International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences New Dictionary of the History of IdeasInternational Dictionary of PsychoanalysisGale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed. Further reading




I. Classical TheoryCharles Brenner


II. Ego PsychologyGeorge S. Klein


III. Therapeutic MethodsRudolph M. Loewenstein


IV. Experimental StudiesErnest R. Hilgard


The articles under this entry provide an introduction to psychoanalytic theory and methods of therapy. The biography of Freudshould also be consulted; it includes the historical background of Freud’s thought, his major contributions to psychoanalysis, and a critique of his theories. Some major implications of psychoanalysis for behavior are discussed in Anxiety; Body image; Conflict, article on PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS; Defense MECHANISMS; Emotion; Identity, PSYCHOSOCIAL; National CHARACTER; PERSONALITY, POLITICAL; Self concept; Socialization, article on PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS; Suicide.Discussions that are relevant to an evaluation of the libido concept are contained in Affection; Aggression, article onpsychological aspects; DRIVES; INSTINCT; MOTIVATION. The relevance of psychoanalysis for the study of mental disorders is discussed in Character DISORDERS; Depressive disorders; Hysteria; Neurosis; Obsessive-compulsive DISORDERS; Paranoid reactions; Phobias; Psychopathic PERSONALITY; Psychosis; Psychosomatic illness; Schizophrenia.Psychoanalytic interpretations of the products of human behavior are contained in Dreams; Fantasy; Literature, article on THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LITERATURE; RELIGION, article onpsychological study. Methods of studying phenomena of interest to psychoanalysis are discussed in Dreams; Hypnosis; Interviewing, especially the article ontherapeutic interviewing; Projective METHODS. Different and often contrasting views of personality are found in Analytical psychology; Field theory; Gestalt theory; Individual psychology; Learning theory; Personality; Personality: CONTEMPORARY VIEWPOINTS; PHENOMENOLOGY; PSYCHOLOGY, article Onexistential psychology; thinking, article oncognitive organization and processes. Different conceptions of mental disorders and their treatment are described in Clinical PSYCHOLOGY; Mental DISORDERS; MENTAL DISORDERS, TREATMENT OF; Mental health; Psychiatry; Psychology, article onexistential psychology. Biographies of important figures (in addition to Freud) relevant either to Freud’s work or the psychoanalytic movement are Abraham; Adler; Alexander; Bleuler Charcot; Ferenczi; Horney; Jones; Jung Klein; Kris; Rank; Rapaport; Reich; Roheim Rorschach; Sullivan.


The term “psychoanalysis” is commonly used in three different senses: a form of treatment for mental illness, a method for investigating the workings of the mind (the psychoanalytic method), and a branch of psychological or behavioral science. The term was coined by Sigmund Freud, who devised, developed, and applied the method over a period of fifty years and who is responsible for the major part of the theoretical formulations called psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis began as a method of treating mentally ill patients, and the theoretical formulations which Freud first made on the basis of his clinical experience concerned psychopathology. However, in the course of his work Freud came to recognize that there are close similarities between psychopathology and certain aspects of normal mental functioning. Thus by 1900 it was clear that psychoanalysis had definite contributions to make to the psychology of dreams, of jokes, and of various slips and errors of everyday life, which Freud proposed to call normal or everyday psychopathology. These were momentous discoveries which proved to be fruitful as well. Even more momentous was the discovery of the vital importance of childhood sexuality in both normal and pathological mental development, a discovery which was contained in a monograph published in 1905 and entitled Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.

The subsequent development of psychoanalytic theory, based on the application of the psychoanalytic method to an increasingly large number of cases, seems to justify the claim that it constitutes by far the most important contribution to the psychology of man that has been made up to this time. Psychoanalysis has been described epigrammatically as human nature viewed as conflict. And indeed it appears to be the case that many of the most important aspects of human mental development and functioning are intimately related to conflicts which have their origins in childhood and in particular in the sexual conflicts of childhood. This statement is as true of character traits and attributes which we class as normal as it is of those aspects of behavior which we class as symptoms of mental illness.

This, then, is the most important and the most unexpected contribution of psychoanalysis to normal psychology: the vital significance of instinctual conflict in normal as well as pathological mental functioning and development. Closely allied to this is the importance in mental life of unconscious mental phenomena, that is, of mental processes of which the subject himself has no conscious knowledge. In fact, the conflicts just mentioned, which play such an important part in mental life, are largely unconscious in later childhood and adult mental life. It may be noted parenthetically that in psychoanalytic terminology at present “unconscious” usually means “accessible to consciousness only with difficulty, or not at all,” while “preconscious” means “readily accessible to consciousness, though not conscious at the moment.” However, current psychoanalytic usage is not wholly consistent with respect to the meanings of “unconscious” and “preconscious,” since their meanings have varied somewhat in the course of the development of Freud’s theories concerning the mental apparatus.

A third contribution of psychoanalysis to normal psychology is its demonstration of the continuity or determinism of mental life. If one depends on simple introspection for one’s knowledge of what goes on in the mind, there appear to be many gaps and discontinuities in the current of mental life. It often happens that an idea comes to consciousness which bears no apparent connection with what one was consciously thinking a moment before. Similarly, behavior may bear no apparent connection to conscious volition or conscious thoughts. If, however, one is able to apply the psychoanalytic method, one is in a position to adduce evidence for the existence of unconscious mental processes that fill in the gaps and discontinuities which appear to be present in mental life if one judges only by the data of conscious introspection.

Finally, in addition to demonstrating the causal relationship between the present and the immediate past in mental life, the application of the psychoanalytic method has made it possible to establish relationships between current modes of thought and behavior, on the one hand, and various crucially important experiences and conflicts of early childhood, on the other. The emphasis on the relationship between the present and the more remote past in mental life, which is so characteristic of psychoanalytic psychology, is often referred to as the genetic point of view.

In summary, we may repeat that psychoanalysis, which began as a theory of psychopathology, has gradually developed into an important part of general psychology. The application of the psychoanalytic method has contributed more to our understanding of the important aspects of human mental functioning and development than has any other method of observation or experiment.

Assumptions and method

As a behavioral science, psychoanalysis is primarily concerned with the inner life of man. It assumes that man’s thoughts and ideas, his plans and fantasies, and his fears and daydreams are legitimate objects of study. It also assumes, as does biological science in general, that man is an animal. For the psychoanalyst, psychology is a branch of biology. The importance of somatic or organic influences on mental functioning is always borne in mind, particularly with relation to the instinctual drives, which, according to psychoanalytic theory, are assumed to be the basic motivational forces in mental life.

Free association

The method of psychoanalysis is often referred to, rather inexactly, as free association. The subject, who usually lies on a couch facing away from the observer or analyst, is instructed to communicate freely to the analyst, without reserve or editing, whatever thoughts occur to him, as well as whatever physical or bodily sensations intrude upon his consciousness. The analyst may, and often does, suggest that the patient associate to some particular idea or experience that he has communicated in this way. For example, he may suggest that the subject associate to one or another part of a dream which he has related. In addition, he may intervene with what are usually called interpretations in psychoanalytic terminology; that is, he may point out to the subject evidences of conflict, often unconscious conflict, within the subject’s mind. At other times, the analyst may attempt to reconstruct the nature of childhood experiences and fantasies which are important determinants of present behavior or mental activity. [SeeDreams.]

From these very brief examples it should be clear that the term “free association” is far from a satisfactory description of the psychoanalytic method, although it does point to certain essential elements of the method. Indeed the assumption that underlies the application of the psychoanalytic method is that if conscious control of one’s thoughts is given up, the direction of one’s thoughts, far from being free, will then be determined even more clearly than before by other motivational forces within the mind which are not subject to conscious volition and which are in many instances unconscious. To be more precise, the application of the psychoanalytic method reveals more clearly the presence and the consequences of inner conflict, conflict of which the subject himself often has little or no knowledge. Since, by the nature of things, the recognition of such conflict within oneself gives rise to shame, guilt, anxiety, or other unpleasant emotions, there is generally a strong resistance to revealing the presence of such conflict to another individual or even to oneself. In human mental life the most important things of all are often those which one least wants to tell. A conscious determination not to be influenced by one’s reluctance to speak of certain things is only partially helpful. The reluctance itself is in fact lifelong and to a large extent unconscious. It is for this reason that the satisfactory application of the psychoanalytic method is generally possible only in a therapeutic situation. Fortunately for our scientific curiosity, though unfortunately for each of us personally, there is enough that is neurotic even in the most normal of us so that any psychoanalysis soon becomes a therapeutic one, even though it may have been originally undertaken merely out of scientific curiosity or as part of a course of training.

Behavioral observation

In addition to listening to what the subject tells him of what is going on in his mind, the analyst observes the subject’s behavior during the entire time when it is accessible to his observation, neglecting no aspect or detail of it. It should be obvious that evidence of strong emotions, for example, tears, laughter, blushing, or anger, will be as important to the analyst as is the verbal content of what his subject tells him. Just as important are the subject’s tone of voice, his incidental gestures, and his behavior both before he lies down on the couch and after he rises from it.

In general, the psychoanalytic method may be described as a descriptive method as opposed to a quantitative one, a naturalistic approach as opposed to an experimental one. It is not apparent a priori that the psychoanalytic method is a reliable one. Its reliability is attested by the regularity with which observations can be confirmed or repeated by the same analyst on the same subject, by the same analyst on different subjects, and by different analysts on different subjects.

Other methods of study

Although the application of the psychoanalytic method has been and remains the chief source of data as far as psychoanalysis is concerned, it must not be supposed that it is the only one. In recent years in particular, the method of direct observation of children over a period of months or years of their development has come to occupy an increasingly important place in the field of psychoanalytic research. Other observations of human behavior also have contributed data of various sorts, in particular the observation of the behavior of mentally ill patients in clinical settings other than the psychoanalytic treatment situation. Finally, mention should be made of the importance of the study of the various products of man’s imagination. These include such examples of collective or folk creativity as myths, legends, religion, fairy tales, and, to a certain degree, the entire range of man’s social institutions or systems. Equally important are the products of individual creativity, such as works of literature or the visual arts, and closely allied to this is the study of individual history or biography. In the psychoanalytic literature, studies of this sort are generally referred to as applied psychoanalysis. The explanatory value of psychoanalytic theory in these various areas of human activity affords a valuable, if subsidiary, additional confirmation of the validity of the primary observations which are obtainable by the application of the psychoanalytic method—and of the theories which are primarily based upon those observations. [SeeFantasy; Literature, article onthe psychology of literature.]

The instinctual drives

Psychoanalytic theories of the mind are often divided into two major parts, the first of which comprises those aspects of the theory that have to do with the instinctual drives and the second those aspects that have to do with what Freud called the mental apparatus. Although this division has the disadvantage of being excessively schematic, it does have the advantage of somewhat simplifying the problem of presenting an extremely complex subject. We shall therefore adhere to it, and begin our presentation with a discussion of the instinctual drives.

As the term “drive” implies, the instinctual drives are assumed to be forces within the mind which impel it to activity. They are the driving forces of mental life. In addition to their impulsive quality, they have certain other characteristics, namely, a source, an object, and an aim. The source of an instinctual drive is assumed to be some bodily part or bodily process. The object is the person (or thing) which is necessary for the satisfaction of the drive. The aim is the particular activity or action by means of which satisfaction is achieved. The capacity of an instinctual drive to impel the mind to activity is accounted for by assuming that in mental life an instinctual drive possesses energy. This energy is assumed to be quantitatively variable, to be increased at times of instinctual tension or need and to be discharged in the process of instinctual gratification. The quantity of instinctual energy which is associated with a particular memory or idea is referred to as the cathexis of that mental element. [SeeDrives; Instinct; Motivation.]

Erotic and aggressive drives

Instinctual drives are divided into two major groups or types. The first is called the erotic or libidinal drive and the second the aggressive drive. The relationship of the erotic drive to bodily parts and processes is much clearer than is that of the aggressive drive, and the erotic drive in general has been more thoroughly studied and is better understood than the aggressive one. The principal sources of erotic drive tension or need in the body are referred to as erotogenic zones. The most important of these appear to be the mouth and related structures, the anus, and the genitalia. In the normal course of development it appears that the oral manifestations of the erotic drive are of particularly great importance during the first year of life, the anal ones during the next year and a half, and the phallic ones thereafter. However, the sexual life of childhood is not dominated exclusively by any one erotogenic zone or by any single aim, as is normally the case in adult life after adolescence. On the contrary, the sexual wishes and satisfactions of childhood are characterized by their diversity and manifold quality rather than by uniformity. What is normally characteristic for childhood sexuality, therefore, would be called perverse in adult life.

Since the somatic sources, if any, of aggression (the aggressive drive) are less clear than those of the erotic drive, it is not possible to describe phases of development of the aggressive drive in childhood in the same way that one can describe the erotic drive. It appears that there is a close relationship between manifestations of the aggressive and the erotic drives throughout life, however—a fact which is explained by assuming a degree of fusion between the two drives. It follows therefore that the oral, anal, and phallic phases of childhood sexuality are characterized by aggressive as well as by erotic wishes, fantasies, and behavior, so that it is proper to speak of oral, anal, or phallic aggressive impulses.

An important characteristic of the aggressive drive is its differentiation with respect to its object. Freud was led to the assumption of a special aggressive drive in the first place by his recognition of the very great importance in mental life of selfinjurious and self-destructive tendencies. It is clearly of utmost importance to any individual whether his aggressive impulses are directed toward himself or toward the mental representations of other persons and objects. It must not be assumed however that self-directed aggression is to be considered always pathological. On the contrary, it plays an important, indeed an essential role in normal mental life, for example, in the functioning of the superego, as well as a very important one in abnormal mental life. [SeeAggression, article onPSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS.]

The instinctual drives are of particular importance with respect to the emotional or affective life. In general, an intensification of instinctual need, or an increase in instinctual energy striving for discharge, is experienced as a source of pain and discomfort. A discharge of instinctual energy, that is, the gratification of an instinctual wish or need, which leads to a diminution in tension, is experienced as pleasurable.


The following summary statement may be of some value in helping to avoid certain misunderstandings concerning the current status of the psychoanalytic theory of the instinctual drives. The fact is that some aspects of that theory are considered to be much better validated than others. For example, it seems certain that any qualified observer who is in a position to apply the psychoanalytic method to the study of human mental life must agree that the sexual life of man begins long before puberty. The fact of infantile sexuality (childhood sexuality) appears to be incontrovertible. Equal validity would appear to accrue to the importance of sexual and aggressive wishes, as well as conflicts concerning those wishes, in the whole of mental development and functioning throughout life. Validating evidence is much less adequate concerning such aspects of instinctual-drive theory as the concepts of instinctual energy, cathexis, fusion, and related concepts of a quantitative nature. We may add, parenthetically, that in the psychoanalytic literature the quantitative aspect of instinctual-drive theory is frequently referred to as its economic aspect.

The psychic apparatus

The primary purpose of the psychic apparatus is assumed to be the regulation, control, and discharge of instinctual energy. It tends to function according to the pleasure principle, that is, in such a way as to achieve the pleasure of gratification which results from a discharge of instinctual energies. Formulated more generally, it may be said that the avoidance of discomfort or pain, which is associated with instinctual tension, and the achievement of pleasure, which is associated with gratification, is a basic tendency or regulatory principle of the psychic apparatus.

Psychoanalytic theories concerning the psychic apparatus are firmly based on the fact that the adult organization and functioning of the mind is the result of a period of gradual evolution and development during the course of the many years of childhood. In the last analysis, this is due to biological factors, that is, to the fact that the human infant is born into the world in a largely undeveloped state, both with respect to mental and physical functioning. As a result, during the first several years of its life, it is dependent on its parents for its very survival, as well as for the gratification of its instinctual needs. The offspring of no other mammal is so dependent on its parents for such a long period of time as is the human, and this fact is of profound importance in the mental life and development of man.

Structure of the psychic apparatus

In its mature form or organization the psychic apparatus is divided into three groups of related functions.

The id. That group of psychic functions which represents the instinctual drives in mental life and plays the role of stimulating or impelling the psychic apparatus to activity is called the id. The id is the part of the psychic apparatus which is in closest or most direct communication with the somatic processes of an instinctual nature, and it has often been referred to for that reason as the vital or somatic stratum of the psychic apparatus.

The ego. The ego is that part of the psychic apparatus which comprises the group of functions that have to do with the individual’s relationship to his environment. Ego functions include such gradually developing capacities of the mind as sensory perception, memory, thought, and voluntary motor control. These functions cannot appear before the neuromuscular apparatus which is a prerequisite for them has matured. The development of ego functions, therefore, is a result of interaction between maturation of the nervous system and various experiential factors. What is particularly characteristic of the psychoanalytic theory of the psychic apparatus, however, is the following additional consideration. Ego functions appear to serve primarily the purpose of gratification of instinctual drives. They are, so to say, the executants of the wishes or urges which are the mental representations of the drives. There is thus from the very beginning the most intimate connection between the functioning and, indeed, the development of the mental capacity to cope with the external environment, on the one hand, and the instinctual needs and wishes of each individual, on the other.

The superego. The third group of functions that constitute the psychic apparatus is known as the superego. These functions develop into a more or less coherent unity rather late in childhood, probably not before the sixth or seventh year. In general they are that group of mental functions which have to do with the moral prohibitions and ideals of the individual.


