Naomi Davy

Mrs. Simchak
March 11, 2014
English C


Sigmund Freud
The Theory of Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud, a scientist of the victorian period in England, made one of
the greatest discoveries in history. He is known as the father of psychoanalysis,
the study of human behavior and treatments for psychosis. He developed a theory
that everything that people, think, say, or do is linked to a mental stimulus in a
part of the brain called the unconscious. Freud theorized that the mind, the ego,
was like an iceberg; it included the three mental processes: the conscious,
unconscious, and the subconscious or preconscious. He believed that the
unconscious had the largest influence on one’s brain though its contents can not
be directly observed, thus, the large portion of an iceberg, which is located below
the surface of the water and unseen by the human eye, represents this section of
the brain. The part of the iceberg just below the surface that can come into view
with the fluctuation of the waves illustrates the subconscious mind. The
subconscious is the part of one’s mind that stores information of which one
cannot become aware but can be brought to consciousness if pursued. Lastly, the
part of the mind of which one is completely aware is portrayed by the tip of the
iceberg, the section that can be viewed in its entirety above the surface of the
water; it is called the conscious. Within the brain, Freud hypothesized that there
are two conflicting aspects that the ego must balance to maintain good health. He
called the part that rests within the conscious mind the Superego, and the one in
the unconscious is called the Id.
The Id, Freud believed was the main aspect of our mind that made one
human. The Id causes drives and desires. It is the first part of one’s personality to
develop, but because it is in the unconscious and controlling behavior when one
is young, she is not aware of what she is doing. When a person is in the stage of
infancy, before the age of 3, her brain only contains the Id. Because the Id is only
concerned with personal desires, it is extremely selfish. Consequentially, when
the Id has a desire, it will act upon this desire without any concern or awareness
of the needs of others. Additionally the Id is responsible for one’s natural
instincts. Freud grouped instincts into two categories, Eros and Thanatos. The
Eros instincts are the natural drives to bind together. Love is often associated with
this instinct. It can also be called the “life instinct" or “sexual instincts”. When
driven by these instincts, one will act for pleasure and survival. Contrary to this
instinct is thanatos or the “death instinct”. This instinct is responsible for all of
one’s natural instincts to destroy. Often after a traumatic experience, one will act
on their destructive instincts, but they can be as simple as the desire to eat in
which one is subconsciously destroying an animal or plant. Freud had a theory
that unconsciously every person had the desire to die or kill or at least act upon
these instincts, but often they are overruled by the “life instincts”. As a result, the
Id is compiled of many unconscious instincts and desires that ultimately drive
one’s external behaviors.
On the other hand, one is conscious of the part of her brain called the
Superego. The Superego is the aspect of one’s conscious mind that many refer to
one’s conscience. It is responsible for making ethical decisions. Unlike the Id, the
Superego is constantly considering the desires of others and what is “socially
acceptable”. Freud believed that no one is born with the Superego, rather it
develops around the age of five. During early development the child’s brain is
being influenced by others around her. Caregivers and parents often help to
shape her moral basis that will stay with her throughout her life. Ultimately,
these influences will lead to the formation of the Superego. Around this age, she
will begin to understand consequences and become more hesitant in her actions.
The Superego and the Id, because of their conflicting goals, will contest each
other, therefore there must be a balancing force within the brain to maintain
mental stability. This aspect of personality is called the Ego.
The job of the Ego is to satisfy the desires from the Id while taking the
regulations of the Superego into consideration. The decisions of the ego
determine one’s final actions. Another important role that the ego plays in one’s
personality is assessing situations based on reality. Neither the Superego nor the
Id consider the reality of the situation but have fixed goals. The ego will maintain
a proper connection of the mind to occurrences in reality. In a mentally unstable
person, the ego is not balanced, and either the Id or the Superego has become too
strong; therefore, the person will not have a strong connection to reality. Freud
called this illness “psychosis”. Though many during his time would have
concluded that this illness was not curable, Freud discovered ways in which
psychosis could be treated.
There were multiple methods that Freud used in the analysis of the psyche.
