The Psychodynamic Approach - or What Freud Really Thought

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The Psychodynamic Approach – or What Freud Really Thought

Many of you may be wondering how it is that I claim to know the impossible: what Freud really thought. The truth is, of course I don’t. It’s fun to try though, isn’t it? Well then, now that we’ve cleared that up, let us begin. I feel that a bit of history would be fitting at this point.

Freud, or Sigmund as I shall call him for now (I always say familiarity is the best route to understanding) was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1865. His family background was Jewish, but his father was a freethinker and Sigmund an avowed atheist. Sigmund’s father and first wife had two sons, both more than twenty years older than ‘little Sigmund’.

Sigmund was passionately interested in science, so it was somewhat a disappointment to him that the only professions open to Jewish men at the time were medicine or law. He would have much preferred neurophysical research. However, Sigmund was engaged and needed to earn enough to support a family before he could marry, so he determined to go into private practice with a speciality in neurology.

During his training, Sigmund made friends with Josef Breuer, another physician and physiologist. They often discussed medical cases together, and it is through this that Sigmund first encountered hysteria. Breuer used the ‘talking cure’ on his patients, which involved hypnosis under which they talked about thoughts that were usually repressed, relieving their symptoms. Sigmund was fascinated by hysteria, and later went to Paris for further study under Jean-Martin Charcot, a neurologist renowned for his studies of hysterics and use of hypnosis.

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Sigmund began to develop his ideas of psychoanalysis in around 1886, in a private practice specializing in nervous and brain disorders. He tried hypnosis in the treatment of his hysteric and neurotic patients, but soon rejected it. He found he could get patients to talk just by putting them in a relaxing position (the couch) and encouraging them to say whatever came into their heads (free association). He could then analyse what they had said and determine what traumatic events in their past had caused their condition.  

Between 1900 and 1905, Sigmund developed his ideas and put ...

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