It is of particular importance to bear the following fact in mind in considering the psychoanalytic theory of the psychic apparatus: The functional groupings of id, ego, and superego which are assumed to constitute the mental apparatus are sharply differentiated from one another only in situations of inner conflict. Indeed, the very divisions reflect the characteristic varieties of conflict within the mind as they can be observed by means of the psychoanalytic method. Thus, one frequent type of conflict is between an instinctual wish on the one hand and those aspects of mental activity on the other which have to do with the individual’s relationship to those about him, that is, between a wish of the id and various ego functions. Characteristically, in later life at least, the moral prohibitions (superego) are arrayed on the side of the ego against the id. Other frequently observed conflicts are between the so-called ego functions, on the one hand, and the self-punitive or self-destructive aspect of the moral demands of the mind (superego), on the other. Thus, in these typical situations of conflict, one can distinguish properly between groups of functions that have to do with instinctual demands, those that have to do with the external world, and those that have to do with moral prohibitions and ideals. In other situations, however, where there is no such inner conflict, there is no sharp line of division or cleavage that enables us to distinguish clearly between or among the three systems, or structures as they are often called, of the psychic apparatus. If ego functions are acting as executants of the drives without conflict, one can no longer distinguish clearly what is ego from what is id. All one sees is a harmoniously functioning whole. The same is true when superego demands or prohibitions are in harmony with the instinctual needs or wishes of the individual and with the demands of his environment. [SeeConflict, article onPSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS.]

The id

The id is that part of the mental apparatus which functions to impel the mind toward the gratification of the instinctual drives. The impulsive aspect of mental life is that which is most directly associated with the id.

Since the controlling and adaptive aspects of mental functioning, which are subsumed under the concept of the ego, are only developed gradually during the course of infancy and childhood, the id gives the impression of being the most archaic as well as the most infantile part of the psychic apparatus. In many senses it is correct to say that it represents the mind of the child that lives on in the mind of the grown man. Those processes which we assume constitute the id proceed according to the pleasure principle with little or no concern for the restrictions or demands either of external reality or of morality. These are the aspects of mental functioning which poets and philosophers in the past have referred to as demonic.

The functioning of the id is characterized by an insistent or imperious demand for gratification, that is, for discharge of mental energy. This mode of mental functioning is called the primary process in psychoanalytic terminology. As we have just noted, its essential attribute is a persistent striving for prompt and complete discharge of instinctual energy, that is, for prompt and full gratification. In keeping with this basic tendency, there is a propensity to substitute one or another instinctual object or instinctual aim for the primary one. Such substitution is called displacement, the reference being to the displacement of instinctual energy from one to another mental element. In addition to displacement, there may occur convergence of various instinctual cathexes on one particular aim or object which, because of its availability, or for other reasons, permits more ready and complete discharge of energy. Such a phenomenon is called condensation. These two related phenomena of displacement and condensation are typical and characteristic of mental phenomena which proceed according to the primary-process mode of discharge.

The ego

The ego is that group of mental functions which has to do primarily with the relation of the individual to the external environment. These functions operate as the executants of the instinctual drives and may thus be considered to mediate between the inner needs of the individual and his environment.

Some of the functions that are grouped together as the ego appear to be directly related to the form and functioning of the nervous system, as, for example, sensory perception and the control of voluntary muscular activity, while others, such as the ability to distinguish between subjective and objective reality (originally called reality principle), are more complex and more obviously related to experiential or learning processes in the course of development.

From a subjective, psychological point of view, the single most important object in an infant’s environment is his own body. His experiences of gratification and distress, and consequently his wishes and memories, are all centered about this unique object. Other objects of the environment, for example, his mother, although they may be of the greatest importance as far as his physical survival is concerned, do not compare with his own body in the first months and years of life as far as their psychological significance to him is concerned. These relationships are reflected in psychoanalytic theory by the statements, first, that the ego is first and foremost a body ego, and, second, that the infant’s instinctual orientation is at first largely a narcissistic one, that is, at first largely directed toward himself.

The proper development and organization of various ego functions as the infant grows appear to be intimately dependent upon a satisfactory balance between the instinctual gratifications which are supplied by the persons in his environment and the frustrations imposed by them. Proper mothering and, later, proper fathering as well are essential to proper development of the psychic apparatus and, more broadly, of the personality as a whole. The particular details of this complex interrelationship have been the object of many clinical and developmental studies. In psychoanalytic terminology, the most general formulation to express this relationship is that satisfactory object relationships promote the proper development of ego functions, while unsatisfactory ones impede their development.

Identification and ego development

Among the more obvious reasons why satisfactory object relationships are of importance in the development of ego functions is the fact that many ego functions develop by means of identification with the persons in the child’s or infant’s environment. This is most clearly apparent with respect to the acquisition of language, an accomplishment which is of the utmost importance for the individual’s capacity to adapt satisfactorily to his environment. However, it is true to an important extent for other ego functions as well. In psychoanalytic terminology, identification may be defined as the tendency to become like an object of one’s environment in one or more ways. It is also used to describe the end result of such a tendency. Identification appears to be intimately and necessarily connected with the objects of one’s instinctual wishes. The child identifies or tends to identify with those persons in his environment with whom he has a strong emotional tie. He wishes and tends to be or become like those whom he loves and hates most intensely. [SeeIdentity, Psychosocial; Imitation.]

Delayed gratification

The most general characteristic of the ego, one which is of fundamental importance in the development of most, if not all, of its other functions, is the capacity to postpone instinctual gratification, that is, to delay the discharge of instinctual energy. In psychoanalytic terminology, instinctual energy whose discharge is thus delayed is referred to as bound energy, in contradistinction to free energy. The introduction of delay into the process of instinctual discharge or gratification represents a modification of the pleasure principle and a deviation from the tendency to immediate discharge of instinctual energy, which, as noted above, is characteristic of the primary process. It is an essential capacity of the ego to impose delay or postponement of the gratification of an instinctual wish. This capacity permits a more efficient exploitation of the environment in the service of the individual’s search for gratification. The fact that the flux of mental energies which is characteristic of ego functions differs from that which characterizes the functioning of the id led Freud to the formulation that whereas the id functions according to the primary process, the ego functions according to the secondary process.

Defense mechanisms and anxiety

In addition to its capacity to delay the discharge of instinctual energies, the ego also includes among its functions those mental mechanisms which are referred to as defenses. It will be recalled from the introduction that the study of the consequences and nature of intrapsychic conflict occupies a central position in psychoanalytic theory. It is impossible to understand these conflicts without a thorough discussion of the mode of operation of the ego’s defenses, which is part and parcel of the psychoanalytic theory of anxiety. Because of their centrally important position in mental functioning, therefore, the topics of ego defenses and of anxiety will be treated rather more extensively than the other ego functions.

Freud based his theory of anxiety on the assumption that whenever the mental apparatus is subjected to an influx of stimuli which exceeds the capacity of the apparatus either to discharge or to bind the energies of the stimuli, a traumatic state develops. The affect which accompanies this traumatic state is anxiety. In early infancy and childhood, the capacity of the mental apparatus to bind stimuli and to discharge them is normally much less than it is later on in life. For this reason traumatic states accompanied by anxiety appear relatively frequently in early life. In particular, such traumatic states develop in the infant when an instinctual need arises in the absence of the object, usually the mother, necessary for the gratification of that need, that is, for the discharge of the instinctual energy connected with it. As the infant grows and as its ego functions develop, particularly the functions of memory and of sensory perception, it comes to recognize the absence of its mother (absence of the need-satisfying object) as a prelude or signal that traumatic anxiety may develop. In other words, the infant learns by experience of the danger that when its mother is absent an instinctual need may arise which the infant itself cannot satisfy and which will give rise to anxiety on the basis just described. What happens then is that the danger situation is reacted to with anxiety. This type of anxiety, which is connected with danger or, later, with the anticipation of danger, is called signal anxiety, since it is in effect a signal that a traumatic state may develop. When signal anxiety does develop it sets into operation the pleasure principle, according to which the mind functions in such a way as to avoid pain or discomfort. Thus it becomes necessary that the instinctual need or wish, which might give rise to a traumatic state in the absence of the mother, be prevented from developing into an urgent need. The various ways by which this can be accomplished are referred to in psychoanalytic terminology as the defenses or defense mechanisms of the ego. We shall discuss them in more detail presently.

In normal childhood development there is a regular sequence of danger situations which are associated with signal anxiety. The first of these is the one described above, which is referred to as loss of the object. The situation which next comes to be recognized by the infant as a danger is the possibility of loss of love or affection of the parent on whom it is dependent for instinctual gratification. This is referred to as loss of love. The term “separation anxiety” is often used to indicate anxiety related to either or both of these typical dangers. The third typical danger of childhood, which is characteristic of the phallic or Oedipal phase of instinctual development, is the fantasy of castration in the little boy or of analogous genital injury in the case of the little girl. The term “castration anxiety” designates anxiety related to this danger. The fourth danger, which appears only after the formation of the superego, an event to be described below, has to do with superego disapproval or prohibition. It is sometimes referred to as superego anxiety but more often simply as guilt. In psychoanalytic terminology, the term “guilt” is often used to refer as well to the need for self-punishment and also to the various associated phenomena of remorse, penance, and retribution.

It should be noted that the typical danger situations just described do not simply succeed one another in the sense that the first disappears from prominence in mental life as the second develops. On the contrary, as each new source of anxiety appears in the child’s mental life, the earlier ones continue to exist alongside of the new, and all the danger situations are important in everyone, though to varying degrees in each, depending on the life experiences of the individual and possibly on his constitutional endowment as well. [SeeAnxiety.]

In considering the defense mechanisms, it is important to recognize that the ego may use anything which is available to it as a defense against an instinctual wish or an unconscious need for self-punishment which arouses anxiety. Thus, for example, a diversion of attention may serve a defensive purpose, or muscular immobility may be used to defend against the possibility of being sexually or aggressively active. It may even happen that one instinctual derivative is gratified at least partly as a defense against the emergence of another. Thus, homosexual fantasies or even homosexual activity may appear as defense against dangerous heterosexual wishes, or vice versa. In order to avoid possible misunderstanding in this connection, it must be emphasized that, in general, instinctual wishes are reacted to as dangerous in adult life because they were conceived to be so in early childhood. It frequently happens that an adult vigorously defends himself unconsciously against the emergence of a dangerous instinctual wish which, as an adult, he considers either entirely permissible and natural or even trivial and unimportant. Thus it is fairly accurate to say that mental conflict in adult life derives from childhood or, to use psychoanalytic terminology, infantile sources. [SeeDefense mechanisms.]

Repression. While bearing in mind that the defensive activities of the ego may be extremely varied, we may mention and define briefly several defense mechanisms which are referred to frequently in psychoanalytic literature by specific names. The one which was first identified and has been most extensively discussed is called repression. In psychoanalytic terminology, repression signifies an active forgetting of the memories and other ideational representations of a dangerous wish, whether instinctual in origin or self-punitive. Repressed memories are no longer accessible to consciousness. Since they remain cathected with psychic energy, however, they are constantly striving for some sort of expression in conscious mental life and behavior, however remote from the original wish that expression may be. Thus a repressed wish or need may exert a considerable, even a decisive, influence in the mental life of an individual. The counterforce which is required to keep such a powerful urge repressed is referred to as a coun-tercathexis.

Reaction formation. Another important defense mechanism is reaction formation. In reaction formation one mental tendency is emphasized in order to prevent the emergence of its opposite. Thus, for example, dangerous aggressive wishes may be kept in check by the development of a character trait of kindness and gentleness. In the same way, the reverse may happen, that is, an individual may be bold and vigorous in his overt behavior partly in order to defend himself against a dangerous tendency to be submissive or passive. Similarly, cleanliness may appear as a reaction formation against dirtiness, particularly against coprophilia, etc. The most dramatic reaction formations are those in which love appears as a reaction formation against hate, or vice versa.

Isolation. The term “isolation,” though sometimes used in different senses, generally refers to what is more precisely called isolation of affect. In this defense mechanism, a wish or impulse is allowed to appear directly in consciousness but devoid of emotional significance. It seems to the individual “just an idea” rather than a desire or wish. Isolation, as used in this sense, is closely related to defensive intellectualization in general.

Identification as a defense. Identification, a phenomenon of mental life which we have seen to be of general significance in mental development, especially of the ego functions, often plays a defensive role. In psychoanalytic literature much emphasis has been put on the important part played by identification in connection with separation anxiety. However, it also plays a vitally important role in connection with castration anxiety in childhood and is of particular significance in superego formation.

Projection. The term “projection” refers to that phenomenon whereby an individual attributes to others wishes or impulses which in fact are his own but which would give rise to anxiety or guilt if he acknowledged them as such. Projection as a defense plays a particularly important part in the psychopathology of paranoid conditions, but it is of considerable significance in normal mental life as well. Prejudices of all sorts—for example, those directed against an enemy in time of war—are often closely dependent on projection.

Denial and undoing. The term “denial” is used to refer to a certain defensive attitude toward one or several aspects of the external world. One may fail to perceive an event in one’s environment in order to avoid the guilt or anxiety that would result if the event were perceived. Fairy tales and daydreams in general make considerable use of denial. The misperceptions of the environment that play such a large role in many psychoses are mainly related to the defensive use of denial in those conditions.

The term “undoing” refers to actions which are performed in order to undo or render harmless unconscious wishes or fantasies which are considered dangerous. They represent a kind of unconscious magical penance.

Regression. Regression is a mental tendency or capacity which often serves a defensive function. The dangers associated with Oedipal wishes or fantasies, for example, may be avoided by regressing to anal or oral wishes. This process is known as instinctual regression. Regression may also affect various of the ego functions in a defensive way. In general, if regression is permanent and not merely temporary, the greater its degree and the more extended its role in mental life and the more severe the distortion of personality or the mental illness that results.

The Oedipal phase and superego formation

At the age of two and a half or three the child normally enters into a phase of psychosexual development called the Oedipal period or phase. This lasts for about two and a half or three years and corresponds approximately with what we have earlier referred to as the phallic phase of libidinal development. The violent intrapsychic conflicts which are caused by the sexual wishes of the Oedipal period are of crucial importance in mental development and later mental functioning. They profoundly influence character development in general and are responsible for superego development and organization in particular. In addition, they form the basis or groundwork for the vast majority of whatever neurotic symptoms may appear in later life. [SeeDevelopmental psychology; Personality, article onpersonality development.]

Freud used the term “Oedipal” to designate this period of mental development because of the similarity between certain of the wishes that characterize it in the little boy and the legend of Oedipus as recounted in Sophocles’ play. The little boy in the Oedipal period normally is passionately enamored of his mother, wishes to marry her, and to displace his father in his mother’s bed. The corresponding wish to marry her father and take her mother’s place is equally characteristic of the little girl in the Oedipal period. Thus, the sexual wishes of the Oedipal period revolve around the fateful themes of incest and parricide.

In fact, however, the wishes and conflicts of the Oedipal period are somewhat more complex than the name would indicate. In his psychosexual life, man is clearly bisexual. This is nowhere more evident in the normal human being than during the years of early childhood. In the usual family constellation the little boy of the Oedipal period has sexual feelings toward both parents and jealously murderous wishes toward each, although normally the heterosexual wishes and the jealousy connected with them considerably outweigh the homosexual ones. The same is true for the little girl during her Oedipal period.

For a variety of reasons, not all of which are clearly understood, the Oedipal boy fears castration, specifically the loss of his penis, in connection with his incestuous and parricidal wishes, and the little girl during the same period fears some analogous genital injury. In the case of the girl, the conflict of feelings is complicated by an awareness that she has no penis, a fact which she regularly interprets as a sign of inferiority. Because of the castration anxiety aroused by their instinctual wishes, children of both sexes attempt to control their Oedipal wishes with a great variety of defensive reactions. [SeeSexual behavior, article Onsexual deviation: psychological aspects.]

Among the most important of these for the future development and functioning of the child’s mind are the reactions which give rise to what is called the superego. This group of mental functions may be defined as comprising those functions of the mind which are concerned with either moral prohibitions or exhortations. The functions which have to do with exhortation are sometimes referred to as the ego ideal. Activity of superego functions results either in a limitation of behavior to morally acceptable modes of instinctual gratification or to that particular state of unpleasant inner tension which is variously referred to as guilt or remorse and which leads to acts of penitence, of reparation, of self-punishment, and—in the most extreme instances—to self-injury or self-destruction.

Identification and the superego

The principal mental mechanism involved in superego formation is identification. Normally, the little child identifies with the prohibiting and punishing aspects of the parent who is his chief rival. By making the latter’s threats and prohibitions his own, he defends himself against the fantasied danger of castration. He thus achieves a considerable degree of control over the instinctual wishes which for him constitute an overwhelming danger. At the same time, however, this identification results in an appreciable degree of permanent limitation of opportunities for instinctual gratification. Thus, superego formation normally results in a considerable degree of interference with the operation of the pleasure principle, or at the very least it considerably complicates its operation.

It follows from what has been said that the core of every individual’s morality and, consequently, the invariant elements that one would expect to find at the center of the moral code of every human society, consist of a prohibition against incest, particularly between parent and child, and against parricide. One may add that for many, or perhaps most, individuals, one of the results of superego formation is a considerable degree of guilt over genital masturbation, since this is usually the physically gratifying activity which accompanies the sexually exciting wishes of the Oedipal period. It is also interesting to note that the threats and punishment associated with superego functioning in early childhood, and persisting unconsciously into later life, follow the principle of lex talionis. It would appear that the mind of the child, like the mind of the primitive, follows the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

It seems correct to say that the major share of superego formation is the result of the fateful conflicts of the Oedipal period. It should be noted, however, that a considerable degree of superego formation occurs gradually during the ensuing years of childhood. Some of the identifications with teachers and with childhood heroes, whether historic or contemporary, contribute their share to the growing child’s superego. It is also true that even in adult life, substantial changes may take place in superego functioning, sometimes in a dramatic way, as for example in cases of religious conversion. Freud also emphasized the changes in superego functioning that are characteristic of mob psychology. According to Freud, identification with a group leader—for example, with a political dictator—may produce as considerable an alteration in the superego functioning of many of his followers as results from religious conversion. [SeeMass phenomena; Moral development.]

Latency and adolescence

The institution and organization of the superego normally result in a considerable subsidence of instinctual conflict beginning at about six years of age. Although this subsidence is by no means complete, still the whole picture of a relative quiescence of psychosexual activity and conflict during the years between six and twelve is in considerable contrast to the turbulence and conflict so characteristic of the Oedipal period, which precedes it, and of adolescence, which follows it. Freud proposed to call this interim period a period of latency. When the physical, particularly the sexual, changes of adolescence begin, there is a recrudescence of sexual wishes and sexual conflicts. The course of these adolescent stirrings and conflicts is to a considerable degree predetermined by the defenses already established during the Oedipal period. Thus, to a greater degree than is usually appreciated, the psychosexual development of adolescence and early adult life is a recapitulation of childhood psychosexual development. [SeeAdolescence.]

