Psychoanalysis - Major Schools of Thought - Definitions

Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World - Andrea Bonior 2016

Major Schools of Thought

Psychoanalysis, more than any other school of thought, emphasizes the unconscious mind (sometimes called the subconscious mind, although the latter term is no longer scientifically acceptable). The purpose of psychoanalysis—the classic process that involves a patient’s meeting routinely with a psychoanalyst, often while reclining on a couch and talking freely with the analyst, but without making eye contact—is to bring the patient’s unconscious thoughts and feelings into conscious understanding so that the patient can gain insight into how these thoughts and feelings have affected his or her actions. Psychoanalysis explores how urges, desires, attitudes, and the old wounds that we don’t acknowledge, even to ourselves, drive our personalities and our most fundamental patterns of behavior. Truthfully, many of the urges that psychoanalysis is most concerned with can be seen as very dark, and psychoanalysis can be viewed as portraying us as somewhat animalistic in our desires, and as driven strongly by lust, greed, and aggression. Psychoanalysis focuses not so much on relieving our immediate symptoms as on helping us gain clarity about past forces that have made us who we are, forces that are sometimes revealed in our dreams and even in the errors we make when we speak or write. Free association—responding with the very first thing that comes to mind when we hear a certain word—can also illuminate our unconscious thoughts and feelings. As a therapeutic tool, psychoanalysis has grown less popular over the years, eclipsed by other techniques (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) that focus more on the here and now. But psychoanalysis’s vast influence remains, not just in the particularly pretty chaise longues that universally symbolize mental health treatment but also in the very real idea that even things we’re not immediately aware of can affect our behavior in profound ways, and that we carry with us the scars and emotions of our childhood relationships.