Psychoanalysis was developed in the late nineteenth century both as a theory and a form of therapy. Based on the premise that unconscious conflicts form the root of psychological issues, psychoanalysis suggests symptoms can be reduced by bringing these conflicts into conscious awareness. The theory of psychoanalysis has been criticized and revised numerous times, but it remains one of the most influential approaches in the field of psychology.
History of Psychoanalysis
Attempts to trace back the history of psychoanalysis invariably lead to one renowned figure–Sigmund Freud. Born in 1856, Freud was a distinguished neurologist whose practice exposed him to individuals with symptoms of a condition similar to somatization, which was called hysteria at the time. Influenced by the work of fellow neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, Freud began experimenting with hypnosis in treating these individuals.
As Freud’s interest in hypnosis deepened, he collaborated with Josef Breuer to develop a new form of treatment that centered around helping individuals recall memories of traumatic events that occurred near the time symptoms began. Both Freud and Breuer observed that when people accessed these memories under hypnosis and spoke freely about them, their symptoms diminished.
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In 1895, Freud and Breur published Studies on Hysteria, in which they described several cases of individuals treated through psychoanalysis. This publication is widely regarded as the first contribution to psychoanalytic literature.
After encountering several problems with hypnosis, Freud later abandoned this method in favor of what he termed “free association.” By asking individuals to speak freely about whatever came to mind and analyzing these free associations, Freud found he could work his way back to the root of the psychological issues he encountered by uncovering repressed memories. He coined the term “psychoanalysis” to describe his new approach to treatment and its theoretical underpinnings.
As time passed, Freud expanded and refined his theory. Although he maintained that sexual trauma affected mental health, he began viewing symptoms primarily as the result of unconscious conflict. In 1899, he published The Interpretation of Dreams, in which he described dreams as the result of this conflict. He theorized that dreams are unconscious attempts to work through conflicts or express desires too threatening to be allowed into awareness.
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