The foregoing is an extremely brief summary of psychoanalysis as a general science of behavior. Because of its brevity, it is inevitable that the reader may often be misled in attempting to understand a subject which is at once so complex and so extensive. This is not, however, the most serious source of difficulty to the reader. A much greater difficulty is likely to arise from two rather different sources. The first of these is a lack of familiarity and experience with the use of the psychoanalytic method. As mentioned in the introduction, the data concerning human behavior which are available only by application of the psychoanalytic method are, generally speaking, quite foreign to the experience of anyone who has not had an opportunity to apply it. Lack of such opportunity, therefore, makes it difficult for one to form an adequate judgment concerning the validity of many psychoanalytic propositions. The second source of difficulty results from what astronomers call the personal equation. In the case of childhood sexuality, the personal equation is very great indeed. Each adult individual, as a result of having passed through the conflicts of the Oedipal period himself, has stubborn defenses within himself against his own childhood wishes. Even to recognize their existence in others is likely to arouse considerable guilt and anxiety. It is much more comfortable— that is, less frightening—to minimize the importance of childhood sexuality in human mental life or to deny its significance altogether. It is no accident, as Freud pointed out, that every adult has an extensive amnesia for the events of early childhood. Most individuals can overcome their inner conflicts over childhood sexual wishes only with the help of personal psychoanalytic treatment. For this reason, a personal analysis is a usual prelude to psychoanalytic practice, that is, to the systematic, usually therapeutic, application of the psychoanalytic method.

The unavoidable limitations which, until now, have been imposed by the above facts on the acceptance of psychoanalysis by many social and behavioral scientists are unfortunate. The fact is that psychoanalysis can supply to the social and behavioral scientist, as to the student of art and literature, a more profound, more complex, and more accurate knowledge of the nature of man— his needs, his fears, his conflicts, and his motives —than is available from any other source. Such knowledge is frequently important and often vital. It should properly be part of the education of all who deal professionally with man and his works.

Charles Brenner


Arlow, Jacob A.; and Brenner, Charles 1964 Psychoanalytic Concepts and the Structural Theory. New York: International Universities Press.

Brenner, Charles 1955 An Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press.

Fenichel, Otto 1945 The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis. New York: Norton.

Freud, Sigmund (1895-1926) 1953–1963 The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Hartmann, Heinz (1939) 1958 Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation. Translated by David Rapa-port. New York: International Universities Press. → First published as Ich-Psychologie und Anpassungs-problem.

Hartmann, Hetnz 1960 Psychoanalysis and Moral Values. New York: International Universities Press. → Freud anniversary lecture, given in 1959 at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

Kris, Ernst 1947 The Nature of Psychoanalytic Propositions and Their Validation. Pages 239–259 in Sidney Hook and Milton R. Konvitz (editors), Freedom and Experience. A New School for Social Research publication. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.

Ruitenbeek, Hendrik M. (editor) 1962 Psychoanalysis and Social Science. New York: Dutton. → A useful selection of essays on the impact of psychoanalytic thought upon anthropology, sociology, and the social sciences generally.

Waelder, Robert 1960 Basic Theory of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press.


Although the term “ego” has meanings that go back to the beginnings of philosophy, it is only its place in psychoanalytic theory that will be the concern of this article. For this reason it is necessary from the start to rid the term of some of its popularly understood, nonpsychoanalytic meanings. The ego is not simply intelligence; neither is it an inflated sense of one’s own importance, nor does it refer to its traditional philosophical meaning of self-consciousness. It was not meant by Freud to be strictly a phenomenological concept. The ego is not simply the subject of experience, in contrast to the objects of experience, nor is it one’s own person (self), in contrast to others. These exclusions are neither arbitrary nor a matter of preference, but reflect the place that the concept is meant to fill in psychoanalytic theory: specifically, Freud’s need for suiting the meaning of the term “ego” as a “representative of reality” to the requirements of the parent body of psychoanalytic theory. Thus, in Freud’s last and most fully developed conception of the ego, self-feelings, the capacity to reflect on oneself as a person, and the capacity to experience distinctions between self and others are functions within the ego system, part of the ego’s adaptational repertoire of controls and defenses as a subsystem of the personality. The ego’s fundamental meaning for Freud was a hypothetical array of processes standing generally for self-preservation and survival and having to do with the structuring of purposive action in relation to various aspects of reality.

This is not to say that psychoanalytic theorists are always clear and consistent in their usage. Sometimes, the term is merely a taxonomical device to refer to defensive and adaptational motives and their instrumentalities. Sometimes, it is used in the more ambitious connotation of a distinctive subsystem of the personality whose regulatory functions extend to the control of two other subsystems, superego and id. In this sense it becomes more an independent variable that has a role in “affecting” behavior; it is not simply a taxonomy of motivational phenomena or of functions but an entity whose parameters, mode of operations, and functions are potentially capable of being specified in some model of self-regulation.

Confusion in psychoanalytic usage developed from the fact that while the ego concept was present from the very beginnings of Freud’s theory, it underwent a number of changes and shifts of emphasis in response to developments in psychoanalytic theory at large, a fact which Freud sometimes failed to acknowledge. Part of the intent of this review is to draw attention to invariant meanings that have clung to the term throughout its history in psychoanalysis, as well as to changes of emphasis. Of equal concern will be the logical place of the ego concept within psychoanalytic theory and its distinctive character as a framework for explaining behavior. Since the history of the ego concept has been described several times (e.g., Hartmann 1939; Kris 1951a), we will touch on historical considerations only to the extent of indicating how changes in the ego concept reflected conditions in the parent body of psychoanalytic theory —particularly the gradual emergence of the ego concept from its setting within a theory of illness to one concerned with normal development—and to the present status of the concept as constituting a distinctive field of psychoanalytic enterprise called ego psychology. A final and important consideration will be an assessment of its current status in psychoanalysis.

The ego in Freud’s earliest model

From the start, Freud needed a concept of ego. Indeed, it is a curious fact that his concept antedated his theory of psychosexual drives, generally considered to be the cornerstone of psychoanalysis. It is fair to say that Freud’s early theory of the mind was as unavoidably dependent on a concept of ego as his later theories were on a concept of instinctual drives. Believing that he had discovered the primary etiological basis of hysterical symptomatology—a psychical “lesion” traceable to a traumatic sexual experience in childhood—he envisioned, in a burst of temporary enthusiasm, the mechanics of neurosis, within a comprehensive neuropsychological model of normal behavior. In a work published posthumously as Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895), he developed his first systematic account of the fundamental forces in man’s behavior. Behavior, he said, is ultimately the expression both of the discharge of pressureful build-ups of internally and externally generated tensions through appropriate and effective actions upon the environment and of structural complications that develop in the organism in the course of its efforts to find the most effective means of discharge. He called these the primary and secondary functions of psychical structures, respectively.

The ego was conceived as an essential structural means of accomplishing the secondary function— the agency of effective discharge, one that could respond simultaneously to the demands of energic tension and to environmental conditions suited to tension reduction, that could monitor motoric instrumentalities of discharge (because effective discharge is achievable only through action) and that could be implemented by perceptual-cognitive operations of thought which guarantee the proving of reality or “reality testing.” The ego, then, was a coherent organization that was endowed with capacities for inhibiting energy flow and that operated in coordination with processes having to do with the “representation of realities”—thought, perception, judgment, reflection, etc. Freud even specified a latticelike arrangement of neurons with special capabilities of retaining excitation and directing energic transmission. In the Project, defense, which later was to be a dominant property of the ego, was construed, in both a broad and a narrow sense, as part of the secondary function: in the broad -sense, as an inhibiting, but adaptational, process which directs the course of discharge and, in the narrow sense, as a specific form of inhibition or “repression.” The point is of interest because for two whole decades following the Project, the latter, narrow sense of “defense” preempted all other meanings of “ego.” In this remarkable document, which merits more detailed study than is possible here, Freud spelled out the functions of the ego, which he was not again inclined to do in as systematic a way for some thirty years. [SeeDefense mechanisms.]

Status of the concept: 1900-1923

In what is generally regarded as the second and main period of Freud’s psychoanalytic writings— the period immediately following his writing of the Project, up to around 1923, and including The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) —Freud’s theoretical interest in the ego concept waned, although it frequently appeared as a necessary descriptive term. Functions that had been specifically assigned to the ego in the Project were now dealt with separately, without being explicitly associated with the ego. The term had a variety of descriptive usages, sometimes with the connotation “conscious inhibitive control,” sometimes with the meaning “motivations concerned with self-preservation” (e.g., “ego drives”), sometimes in the sense of “the internalized ideals and values of identification figures,” and sometimes in the sense of “feelings of self.” Mainly, however, it seemed to have the narrow connotation “an instrumentality of defense” and specifically of repression. In this last sense, the ego would refer variously to the conscious acceptable mass of ideas which took part in the conflict, the ideals which precipitated the conflict, or the resisting force in conflict, the agency of the regressive process itself. From the vantage point of both his earlier and later, final conception, these were all partial attributes of the ego concept. The idea of a comprehensive, coherent system of control was put aside.

Several reasons have been put forward for this and for the generally unsystematic way in which Freud used the concept in this period. In part, this reflects Freud’s style of theorizing. He tended to give main theoretical weight to his immediate empirical concerns, often without attention to the resultant, sometimes dissonant juxtapositions to earlier formulations. The lure of the next bend, beyond which new discoveries might be made, was always distracting him from the labor of theoretical inventory. It is, of course, also true that he wanted to rid himself of the neuronal model, which he considered a failure, and with it went his early strategy of trying to encompass pathological phenomena within a more comprehensive model of normal functioning. Instead, he now gave himself over entirely to the observations and phenomena that he was most immediately confronted with— those of illness, symptoms, and conflict. He not only moved toward a physiologically “neutral” form of theory but also became more specifically and dominantly preoccupied with the dynamics of illness and less with the task of a comprehensive general psychology of adaptation. Concern with illness meant a theory of its genesis in conflict and focusing on the roles of sexuality and instinctual drives. In the Project, he had tried to view issues of discharge and control, not simply in relation to sexual wishes and tensions, but in the broader perspective of a general biological enterprise of adaptation to stimulation. There the secondary function of defense was broadly construed; now it became identified with the ego in the narrower sense of repression produced by conflicts in which sexual wishes and desires were pre-eminent. The mental lesions—obsessions, hysterical symptoms, perversions, and the like—and their treatment were placed in the forefront, and elaboration of the principles of neuroses, conflict, and the relation of both to sexual bases became the core of Freud’s theoretical enterprise. In this connection two developments were of monumental importance in setting the direction of his work for the next two decades: his retraction of the etiological importance he had given to sexual trauma in childhood and his altered views of the nature of the con-flictual bases of neurosis.

His first conception of the importance of sexuality in the causation of hysteria (1896a) held that the memory of an actual traumatic sexual experience in childhood (e.g., seduction) was central; in this view, the memory of such a prepubertal experience becomes especially pathogenic in the later period of genital sexuality, creating the condition of neurosis-inducing conflict. However, he gave up the conception that the critical etiological event was an actual seduction when he became convinced that the disturbing idea in hysterical neuroses was not a memory, but a fantasy of seduction woven out of a tabooed sexual wish.

This had repercussions on the very fundamentals of psychoanalytic theory, for now it became important to ask how such a fantasy and the wishes involved in it came about. The three main sources of neurotic illness—the sexual core of conflict, the unconscious wishes, and the unsuccessful repressive defense against these wishes —leading to symptoms henceforth became the main themes of Freud’s theoretical efforts. He embarked on observations of continuities in sexual experiences at different stages of development and of their pathological miscarriages. His clinical data pointed to the autogenetic connection between both early infantile needs and bodily functions and the later development of genital gratification.

It was in this connection that the theory of instinctual sexual drives became a critical anchorage of Freud’s thought—the all-determining “reality” to which adjustment must be geared; an internal stimulus which, being inescapable through flight and being peremptory and periodic, creates a continuing and unrelenting source of wishes and strivings that has to be discharged through appropriate “objects.” The other vital appetitive instincts were not very important, because they seemed to contribute little to an understanding of neurosis. By far the most important source of motivation and of individual development was the sexual drives and the conflicts engendered by their momentum for gratification. Moreover, the sexual drives underwent a developmental change in respect to their aims (wishes) and their potentialities for possible gratification (objects). Indeed, they provided the primary momentum of growth. So great was their structuring power that Freud tended at times to believe that character development itself is patterned exclusively by fixation upon different aims and modes of drive gratification. The environment was accorded little significance as a participant in the development of instinctual drives—only in the conflicts generated by them; family life and rearing create obstacles to the discharge of drives, thereby necessitating indirect forms of discharge or total repression.

For Freud, by far the most crucial discovery was that of infantile sexuality—that is, that there is a developmental continuity in requirements of sensual gratification from infantile modes to the usual adult forms of sexuality. Freud wrestled with the formidable theoretical problem of how to fit into a uniform conception the facts of an erotic momentum, its seeming continuity in development, inter-changeability of sensual aims and modes of gratification, and pathological deflections into perversion, fixations, and regressions. Freud’s theoretical solution was to conceive of an active principle of sensual development, involving an energic quantum, which he called libido, having distinctive qualitative or directional properties. There is inherent in libido an implacable developmental course in respect to the aims of its discharge, these developmental changes appearing in stagelike progression. At the same time, within each stage, libido is capable of some degree of transformation of aim and of displacements in respect to actual objects of discharge. For example, “conscientiousness” could be an instance of the transformation of “anal libido.” Libidinal discharge became for Freud the most important single basis of motivation. He believed that the requirements for the relief of libidinal tensions, the conflicts to which they give rise, the shifts in distributions of libido, and the deflections in their discharge are not only the main issues in neurosis but the essential paradigm for picturing normal motivational development.

Through the simplification achieved by attributing directional attributes to a distinctive type of energy, Freud had an attractive and seemingly efficient means of coordinating the complex facts of sexual development and the autogenic heightening and lessening of the desire for sensual gratification in each period. Through the quantitative attributes of libido, the theory could account for intensity of drives, for the pressureful momentum of sensuality; through its qualitative attributes of directionality, it was possible to account for selectivity in respect to the objects which can elicit its discharge. Libidinal energy in its various drive forms had characteristics usually associated with animal instinct; at the same time, it had the crucial property of displace-ability, which distinguished it as specifically human. Thus, the forms of transformation from oral to anal, to phallic, and to genital stages are inherited, like the momentum of transition from one phase to the next, but within each stage the options of gratification are considerable. It must be noted, however, that the distinction between the energy, or activation, aspect of sensuality and the executive actions associated with its formation into drives was obscure in Freud’s formulation—and has remained so. This uneasy coexistence of quantitative and directional assumptions in the libido theory and their unclarified relationship with each other remain weak points in psychoanalytic theorizing to this day. It should be noted that Freud was also veering away sharply from his early emphasis on the importance of environmental (exteroceptive) stimulation.

Sharing the spotlight with libidinal drives at this time was the nature of conflict in neurotic disturbance. For Freud a key factor in neurotic conflict was repression—the blocking of a wish and its derivatives and associations from conscious understanding and action; symptoms of conflict were a manifestation and outcome of repression—they reflected a strategy of conflict resolution arising out of the impasse which repression imposes upon gratification. That his interest narrowed to the one adaptational function of defensive repression partly reflected the logical momentum of his theory which led to, and was continually fed by, particular emphases of clinical observation. It is also true, however, that clarification of the dynamics of repression seemed to be dictated by therapeutic necessity. For according to the theory, the goal of therapy is to uncover the repressed; therefore, it is crucial to give observational priority to indications of the “return of the repressed” and to the means of overcoming the ill effects of repression. [SeeConflict, article onpsychological aspects.]

Although the ego was present in this conception, its status was that of a curiously vague entity, identified most of the time, but not exclusively, as the agency of the repressive force. Emphasis was given to its resistive function, in relation to drive and wish, and its inhibitive capacity, rather than to its capacities for promoting effective gratification; it was identified not only with the repressing force but with the body of ideas—internalized value structures, as well as consciously acceptable and accessible ideas, which instigated resistiveness to drive discharge. Freud also tended to link capacities for conscious experience and will with the ego, but this was loosely developed and does not easily fit with the notion of the ego as an agency that promotes elisions of consciousness through repression. The absence of any detailed regard for how these oppositely effective functions are related within the ego is an example of Freud’s disinclination, in this period, to systematize the ego conception.

It is possible that the reduced importance of a specific environmental etiology of neurosis affected Freud’s interest in the ego, if not his assumption that the ego was necessary in his over-all conception of psychical structure; that aspect of the ego which is purely adaptational became less compelling. Parental behavior and family life were significant aspects of the environment—but significant only as potential impediments which produced conflict and provoked defense. The possible supportive importance of environmental structure to normal drive functioning as a molding and implementing influence—not simply an obstacle to the evolutionary-given momentum of libido—was not a natural fulcrum of interest for libido theory and, hence, received little attention. One also wonders if premonitions of possible contradiction with the libido theory contributed to the stasis of the ego concept in this period, since Freud’s account of the motivational and structuring force of libidinal drives included attributes that he later, under the pressure of observation, imputed to the ego.

As for motivations specifically attributable to the ego, Freud spoke about them only with respect to the ego’s role as an instrumentality of the pleasure principle and its role of defense. He did for a time speak of “ego drives,” but he gave up the notion, possibly because of difficulties in making it compatible with the libido theory. It seemed necessary to emphasize only reactivity to instinctual drive and containment of drive by defense. Indeed, this emphasis is common even today. Clinicians are still inclined to regard the ego mainly in the light of its participation in conflict and in its partnership with instinctual drives pressing for discharge.

