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Related to psychoanalysis: Humanistic psychology, behaviorism, Sigmund Freud


psychoanalysis, name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M. Charcot in Paris and became convinced that hysteria was caused not by organic symptoms in the nervous system but by emotional disturbance. Later, in collaboration with Viennese physician Josef Breuer, Freud wrote two papers on hysteria (1893, 1895) that were the precursors of his vast body of psychoanalytic theory. Freud used his psychoanalytic method primarily to treat clients suffering from a variety of mild mental disorders classified until recently as neuroses (see neurosis). Freud was joined by an increasing number of students and physicians, among whom were C. G. Jung and Alfred Adler. Both made significant contributions, but by 1913 ceased to be identified with the main body of psychoanalysts because of theoretical disagreements with Freud's strong emphasis on sexual motivation. Other analysts, including Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan, also have contributed greatly to the field. Psychoanalysis and its theoretical underpinnings have had an enormous influence on modern psychology and psychiatry and in fields as diverse as literary theory, anthropology, and film criticism.

Psychoanalytic Therapy and Theory

The basic postulate of psychoanalysis, the concept of a dynamic unconscious mind, grew out of Freud's observation that the physical symptoms of hysterical patients tended to disappear after apparently forgotten material was made conscious (see hysteria). He saw the unconscious as an area of great psychic activity, which influenced personality and behavior but operated with material not subject to recall through normal mental processes. Freud postulated that there were a number of defense mechanisms—including repression, reaction-formation, regression, displacement, and rationalization—that protect the conscious mind from those aspects of reality it may find difficult to accept. The major defense mechanism is repression, which induced a “forgetfulness” for harsh realities. Observing the relationship between psychoneurosis and repressed memories, Freud made conscious recognition of these forgotten experiences the foundation of psychoanalytic therapy. Hypnosis was the earliest method used to probe the unconscious, but due to its limited effectiveness, it was soon discarded in favor of free association (see also hypnotism). Dreams, which Freud interpreted as symbolic wish fulfillments, were considered a primary key to the unconscious, and their analysis was an important part of Freudian therapy.

To clarify the operation of the human psyche, Freud and his followers introduced a vast body of psychoanalytic theory. In considering the human personality as a whole, Freud divided it into three functional parts: id, ego, and superego. He saw the id as the deepest level of the unconscious, dominated by the pleasure principle, with its object the immediate gratification of instinctual drives. The superego, originating in the child through an identification with parents, and in response to social pressures, functions as an internal censor to repress the urges of the id. The ego, on the other hand, is seen as a part of the id modified by contact with the external world. It is a mental agent mediating among three contending forces: the outside demands of social pressure or reality, libidinal demands for immediate satisfaction arising from the id, and the moral demands of the superego. Although considered only partly conscious, the ego constitutes the major part of what is commonly referred to as consciousness. Freud asserted that conflicts between these often-opposing components of the human mind are crucial factors in the development of neurosis.

Psychoanalysis focused on early childhood, postulating that many of the conflicts which arise in the human mind develop in the first years of a person's life. Freud demonstrated this in his theory of psychosexuality, in which the libido (sexual energy) of the infant progressively seeks outlet through different body zones (oral, anal, phallic, and genital) during the first five to six years of life.

Criticisms of and Changes in Freudian Psychoanalysis

Orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis was challenged in the 1920s by Otto Rank, Sandor Ferenczi, and Wilhelm Reich; later, in the 1930s, by Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and Harry Stack Sullivan. These critics of Freud stressed the interpersonal aspect of the analyst-patient relationship (transference), and placed more emphasis on the processes of the ego. Despite a number of detractors and a lack of controlled research, Freudian psychoanalysis remained the most widely used method of psychotherapy until at least the 1950s.

