PSYCHOTHERAPY Sigmund Freud – Free Ebook

This is a thinker who helps us understand why our lives and relationships are full of so much confusion and pain. He tells us why life is hard, and how to cope. His own life incurred a lot of anxiety. Sigmund Schlomo Freud was born to a middle-class Jewish family in 1856. His professional life was not an immediate success. As a medical student, he dissected hundreds of eels in an unsuccessful attempt to locate their reproductive organs. He promoted cocaine as a medical drug, but it turned out to be a dangerous and addictive idea. A few years later he founded the discipline that would ultimately make his name. A new psychological medicine he called PSYCHOANALYSIS The landmark study was his 1900 book The Interpretation of Dreams. Many others followed. Despite his success, he was often unhappy. During some particularly strenuous research he recorded, “The chief patient I am preoccupied with is myself…” He was convinced he would die between 61 and 62 and had great phobias about those numbers. (Although he actually died much later, at age 83.) Perhaps because of his frustrations, Freud achieved a series of deep insights into the sources of human unhappiness. He proposed that we are all driven by the: Pleasure Principle which inclines us towards easy physical and emotional rewards: and away from unpleasant things like drudgery and discipline. As infants we are guided more or less solely according to the pleasure principle, Freud argued. But it will, if adhered to without constraints, lead us to dangerous reckless things: like never doing any work eating too much or, most notoriously, sleeping with members of own family. We need to adjust to what Freud called THE REALITY PRINCIPLE Though we all have to bow to this reality principle, Freud believed that there were better and worse kinds of adaptations. He called the troublesome ones NEUROSES Neuroses are the result of faulty negotiations with –or in Freud’s language, repression of–the pleasure principle. Freud described a conflict between three parts of our minds: the ID driven by the pleasure principle, and the THE SUPEREGO driven by a desire to follow the rules and do the right thing according to society. and the EGO which has to somehow accomodate the two. To understand more about these dynamics, Freud urged us to think back to the origins of our neuroses in childhood. As we grow up, we go through what Freud termed: THE ORAL PHASE where we deal with all the feelings around ingestion and eating. If our parents aren’t careful we might pick up all kinds of neuroses here: we might take pleasure in refusing food, or turn to food to calm ourselves down, or hate the idea of depending on anyone else for food. Then comes THE ANAL PHASE which is closely aligned with what we now call “potty-training”. During this period, our parents tell us what to do–and when to go. At this phase we begin to learn about testing the limits of authority. Again, if things go wrong, if we don’t feel authority is benign enough, we might, for example, choose to withhold out of defiance. Then, as adults, we might become “anally retentive”; in other words, not able to give or surrender. Next comes: THE PHALLIC PHASE which goes until about age 6. Freud shocked his contemporaries by insisting that little children have sexual feelings. Moreover, in the phallic phase children direct their sexual impulses towards their parents, the most immediately available and gratifying people around. Freud famously described what he called THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX Where we are unconsciously predisposed towards “being in love with the one parent and hating the other.” What is complex is that no matter how much our parents love us, they cannot extend this to sexual life and will always have another life with a partner. This makes our young selves feel dangerously jealous and angry – and also ashamed and guilty about this anger. The complex provides a huge amount of internalised worry for a small child. Ultimately, most of us experience some form of confusion around our parents that later ties into our ideas of love. Mum and dad may both give us love, but they often mix it in with disturbed behaviour. Yet because we love them, we remain loyal to them and also to their bizarre, destructive patterns. For example, if our mother is cold, we will be apt nevertheless to long for her. And as a result, however, we may be prone to always associate love with a certain distance. Naturally, the result is very difficult adult relationships. Often the kind of love we’ve learned from mum and dad means we can’t fuse sex and love because the people we learnt about love from are also those we were blocked from having sex with. We might find that the more in love with someone we are, the harder it becomes to make love to them. This can reach a pitch of crisis after a few years of marriage and some kids. Freud compared the issues we so often have with intimacy to hedgehogs in the winter: they need to cuddle for warmth, but they also can’t come too close because they’re prickly. There’s no easy solution. Freud says we can’t make ourselves fully rational, and we can’t change society, either. In his 1930 book Civilisation and its Discontents, Freud wrote that society provides us with many things, but it does this by imposing heavy dictates on us: insisting that we sleep with only a few (usually one) other, imposing the incest taboo, requiring us to put off our immediate desires, demanding that we follow authority and work to make money. Societies themselves are neurotic–that is how they function – and it’s why there are constant wars and other troubles. Freud attempted to invent a treatment for our many neuroses: psychoanalysis. He thought that with a little proper analysis, people could uncover what ails them and better adjust to the difficulties of reality. In his sessions he analysed a number of key things. He looked at people’s dreams, which he saw as expressions of WISH FULFILLMENTS He also looked at PARAPRAXES or slips of the tongue. We now call these revealing mistakes FREUDIAN SLIPS Like when we write ‘thigh’ when we wanted to write ‘though’. He also liked to think about jokes. He believed that jokes often help us make fun of something symbolic like death or marriage, and thus relieve some of our anxiety about these topics. There’s a temptation to say Freud just made everything up, and life isn’t quite so hard as he makes it out to be. But then one morning we find ourselves filled with inexplicable anger towards our partner, or running high with unrelenting anxiety on the train to work, and we’re reminded all over again just how elusive, difficult, and Freudian our mental workings actually are. We could still reject his work, of course. But as Freud said, “No one who disdains the key will ever be able to unlock the door.” We could all use a bit more of Freud’s ideas to help us unpick ourselves.

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