Freud, nonetheless, had much to say about thinking processes in their adaptive, as well as drive-related, aspects. However, he did not bring these considerations into a single taxonomic concept of an ego system of control. Thus, in The Interpretation of Dreams appears his epoch-making distinction between primary and secondary thought processes. Secondary thought shows characteristics that follow the precepts and rules of logic, maintaining an identity or coordination with reality structures and events; in marked contrast, thought processes of the primary process are wholly in the service of drives, of promoting peremptory discharge. The distinction implies that there is an “objective reality” and that thought (in the secondary process) is capable of representing it without distorting it. However, Freud left largely unexplained and undescribed the developmental origins and nature of the secondary process. In fact, it never again received the attention he had given it in the Project.

It is possible that some of the difficulties that have persistently clung to the ego concept since Freud’s time are traceable to the fact that the secondary process and its reality-testing functions were not explicitly made a part of ego theory in this period; its status as a means of implementing effective drive control, as well as a means of representing reality relationships generally, was implicit but not developed. Also, the question ef whether the mechanisms of symbolization, condensation, and displacement of the primary process are best viewed as ego manifestations to this day is unresolved. To have confronted such questions— and generally that of making primary and secondary processes comprehensible within a conception of ego—would have drawn attention to the crucial issue of the independence of ego processes from libidinal control. Moreover, there was something contradictory in the view of the ego as primarily a reactive, defensive agency whose vital biological mission is to insure self-preservation. There are, in his writing, any number of hints that it was difficult to avoid the assumption of an autonomously active force in the ego. The critical point is that Freud did not consider in detail the problem of instrumentalities of control in general, whether in the service of drive or in nondrive adaptations. Had he done so, we would have had a psychological conception more consistent with the then current , as well as present, preoccupations of most psychologists.

It seems fair to conclude that during this period the assumptions of his libido theory muted Freud’s interest in an interaction of adaptive motivations and environment as a major motivational source of behavior. It required repeated clinical indications of the explanatory insufficiency of the theory of libidinal drives for him to widen the orbit of the ego’s meaning to embrace these phenomena.

Later development: 1924-1938

The decision to confront more directly and systematically the ego’s position in psychoanalytic theory was gradually forced upon Freud. Actually, this renewed interest picked up themes of the early Project. Clinical observations and considerations had much to do with forcing the issue—facts and special theoretical formulations that had no firm position in the general theory as it stood had been accumulating. We will consider several of these: (1) phenomena of unconsciously manifested resistance in psychoanalytic treatment; (2) a radically different appreciation of the meaning of anxiety; (3) the role of unconscious guilt and internalized parental commands and morality; and (4) psychotic breakdowns of thought functions.

Unconscious resistance

Freud became increasingly impressed with a peculiar resistance to being helped or understood that patients displayed. The patient could proclaim with conviction his willingness to participate in the treatment, but there were many indications that he was undermining it in a variety of ways. The patient seemed to resist knowing not only the repressed ideas but, more importantly, resisted knowing and acknowledging that he was repressing. The resistance seemed to operate quite unconsciously, indeed seemed even to gain in force from the fact that it was not conscious. These facts profoundly affected the strategy of therapy itself and also moved Freud toward a reformulation of the ego concept.

Accordingly, a great change eventually came about in psychoanalytic therapy—an emphasis upon working with defenses themselves and with resistances; a great deal of attention was now given to their various forms and vicissitudes in treatment. No longer was analysis considered to be simply the uncovering of repressed memories through catharsis. The conception of repression itself underwent change. Repression is a process that not only affects memory but promotes breaks in the conscious appreciation of associative links with the conflictual core of the neurotic symptoms; such “splits” produced by repression have different be havioral manifestations. Thus, even the meaning of uncovering repression became different; it could mean not only recovering a memory but the reestablishing of a conscious appreciation of causal connections among ideas.

The phenomena of resistance seemed also to point to an active principle in the structuring of behavior, independent of, and rivaling, that of instinctual drive. Defense could not simply be a reactive response fashioned out of repeated frustrations of drive discharge and modeled upon the discharge modes of instinctual drives. Moreover, the unconscious aspect of this seemingly drive-resistive force cast doubt upon the logic of Freud’s previous tendency to associate all unconscious determinants with instinctual drives alone.

The new theory of anxiety

Freud revised his views of anxiety, and his new conception had reverberations throughout the body of psychoanalytic theory and therapeutic practice. Previously, Freud had resolved the question of whether anxiety is a reaction to danger or a transformation of libido, by what seemed a parsimonious solution in terms of libido theory alone. Anxiety was simply a product of libidinal drive blocked from discharge, an overflow of libidinal energy which induced a passive reaction of inchoate restlessness and diffuse feelings of fearfulness. However, a number of clinical considerations—among them, the facts of resistance and the problem of how repression itself is initiated—compelled him to assign an active role to anxiety in a regulative system of response to danger. He proposed that small quanta of anxiety had utility as a signal, an informational sign of impending danger, in response to which defenses are alerted. Thus, anxiety became associated with a directive function distinct and separable from libido and able to determine the course of behavior independently of libido. He underscored the separation of libidinal drive discharge, but he avoided confronting the issue (If it did not originate from libido, whence the energic basis of anxiety?) by making it an ego function and part of the ego’s regulative system of defense.

The importance of this new view of anxiety can hardly be overemphasized; it brought into the foreground an anticipatory capacity in the schema of regulation. Effective regulation meant functioning guided by anticipated danger. The anxiety signal is more than a realistic response of fearfulness to actual danger. It reflects a regulatory system capable of initiating defensive action on the basis of a premonition; it indicates a system capable of the developmental feat of turning passively experienced, full-blown anxiety into a finely tuned means of anticipatory defense. Moreover, the anxiety signal is capable of mobilizing a great variety of defenses in this fashion.

The new theory also emphasized the qualitative, or conngurational, aspects of anxiety, in contrast with the earlier, purely quantitative energic conception. In general, anxiety is indicative of a state of mind in which a person is preoccupied with preserving, rather than with gratifying, himself. Anxiety is linked to internal representations of danger situations; these prototypic dangers differ at the various stages of psychosexual development, producing different anxiety configurations. For example, separation can provoke in the infant an experience of loss of love, which is internalized as a potential danger and is thereafter an occasion for anxiety. Separation and object loss are especially potent sources of anxiety in the period of infant helplessness; later, the dangers of retribution, castration, and fantasied loss of potency become sources of anxiety. Freud, thus, implied that the controlling system which embodied the anxiety signal had a developmental aspect coordinate with, and separate from, that of libidinal development, one in which different focuses of anxiety at different ages result in correspondingly different defensive patterns. The theory also led to a further elaboration of neurosis as the retention and reactivation of past or obsolete conditions of anxiety —for example, loss of love, castration, etc. [SeeAnxiety.]

The importance now attached to developmental circumstances that promote anxiety broadened psychoanalytic concerns to include the bases and content of ontological insecurities, their epigenesis and relation to social development. It began to turn attention to the patient’s personal construction of reality—that is, reality as he interprets it, whether of environment or of drive. The impact on psychoanalytic therapy was great and helped to redirect it. Now, in addition to asking what the patient desires, one has to ask what he is afraid of and what he does if he is afraid. Only by understanding the configuration of his anxiety and the modes of control associated with it can one get a complete picture of his conflicts and fears.

But the new conception posed a difficult problem for existing instinctual-drive theory. Since the link between anxiety and libido theory has been weakened by attributing anxiety’s essential quantitative factor only vaguely, if at all, to libido, how does one relate anxiety to the parent theory? Freud resolved the issue, not by revision, but by addition: by broadening the ego conception to include properties of activity that he had not before assumed it to have and by including anxiety among its signaling capacities. He thought that by endowing the ego with its own energy, he had an expedient solution which did not threaten the existing edifice of psychosexual theory, a solution which seemed to retain its explanatory usefulness and to accommodate certain observations that had stubbornly resisted interpretation.

Unconscious moral strictures and guilt

Observations of patients who hold on to suffering out of a need for punishment and of the phenomenon of guilt seemed also to be better provided for if one assumed some grade of regulative capacity independent of instinctual libidinal drive. The fact, too, that the qualms of conscience can be effective without being conscious called further attention to the inadequacy of a theoretical bias Freud had shown toward equating conscious and unconscious events with the polar participants in conflict. He now assigned motivational importance to this facet of regulation and termed it superego. The superego gives commands; it is an internal “must” system which can mount urgent motivational pressure. However, after so internalizing and elevating the motivating forces of a morality system, Freud had to cope with conceiving another system that was responsive to it, one that was responsible for modulating and implementing its demands. Freud called upon the ego concept to provide the supplement: the activity of internalized moral strictures and values became part of a general system of ego control, which is coordinate with the id and which is capable of imposing restraints, of staking out the range of permissible drive discharge, of determining different forms of conflict, and of bringing about their resolution. [SeeMoral development.]

Psychotic thought disorders

Psychoanalytic experiences with psychotics pointed to impairments of adaptive capacities and to defective personal constructions of reality as primary issues. For example, the difficulties that psychotics have in sustaining emotional investments (transference) seemed to Freud to indicate a fundamental adapta-tional deficit in the affective sphere, which was itself a precondition, rather than a result, of the breakthrough of drives into cognitive forms (the primary thought processes). Clearly, clinical observations increasingly pointed up limitations of the existing model, which regarded libidinal drives as the dominant regulatory force in behavior, counterpoised by a vaguely defined inhibiting ego.

Expansion of the ego concept

In confronting the insufficiencies of the general theory, Freud could have revamped his conceptions of psychosexual (libidinal) determinism, conflict, and defense. The solution Freud adopted consisted, instead, of broadening the ego concept; he converted it into a hypothetical system of regulation endowed with an activity principle of its own, one that was coordinate with instinctual drives. All processes of selectivity of thought and action in their adaptive aspect were assigned to it. No longer was the ego simply an ad hoc passive outcome of impulses meeting implacable external barriers to discharge. This seemed to take care of the principal requirements of the new data—providing for adaptational motive tendencies and for decision, choice, and integration; control of drives was now viewed as but one aspect of the organism’s development. Moreover, the new schema brought to psychoanalytic theory a symmetry that it had previously lacked, for now the two main regulative principles, the pleasure and reality principles, were unequivocally associated with two coordinate and corresponding structuring instrumentalities— the pleasure principle with the id and the reality principle with the ego (and superego) system. Freud stated his final conception of the ego as follows:

Here are the principal characteristics of the ego. In consequence of the pre-established connection between sense perception and muscular action, the ego has voluntary movement at its command. It has the task of self-preservation. As regards external events, it performs that task by becoming aware of stimuli, by storing up experiences about them (in the memory), by avoiding excessively strong stimuli (through flight), by dealing with moderate stimuli (through adaptation), and finally by learning to bring about expedient changes in the external world to its own advantage (through activity). As regards internal events, in relation to the id, it performs that task by gaining control over the demands of the instincts, by deciding whether they are to be allowed satisfaction, by postponing that satisfaction to times and circumstances favorable in the external world or by suppressing their excitations entirely. (An Outline of Psychoanalysis [1940] 1964, vol. 23, pp. 145-146)

Through the critical functions of inhibition, detour, postponement, and integration via thought and action, the functions of defense, of realistic drive implementation, and of adaptation were joined to a single regulative system, coordinate with the drive system itself. Perhaps the most critical capacity attributed to the ego was an autonomous integrative function (actually developed more explicitly by Hartmann) that specifically cast the ego in a much more active role than Freud had ever before accorded it. According to Hartmann, “The most incisive change which took place in Freud’s model of psychic personality …[was] its representation as a (more or less) integrated whole, subdivisible in centers of mental functioning—these substructures being defined by their functions, and their demarcation being based on the fact that empirically he found greater coherence among some functions than among others” (Hartmann [1927-1959] 1964, pp. 146-147). This reference to “centers of mental functioning” represents the “structural point of view” in psychoanalysis.

Adjustment, control, and integration, and not simply the direct and indirect forms of drive discharge, thus became the main concerns of psychoanalytic theory. The achieving of harmony, balance, and general equilibrium, as well as the equilibria which result from conflict-determined defensive maneuvers, became a legitimate and even necessary focus of psychoanalytic observation. There is even a hint that the ego not only is coordinate with drives but also serves as organizer of drives, as a kind of omnibus regulator in the personality.

In general, the key change in Freud’s conception of the ego from his previous uses of the term was his recognition of an active principle independent of libidinal drive energy, which involves the turning of enforced responses into ego-initiated processes. The new conception brought into the foreground the proposition that the causal matrix of human behavior cannot be limited to unconsciously active instinctual drives and was the first explicit recognition of this in Freud’s thinking. The motivations that develop from this activity are “ego motivations” as distinguished from “drive motivations.” The ego’s dominion over the pleasure principle became, as Hartmann remarks, a possibility that was unthinkable in the earlier theory.

Indeed, so far did Freud go in his appreciation of the regulative power of the ego that in a later, sobering reflection on negative therapeutic reactions in analysis, he even proposed that there might enter into a person’s ego development a peculiar characteristic or deformity of its growth that predisposes it to conflict, whatever the drive components of the conflict—an inherent tendency of the ego to promote the conditions of conflict. Clearly, it was implied that the ego has a degree of organizational independence giving it capabilities of motivating behavior independently of drives.

Although Freud intended to solve problems in the general theory, it is ironic that his respect for the organizing momentum of ego activity actually created a dilemma in psychoanalysis, raising the critical problem of what the energic basis of the ego’s autonomy is. Freud’s hint that the ego was energized by a “neutral,” nondrive quantity had the effect of sharpening issues of incompatibility with libido theory, which his expanded ego conception was intended to resolve. It has raised questions about the tenability of his drive and energic conceptions as explanatory tools. We will return to these issues.

Freud’s final conception of ego created the prospect of a new field of psychoanalytic endeavor concerned with ego development; it drew attention to a primary biological fact: a protracted period of helplessness in the child, which had a great influence on the development of adaptational apparatuses and controls. Psychoanalysts were urged to consider in more detail the gradual emergence of control and internalized values that are attached to relationships and the manner in which these become means of regulation. The purely ego aspect of “object relations” thus became an area of possible study.

Freud’s final conception, although clear enough in its outlines, was hardly more than a series of programmatic hints and was ambiguous in a number of respects, such as the following. (1) The line of distinction between conflict and adaptational problem was by no means clear. The ego, in the new conception, was seen as an active adaptational participant, implying that neither all encounters nor all experienced impasses necessarily involve conflict. But, the distinctions between disequilibrium and conflict—and, for that matter, between the varieties of disequilibria and of conflict themselves—were by no means clear. (2) Although the new conception implied a distinction between specifically defensive encounters and other modes of adaptational controls, Freud still tended to emphasize the ego’s regulation of conflict through defense, although it was an ego working with “its own energies.” However, the new conception encouraged the broader view that behavior has a “multiple function”—that the organism is responsive to a complex array of “realities,” not simply to the drive-defense polarities of conflict. But Freud had said little about the varieties of adaptational encounter or about developmental “tasks” other than those involving instinctual drives. (3) There was still no explicit recognition of self as a grade of ego organization with which may be associated distinctive organizing functions and motivations. (4) One could say with justification that Freud still intended to view the ego’s functions in relation to reality mainly from the perspective of an environment that embodied actual and potential dangers and frustrations. Thus, the ego’s functions in the positive role of creator, rather than defender or adjuster, were only hinted at. (5) Finally, the issues of the nature and bases of the ego’s autonomy were left hanging, as was the problem of how one might now conceptualize the ego’s development independent of drive development. A reflection of this incompleteness was a curious ambiguity that remained in Freud’s notion of the anxiety signal: the new conception of anxiety did not distinguish libidinal from nonlibidinal sources of anxiety, although it implied that there was such a distinction.

Post-Freudian development

The concepts of the new ego psychology were amplified and systematized by Heinz Hartmann and supplemented by Ernst Kris, Rudolph Loewen-stein, and David Rapaport, the torchbearers of the new ego psychology. Erik Erikson’s efforts to delineate a biosocial conception of adaptational development are also pertinent, although he does not explicitly use an ego-psychological frame of reference. Erikson’s work, in fact, highlights certain of the difficulties inherent in ego psychology’s attempts to distinguish between drive “structure” and ego.

Hartmann perceived the central importance of Freud’s assumption of an autonomous activity principle (he calls it the synthetic, or organizing, function of the ego) and made it the key feature of his conception of an ego system which undergoes a development that is coordinate and interactive with that of drives yet remains distinctive. Within Hart-mann’s scheme the ego emerges more clearly as a general adaptational “organ,” reflecting in the range of its responsiveness responsibility to “realities” in the broad sense, as well as in the narrow sense of serving the pleasure principle. He views the ego in a problem-solving role, not simply as mediator of conflict; responsiveness to conflict becomes but one aspect of the ego’s function in the adaptational task of “fitting in” with an “average expectable environment.” Even the scope of conflict itself is greater than the clash of drive impulse and defense. As a self-regulative system, the ego responds to the requirements of different types of “disequilibria.”

A central theme is Hartmann’s conception of the autonomy of the ego’s functions—that is, the degree of independence of ego activities from drives and from involvements in conflict. Phylogenetic development has ensured that the human child will come into the world with an array of functions potentially adaptive to an average expectable environment, provided adequate environmental opportunity is supplied. These functions include the basic capacities and abilities of the organism: the abilities to perceive, to learn, to remember, to think, to move, and to act; talent and inborn gifts of all kinds, as well as dispositions to organize, to synthesize, to achieve balance from disequilibrium. The development of these functions is also relatively independent of drive, guided in large measure by the necessities of stimulation or contact with an environment that supports the actualizing of these potentials. (Relevant to this point is the great difficulty experimenters encounter in demonstrating consistent effects of needs on perception.) The assumption of conflict-free structures is extended even to functions that are responsive to parental and social realities. For instance, there is a conflict-free superego aspect of ego development. This framework makes it possible to accommodate such nonpsychoanalytic developmental theories as that of Piaget, for whom stages of the development of thinking are essentially the outcomes of interactions of perception and of action accompaniments of cognitive operations. [SeeDevelopmental psychology, article onA THEORY OF DEVELOPMENT.]