Today, Freud's method is only one among many types of psychotherapy used in psychiatry. Many objections have been leveled against traditional psychoanalysis, both for its methodological rigidity and for its lack of theoretical rigor. A number of modern psychologists have pointed out that traditional psychoanalysis relies too much on ambiguities for its data, such as dreams and free associations. Without empirical evidence, Freudian theories often seem weak, and ultimately fail to initiate standards for treatment.

Critics have also pointed out that Freud's theoretical models arise from a homogeneous sample group—almost exclusively upper-class Austrian women living in the sexually repressed society of the late 19th cent. Such a sample, many psychologists contend, made Freud's focus on sex as a determinant of personality too emphatic. Other problems with traditional psychoanalysis are related to Freud's method of analysis. For Freudian analysis to reach its intended conclusions, the psychoanalyst required frequent sessions with a client over a period of years: today, the prohibitive costs of such methods compels most to seek other forms of psychiatric care.

Traditional psychoanalysis involved a distancing between therapist and client—the two did not even face each other during the sessions. In recent years, many clients have preferred a more interactive experience with the therapist. The subject matter of Freudian analysis has also fallen into disuse, even among those who still practice psychoanalysis: early childhood receives much less emphasis, and there is generally more focus on problems the client is currently experiencing. By the early 21st cent., various kinds of psychoanalysis continued to be practiced, but the theory and practice of psychoanalysis was increasingly overshadowed by cognitive psychology and discoveries in neurobiology.


See the works of Freud; A. Bernstein and G. Warner, An Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis (1981); J. Reppen, ed., Beyond Freud (1984); C. G. Jung, The Collected Works, Vol. 4: Freud and Psychoanalysis (tr. 1985); S. Marcus, Freud and the Culture of Psychoanalysis (1984, repr. 1987); O. A. Olsen and S. Koppe, The Psychoanalysis of Freud (1988); C. Badcock, Essential Freud (1988); E. Kurzweil, The Freudian Establishments (1989); G. Makari, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis (2008).

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Psychoanalysis may be defined as (1) a psychological theory; (2) a form of psychotherapy, especially for the treatment of neurotic and character or personality disorders; and (3) a method for investigating psychological phenomena. Psychoanalysis was created and developed by Sigmund Freud, who presented his method, clinical observations, and theory in Interpretation of Dreams and other major works, including The Psychopathology of Everyday Life and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, as well as in many of his case studies.

Psychoanalytic theory

Generally, psychoanalysis is concerned with the causal role of wishes and beliefs in human life. More specifically, it attempts to explain mental or behavioral phenomena that do not appear to make sense as the effects of unconscious wishes and beliefs. Such phenomena include dreams, disturbances in functioning such as slips of the tongue or pen and transient forgetting, and neurotic symptoms. Typically, unconscious wishes and beliefs are constituents of conflicts.

The term unconscious in psychoanalysis does not mean simply that mental contents are out of awareness. Its psychodynamic meaning is that the person does not want to be aware of these contents, and takes active steps to avoid being aware of them. A fundamental hypothesis of psychoanalysis is that because a mental entity is dynamically unconscious it has the causal power to produce the phenomena that are of interest to psychoanalysis.

At first, the dynamic unconscious was thought to consist of traumatic memories. Later, it was believed to consist of impulses or wishes—especially sexual (and aggressive) impulses or wishes. Psychoanalysis now emphasizes that the dynamic unconscious consists of fantasies, which have a history reaching back to childhood. These fantasies are internal scenarios in which sexual (and aggressive) wishes are imagined as fulfilled.

Psychoanalysis is distinct in attributing causal powers to unconscious sexual wishes. Such attribution depends on extending the meaning of sexual to encompass the quest for sensual pleasure in childhood (so-called infantile sexuality) and choices of objects and aims. One theme that is thought to have particular importance is the Oedipus complex, in which the child rivals one parent in seeking sensual gratifications of various kinds from the other parent.

When an unconscious fantasy is activated, it manifests itself in conscious mental states or in actions—importantly, in emotions; in interpretations of the significance of events or states of affairs; in attributions of motives to others; and in daydreams, dreams, and neurotic symptoms.