The most common technique that is still used today is called the “Free
Associations” method. This is the technique in which the therapist would make
the patient as comfortable as possible to speak freely about whatever thoughts
she is having in order to give the therapist an idea about her unconscious mind.
When the patient is relaxed and not concerned about the analyst, the superego is
not as concerned about social consequences allowing the Id the liberty to express
desires. As stated before, the unconscious Id holds all of one’s drives for her
actions, thus when the patient is speaking freely, the analyst can determine the
origin of the actions. Like free-associations, Freud also observed mistakes that
patients made in speaking, writing, and reading. These mistakes are called
Freudian Slips. Often when patients were talking and said a word that they clearly
did not intend to say, Freud could trace the accidental word back to a
subconscious desire that the patient’s ego was suppressing. Another method that
Freud used is called “Anamnesis”. In using this method, the analyst would ask the
patient to recollect memories, often from childhood or even infancy that could
lead to an explanation for the formation of the Superego leading to the discovery
of how desires are expressed or suppressed by the Ego. Though the patient is
incapable of connecting her own psychotic symptoms to these memories, the
analyst can determine the cause of the illness using this information.
Additionally, Freud is commonly recognized for his theories about dreams
and how they can be effectively used in the treatment of psychotic patients. Freud
would ask the patients to describe their dreams, and from there he could interpret
their unconscious meaning. Freud studied dreams closely, and he discovered that
they are actually a temporary form of psychosis; moreover, during sleep the ego
is not balanced. When one is having a dream, the Ego is fulfilling the Id’s desires
but must disguise them to ensure powerful emotions do not wake the dreamer.
He called this process “dreamwork”. Freud once said “The interpretation of
dreams is the royal road to the unconscious”. He believed that if one could
interpret a dream, that would lead her directly to the information stored within
the unconscious mind. Freud would also look for reoccurring symbols in people’s
dreams because he believed that common symbols had meanings that could also
be traced to unconscious desires. Often the symbols relate to the human sexual
organs or human sexuality in other forms. Though Freud had many different
techniques in treating patients with psychosis, all of his methods work to better
understand one’s unconscious mind.
In the treatment of patients, Freud’s ultimate goal was to restore balance to
the ego. He would treat most psychotics but avoided those with severe illnesses.
He believed that in order to restore balance to the ego, the patient and the
therapist needed to create a bond that would become stronger than the opposing
forces, the Id and the Superego; therefore, the ego needed to be at least aware of
the psychoanalyst. Patients whose egos were completely disconnected from
reality would not be aware of the therapist thus making it impossible for her to
receive treatment. Nevertheless, there were many treatable patients that could
still make the process difficult because of their subconscious knowledge of the
“Frame of Therapy”, as Freud called it. When the patients are subconsciously
aware of the therapy process or the “frame of therapy”, such as the time and
money spent in it, they can develop a sort of resentment toward the therapist
causing them to reveal less information about their thoughts during the free-
associations process. This was often a problem with patients during this process,
but Freud discovered that this information could be useful for the analyst. In one
case he discovered that the information that the patient was clearly avoiding lead
to insight on the unconscious mind. Usually topics that patients avoided were
sensitive topics or topics that had a connection to childhood memories. With the
insights that the analyst would collect, she can then determine the cause of the
symptoms, though it may take many months, and inform the patient of their own
unconscious mind. Sometimes, simply the knowledge of the cause of the
psychosis is enough to start the healing process, but the patient, with the help of
the therapist, must ultimately restore her own connection to reality.
Sigmund Freud was a pioneer in psychoanalysis with his theories about the
ego and unconscious drives. During his time almost all physicians believed
psychotics to be incurable but Freud discovered new ways to treat them. This new
concept of mental illness during the late nineteenth century was a difficult topic
for many scientists to understand because the majority of the physicians’ work
was physical and could be observed through the five senses. Now with Freud’s
psychoanalysis, scientists would have to infer information about the mind based
on what they physically observed. Through his studies of the conscious and
unconscious mind he has revolutionized mental health and stability. Though
nothing is his work can be proven, it has lead many scholars on a path to
understanding psychosis. Now his methods for psychoanalysis are highly
effective worldwide.
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