These assumptions of primary autonomy of functions signify recognition of a range of phenomena that do not owe their essential form to psychosexual influence. Indeed, the issue of the participation of drive and more generally of libido on ego development now becomes a more troublesome matter. Hartmann is careful to point out that “conflict-free” does not mean “drive-free” and that actually, many ego functions are molded on the pattern of such instinctual drive manifestations as giving and taking, introjection and projection, holding on and letting go; in these instances the ego functions have their analogue in the modes of motor functioning of the various erogenous zones.

For Erikson, this has been a departure point for developing a psychosocial conception of drives. For example, each of the zones that successfully attain a place of principal importance in the discharge of drive tension has one or more modes of operation that are basic for dealing with reality. The mouth lends itself to getting (i.e., receiving) and taking, the anus to holding on and letting go, and so forth. A critical point is that there takes place a process of estrangement, or autonomous separation, of the modes from their original locus in zones. They become, then, general ways of approaching the world. Erikson offers clinical examples from play configurations, dreams, neurotic symptoms, social behavior, etc. which show the utility of this way of viewing consistencies in behavior.

It should be pointed out, however, that Erikson’s mode-zone conception is actually more a reformulation of drive theory than an extension of the new ego conception of autonomy, for the core of his theory is that the kinds of functions associated with autonomous ego functions in the Hartmann scheme (e.g., perception, motor, etc.) are present as a part of drive structure from the very first. It is no solution—nor is it meant to be—to the dilemma created by Hartmann’s notion of how much primary autonomy is to be allowed to ego. Erikson proposed that drives are always implicated in psychosocial adaptational modes, having a formative influence on the modes as well as being themselves shaped by the modes, but this seems to undermine the conception of a drive-autonomous development, in contradiction to Hartmann’s view.

Conflict retains its importance in Hartmann’s schema as an important condition for the emergence of new varieties of motivation and of action structures. There are two distinctly novel features, however, in his view of the relation of conflict to development. One is his proposal that structures of regulation can undergo a “change of function” from defense to adaptation. A regulative process that developed as a means of coping with conflict can be used for purposes other than defense; a defense such as intellectualization or denial may turn into a means of nondefensive adaptation. It becomes, as it were, a generalized mode of cognitive control suited to a range of encounters requiring resolution. These are examples of secondary autonomy in the sense that, although they originated from conflict in the service of drive control, they developed into effective instrumentalities of adaptation generally. Secondary autonomy is a reminder that the conflict-free realm of primary autonomous functioning can be enlarged by the development of new structures. The natural course of development is seen, then, to be enlargement of the conflict-free sphere, building on the base of the primarily autonomous structures additional structures that serve to contain the drives, slow them, and harness them to useful work.

A second novel feature of Hartmann’s views has to do with alternative origins of defense itself. It is possible for the primary autonomous structures to play a role in predisposing the person toward certain modes of defense when he experiences conflict. In Freud’s earlier views adaptive modes of control (usually termed character defenses) themselves originated in defensive reactions and/or in fixations on one or another mode of drive gratification. Now Hartmann is saying that characterological style and adaptive control may not only be fashioned from defenses but that the reverse is also possible —defenses may be patterned on an autonomous behavioral tendency. Thus, a special talent may affect the distribution of libidinal and aggressive energies; it may itself be useful as a means of resolving conflict and, therefore, become a factor in determining habitual forms of defense. In this connection, the relationship between special sensitivities of infants and subsequent development of defenses in neurotic conflict is incorporated in this principle.

The developmental momentum of the conflict-free functions constitutes a source of independent motivation, of incentives for contacting the environment, and of adaptive control—a “third force,” on a par with drive and social reality. For instance, one source of motivation arises from the appearance, motivationally, of an anticipatory capacity which makes possible what Erikson calls time-locked motives. Hartmann attributes great importance to the anticipation function in ego development. Drives by themselves cannot guarantee adaptation to reality; neither is a heightened appreciation of reality enough to guarantee success for the ego’s primary role nor renouncing an immediate pleasure enough to secure a greater and more certain one in the future. Neither are fear of pain nor the lure of pleasure, for that matter, in themselves precise indicators of direction and selection. It is necessary to assume a factor for anticipating the future, for orienting actions according to it, and for correctly relating means and ends to each other. This effort, if successful, yields pleasure secondarily; thus, integrative efforts become themselves a source of motives for contacting the environment and for developing interests and talents —none being derivable from drives directly.

Thus, Hartmann’s formulation gives a place in psychoanalytic theory to function pleasure—that is, the intrinsically pleasurable aspects of the sheer exercise of functions—as a motivational source. Indeed, there is a hint that such motivations and the search for opportunities of exercising these functions without drive discharge as their basis are even necessary to normal development. Such intrinsic activity motivations guarantee, in Rapaport’s view, the “stimulus nutriments” required for growth; Rapaport suggested that the seeking of stimulus nutriment is the basis of many activities described as “curiosity,” “search for novelty,” etc. Incidentally, another implication of these views is that growth itself and motives that stimulate activity to a great extent depend on the environment, not on the instinctual drives, in the sense that contact with the environment seems to be essential for the development and persistence of certain psychological structures. The pleasures of such contact—and particularly of successful and effective contact—enlarge the organism’s repertoire of motivations, beyond those originating in instinctual drives alone. [SeeStimulation drives.]

It must be noted that in enlarging the picture of the sources of human motivation—motivations for dealing with reality that originate at least relatively independently of drives—Hartmann has also produced a more complex picture than heretofore of the potential conditions of, and participants in, conflict. For instance, motivations having to do with the function motives or intrinsic activity of the type mentioned above are not always consonant with those which derive from drives nor with internalized values. The disequilibria produced by conflict over drives, as well as those arising from within the ego system itself, become, then, a matter of psychoanalytic concern. Through his insistence on the importance of processes of adaptation to reality, Hartmann focuses attention on conflicts within, as well as between, systems: between drives and superego, between ego and superego, and between ego motives themselves.

The contemporary emphasis on the ego as a synthesizing system reflects a broader perspective of motivation than the earlier view, which saw it as a means of responding to drive tension. In the current view, the ego is a balance-inducing system, not simply a system for reducing tensions. Resolving the conflict of drive and superego demands is only one such task of the ego. The basic motivational conditions are still regarded as disequilibria, but these are not always assumed to implicate drive, nor do they always imply the reduction of tension; indeed, some conditions of balance and harmony may require an increase in the tension level of the organism.

Because the ego’s synthesizing function is essential in modulating tension and achieving balance in a condition of disequilibrium, the ego is established as the prime—in fact, only—regulative system of the psychic apparatus to which the claims of drives and of superego are subordinated. The new ego psychology has irresistibly moved away from the tripartite model of control to a single control system in which the id and the superego are forces. The ego becomes the embodiment of all active purposive realignments of behavior. “Loss of control” in the new scheme connotes “ego deficiency.” While the dominance of the ego system is not an acknowledged precept of the Hartmann, Kris, and Rapaport conceptions, it is a logical implication of their views.

Ego functioning seen as a developmentally autonomous process extends psychoanalytic interest to the study of particular functions, such as perception and memory. A program for the analysis of thought functions encompasses the ways thought and behavior become alienated from reality, the conditions of conflict and drive investment that determine this alienation, and the behaviors that characterize it. For example, one might ask about the conditions under which, and the forms in which, perception develops adaptively in giving rise to effective psychical representations of reality; the conditions under which it may become sexualized or drawn into conflict; its role as helper or opponent of drives—that is, in its defensive, as well as drive-facilitative, forms; and its modification in relation to the equilibrating requirements of superego motivations.

Pathological phenomena can be conceptualized through consideration of conditions which produce a loss of “ego autonomy”—that is, a loss of the ego’s integrative capacity when drive and superego demands are beyond the organism’s tolerances. This derives from the view that ego autonomy is always relative; it is never absolute. Drives and their traces can invade thought organization and action.

In emphasizing the possibility that ego autonomy may be lost under conditions of increased drive pressure or weakened ego functions or, in Rapaport’s view, under conditions of an altered state of consciousness, provision is made for the fact that adaptations can take regressive, as well as progressive, forms. At the same time, the effort for adaptive synthesis and mastery (an ego motive) may come about in a temporary abeyance of ego control and may yield unique and novel forms of integration and insights into environmental realities—a conception which Kris brought into prominence while attempting to determine the conditions necessary for artistic creativity.

Two other contributions to the expanded significance given to the ego construct deserve mention. One is Rapaport’s attempt to reinstate consciousness as a decisive force in selection and action to a high place in the ego’s repertoire of regulative functions. While Freud emphasized the distinction between conscious and unconscious forces, the delineation of the functions of consciousness in adaptation and in the motivation of behavior was not one of his major interests. In the early period of the Project, consciousness was more or less identified with ego and was assigned adaptational importance, but later, when ego became virtually synonymous with defenses, consciousness receded in significance as a determining force of behavior. However, the anxiety concept did reopen the general issue of the independently motivational importance of conscious states of feeling and affect and of modes of experience generally. The qualitative distinction between conscious and unconscious cognitive activity again assumed importance. For instance, Freud’s view that ego functions have different behavioral consequences in different states of consciousness exemplifies this concern.

Rapaport has described a variety of states and types of awareness and their behavioral effects. Perhaps the most important of his suggestions is the proposition that the less the capacities for vigilance, for reflective awareness, and for directing attention at will, the more do thought processes take on passive characteristics (i.e., show evidence of the primary process) and the less effective is secondary-process thinking.

Ego psychology within the general theory

The radical reorientation within psychoanalysis brought about by the advent of ego psychology is perhaps most prominently exemplified in the development of psychoanalysis from a theory of pathology and illness to one that has ambitions of embracing all psychological disequilibria, whether specifically pathological or not. The change may be summarized as a shift from the conception of ego as an instrumentality of discharge of sexual and aggressive instinctual drives—and specifically as defense against those drives—to a concept of ego motivations derived from functions of adaptation and the resolution of crises. Several aspects of the changed emphases in the parent theory deserve comment.

From conflict to crisis resolution

Psychoanalytic theory resists single-trend interpretations of behavior; its propositions deal mainly with contrasting and incompatible forces, either actual or those of fantasy. It was the resolution of a particular form of opposition—the conflict between defense and drive—that occupied Freud in the main. This original insight into conflict as a source of motivation is now better regarded as a restricted expression of a more general view of life as a developmental process in which the resolution of incompatibility, crisis, and impasse is a critical condition of growth. The conflicts stressed by Freud are one aspect of a process of constant “adjudication” of incompatible polarities—for example, that we live in a phantom world of I-other relationships, whose code has to be understood by every person. Partly as a result of the impact of current ego psychology, the terms or polarities of potential impasse are more inclusive, encompassing a wide variety of conflicts, including those forms not previously provided for in the theory. For example, Hartmann refers to conflicts within, as well as between, subsystems. Important emphasis is now given to developmental crises, in which modes of action and adaptation perfectly suited to the bio-social conditions of one stage are no longer appropriate to new maturational conditions and to social expectations tied in with these.

Crisis, impact, and dilemma produce a requirement for adjudication, and out of the variety of such felt or actual incompatibilities, including conflicts in the narrower sense of psychosexuality and defense, emerge motives of action and thought. The development of psychoanalysis has consisted in part of an even more discriminating appreciation of varieties of conflict and generally of the conditions of incompatibility that demand mastery. Psychoanalysis is still a psychology of motivation with emphasis on motives arising out of incompatibility, and this key principle is central to its clinical applications.

From defense to adaptation

It is also recognized that not all adaptational efforts are defense in the narrow sense. The emphasis on defense originated in a concern with illness and neurosis, the concept of conflict being the core of the theory. Now, as ego psychology becomes more explicitly a conception of adaptation and of developmental solutions, it is logical that it embody the assumption that adaptation is multiple faceted, with defense only one of its forms.

From instinctual drives to motivational diversity

The distinction between drive-originated and non-drive-originated motivations is increasingly a sensitive issue in contemporary psychoanalysis. The important clinical concern with motivational genesis—how the patient’s goals came to be what they are—often turns out not to implicate psycho-sexuality. Clearly, not all motivations—in the sense of purposively instigated contact with the environment—can be referred to the main driving causes —sexuality and aggression. Confronting psychoanalytic theory is the problem of embracing the uneasy recognition of extrainstinctual motivations without repressing the hard-won realization that such drives as sexuality and aggression indeed have a plasticity not given to other sources of motivations—for example, displaceability of drive aims and objects, a not easily inhibited peremptoriness, and a higher potential for involvement in conflict. The strength and ubiquity of unconscious love and hate, including their self-directed aspects, must be incorporated into a comprehensive motivational theory in the future. Erikson’s formulations are the closest approximation we have at the present time. The capacity of traditional libido theory to effect this reconciliation is highly doubtful, and in fact, the uncritical acceptance of libido theory within the newer emphases of ego psychology sharpens the theoretical dilemma.

From explanatory priority of unconscious wishes to explanatory parity of conscious purpose

The polarity of consciousness-unconsciousness was always significant to Freud, but mainly in respect to consciousness as reactive to unconscious forces, particularly in his early formulation of the conscious-ego system. Mainly because of Rapaport’s efforts, the causal importance of consciousness and of modes of experience is generally acquiring increasing respect in psychoanalytic theory. One aspect of this emphasis is a set of new possibilities opened up in respect to the importance of affects, previously considered as part of the anxiety-signal theory. One possibility is that an affective experience can be an independent source of motivation. The possibility has even been suggested that only via affect signals do drives themselves become motivations—that is, directional influences. At any rate, affect signals have been increasingly regarded as antecedents that determine realistic and unrealistic implementations of drive activation.

This change of emphasis in contemporary psychoanalysis is well illustrated by a reinterpretation of depression offered by Bibring to replace the traditional theory (1953). In the older theory, guilt over oral and aggressive strivings were assumed to be central in depression. In Bibring’s theory, depression is considered to be primarily an ego phenomenon “representing an affective state of helplessness” which comes about because two incompatible sets of ego cognitions are simultaneously active: feelings of lowered self-esteem, on the one hand, and, at the same time, unrequited aspirations and a not yet relinquished sense of potential. Low self-esteem, inhibition of ego aspirations, and helplessness are the important focuses of the syndrome. Bibring actually assigns a peripheral role to the drive factors that are central in the accepted theory. Drives may precipitate or complicate depression or be exacerbated as a result of the ego state, but they are not primary determinants of depression, the crucial factor being the ego state. The theory is truly a radical reformulation in several respects: (1) It assigns priority, not to instinctual drives, but to an affective state of the ego. (2) It assigns importance to goals and motivations that are explicitly of the ego and not of drives. The incompatibility is “intrasystemic” and does not implicate the id. (3) It assumes conscious experience to be an active force in determining behavior, in asserting that the experience of helplessness is a key event in the depressive syndrome. (4) It draws attention to dilemma in the broad sense, rather than to conflict in the narrow sense, as a dynamic principle. (5) It accords a determining influence—even as a “fourth force” —to a grade of ego structure having to do with self-esteem. (6) Overlapping with the above, it regards instinctual sexual drives and aggression as complications, but not prior determinants, of the depressive state. [SeeDepressive disorders.]

The effects of the expanded conception of the psychoanalytic enterprise and of the newer emphasis on the ego have been both vitalizing and humbling. It has, for example, decisively checked the earlier pansexual reductionism with which psychoanalytic therapy and theory were burdened for years. Moreover, recent developments have brought a broadened appreciation of social and cultural influences into psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalysis has come a long way from its beginnings, when the ego was the contravening agent against the id and against the culture, to appreciation of the fact that only a supporting society and a loving mother can make a functioning ego. Ego psychology attempts to correct the earlier de-emphasis, while avoiding a simple environmentalism.

At the same time ego psychology has been a vitalizing influence in making psychoanalysis aware of the processes by which reality is engaged, of the varying modes and styles of such adaptational approaches, and of the pathological consequences of a break in the equipment of effective engagement with the environment. This last aspect has been a particularly important spur to experimental work in nonclinical settings. Also prominent has been the burst of interest in conceptions of ego development, a field of study distinct from the study of cognitive development per se or of intelligence, and emotions.

Furthermore, psychoanalytic therapy no longer regards its main task to be the uncovering of unconscious memories. It is now more a matter of deciphering and revealing the pattern of object relationships and of specifying the scope of these patterns of relationship in behavior and experience. The goals of psychoanalysis have thus become more ambitious and more difficult, and the hopes of success, consequently, more modest.

Some psychoanalysts have cast a jaundiced eye on the current ego psychology, viewing it as a throwback to attempts to undo the importance of sexuality and aggression in behavior—to re-repress the insights gained from Freud’s long period of concern with instinctual drives. This is a misleading interpretation of the development. It seems more likely that it reflects an attempt to deal with motivations in behavior that cannot be easily explained in terms of libido theory. The explicit aim of ego psychology is not at all to pre-empt the importance of the hard-won clinical facts descriptive of conflict, defense, transference, regression, fixation, unconscious fantasy, and screen memories— all of which require proper understanding of the powerful forces of sexuality and hate—but to make them part of a larger framework which will encompass facts which these concepts are either not consistent with or insufficient to deal with.

Evaluation of the concept

This seeming vitality and broadened perspective ought to be the happy note on which to end the present account. Ego psychology would appear to be a vigorous development on the psychoanalytic scene, one of increasing explanatory promise. Unfortunately, for all of the incentives to investigation promoted by ego psychology, there are grave doubts about its viability as theory in its present form.