Unconscious fantasies, as distinct from both conscious reality-oriented imagining and conscious day-dreaming, are constructed when imagination functions under very special conditions.

This emphasis on fantasy underscores the fact that psychoanalysis gives priority to the relation between wishes (including wishes a person knows could not conceivably be gratified in reality) and imagination (functioning under very special conditions).


Free association is the method of psychoanalysis. Patients are encouraged not to talk about some particular problem or aspect of their lives but rather to suspend any conscious purposive organization of what they say, speaking freely. Both psychoanalyst and patient follow the patient's productions: conscious purposes are replaced by unconscious purposes, which, under these conditions, can determine the direction of the patient's mental processes with less interference.

Interventions are predominantly interpretative; psychoanalysts do not seek primarily to tell their patients what to do, to educate them about the world, to influence their values, or to reassure them in one way or another that everything is or will be all right. Psychoanalysts look for patterns in what each patient says and for signs of feelings of which the patient is more or less unaware. They then engage their patients (who are increasingly aware of these patterns and able to experience and articulate these feelings) in an inquiry about the reasons for them or motives behind them. The focus is on what the patients do not know—and do not want to know—about themselves and their inner life, including strategies for avoiding such knowledge and the consequences of these strategies.

The goal of psychoanalytic psychotherapy is to extend the realm of what patients permit themselves to experience. It tries to mitigate the misery that patients with a neurotic, character, or personality disorder inflict on themselves.

The case-study method is characteristic of psychoanalytic research. The arguments that can be used in case studies are analogy (the use of familiar or homely models in which postulated causes and mechanisms can be shown to exist); consilience (the convergence of inferences from different kinds of information on a common cause); and abduction (inference to the best explanation). See Psychotherapy

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the theory and method of treating MENTAL ILLNESS by investigating the UNCONSCIOUS and understanding the dynamics of the PERSONALITY. It was originally developed by FREUD at the end of the 19th-century, working particularly with patients with emotional disorders, such as hysteria. Freud particularly used the techniques of free association and dream interpretation to explore the unconscious. As well as Freud's own work and writings, a number of schools of thought within psychoanalysis (both as a therapy and as a wider theory) are also important – see NEO-FREUDIANS, OBJECT-RELATIONS SCHOOL.

As a therapy psychoanalysis is a lengthy process, taking perhaps several years, and a practitioner has to undergo a course of psychoanalysis himself or herself before being considered qualified to practise. The aim is to gain a full understanding of how one's current behaviour was developed as a result of past experiences, especially those of early childhood. These early experiences have to be brought to consciousness and confronted, leading to CATHARSIS, or a release of energy, with the result that the personality becomes freer, less restricted by having to control the energies of the ID, or operate under over-strict demands of the SUPEREGO.

In psychiatric practice, 100 years after its original development, the method is found to be most useful for neurotic disorders in patients who are highly motivated to recover and of good educational background as self-insight and an interest in the theoretical basis appear to be involved in a positive outcome. It has sometimes been criticized as having no better record for recovery than time alone (Eysenck, 1961), and is lengthy and expensive.

As a wider psychosocial theory, psychoanalysis has been influential (if controversial) in sociology and, more generally, in social theory (e.g. MARCUSE, structuralist theorists such as LACAN, PSYCHOHISTORY). Psychoanalytic theories have been especially influential recently in FEMINISM, FEMINIST THEORY and FEMINIST PSYCHOLOGY, although these theories constitute a major reworking of Freudian theory, especially in questioning the centrality of the symbolism of the phallus within Freud's writing and the problem that this presents for a genuinely feminist psychoanalytic theory (see CHODOROW, CIXOUS, KRISTEVA).

