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Sigmund Freud: Psychoanalysis Essay

In the field of psychology, as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud affirmed and asserted that individual patients could benefit from an analysis of unconscious dynamics that included neurotic conflicts, dreams, wish fulfillment, and other mechanisms of the life of the self. Besides this, Freud also believed that psychoanalytic theory could be applied to elements of social and cultural life in such a way as to gain enlightenment. This paper would discuss and evaluate the methods and concepts that Freud built into the psychoanalytic theory.

Quite often, the Freudian patients had difficulty recalling this childhood event. Freud, by use of free association would encourage them to remember the event from there past and so the patient could come to terms with it and hence recover from his neuroses. Another method was the interpretation of dreams in which Freud outlined his theory of the mind. A further discovery was transference, where the patient projects his feelings on to the therapist. Methods of hypnosis were originally used by Freud to find the cause for anxiety, but he dismissed them as being too inaccurate.

He started to use methods of free association to delve into the patient’s sub-conscious. By assessing the patient’s reactions to the analyst’s suggestions, Freud saw that the analyst could help the patient become consciously aware of his repressed childhood conflicts and impulses. By interpreting the patient’s dreams, the analyst can provide an insight into the patient’s conflicts as well. The therapist’s interpretations of the patient’s free associations and dreams are known as psychoanalysis. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, however, does have its problems.

One of its drawbacks is that it is based on the assumption that repressed conflicts and impulses do in fact exist. Today this assumption is being challenged, and is provoking intense debate. Freud first developed these methods of psychoanalysis when he met with patients whose disorders did not make neurological sense. A patient, for example, may have suddenly gone blind. The problem is that there is no damage to either of his eyes. Freud began to wonder if this disorder might be psychological rather than physiological.

A patient not wanting to see something that aroused anxiety might have caused his own blindness, he hypothesized. Freud also believed that dreams were an important way of getting into the patient’s subconscious. By analyzing dreams, he could reveal the basis of conflict within the patient. Freud believed the mind was made up of three main parts: the conscious, the preconscious, and the subconscious. The conscious region is the part that people are most aware of and what others can see. The preconscious region holds thoughts and feelings that a person can become aware of but that are mostly hidden away.

The subconscious region consists of thoughts and feelings which are completely hidden away and which one is mostly unaware of. Some believe that the preconscious region is really a small part of the much larger subconscious region. Although the person is not fully aware of these feelings, he still expresses them in disguise through the way he makes his choices. Using psychoanalytic methods, Freud was able, he said, to learn what feelings the patient had blocked and hidden in his subconscious.

If a psychoanalyst would point out that a repressed feeling exists in the patient, the patient can either respond that the repressed feeling does in fact exist, or he can answer that it does not exist. The denial of the existence of that particular repressed feeling given by the patient can be viewed as a way of blocking a feeling the patient does not want the psychoanalyst to know about, or can possibly be a feeling that does not exist at all. The fact that a clear and definite solution cannot be derived from the patient’s response is another reason why there are many dissenters to Freud’s theories.

Another problem with psychoanalysis is that it makes the assumption that repressed feelings exist within the patient’s mind. Today, many psychologists say that the idea that memories can be repressed is unproven and un-testable, although many laboratory tests have shown that people are more likely to forget experiences that were unpleasant than they are to forget pleasant ones. In real life, however, most people seem never forget their traumatic experiences. One well-known example of this phenomenon is that of Holocaust survivors who can recall every detail of their suffering.

Furthermore, study of memories also shows that willful blocking of memories is unlikely, as the more people try to forget painful experiences, the more they remember. Although his theories have been subject to criticism from his contemporaries and from later generations of specialists in the workings of the human mind, Freud was a giant of our age whose ideas set in motion a burst of experimentation, theorizing, investigation, and discovery. Freud is justifiably described as the father of modern psychology, as he was responsible for the birth of an entirely new way of thinking about the mind.

To find the evidence for the concept that a dream is a wish fulfillment we must go back to the beginning of psychoanalysis. Freud was of course the founder of Psychoanalysis and the basis of many of his theories can be found in his work ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’. So therefore it is important to study his opinions and theories first as a basis for the premise that all dreams represent wishes. Indeed it was Freud who first put forward this theory and is only there for others to agree or disagree. However Freud was not sure when he wrote the Interpretation of Dreams whether a dream was a wish fulfillment and only that.