A suspicious sign is the very inclusiveness of ego psychology. The ego has come to connote all those structures of man which, in the face of peremptory drive motivations, make him responsive to reality. Here is a summary of ego functions offered by two spokesmen for the new ego psychology: (1) consciousness; (2) sense perception; (3) the perception and expression of affect; (4) thought; (5) control of motor action; (6) memory; (7) language; (8) defense mechanisms and defensive activity in general; (9) control, regulation, and binding of instinctual energy; (10) the integrative and harmonizing function; (11) reality testing; and (12) the capacity to inhibit or suspend the operation of any of these functions and to regress to a primitive level of functioning (Arlow & Brenner 1964, p. 39). And this list does not even include the functions of the superego, which could quite properly be included as an ego “subsystem.” It is freely admitted, moreover, that ego theory offers no systematic principles by which to order its component functions hierarchically; which functions are most central and which most peripheral to ego as a structure are by no means clear. One result is vagueness in distinguishing ego development as a process from the development of intelligence, affect, and cognition generally and, indeed, from drive development.

Scientific theories have a way of hiding difficulties by attempting to resolve impasses by complication. Certainly, current ego psychology complicates the picture of conflict, motivation, and determinism of behavior, compared to the earlier psychoanalytic conceptions. Conceptual complexity is no sure sign of better theory; indeed, it may well signify weakness and error. Some of the ambiguities and difficulties in current ego psychology therefore deserve scrutiny. Four unresolved issues in ego psychology cast doubt on the fundamental viability of the concept.

Entity or taxonomy?

One difficulty in current formulations has to do with confusion over the appropriate data language to be used in designating ego phenomena. An aspect of this problem has to do with specifying the essential referent of the ego concept: whether the ego is a hypothetical unit or system of self-regulation with as yet unknown operational parameters, simply a taxonomical device for grouping functions according to their relation to id and superego, or a class of nonlibidinal motivations. Proponents of ego psychology are equivocal on this matter, and various theorists have even tried to dismiss the issue altogether. The first meaning—the ego as a regulative system— has definitely the ring of reification. In some accounts a definite structure, in some sense, of a hypothetical central mechanism is implied—structure in the “hard sense,” as in holistic references to the ego as “strong” or “weak” or to “autonomy of ego” from id.

On the other hand, reification is often and vigorously disclaimed; it is said that the ego’s “existence” is a matter of convenient metaphor (e.g., Waelder 1960). Something of the same type of usage, it is said, is seen in modern physics; an electron can be located only when it sends a message—that is, when it emits the ray in transmission from one energy level to another. And so it is with ego, superego, and id. The ego has its usefulness as an agent in sharpening the picture of the forces of conflict.

Despite such disclaimers, it is difficult to wave aside the possibility that the structural point of view carries inescapable assumptions of agency and process. In the early phases of his theorizing, Freud did not consider the ego simply as a grouping of functions; it had specifiable operational characteristics. Even if one takes the notion of the ego as a “group of functions”—that is, in its most popular current, taxonomical meaning—the very word “group” brings up questions of the processes of grouping, the nature of coherence, of why and how certain functions collaborate and others do not. Moreover, avoiding the ego as a motivational organization—a meaning also encountered—carries with it the assumption of interlocking purposes and development, and again, the nature of the coherence becomes an issue. Loewald has made this point well. There is a distinction, he says, between processes and the structures between and within which subprocesses take place. He and Eissler raise the question of how the three structures of personality function. It is difficult to see how current ego psychology working from the “structural point of view” can avoid assuming some kind of operational model of a system working as a whole, especially in presenting itself as an explanatory theory of causation and in eschewing the more modest and achievable goal of being a descriptive psychology of meaning and purpose. But failing to confront its covert assumptions of a process model, the causal explanations offered by ego psychology are bound to appear to beg the question.

There is more than mere suspicion that the new ego psychology does indeed lean upon a model of hypothetical process without acknowledging it as such—namely, the tension-discharge-equilibrium model. Disclaiming reification, ego psychology, nevertheless, does implicitly hold to the pseudo-neurological conception of psychical structure that is embodied in Freud’s energy conception of drives, and to the extent that it does, it inevitably has to reflect the limitations and inadequacies of this model of process and structure.

Some theorists (e.g., Rubenstein 1967) propose that ego theory ought to be directed toward the development of a model of self-regulation, one which would fill the gap in an uncertain meta-psychology of mechanism, which the theory implies. Thus, there have been proposals to conceptualize autonomy in terms of some actual—perhaps physiological—model of information processing. This would put ego psychology squarely into the business of investigating central processes.

Most psychoanalytic theorists are understandably reluctant to move in these directions, for to do so would commit theorists to a data language not easily suited to the observables and aims of the clinical situation and would very likely even require data of a different order than are obtainable in the consulting room. More important are well-founded doubts as to whether such models could ever be productive to clinical work or could ever move beyond the stage of simply translating the purposivistic concepts of clinical work to a seemingly nonteleological cast. The challenge to those calling for psychoanalysis to move toward developing models of operational process is this: unless such models have built into them capacities for consciousness, modes of experience, and reflection on social responsibility, they are not likely to be of much use to the clinician.

One could try to wave aside the issue by democratic gesture: Let those who wish go the direction of mechanism; live and let live. This is well and good, but it requires the existence of an alternative course. It is doubtful, however, that the currently popular structural point of view provides such a clear alternative. Proponents of the structural point of view—certainly the prevalent one—shun the responsibility of developing the operations model they implicitly avow, in hopes that an explicit concern with the functions through which reality-adaptive efforts are carried out will suffice.

However, a serious contributor to theoretical ambiguity is the fact that several meanings of “function” are used interchangeably and confounded in contemporary ego psychology: “function” in the sense of “survival utility,” “function” as “purpose” or “motivational aim,” “function” with the non-motivational meaning of “capacity” (e.g., perception, memory).

Vagueness in the conception of functions affects the meaning and utility of the key concept of primary and secondary autonomy of functions. A common illustration of primary autonomy is the great extent to which perception, motility, and learning are relatively independent of conflict and drive. Here the word “function” clearly has the meaning of “capacity,” “faculty,” or “apparatus,” without implication of “purpose.” But, if “perception” and “motility” are not motivational terms, in what sense can they be autonomous, especially since perception can be an instrumentality both of ego and id motivations? Secondary autonomy almost always refers to a “change of function” in the purposive sense, rather than in the sense of “capacity.” Defense, for instance, can become a generalized character trait. Thus, the seemingly unitary term “autonomy” lacks theoretical symmetry. The notions of primary and secondary autonomy are anchored to different meanings of “function,” and in the theory what is presumed to be autonomous is ambiguous.

Relationship to drive

Ego psychology presents a paradox, rather than offering a solution, in assuming, on the one hand, that certain functions undergo a development outside of conflict, and, on the other, that “conflict-free” does not mean “drive-free.” Autonomy means “autonomy from conflict,” not “autonomy from drive.”

Ego psychology seems not to have confronted the implication that if there is only one set of instrumentalities of perceiving, motility, etc., involved in the structuring of drives and, indeed, of all motivations, the necessity of assuming an agency distinct from id (and therefoic two sets of instrumentalities, one for drives and one for ego motivations) becomes rather less urgent, even superfluous; if the distinct agency is retained, it becomes simply another and redundant way of referring to self-regulation in the organism as a whole, which includes drive as one aspect of its totality.

A key change in Freud’s later conception of the ego was his recognition of an active motivational principle of growth that went beyond the pleasure principle of libidinal gratification—the turning of enforced responses into ego-initiated responses. The explication of this critical precept of ego psychology is still in its beginnings (Erikson’s formulations are a most promising start). The unsettled question is whether there is a psychoanalytic version of ego development that is distinguishable from psy-chosexual development.

Catch-all or distinctive theory?

In this sense, contemporary ego psychology is a reminder to psychoanalysis of theoretical tasks hardly begun. Merely to list the ego’s functions is not to account for the logic of their grouping and the dynamic principles by which functions cohere and differentiate. What Hartmann and his collaborators have done in acknowledging conflict-free processes, as Loevinger points out, is to give ego functions “a local habitation and a name within systematic psychoanalysis” (1966, p. 433). This is an achievement, but it is not yet an integration of ego psychology into psychoanalysis. Acknowledging a “synthetic,” or “integrative,” function of the ego is not to state a dynamic principle by which to explain behavior in terms of synthesis activity. It is less important to assert that motivations can emerge from a process of “secondary autonomy” than to specify the dynamic principles that account for their origin and their subsequent predominance over developmentally earlier motivations. Lacking such dynamical principles of epigenesis, many of the concepts of ego psychology, such as primary or secondary autonomy, seem less like explanations than descriptive and classificatory formulations of phenomena that psychoanalytic theory had previously made it difficult to recognize.

The fundamental issue, then, confronting ego psychology is the question of whether the broad conception of the ego as an arbiter of reality is a parsimonious theory, which, under a few principles , systematizes the seemingly diverse and unrelated purposes and motives observable in behavior, or is a means of developing ad hoc propositions to provide for observations that do not square with the theory of libidinal energy.

It should be pointed out that the discoveries of the pervasive influences of sexuality in pathology and the observations of developmental continuity in sexuality are the bases of, but are not identical with, the libido theory. The conception of a libido energy which is inherently directional and has an inherited developmental course is a special hypothesis designed to pull together diverse manifestations and developmental aspects of sensual pleasure. Thus, confirmation of the pervasiveness of sexuality is by no means confirmation of the libido theory. There is extraordinary resistance to making the separation, even though it has been many times demonstrated that the libido theory far from suffices to deal with many strands of evidence and observation of sexuality. Yet, these inadequacies forced Freud to revise his account of the nature of motivation, and these revisions are a prominent part of ego psychology.

To appreciate better the link between the ego conception and the libido theory, recall Freud’s early model, which assumed a flow of energy into the mental apparatus from two peripheral sources, external and internal. Drive, the internal source, pervades and energizes the mental apparatus as an uncoded stimulus; “drive” thus had the dual connotation “stimulus and energizer.” The ego concept was introduced to provide a responsible controlling agent, some means by which the uncoded stimulus is made cognitively sensible and given direction and which accomplishes and modulates the drive’s “aim” of discharge. In libido theory, too, the notion of an energy which builds up tension, requires discharge, and is modulated to an equilibrium is fundamental. In the libido conception the notion of ego control came to place more emphasis on defense, variously described in terms of censor, repression, and even for a short time ego drive.

However, the challenge of how to conceive of the ego apparatus was a much more formidable one in the context of the libido theory than in the simplistic model of “endogenous” and “exogenous” energies of the Project. In the latter, drive was simply an internal energic quantity. The ego concept could accommodate that. But, the libido theory proposes something more: it connotes an energy quantum having its own aims, range of objects of discharge, epigenesis, and even its own mechanisms (e.g., displacement, consideration). In the later, tripartite model, id is truly an agency of impetus, requiring a very special agency of control. It gradually became evident that not all motivational phenomena could be encompassed by the libido conception. Freud faced a choice: Was the trouble to be diagnosed as a defect of the libido conception or as an inadequate picture of ego? Freud’s decision was unequivocal. The conception of the ego as a controlling agent was changed, not the libido theory. Thus, a case can be made for the proposition that every change made thereafter in the ego conception was indirectly a supportive effort to retain the libido conception unaltered.

With expansion of the ego concept, however, the strains of coexistence have become even more evident. Ego theory in its late development has had to take account of the adaptive plasticity of behavior, cognitive autonomy from stimulation, capacities for choice and volition, and the independence of abilities and intelligence. But, the libido concept presents an impediment to such a picture of the ego; it assumes a distinctive quality of energy, having its own aims and structuring implementations independent of the ego and undergoing its own distinctive development, and requires an ego whose dominant function is to serve as a control over the claims for discharge of sexual and aggressive energies. This simply contradicts the trend toward a broadened conception of an ego as an autonomously motivating agent. The trouble began with accumulated evidence of reality-adaptive motivations that had no easily determined relationship to sexuality. It is to Hartmann’s great credit that he confronted the motivational phenomena that forced extension of ego theory, but recourse to continuous enlargement of the ego concept is no strategy of parsimonious solutions.

The signs of strain are evident in the ingenious recourse to the concept of neutralized drive energy as a solution to this dilemma. Libido retains its status as an independent energic force. However, this hardly clarifies how the allegedly independent drive energy can come under the sway of the structuring functions of the organism. There seems to be evidence that for sexuality to develop, the right psychosocial setting and adaptive instrumentalities must be present; in Rapaport’s terms, drives also need their “appropriate supplies” of environmental stimulation. Solution of this dilemma still confronts contemporary psychoanalysis. [SeeSexual behavior.]

It seems likely that resolution of the difficulties in meshing libido theory and ego psychology will come neither by further expansion of the ego concept nor by inventions of bridging concepts such as neutralization, but through a different theory of psychosexual development, which will replace the libido concept. Erikson’s conception points the way. Erikson’s is a configurational, rather than an energic, conception of psychosexuality; qualitative aspects of mode (apparatus) and zone are fundamental. If one were to look at these in the conventional psychoanalytic framework, one would have to say that such mode-zone applications are simultaneously ego-drive structures. But, obviously the latter terminology and the tripartite model of ego, superego, and id, whose sense rests on the assumption of distinguishable energic forces, simply does not suit such a schema as Erikson’s, in which the configurations of mode-zone relationships are the drive structure.

Equilibria versus motivational explanation

Analysts waver between two modes of theoretical explanation, and ego theory reflects this uncertainty. One mode of explanation uses the impersonal terms “tension reduction,” “equilibria,” and “discharge.” The other mode is couched in terms of purpose in the extended sense of direction and aim of behavior. For the early Freud, only a nonteleological mode of explanation was satisfactory, and when he failed to accomplish this in a neurophysiological model, he kept on trying with a neutral language of energy, cathexis, delay of discharge, and the like. This model persists to this day and with it the conflict between the “clinical” side of psychoanalysis (i.e., its bias toward motivational explanation in the extended sense) and its nonteleological, impersonal focus on alleged energic processes. Despite the fact that everyday clinical work is nothing if not an investigation of the purposes or motivations of behavior, when it comes to explanation, theoreticians feel this is to be avoided like the plague. Thus, Hartmann ([1927-1959] 1964, p. 89) comments that Freud’s regulative principles protect psychoanalysis from teleology. Directions and aims are construed as reflecting trends toward different types of equilibria —for example, self-preservation (reality principle), pleasure principle, nirvana principle, repetition compulsion. The regulation set in motion by equilibration requirements is accomplished through particular functions—for example, the organizing function of the ego, the trend toward synthesis, and the trend toward independence from environmental stimuli. On this level of explanation, the purposivistic cast of the clinical explanation of specific goals and objects is not explicitly acknowledged; the causative principle is equilibration. This duality of orientation in explanation lends uncertainty to ego theory. [SeeHomeostasis.]

The uncertainty consists in the fact that attempts to cast explanation in nonteleological form logically moves ego psychology toward a theory of self-regulation which, if it is to have empirical utility, requires theoretical models of system operation—of how such equilibria are actually established. At the same time, to accept this challenge distracts from the fundamental clinical tasks of the psychoanalytic enterprise, which is to account for behavior purposivistically, with reference to its aims, directions, and goals; the conflicts that enmesh purposes and generate others, conscious and unconscious; their developmental epigenesis; and their consequences in pathology. Moreover, if ego functions rather than operational structure are to be the central concerns of ego psychology, it is surely not the ego apparatuses as such, but mainly their engagement in purposes and meanings, that is properly the focus. Certainly, the latter program seems more natural to psychoanalytic clinical objectives. Such a focus would offer ego psychology the sorely needed basis on which to distinguish itself, on the one hand, from a psychology of intelligence and cognitive functioning and, on the other, from a psychophysiological theory of sexual and aggressive drives.

But, this commitment is far from clear in present ego theory. Two different theoretical enterprises are implied in the two modes of explanation with which ego psychology is identified. Current ego psychology tries to straddle both, with no gain to either. When these two explanatory focuses are combined, the result is often unhappy. As an example, take Rapaport’s conception of “autonomy of the ego from drive.” This combines a seemingly telic concept of autonomy—but not developed as such—with a special conception of drive as a directionless, contentless quantity seeking discharge. (Rapaport, in fact, avoids the libido conception, arguing that it is expendable, and reverts to Freud’s earliest conception of a nonspecific drive quantity.) Rapaport presumes to explain behavior in the nonteleological terms of an assumed state of equilibrium. “Autonomy” is not meant in an experiential or phenomenological sense as Erikson uses it (as a “sense of autonomy” which characterizes self-identity), but as a purely hypothetical condition of the status of an energy quantity. If one chooses to dispense with the notion of a directionless drive energy which banks up against psychical dikes and flows to its discharge, Rapaport’s autonomy notion holds little appeal. It is once again Freud’s notion of endogenous, undirected energy demanding discharge . As in Freud’s original model, the environment is essentially a matter of demands and noxious impingements of impersonal stimuli.

At the same time, the energic conception of drive and of libido in particular obscures the distinctive motivational aspects of ego theory by foisting upon it a dubious data language of cathexis, energy, and discharge. This burden will remain with the ego concept as long as the parent model, of which it is a part, holds that there are independent, “blind” forces to be controlled and that there must be an agency of such control. The language of psychoanalysis has, thanks to ego psychology, become enriched with references to nonsexual factors in motivation, but it has not yet become a theory of such motivations. Contemporary ego psychology is to be likened more to a melting pot of phenomena and propositions that are not readily encompas-sable by a tension-reduction, stimulus conception of drive.

Psychoanalytic theory currently faces the choice either of continuing to explicate a model of the ego as a regulatory mechanism—building into it more detailed process assumptions to implement its heretofore implied, but unspecified, reifications and, with this, to take on a commitment for types of nonpsychological data on physical and physiological processes—or of frankly restricting its scope and its terms to the orientation that brought the theory into being, an endeavor concerned with motivational meanings of behavior and with understanding behavior in relation to psychological dilemma and conflict, an enterprise termed by Waelder the exploration of the multiple functions of action. Further efforts in this direction would have to shed all pretense of offering a nonteleological mechanistic picture, such as are implied by impersonal processes of homeostasis, equilibria, cathexis, energy and its modifications, and the like, which imply and require a different domain of data. The direction would be the use of theoretical terms and a data language that has a frank and direct reference to basic purposivistic tendencies of man and their evolution and epigenesis in a lifetime. This is actually what analysts do in their clinical work; it is not yet fully reflected in the systematic theoretical enterprise of psychoanalysis.