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a method of psychotherapy and a psychological theory that focuses on unconscious mental processes and motivations. Psychoanalysis was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Austrian physician S. Freud. As a specific theory and method of psychotherapy, it should be distinguished from Freudianism, which elevates the tenets of psychoanalysis to the level of philosophical and anthropological principles.

Some of the tenets of psychoanalysis are encountered in the work of J.-M. Charcot and P. Janet (the psychological theory of neuroses). As early as 1882, the Viennese psychiatrist J. Breuer showed that a severe form of hysteria can be cured if the patient is hypnotized and compelled to recall and abreact the forgotten traumatic situation that caused the neurosis. Subsequently, Freud replaced hypnosis with the method of free association, which became the basis of the psychoanalytic technique. It was found that traumatic events, affective experiences, unfulfilled desires, and so on do not disappear from the mind but are repressed—that is, actively displaced from the conscious to the unconscious, where, often masked or “coded” in neurotic symptoms, they continue to have an active influence on the mind. In psychoanalysis, neurotic symptoms are regarded as compromises arising from the conflict between repressed desires and an internal “censor,” which acts as the conscious ego’s defense mechanism against dangerous desires and impulses. Psychoanalysis views dreams, mistakes (slips of the tongue and pen), and jokes as similar types of compromises. These observations drew psychoanalysis beyond the framework of psychiatry and made it possible to establish the connection between normal and pathological phenomena of the psyche. Psychoanalysis uncovered such psychological mechanisms as symbolization, displacement, and condensation in both normal and pathological phenomena.

From the standpoint of psychoanalysis, three aspects of every psychological phenomenon must be examined: the dynamic, the energetic, and the structural. The dynamic aspect is uncovered as a result of the interaction and conflict between different psychological forces. The energetic aspect of a psychological phenomenon means the distribution of bound and free energy in a given process. (By analogy with physical energy, psychoanalysis introduced the concept of a quantum of mental energy and its “charges”—cathexes, and modes of distributing and transferring mental energy.)

The theory of different forms and manifestations of mental energy, with an emphasis on sexual desires (the libido), was elaborated during the first stage of the development of psychoanalysis (the 1890’s and the early 20th century). The theory of the structure of the psyche was developed later (S. Freud, The Ego and the Id, 1921). The most archaic, impersonal, and entirely unconscious part of the psyche was called the id—a reservoir of mental energy, a “seething cauldron” of desires pressing for immediate satisfaction. This part of the psyche is associated with the somatic area, which serves as the source of energy for the desires. The id has no contact with the external world and does not know the difference between external reality and the subjective sphere.

The second structure of the psyche, the conscious ego, is formed as an “impression” of external reality on the initial mass of desires and impulses. Psychoanalysis attaches special importance to identification as a factor in shaping the ego, which is an intermediary between the external world and the id, between desire and satisfaction. The ego is guided not by the principle of satisfaction but by the demands of reality. It restrains the irrational impulses of the id, using a variety of defense mechanisms based on repression, including projection, reaction formation, and reversal. In reaction formation, a phenomenon based on ambivalent desires, a desire is replaced in the conscious by its opposite but retains its initial character in the unconscious (for example, unconscious love is manifested as conscious hatred, and cruelty as extreme kindness). In reversal, desire is directed initially at an external object and then turned against the self, under the influence of fear.

The third structure of the psyche, the superego, develops as a result of the introjection of social norms and educational prohibitions and reinforcement. It is the source of the individual’s moral attitudes. The superego usually functions unconsciously, but it is manifested in the conscious as the conscience. The stresses caused by the superego in the psyche are perceived as feelings of fear, guilt, depression, and inferiority. The psyche functions as a whole as soon as the superego is formed.

