What is of importance in all these approaches is that the analytical innovators have always referred to the theoretical framework developed by Sigmund Freud (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
Sigmund Freud was born in the year 1856 and is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis. He developed his theoretical framework on personality based on his clinical observations which enabled him to formulate three personality theories. He developed the topographic model; the genetic model; and the structural model with each of the models aspiring to explain the complications found in explaining human personality and the causes of usual and unusual psychosomatic functioning. The topographical model generally provided the map of the human mind.
According to Freud, the mind was composed of three spheres including the unconscious, preconscious, and the conscious. The unconscious part was described as that part of the brain which was composed of the feelings and ideas inaccessible to the experiential awareness. Only those ideas and feelings that were accessible to experiential awareness formed the preconscious realm of the mind. The conscious was described as the part of the mind in which immediate experiential awareness of the mind would be stored.
According to Mitchell and Black, (1995) “As his clinical experience grew, Freud realized that what was most crucial to a permanent removal of symptoms was for the objectionable, unconscious material to become generally accessible to normal consciousness” (p. 5). It must be noted that Sigmund Freud noted in his clinical observations that patients would exhibit what he called as defense which was responsible for keeping the unconscious feelings and ideas out of awareness (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). The genetic model referred to developmental stage theory which categorized the human instincts.
According to Freud, the biological instincts were vital in the psychological functioning of his patients. Sexual instincts in particular often referred to as drives were regarded as internal instincts demanding an external discharge. Such drives were found to concentrate in particular areas of the body as they waited to be discharged. The particular areas of the body better known as the erogenous zones were pre-eminent in accordance with the development stage of the child. The activity that involved the respective erogenous zone became the primary focus of an individual’s emotional life (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
In the structural model of personality, Sigmund Freud gave a detailed psychic map of the human mind. Freud believed that the mind was divided into three distinct parts known as the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id is the source of all human instincts and comprises of primeval desires and spontaneous energies that seek instant gratification. The ego regulates and controls the id desires whereas the super-ego is composed of the moral values and self critical attitudes imparted by the society through socialization.
Freud was of the view that humans were constantly struggling to strike a balance between the primitive impulses and the societal values (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). Sigmund Freud held the belief that a patient needed to be taken for an analysis so as to unlock unconscious dynamics that were responsible for the psychopathological incidences in the patients. Freud gave a classical approach to psychoanalysis. The fundamental method in classical psychoanalysis is to be found in the conveyance and conflict analysis of free association.
The patient is to be composed before being told to speak whatever that comes to his/her mind. Imaginations, hopes, desires, and fantasies are regarded as reflecting on earlier family life of the patient. The analyst has to simply listen to the patient only to make comments to give insight to the patient when need arises. While listening, the analyst is able to develop some empathic neutrality with the patient which is critical in the creation of a safe environment. According to Freud, the free association technique was responsible for bringing out vital information in the past life of the patient.
The analyst was regarded as an important figure in the previous life of the patient and during the interaction between the analyst and the patient; transference neurosis developed which referred to the patient’s attitudes and fantasies in regard to the analyst which are pivotal to the expression of critical themes and conflicts in the patient’s past. Sigmund was of the view that resolving these conflicts was crucial to the alleviation of the psychopathic symptoms (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). Object Relations by Winnicott:
The development of objection relations by Donald Woods Winnicott led to a unique two-person psychology as an independent school of psychoanalysis. Winnicott sought to challenge the Freudian concept which emphasized on the psychology of an individual. Winnicott laid emphasis on the relational dynamics of children and their respective mothers as major contribution to the development of the self. According to Winnicott, the level of emotional support the child got from the mother was influential in the child’s development of the self.
Children went through crucial stages of experience that was to be determined by expressive sensitivity of their mothers. During early stages in life, the child usually experience subjective omnipotence in which case the child gets whatever he/she wants. The child is then made to experience some moment of illusion that any of his/her wishes are accomplished by the mother. With time however, the mother withdraws from responsiveness to the child but in the context of the holding environment.