George S. Klein

[Directly related are the entriesConflict, article onPSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS; DEFENSE MECHANISMS; Drives, article onACQUIRED DRIVES; Identity, Psychosocial; INSTINCT; MOTIVATION, article OnHUMAN MOTIVATION. Other relevant material may be found inAnxiety; Perception, article onPerceptual DEVELOPMENT; PERSONALITY; PERSONALITY: CONTEMPORARY VIEWPOINTS; and in the biographies ofFreud; Kris; Rapaport.]


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Rapaport, DavidThe Collected Papers of David Rapaport. Edited by Merton M. Gill. New York: Basic Books, 1967.

Rubenstein, B. R. 1967 Explanation and More Description: A Metascientific Examination of Certain Aspects of the Psychoanalytic Theory of Motivation. Pages 20–79 in Robert R. Holt (editor), Motives and Thought: Psychoanalytic Essays in Memory of David Rapaport. New York: International Universities Press.

Shakow, David; and Rapaport, David 1964 The Influence of Freud on American Psychology. Psychological Issues, Vol. 4, No. 1. New York: International Universities Press.

Sperling, Samuel J. 1958 On Denial and the Essential Nature of Defence. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 39:25-38.

Spitz, Rene A. 1960 A Genetic Field Theory of Ego Formation: Its Implications for Pathology. New York: International Universities Press.

Stein, M. 1965 States of Consciousness in the Analytic Situation, Including a Note on the Traumatic Dream. Volume 2, pages 60–86 in Max Schur (editor), Drives, Affects, Behavior: Essays in Memory of Marie Bonaparte. New York: International Universities Press.

Stone, Leo 1962 The Psychoanalytic Situation: An Examination of Its Development and Essential Nature. New York: International Universities Press.

Waelder, Robert 1936 The Principle of the Multiple Functions: Observations on Overdetermination. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 5:45-62.

Waelder, Robert 1960 Basic Theory of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press.

White, Robert W. 1963 Ego and Reality in Psychoanalytic Theory: A Proposal Regarding Independent Ego Energies. Psychological Issues, Vol. 3, No. 3. New York: International Universities Press.


The psychoanalytic technique is a method of treating psychoneurosis which is based on uncovering the forces and motives that underlie the patient’s symptoms. It originated in a chance discovery made in 1882 by Josef Breuer while treating a severely disturbed hysteric (the famous case of “Anna O.“). When she was in a hypnotic state, this patient would talk to Breuer either spontaneously or in answer to his questions and would recount painful, upsetting events of her life that appeared to relate to elements of her symptoms or to words she would utter while in twilight states. The patient herself called this treatment “chimney-sweeping, “because each recall of a traumatic event was followed by the disappearance of symptoms related to that event. For instance, her inexplicable terror of drinking water from a glass vanished after she remembered that she had once seen her governess let a lap dog drink out of a glass and that the sight had aroused considerable disgust in her.

Freud’s development of psychoanalytic therapy

In 1889 Freud began to apply this cathartic method, as it was called, to other hysterical patients and was able to confirm Breuer’s discovery. Freud and Breuer described their experiences in their Studies on Hysteria (1893-1895). In a later work (1914a), Freud made a record of some additional observations concerning the technique evolved by him. He stressed that for a satisfactory therapeutic result it was essential that the patient remember all traumatic events: the earliest and the most recent, as well as all intermediate ones; moreover, the remembering of traumatic situations had to be accompanied by the re-experiencing and verbal discharge of the affects connected with the traumata, affects that had been “strangulated.“[SeeHypnosis; Hysteria.]

As he continued to treat patients in this way, Freud met with two shortcomings of the cathartic method. Some patients could not be hypnotized; others, although susceptible to hypnosis, experienced only temporary relief of their symptoms. In brief, he found hypnosis an unreliable therapeutic tool. For a short time he experimented with what he called the method of concentration, which consisted in prompting the patient to remember the forgotten events while pressing his hand on the patient’s forehead. He described how the patient would respond to this prompting with ideas that occurred to him (free associations), which were either the looked-for traumatic events or some other experiences or thoughts or fantasies or dreams. In these seemingly unrelated associations, Freud soon learned to discern connections, allusions, and hints referring to symptoms, on the one hand, and to some as yet unremembered traumatic situations, on the other. Gradually he became able to guess or to infer, from all this material, the traumata on which the neurosis was based. At this point he developed the framework of what later was to be called the method of interpretation and reconstruction (1900; 1916-1917; 1937a; 1937b). At the time he developed this method, Freud made another discovery which was to become fundamental for psychoanalytic technique. His patients had great difficulties in remembering and were reluctant to communicate even seemingly innocuous ideas. Freud concluded that these inner obstacles —resistances, as he called them, borrowing a term from physics—were in fact the counterpart of the forces that kept the relevant memories and related affects shut off from consciousness.

The actual psychoanalytic technique, as we know it today, started when Freud replaced the method of concentration with that of free association. This technique has progressed throughout the past decades, but its essential features were laid down by Freud between 1900 and 1915 (1905a; 1908; 1909a; 1909b; 1911-1915; 1941a). Freud’s gradual development of the method over those years resulted in successive changes in his theoretical views on the etiology and pathogenesis of neuroses.

Freud’s early ideas on the nature of pathogenic traumatic events were epitomized in his theory of sexual seduction during childhood. The realization that many such sexual traumata had not really occurred, but represented the patient’s unconscious fantasies, opened the way to his first discovery of childhood sexuality (1905b). Neurotic symptoms were recognized as determined not merely by some fortuitous traumatic event but by an interplay of forces: by pathogenic conflicts between warded-off (repressed) instinctual demands and warding-off (defensive) forces of the ego. The psychoanalytic method strives to make conscious both the warded-off and the warding-off unconscious elements involved directly or indirectly in the patient’s symptoms. It leads to therapeutic results on the basis of this transformation. The investigative and therapeutic aspects of the psychoanalytic method overlap partly, but not to the same extent in each case.

Free association

The method of free association expects the patient in analysis to say whatever occurs to him, without “censoring. “This is called the basic rule of psychoanalysis. The method leads to a gradual unfolding of preconscious derivatives of the conflicting forces. In practice, this process is initiated by a compact made between the psychoanalyst and his patient: the patient promises complete candor; the analyst, total discretion. That is how Freud (1940) defined the psychoanalytic situation. The practical arrangements, consisting of regular and frequent treatment sessions, commonly of fifty minutes’ duration and held four to six times per week, with the patient lying on a couch and the analyst seated in a chair behind him, have valid technical reasons. The psychoanalytic process unfolds in the most favorable way under these conditions.

The rationale for the method of free association is based on the observation that when conscious, goal-directed thinking is partly relinquished in favor of spontaneously emerging thought contents, part of the habitual defense against preconscious and unconscious material can be bypassed. The analysand’s supine position tends to eliminate or weaken a further source of automatic censorship; it facilitates the verbalization of thoughts which would automatically be left unspoken in the usual face-to-face conversation. The result may be that the patient remembers situations he had forgotten, or expresses thoughts that at first seem foreign to him, or that familiar memories appear unexpectedly in a new psychological context. Or again, during some session a number of thoughts and memories may emerge in which the analyst will discern a common theme or denominator. The frequency and relative length of psychoanalytic sessions promote a gradual reactivation of past emotions, fantasies, memories, and thoughts, which are thus made available to the conscious ego of the patient.

The initial psychoanalytic situation develops into a process of interaction between analyst and patient in which each has a task to perform. The patient gradually learns to comply with the basic rule. The analyst assists him in doing so, learns to understand him, and communicates this understanding to him. It is a lengthy and highly complex procedure, mainly because some derivatives of pathogenic conflicts are, or become, involved in the process of free association itself and interfere with the patient’s ability to follow the basic rule.

Resistance and transference. The way in which a given analysand observes the basic rule results in a variety of individual modes of free associating. These diverse modes are influenced, above all, by the particular resistances against the basic rule which inevitably emerge in every psychoanalytic treatment.

Despite sincere efforts to be candid, patients cannot avoid censoring some of their thoughts. Either they are ashamed or feel guilty about certain actions or wishes, or what occurs to them seems too irrelevant or stupid, too indiscreet or too offensive, to be uttered. At times, they go to any length to avoid expressing such a thought; or they recount it but omit some detail that is essential for its understanding. Or again, they communicate important thoughts or memories in a clinical and impersonal fashion, without being aware of, or able to express, the corresponding affect. And sometimes, although they feel they have very much to tell, they find it impossible even to utter a single word. These inner obstacles (resistances) to free association represent effects of the defensive forces, transferred from the pathogenic conflicts as such onto the psychic material which might reveal them during treatment. The unconscious struggle against bringing the warded-off pathogenic conflicts to consciousness reveals the underlying, unconscious, individually variable trend to preserve the neurosis.

Often the thoughts which patients are most reluctant to express have to do with the person of the analyst. The material of the free associations is connected either with the neurosis or with reactions to the analyst, and these reactions, feelings, and general attitude of the patient toward the analyst are so important that the outcome of the treatment may depend upon them. Freud took an essential step in elaborating the psychoanalytic technique when he recognized them as transferences, i.e., as transpositions from an infantile object onto the analyst or as modified unconscious repetitions, in the treatment situation, of early warded-off tendencies and experiences, but now with the analyst as object.

This objective approach in dealing with the patient’s reactions to the analyst has become an essential tool in analyzing those resistances which are of particularly far-reaching influence on the treatment: the so-called transference resistances. These may manifest themselves as direct obstacles to free association or may influence the associations in more subtle ways. For instance, the basic rule may be made inoperative by being taken too literally; it may be used for concealed parody of the analytic treatment or used in various indirect ways to gratify complex, unconscious transference reactions. The diverse transference resistances comprise old defenses and the instinctual demands themselves. Thus they represent a new version of infantile pathogenic conflicts unconsciously relived in the patient’s efforts to associate.

The genetic approach. The fact that the psychoanalyst understands the patient’s reactions toward him as manifestations of transference, and analyzes them from a dynamic as well as an ontogenetic point of view, is referred to as the genetic approach (Hartmann & Kris 1945). It calls for the use of genetic interpretations and of reconstructions of the patient’s warded-off past experiences. This genetic approach is particularly prominent in the analyst’s work when dealing with those phenomena which constitute a transference neurosis or, better, transferred neurosis; that is, when transferences are no longer isolated manifestations, but a considerable part of the patient’s symptoms becomes involved with the person of the analyst or the process of analysis itself.

The work of interpreting becomes effective mainly when applied under favorable conditions and in particular ways. An important aspect of the analyst’s work consists in working through the resistances which oppose progress and success of the treatment (Freud 1914a; 1914b).

When the patient has difficulties in following the basic rule of free association, the task of the analyst is twofold. He must assist his patient in overcoming these obstacles. On the other hand, he must understand, and help the patient to understand, what they reveal with regard to the neurosis. For example, if he becomes aware that the patient’s free associating is hampered by an effort to avoid the expression of hostile thoughts against him, he will point out this conflict and will strive to understand and to interpret it as a modified repetition of similar situations that the patient has encountered with other persons. These actions of the analyst further the process of free association, and at the same time affect the patient in a therapeutic sense.


The analyst has at his disposal a number of possible interpretations that are characteristic and specific for the psychoanalytic method. In psychoanalysis the term “interpretation” is applied to those explanations which add to the patient’s knowledge of what has been warded off in himself. Interpretations aim at both the defensive and the instinctual motivational aspects of the conflict. In the example mentioned above, the interpretation can stress the struggle against aggression (resistance analysis); it can stress the aggressive (instinctual) character of the warded-off thought; ultimately, it should encompass both in their genetic perspective.

Although Freud had early emphasized the crucial importance of the analysis of resistances (1912a; 1912fo), his major scientific interest for a long time focused on the study of instinctual drives. The psychoanalytic investigation of his patients’ pathogenic conflicts led him to important discoveries concerning the repressed (or otherwise warded-off) instinctual impulses. These could be understood as derivatives of the libidinal and aggressive drives. He thus was able to reconstruct the maturational and developmental sequences of those drives in early childhood, as well as the specific types of object relations that correspond to their various developmental stages. The Oedipal phase of development is the best-known example. [SeePersonality, article onPERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT.]

In the course of the treatment, the existence of these drives, and their impact upon the patient’s behavior in the past and in the present, are pointed out to him by interpreting his dreams, associations, symptoms. This is often referred to as id interpretation. However, these interpretations alone do not generally enable the patient to become conscious of the drive derivatives in a genuine, therapeutically effective way. They must therefore be preceded or supplemented by an analysis of his resistances, which makes the patient’s adult ego better capable of tolerating his hitherto warded-off drives. The therapeutic objective of psychoanalysis is to change the balance of psychic forces that prevailed when the pathogenic conflicts were formed to a new balance better adapted to the patient’s adult condition. Both the-warded-off and the defensive forces are inaccessible to change so long as they remain unconscious. Hence the importance of analyzing the latter as well and making them conscious.

Elaborations on Freud’s initial contribution

Since Freud laid down the principles of psychoanalytic technique, our knowledge both of normal psychic functioning and of mental illness has grown considerably, and progress in psychoanalytic technique proper has been made. Many analysts have contributed to this technical progress and refinement. Of the many, I should like to mention only a few: Freud, in his papers “Analysis Terminable and Interminable“(1937a) and “Constructions in Analysis“(1937b); Ferenczi (1908-1933); Ferenczi and Rank (1924); Abraham (1907-1925); Nunberg (1920-1942). Other books are devoted entirely to psychoanalytic technique: Glover (1928); Lorand (1946); Menninger (1958); Nacht (1950); Alexander and French (1946).

Ego psychology

A particularly important development in psychoanalysis was the introduction of ego psychology. The scientific basis for a systematic, effective analysis of resistances (defenses) had been lacking before Freud’s reformulation, in the 1920s, of certain fundamental propositions. The new theoretical concepts he advanced at that period laid the ground for a psychoanalytic ego psychology. Most important for the progress of analytic technique were his new formulations referring to unconscious defenses of the ego, to unconscious self-critical or self-punitive forces (the superego), and to anxiety as a signal operating as a trigger of defenses (1923; 1926).

Technical innovations based on Freud’s theoretical reformulations were introduced by Wilhelm Reich (1933) and in a particularly fruitful way by Anna Freud. The application of ego psychology to psychoanalytic technique was further elaborated by such authors as Fenichel (1941); Hartmann (1951); Hoffer (1954); Kris (1951; 1956a; 1956k; 1956c); Loewenstein (1951a; 1951fc; 1954; 1956; 1957; 1958; 1963); Nacht (1951); Stewart (1961).

The importance of the defenses of the ego has influenced the analyst’s approach to the patient’s free association. In the treatment situation the analyst thus pays attention not only to the material emerging when the patient follows the basic rule but equally to his struggles against it (Anna Freud 1936). The latter tend to reveal the characteristics of particular mechanisms of defense. For instance, whether a patient reacts to a hidden aggressive impulse against the analyst with fear of punishment, with exaggerated solicitude, with sudden silence, or in some other way may disclose a great deal about the character of his relevant defenses against aggression, not only in the present but also in the past, and hence shed light on their role in his pathogenic conflicts. Thorough understanding of an individual patient’s defensive mechanisms, and of their impact upon his neurosis, his general behavior, and the course of his analysis, is as important as the understanding of his instinctual drives. [SeeDefense mechanisms.]

The functions of the ego are not limited to defensive mechanisms; some are relatively independent of the disturbing influence of drive derivatives. This has an important bearing on psychoanalytic technique, for the patient’s ability to associate, to recover childhood memories, to gain insight, rests upon the autonomy of the relevant ego functions (Hartmann 1939). Their roles in the psychoanalytic process are of paramount significance (Hartmann 1951; Kris 1951; 1956a; 1956b; Loewenstein 1951a; 1951b; 1957; 1963).

Sources of resistance

In Freud’s earliest formulation, the therapeutic effect of psychoanalysis had been attributed to the recall of forgotten traumatic events and to the abreaction of strangulated affects. That assumption has long since been discarded. Current psychoanalytic theory sees the major therapeutic agent in the overcoming of resistances and in the bringing to consciousness of warded-off material: recovery of memories, re-establishment of disrupted connections, gaining of insight.

Psychoanalytic treatment must overcome many obstacles in order to achieve satisfactory results (Bibring 1937). Resistances to cure originate in the three “systems“of the psychic apparatus—the ego, the id, and the superego—and in external reality as well.

Rigidity, primitiveness, and the relative strength of defensive mechanisms represent the major part of observable resistances. Also, in most instances, the patient’s ego derives advantage from his neurosis (epinosic, or “secondary” gain), causing him to cling to it, which can be a serious hindrance (Freud 1926). Such disturbances of specific autonomous ego functions impair analyzability (Hartmann 1951).

The strength and tenacity of pregenital components of the instinctual drives and, conversely, the weakness of their genital components constitute barriers to cure. These quantitative factors in the id must be considered in relation to the strength of the ego and not in terms of absolute values (Freud 1937a; 1937b).

Unconscious self-punitive demands of the superego often play a decisive role among the resistances to cure. While somatic illness usually activates or complicates neurosis, it produces the opposite effect in a category of patients known as moral masochists. Their neurotic symptoms disappear when they are affected by a somatic disease. Once well again physically, they relapse into their neurosis. In these cases one can best observe the so-called negative therapeutic reaction (Freud 1923).

Social, cultural, and economic conditions can contribute to neurotic illness in some cases, to favorable conflict resolution in others. Familial circumstances especially may hold the balance in this respect. The momentous impact of parental behavior upon psychic development in childhood is well known. But also the presence or absence of neurotic disorder in other members of the family, or in the patient’s husband or wife, may prove decisive for the outcome of an analytic treatment.