Psychoanalysis became increasingly well-known in Europe after the founding of the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1910. (The journal Imago was first published in 1912, and the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, in 1913.) After World War I (1914–18), psychoanalysis became very popular in Europe. Founded in 1920 in Berlin, the Institute of Psychoanalysis trained physicians to be analysts. When the fascists took power in 1933, psychoanalysis was banned in Germany. In 1938 it was banned in Austria. Subsequently, psychoanalysis developed rapidly in Great Britain and especially in the USA, where most of the European psychoanalysts emigrated. About three-fourths of all the literature on psychoanalysis is published in the USA, where there are more than 20 teaching and research institutes.

Psychoanalysis was the point of departure for the development of diverse trends in depth psychology. The internal contradictions in the thinking of Freud and his followers gave rise to new schools and approaches, including A. Adler’s individual psychology and C. G. Jung’s analytical psychology. Ego psychology (H. Hartmann), which asserts the relative autonomy of the conscious ego, developed as a counterweight to the one-sided orientation toward the unconscious processes. After World War II (1939–45) the development of European psychoanalysis was substantially influenced by the idealist philosophy of existentialism, phenomenology, neo-Thomism, and neo-Freudianism (in the USA). Attempts to use the psychoanalytic method are characteristic of several modernistic trends in 20th-century art and literature, including the stream-of-consciousness school and surrealism.

Soviet psychology acknowledges that psychoanalysis has introduced into science a number of important phenomena of the human psyche, such as unconscious processes and motives and the influence of early childhood experiences on the formation and pathological deformation of character. Nevertheless, Soviet psychology criticizes psychoanalysis for reducing diverse, changeable relations between unconscious higher nervous activity and the activity of the consciousness to a primitive antagonism between the conscious and the unconscious. In addition, psychoanalysis is criticized by Soviet psychology for universalizing psychoanalytic concepts and mechanically transferring them to the sphere of social phenomena, thus contributing to the psychologization of human society, the personality, and culture.


Freud, S. Lektsiipo vvedeniiu v psikhoanaliz [vols. 1–2]. Moscow-Petrograd,1922.
Freud, S. Osnovnye psikhologicheskie teorii v psikhoanalize. Moscow Petrograd, 1923.
Psikhoanaliz detskogo vozrasta (collection of articles). Moscow, 1924.
Bassin, F. V. Problema “bessoznatel’nogo. “Moscow, 1968.
Grinstein, A. The Index of Psychoanalytic Writings, vols. 1–10. New York, 1956–72.
Pumpian-Mindlin, E. Psychoanalysis as Science [2nd ed.]. New York [1956].
Art and Psychoanalysis. New York, 1963.
Psychoanalysis and Current Biological Thought. Madison-Milwaukee, Wis., 1965.
Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis. New York-London, 1968.
In literary theory and criticism. In literary theory and criticism psychoanalysis is a mode of interpreting literary works from the standpoint of the psychological theory of the unconscious. Psychoanalysis regards artistic creation as a sublimated, symbolic expression of primordial psychic impulses and desires (fundamentally sexual and infantile), which are rejected in real life but which find compensatory satisfaction in the realm of fantasy. In the history of literature psychoanalysis has discovered several recurrent plots in which the author identifies with the hero and depicts either the fulfillment ofhis subconscious desires or their tragic collision with the forces of social and moral prohibition. Thus, psychoanalysis views Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov as variations on the motif of patricide associated with a repressed Oedipus complex.
Freud provided the first models for the application of psychoanalysis to literature and art in “The Relation of the Poet to Day-dreaming” and “Dostoyevsky and Parricide,” but he warned against confusing the tasks of psychoanalysis with those of literary criticism. Psychoanalysis, which approaches literature only as a source of illustrative plots, cannot explain the difference between a masterpiece and a paraphrase or reproduction, or between a great writer and an ordinary neurotic or dreamer. Psychoanalysis is best applied to the study of products of mythology and mass culture, where the conscious ego of the individual dissolves into the unconscious id, and purely aesthetic criteria are eliminated. In addition to crude psychoanalytic theories denouncing art as illusion and reducing it to biological instincts, in the 1920’s and 1930’s there were serious attempts to use the tenets of psychoanalysis in the struggle against formalistic and vulgar sociological methodology (L. Vygotskii and V. Voloshinov [M. Bakhtin]). During this period the psychoanalytic approach was used to attain an understanding of the latest artistic trends (Dadaism, surrealism, expressionism, and “mythologism”) and to explain puzzling literary phenomena of the past (studies by S. Zweig on Dostoevsky and H. von Kleist, by M. Bonaparte on Poe, and by V. W. Brooks on Twain). There were also attempts to combine psychoanalysis with the theory of artistic form and with the theory of the social role of literature (H. Read, N. Frye, E. Bjork, C. Caudwell).
In the postwar period two versions of psychoanalysis were very popular in the West: existential psychoanalysis (J.-P. Sartre, A. Malraux, and J. S. Doubrovsky, for example) and structural psychoanalysis (J. Lacan, C. Mauron, R. Barthes, and J. Derrida). Existential psychoanalysis seeks in literature evidence of genuine human existence, rooted not in biological nature but in ethical freedom and achieving complete personal self-discovery in the world of artistic invention, where the spiritual “self overcomes the yoke of historical fate and liberates itself. Structural psychoanalysis emphasizes the dependence of the artist on supraindividual cultural mechanisms (language and other sign systems) that act in the sphere of the unconscious and that are responsible for the structure of a work of art, regardless of “conscious” intent and meaning.
The psychoanalytic approach in Western literary criticism is criticized by Marxists, who counter the immanent, static structures of the subconscious with the dynamics of society and history, the true source of the creative process. The doctrine of psychoanalysis is also disputed by adherents of the school of cultural history and proponents of mathematical and cybernetic methods.