The environment allows for space where the child’s needs are met from the environment without the child having to realize. The mother at this time becomes less involved in the meeting of the child’s needs. The child discovers that his desires are not responsible for the creation of satisfaction but rather the mother’s response to his/her needs was the aspect that brought about the satisfaction. Over time, the child realizes about his/her illusions and he is able to leave them and realizes that he/she was only dependant on the mother (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
The child acknowledges that the desires are usually met by various individuals and that these individuals have their own private desires. The child developed an objective reality together with the subjective omnipotence. Winnicott described the objective reality as the awareness that the child was separate from the desired objects. Between the subjective omnipotence and objective reality lies the transitional object which according to Winnicott resembles neither of the two scenarios. The child looks for an object to get comfort when the responsiveness of the mother to the child’s needs diminishes.
Winnicott used the concept of object usage to elaborate on the experiences that the child goes through in which case aggressive tendencies become prominent during the transitional object phase. The mother’s response during the stage of object usage plays an instrumental role in the emotional development of the child. In case the child would get negative response from the mother in regard to usage of objects, then the child would be afraid of making maximum use of the objects and would develop neurotic inhibitions in adult life (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
Winnicott identified the responsiveness of the mother as crucial in the development of the self. He was of the view that the focus of psychoanalysis should be on the development of the self. The analyst in this case resembles the mother and the patient is the individual who missed on the responsiveness of ‘a good-enough’ mother. The analyst in this case assumes the roles of the responsive mother who the patient missed during early life development. The analyst therefore seeks to identify the particular desires of the patient.
The relational understanding of the patient’s self was the most important aspect during the therapeutic treatment (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). Ego Psychology by Edith Jacobson: Edith Jacobson (1897-1978) was an American psychoanalyst who was dedicated to revising the Sigmund Freud’s structural model of personality through the development of her own theoretical framework. She developed the instinctual drive theory to incorporate an interaction between the actual experiences and the drive development. According to Jacobson, biological drives were influenced by the previous experiences of caregivers.
She speculated that when the child’s early experiences were satisfying and healthy, then libidinal drives would be cultivated. On the contrary, when the child was frustrated during his/her earlier experiences, then the child would develop an aggressive drive which destroys the developmental process in the normal way. The childhood experiences were found to impact on the development of the self. It was established that normal self development occurred when the child is brought up by a mother who addressed the emotional needs of the child whereas a frustrated self develops when the mother was perceived as frustrating by the child.
Jacobson reinvented the Freud concept regarding the super-ego which according to Freud developed due to the castration anxiety that in the oedipal stage of development. Jacobson was of the view that the super-ego developed in the child as a result of experience with other individuals. Earlier childhood experiences with the mother affected the child’s socialization to refrain from certain behaviors leading to the development of the super-ego. Jacobson’s clinical approach required the patient to reconstruct the developmental history of the patient.
The inquiry of the patient’s past is considered in a conveyance manner between the patient and the analyst to establish a therapeutic correlation. It was believed that when patients unlocked their past developmental record through the conveyance was vital in the therapeutic process (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). Interpersonal Psychoanalysis by Harry Stack Sullivan: Harry Sack Sullivan (1892-1949) has been credited for advancing the interpersonal psychoanalysis. He believed that psychoanalysis was to focus on the previous interactions of the patient in an effort to unravel the psychopathological conditions that were manifested in patients.
He held that an individual’s personality was influenced by the lifelong interactions which commenced with the caregivers at infancy. Sullivan got interested specifically in the experiences of anxiety earlier on in life and he observed that in early life experiences, the child’s needs are met through integration tendencies which encompasses the need for satisfaction offered on a mutual basis. Sullivan believed that anxiety feeling was external and that some aspects of the anxiety in caregivers and key figures in the child’s earlier life were able to be transmitted to the child.
Thus the child would easily be affected by the anxiety in those individuals who are important in his/her early life (Mitchell, & Black, 1995). The child at this stage would perceive the primary caregivers as anxious or non anxious whereby the child generalized them as either good or bad mother. The child soon realizes that he/she can predict whether a good or bad mother was approaching based on the facial expressions, postural tensions, and vocal intonation.