He speculates in the book whether this was just one of the many different types of dreams which represented different facets of each individual’s psychological makeup and whether he was basing this judgment solely on the Irma dream and his analysis on that alone. Freud was well known for changing and revisiting old texts and ideas and constantly updating them and changing them. Within the text he poses many questions, whether material for the dream was gathered during the day or were just psychological stimuli being used by the unconscious mind. Freud uses simple examples to demonstrate wish fulfillment in dreams.

This is because he does not want to get bogged down in the wildly extravagant dreams that can lead to many interpretations and opinions suggested. He gives a number of interesting examples such as the women who dreamed of having her period. Freud ascertained that the women dreamed of that because she would miss her period. The reason being, she was pregnant and she wished to announce it and the dream was a clever way the unconscious found to announce it. He also uses examples of children’s dreams to demonstrate his point. He does this, he argues, because a child’s psychological makeup is less complex than an adults is.

In this way we can gain insight on the most basic level and form a foundation for the theory of dreams. This supposition is excellently shown with the proverb that was told to Freud by one of his students. The proverb goes: what does a goose dream of? The answer: Corn. Freud maintains that all there is to know about wish fulfillment are contained in this question and answer and all the extras and added complexities of the subject are developed from this basic premise.

Freud stated that dreams as wish fulfillment came from five different causes. 1) What has been left unfinished by some chance delay during the day; (2) what has been left unsettled, unsolved by some failure of our powers of thought; (3) what has been rejected and suppressed during the day and (4) any unimportant -and hence unresolved- impressions of the day. And finally, these are joined by the powerful fourth group, which have been stirred in our unconscious (Freud S, 1900 ch. 7). Before studying the unconscious desires that cause dreams it is first important to understand the role of preconscious in the roles of dreams as it is necessary to understand where dreams come from to be able to understand their roles.

Freud believed that the role of the preconscious was much more prevalent in children in dreams as opposed to adults. For example a child might dream of eating an ice cream when they had been refused one that day by their parents. In adults Freud believed that a preconscious image could trigger a dream in an adult, but it would be a representation of an unconscious desire and would only be part of the dream because that image had triggered the unconscious thoughts to come to the surface. The unconscious is a force or a knowledge that we do not allow ourselves to see.

It is an unrealized part of the mind and it’s self-contained and functions independently from us. This is what distorts and displaces our dreams. It is the higher form of dream i. e. it contains unseen thoughts and repressed wishes unlike a child’s which is predominantly concerned with the preconscious thoughts. It is this that creates the strange images in our dreams that would seem to contradict our normal behavior and lead down the road to conclude that the motive for a dream is not a wish fulfillment.

Freud argued that the images and scenes we see in our dreams are not necessarily to be taken as face value. He supposed that all dreams should be analyzed with the wish fulfillment theory firmly in mind. This essentially means that you must produce as many different meanings for each image and then select the one that is most likely to be the unconscious desire and that is likely the cause of the dream. Of course self analysis has many flaws as Freud himself admitted and repression and resistance are inevitable downsides when looking into your own or someone else’s unconscious.

Freud provided us with interesting examples of how an image in a dream that would seem on the face of it to be totally contradictory of any normal behavior can represent a wish and desire. He used these examples to show the dissimilarity between the manifest dream content and the latent content as well as how they essentially clash with each other and lead to the distortion of the dream. If we look at the psychoanalytical theories on religion, it transpires that Sigmund Freud made a very significant contribution to the debate on religion and science.

Freud believed religion to be an illusion manifesting itself as a collective neurosis in society at large. His work is seen as completely intolerant of religion. He published The Future of an Illusion, which is concerned with ‘psychogenesis’, or the origins of religion within each individual person. (Freud, 1991) In this Freud describes religion as “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. Freud also relates the obsession with religion to his earlier work with ‘neurotic’ patients and suggested “religion was basically a distorted form of an obsessional neurosis. ” (Freud, 1991) He argued that religion was associated with guilt and being unclean, which in turn was connected with the ‘anal’ phase in childhood development. With that he compared religious ceremonies and suggested they were the consequence of similar obsessions.


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