Freud, S. “Poet i fantaziia.” In Sovr. kniga po estetike. Moscow, 1957. (Bibliography.)
Vygotskii, L. Psikhologiia iskusstva. Moscow, 1968.
Caudwell, C. Illiuziia i deistvitel’nost’. Moscow, 1969.
Morrison, C. C. Freud and the Critic. Chapel Hill, N. C, 1968.
Matt, P. von. Literaturwissenschaft und Psychoanalyse. Freiburg, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A technique used in the treatment of neuroses and other emotional disorders which relies upon free associations of the patient to bring ideas and experiences from the unconscious to the conscious divisions of the psyche.
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a method of studying the mind and treating mental and emotional disorders based on revealing and investigating the role of the unconscious mind
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Retelling a life: Narration and dialogue in psychoanalysis. New York: Basic Books.
Myth #3 is "Psychoanalysis has gone out of fashion" (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p.
For Patterson, psychoanalysis, once a promising means of articulating medieval selfhood, is now a seductress, ensnaring vulnerable critics in its insistence "that our every activity is invested with libido" (639).
psychoanalysis, there was a shrinking place for something as amorphous
In their jointly authored contribution, Lynn Enterline and David Hillman discuss the usefulness and value of psychoanalysis for the study of early modern culture.
By no means do I question the personal experience of individuals who have benefited from psychoanalysis. The fact remains that such positive outcomes are exceptional.
A number of internationally emergent, concurrently developing areas of thought within psychoanalysis are those of relational, interpersonal and intersubjective psychoanalysis, where writing on self-object matrixes and concepts of 'thirdness' can be found (Katz, 2013).
Lieberman rails against psychoanalysis for discrediting psychiatry as being "unscientific" with no evidence base, yet he references no literature that supports his contention, and ignores the last 50 or so years of research in the field.
Langer was a freelance psychoanalytical consultant who had served in World War I and then ventured into Freudian psychoanalysis. He went to Vienna and worked with Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud, and underwent personal analysis.
Levine explores opportunities that the three recent thinkers provide for a new perspective on a psychoanalysis of history and the history of psychoanalysis.
On New Years Day, the urn containing Sigmund Freud's ashes was found to be, like the future of psychoanalysis, in shambles.