As time goes by, the child then realizes that his/her own behavior was the one determining the ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of the mother and therefore starts to form the sense of self. According to Sullivan, the anxious state in the caregivers that was caused by the behavior of the child makes the child believe that he/she is the bad one. On the other hand, those behaviors and actions from the child which produced admiration and appreciation from the caregiver made the child develop a sense of ‘good me’ (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
Sullivan’s clinical approach emphasized on the individual’s sense of the self based on the interaction they had with the others. Thus his techniques involved seeking to increase awareness of how the self operated through probing questions and encouragement of the self-reflection. This was to enable observation, understanding and alteration of important and rapid sequences. It must be noted that Sullivan’s approach emphasized on the insight ad understanding as important aspects for change in the interpersonal psychoanalysis (Mitchell, & Black, 1995).
Inter-subjectivity-Modern Psychoanalysis: This is the most recent theoretical framework in the field of psychoanalysis. This model is better described as; The notion that the analyst and [the patient] can mutually shape the conscious and unconscious experience of the other. According to this view, the analyst can never be detached and purely objective observer; instead, he or she is constantly involved in a conscious and unconscious interplay of ideas as well as affective and symbolic communications” (Diamond & Marrone, 2003, p.
14). Dr. Robert Stolorow has been identified as the leading proponent of this approach and he integrates various concepts of object relations theoretical framework, ego psychology and interpersonal psychoanalysis. Stolorow however advances from the theoretical framework developed by others and argues that the whole experiential world of the patient should be analyzed in perspective as opposed to mere relations between the patient and another significant individual in the patient’s life (Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange, 2002).
He developed a clinical approach in which he identified three areas of focus in an inquiry which include emotional convictions, self reflexivity and reality. The analyst examines the embodiment of emotional convictions emanating from the patient’s historical experiences in the world. Stolorow considered these convictions to be unconscious and thus they were to be made conscious for an informed reflection and explanation. Through reflection and interpretation, the patient would be able to realize their sense of self as time goes by.
The analyst was required to be capable of indulging in self-reflexivity meaning that he was required to be aware of his perspective and prejudices in the clinical environment. Lastly, the inter-subjective inquiry required an aspect of reality whereby it is important for the analyst to consider the reality of the patient and to guard against overshadowing the patient’s reality with theirs. When the reality of the patient was considered, then the analyst was in a position to get the comprehensive picture of inter-subjectivity from the patient’s point of views thus facilitating a healthy diagnostic dialogue (Stolorow, Atwood, and Orange, 2002).
Conclusion: It is evident that there have been tremendous innovations in the psychoanalytic theoretical framework during the past century. Sigmund Freud is regarded as the father of psychoanalysis and he is credited for providing the theoretical and clinical base for the other psychoanalytic scholars who were to further the psychoanalysis branch of psychology. Each of the psychoanalytic scholars that were interested in Freud’s thinking and aspired to advance it in their own way has founded their clinical approaches on their experiences.
These scholars have included Winnicott, Jacobson, Sullivan and Stolorow. Psychoanalysis has gone through an evolution process starting as a one-person psychology, to a two-individual psychology and now is considered as a multi-people psychology. The future of psychoanalysis is set to broaden even further to incorporate the psychological, social and cultural dynamics of the individual during analysis. This is because lately, there has been an emphasis on evidence-based therapy thus enhancing the significance of considering varied sources of investigated evidence.
Reference: Diamond, N. & Marrone, M. (2003). Attachment and inter-subjectivity. London, GB: Whurr Publishers. McWilliams, N. (2004). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Guilford Press Mitchell, S. A. & Black, M. J. (1995). Freud and beyond: A history of modern psychoanalytic thought. New York, NY: Basic Books. Stolorow, R. D. , Atwood G. E. , & Orange, D. M. (2002). Worlds of experience: Interweaving philosophical and clinical dimensions in psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Basic Books