The recent advances in our knowledge, briefly outlined above, have not changed the technique of psychoanalysis itself. Rather, they have led to some shifts of emphasis and considerable refinements in its use. These modifications have broadened the applicability of psychoanalytic treatment and have improved its efficacy. In many instances, they can make the difference between failure and success.

Originally, psychoanalysis was found effective exclusively in the treatment of symptom neuroses in adults. Its successful use in treating the neuroses of children and adolescents opened up an important area for psychoanalytic therapy. Except for some changes in the procedure, e.g., substitution of the play technique for free association, the method in child analysis is basically the same as in the treatment of adults (see Anna Freud 1936).

The application of psychoanalysis to an ever greater variety of behavioral disorders, even to psychoses, produce striking results but also a number of disappointing failures. Many patients, and some analysts as well, set their aims too high. They expect psychoanalysis to achieve not merely a cure of neurotic illness, or even the emergence of a new and better personality, but—above all— lasting happiness for the patient. These hopes have obviously not been realized.

The widening scope of analytic treatment led, in its turn, to a greatly increased use of psycho-analytically oriented psychotherapy. The dividing line may be tenuous at times, but most forms of psychotherapy differ technically from psychoanalysis in rationale as well as in practical use. However, virtually all contemporary forms of psychotherapy draw to some degree upon psychoanalysis, either as a method or as a body of knowledge. Psychoanalysis has enriched and profoundly influenced the entire fields of psychiatry and psychology.

Rudolph M. Loewenstein

[Directly related is the entryInterviewing, article onTHERAPEUTIC INTERVIEWING. Other relevant material may be found inClinical PSYCHOLOGY; Mental DISORDERS, TREATMENT OF, especially the article onPsychological Treatment; Neurosis; Psychiatry; and in the biographies ofAbraham; Alexander; Ferenczi; Freud; Rank; Reich.]


Abraham, Karl (1907-1925) 1953–1955 Selected Papers. 2 vols. New York: Basic Books. → Papers and essays translated from the German, including Abraham’s more important psychoanalytic works.

Alexander, Franz; and French, Thomas M. 1946 Psychoanalytic Therapy: Principles and Application. New York: Ronald.

Birring, Edward 1937 Versuch einer allgemeinen The-orie der Heilung. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse 23:18-37.

Fenichel, Otto 1941 Problems of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Psychoanalytic Quarterly.

Ferenczi, Sandor (1908-1914) 1952 First Contributions to Psycho-analysis. London: Hogarth. → A selection of Ferenczi’s essays originally published in German. First published in English as Contributions to Psycho-analysis.

Ferenczi, Sandor (1908-1925)1927 Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho-analysis. New York: Liveright. → A collection of some of Ferenczi’s most important contributions to psychoanalysis. Translated from the German.

Ferenczi, Sandor (1908-1933) 1955 Final Contributions to the Problems and Methods of Psycho-analysis. London: Hogarth. → Contains Ferenczi’s papers, translated from the German, that were written after 1926, as well as papers, fragments, and notes published posthumously.

Ferenczi, Sandor; and Rank, Otto (1924) 1925 The Development of Psychoanalysis. New York: Nervous and Mental Disease Monographs. → First published as Entwicklungsziele der Psychoanalyse.

Freud, Anna (1936) 1957 The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. New York: International Universities Press. → First published as Das lch und die Abwehrmechanismen.

Freud, Sigmund (1895-1926) 1953— The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan. First published in German. Twenty-three volumes have been published as of 1967.

Freud, Sigmund (1897-1902) 1954 The Origins of Psychoanalysis: Letters to Wilhelm Fliess, Drafts and Notes, 1887-1902. New York: Basic Books. → Translated from the German.

Freud, Sigmund (1900) 1953 The Interpretation of Dreams. Volumes 4–5 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1905a) 1953 Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Volume 7, pages 3–122 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1905b) 1953 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Volume 7, pages 123–245 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1908) 1955 From the History of an Infantile Neurosis. Volume 17, pages 3–122 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1909a) 1955 Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy. Volume 10, pages 3–149 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1909b) 1953 Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis. Volume 10, pages 151–249 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1911-1915) 1953 Papers on Technique. Volume 12, pages 85–173 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1912a) 1953 The Dynamics of Transference. Volume 12, pages 97–108 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1912b) 1953 Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis. Volume 12, pages 109–120 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1914a) 1957 On the History of the Psycho-analytic Movement. Volume 14, pages 7–66 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1914b) 1953 Remembering, Repeating and Working-through (Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-analysis II). Volume 12, pages 145–156 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1916-1917) 1953 Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis. Part III: General Theory of the Neuroses. Volume 16 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1923) 1961 The Ego and the Id. Volume 19, pages 12–63 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1926) 1959 Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Volume 20, pages 77–178 in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund (1937a) 1959 Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Volume 5, pages 316–357 in Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers. International Psychoanalytic Library, No. 10. New York: Basic Books; London: Hogarth. → First published as Die endliche und die unendliche Analyse.

Freud, Sigmund (1937b) 1959 Constructions in Analysis. Volume 5, pages 358–371 in Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers. International Psycho-analytic Library, No. 10. New York: Basic Books; London: Hogarth. → First published in German.

Freud, Sigmund (1940) 1949 An Outline of Psychoanalysis. New York: Norton.

Freud, Sigmund (1893-1895) 1955 The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Volume 2: Studies on Hysteria, by Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud. London: Hogarth; New York: Macmillan.

Glover, Edward (1928) 1955 The Technique of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press.

Greenacre, Phyllis 1956 Re-evaluation of the Process of Working Through. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 37:439-444.

Hartmann, Heinz (1939) 1958 Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation. New York: International Universities Press. → First published in German in the Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse und Imago.

Hartmann, Heinz 1951 Technical Implications of Ego Psychology. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20:31-43.

Hartmann, Heinz; and Kris, Ernst 1945 The Genetic Approach in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 1:11-30.

Hoffer, W. 1954 Defensive Process and Defensive Organization: Their Place in Psycho-analytic Technique. International Journal of Psycho-analysis 35: 194-198.

Kris, Ernst 1951 Ego Psychology and Interpretation in Psychoanalytic Therapy. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20: 15-30.

Kris, Ernst 1956a On Some Vicissitudes of Insight in Psycho-analysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 37:445-455.

Kris, Ernst 1956b The Recovery of Childhood Memories in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 11:54-88.

Kris, Ernst 1956c The Personal Myth: A Problem in Psychoanalytic Technique. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 4:653-681.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1951a The Problem of Interpretation. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20:1—14.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1951b Ego Development and Psychoanalytic Technique. American Journal of Psychiatry 107:617-622.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1954 Some Remarks on Defences, Autonomous Ego and Psycho-analytic Technique. International Journal of Psycho-analysis 35: 188-193.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1956 Some Remarks on the Role of Speech in Psycho-analytic Technique. International Journal of Psycho-analysis 37:460-468.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1957 Some Thoughts on Interpretation in the Theory and Practice of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 12:127-150.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1958 Remarks on Some Variations in Psycho-analytic Technique. International Journal of Psycho-analysis 39:202-210.

Loewenstein, Rudolph M. 1963 Some Considerations on Free Association. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 11:451-473.

Lorand, Sandor 1946 Technique of Psychoanalytic Therapy. New York: International Universities Press.

Menninger, Karl A. 1958 Theory of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Basic Books.

Nacht, Sacha 1950 De la pratique a la theorie psych- analytique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Nacht, Sacha 1951 Les nouvelles theories psychanalytiques sur le moi et leurs repercussions sur l’orientation methodologique. Revue francaise de psychanalyse 15:569-576.

Nunberg, Hermann (1920-1942) 1948 Practice and Theory of Psychoanalysis: A Collection of Essays. New York: Nervous and Mental Disease Monographs.

Reich, Wilhelm (1933) 1961 Character-analysis. 3d ed., enl. New York: Noonday Press. → First published in German.

Stewart, Walter 1961 The Development of the Therapeutic Alliance in Borderline Patients. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 30:165-166.


The impact of Sigmund Freud upon psychology and the social sciences generally has been very great. Freud is to be compared with other great figures in the history of science over the last century such as Darwin, Pavlov, and Einstein. His observations and discoveries about people, brilliantly set forth, assure him a place in history regardless of the changes that may be wrought in the theories that he proposed. The clarification of the place of psychoanalytic facts and theories within the social sciences must rest eventually on their absorption into the social sciences after they have been reconstructed and validated in their new form. Such reconstruction and validation can take place by applying the methods of empirical study, model building, and hypothesis testing already familiar within these fields, or perhaps by new methods invented to deal with the subtleties of the clinical interaction between analyst and patient.

Historical background

Psychoanalysis has a special history because it was dominated for such a long time by Sigmund Freud, who began theory construction at the very start of his career and fought the social battles for recognition. There had been defections from the ranks during his lifetime by such early favorites as Adler, Jung, and Rank, so that the central core of psychoanalysis was defined by and remained dominated by Freud. During his lifetime a unity within a developing theory could be maintained by accepting his leadership; after his death those who remained in the mainstream of psychoanalysis felt they needed to be free to modify their views, as Freud would have done were he still alive, but they felt some obligation to show that they followed Freud’s main teachings in reference to both method and theory, enough at least to preserve unity among themselves. This inevitably resulted in a certain amount of in-group rigidity and out-group antagonism, understandable in view of the social history of psychoanalysis during Freud’s lifetime. Within institutionalized psychoanalysis the main cleavage has come between those who hold to the instinct theory and the universality of the Oedipus complex, on the one hand, and those who believe in the relatively greater importance of sociocultural influences and learning, on the other.

There are some consequences for research that lie in the history of psychoanalysis as a movement. Earlier psychoanalysts, whose motivations were primarily therapeutic and who were untrained in the use of experimental methods in the investigation of psychoanalytic phenomena, tended to disparage the use of such methods. Some still do, believing that the essence of psychoanalysis is displayed only in the continuous relationship between the patient and analyst, resting upon free association in the context of transference. For them, special research on psychoanalysis is often believed to be unnecessary, and simulation of psychoanalysis outside the patient-therapist relationship is thought to be either trivial or misleading. Because of their commitment to the method of psychoanalysis, younger psychoanalysts familiar with research methods seldom turn their attention to psychoanalysis as being itself in need of investigation, but instead study psychotherapy, which is less codified, or turn to topical investigations which do not question the central tenets of psychoanalysis. Those who favor an examination of the role of sociocultural influences are likely to select their problems more as anthropologists or sociologists select theirs. Now that many years have passed since Freud’s death, there are signs that these institutional influences upon research are lessening. However, the official institutes for the training of psychoanalysts have as yet given relatively little attention to research; for example, in a careful account of training in psychoanalysis in the United States (Lewin & Ross 1960), only 4 of 460 pages were devoted to research, and it was reported that only 3 of the 14 institutes had brought research at all prominently into the training pattern. The task of consolidating psychoanalysis as a science will continue to call for the collaboration of others if it is to move ahead with any rapidity.

The others who have interested themselves in psychoanalytic research are primarily psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists, each with his own methods and preoccupations. There was great enthusiasm for investigating psychoanalytic problems after World War n, and a number of social scientists underwent both personal analyses and training in the psychoanalytic institutes in order to qualify themselves better for such research. However, as pointed out by Shakow (1962), in the early 1960s there was evidence of a growing dissatisfaction and disenchantment with psychoanalysis even on the part of persons fundamentally sympathetic to it. He believed that these reactions were due to the relative absence of research and scholarly activity around psychoanalysis proper, with the result that psychoanalysis was not attracting its share of “the restless souls with questioning minds who were attracted to it in the early days.“Shakow recommended that serious consideration be given to the psychoanalytic education of social and behavioral scientists for research.

Psychoanalysis, as a body of facts and theories about behavior and about therapy, cannot have any official spokesmen. The facts and theories are in the public domain, to be studied by any who are interested and competent. Therefore, one interested in psychoanalysis as science need not be concerned about the problems within psychoanalysis as a movement, although it is inevitable that the attitudes of the official psychoanalysts will make the field more or less inviting as an area in which to do research or in which to make a research career.

Psychoanalytic observation as research

Kris (1947) distinguished between the validation of psychoanalytic propositions through psychoanalytic observation and other “objective methods.“He pointed out that the total course of the association between observer and subject provides the equivalent of an experimental setting which permits the testing of long-range predictions; each interview, he said, potentially provides a number of opportunities for the testing of forecasts. The simplest examples of confirmatory evidence are given through interpretations that help the subject to fill in gaps of recall, later confirmed by evidence for the veridicality of the recall. Thus Frenkel-Brunswik (1940) reported an illustration from her own analysis in which the analyst interpreted her reactions as a “Cordelia motive,“referring to the youngest daughter of King Lear, who, while the most deserving, lost favor to the other daughters who were more flattering to him. She denied having ever read King Lear and at first refused the interpretation, but she later discovered that at the age of 15 she had copied all of Cordelia’s lines. Thus we have evidence of repression and support for an analytic reconstruction. Kris recognized that Freud had used this method successfully on himself, although he saw that there were many issues within psychoanalysis that did not get resolved by psychoanalytic observations and required other methods. Kubie (1953), while recognizing many contributions of psychoanalytic observation to basic science, detailed the following limitations within current psychoanalysis as a scientific research method: limitations with respect to the gathering of primary data, conceptual limitations and ambiguities, lack of quantitative methods of validation, lack of control groups, and deficiencies in specific instruments for measuring many of the processes whose interplay lies at the heart of psychoanalytic theory.

Freud’s observations within psychoanalysis (including his own) served as the sole basis for his many insights, and doubtless fresh insights will continue to come from such observations by other psychoanalysts. In view of the limitations noted by both Kris and Kubie, however, it is essential that these observations be supplemented by data of a different kind if psychoanalytic science is to progress.

Appropriateness of experimental investigation. A full-fledged psychoanalysis is such a rich and complex process that dissecting out parts of it for special study presents hazards. According to Rapaport, most of those who tried to test psychoanalytic theory either did not understand it or they ignored what they knew: “The overwhelming majority of experiments designed to test psychoanalytic propositions display a blatant lack of interest in the meaning, within the theory of psychoanalysis, of the propositions tested“(1959, p. 142). Although the warning should be heeded that psychoanalysis must be understood if relevant experiments are to be designed, there are ample precedents for gaining insight into psychoanalysis outside the analytic hour itself. While Freud was in no sense an experimentalist, he set the stage for considering observations made outside the analytic hour not only in his Psychopathology of Everyday Life but also in his analyses of historical figures, such as Leonardo da Vinci.

It is in the nature of experimental science that it must abstract from the totality of actual events and thus lose some of the richness of events in nature. This applies as inevitably to psychoanalytic investigations as to other kinds of scientific research. The problem confronting the investigator is not that of being made to study everything at once, but of being careful not to simplify his conditions in such a way as to sacrifice relevance to significant aspects of theory. Experimental tests of the Freudian theory of repression illustrate these problems. Early investigators, doing what Rapaport said others have done, oversimplified the theory by making it assert that anything pleasant is favored in recall over anything unpleasant. Hence they tested whether the words “quinine“and “bitter“would be forgotten more readily than “sugar“and “sweet“from a list containing these and affectively neutral words. Zeller (1951), representative of later experimenters, created a paradigm for inducing repression through experienced failure and then lifted the repression, thus coming much closer to psychoanalytic theory. Others have gone on to show that there are individual differences, so that the circumstances which produce repression for one subject do not do so for others (e.g., Truax 1957). With such refinements, experiments gradually become more sophisticated and relevant.

Not all aspects of psychoanalysis are open to experimental inquiry, but the ingenuity of investigators has opened up areas of study that at first seemed unpromising. Thus it has not proved possible to assert in advance which propositions were most suitable for study. Because psychoanalysis is not an internally consistent and highly integrated theory, the investigator has had to choose which propositions to test or has had to formulate as best he could a few precise propositions for testing. The purpose of experimental study is not only to test or validate the theoretical structure as it now stands, but also to correct and refine it. A scientific psychoanalysis, developed from and supported by controlled investigations, doubtless will differ in some respects from contemporary psychoanalytic theory.

There is by now a sizable literature showing that many workers have been able to formulate testable propositions on the basis of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Freud was raised in the scientific tradition of Hermann von Helmholtz and Ernst Briicke that made him propose psychoanalysis in a form such that much of it is subject to test, at least in principle. That is, it is stated as a deterministic system with lawful relationships expressed in terms of force and energy. While these force and energy concepts have proved troublesome in trying to conceptualize psychoanalysis, they are to be contrasted, for example, with the romanticism and mysticism of Jung. The differences between Freud and Jung are somewhat comparable to the differences between Darwin and Lamarck. Thus Darwin’s position, unlike that of Lamarck, permitted the congenial development of the mathematical approach of modern genetics to the problems of evolution, although Darwin was not himself mathematical. In a somewhat similar sense, Freud, in contrast to Jung, expressed his theories in a form that makes possible experimental testing, although he was not an experimentalist. [SeeAnalytical psychologyand the biography ofJung.]

Some representative empirical approaches

In dealing with experimental studies of psychoanalysis, emphasis need not be placed on a narrow definition of experiment; the main point is that some aspects of psychoanalysis are open to empirical studies done in the spirit of experimental science—that is, using methods that are objective, quantitative, and controlled. For example, when apparatus is attached to the patient in order to measure physiological changes associated with verbally expressed anxiety, this approximates an experiment, even though the interaction between the therapist and patient is not experimentally manipulated.

In what follows, instead of organizing experimental studies around an outline of psychoanalytic propositions, nine disparate approaches to the investigation of psychoanalysis—as both a theory of behavior and a therapeutic technique—are used to illustrate the possibilities open for research. Within each of these, one or more specimen studies are cited.

The study of psychoanalytic psychotherapy

The recording of what goes on within psychoanalysis by means of electromagnetic tape or sound motion pictures has opened up psychoanalysis for detailed study. It yields more precise and detailed observations than would otherwise be possible, and the data can be used for hypothesis testing, thus approaching the conditions of experimental investigation. One illustration of subsequent analyses of two recorded psychotherapeutic interviews is provided in a symposium in which psycholinguistic aspects of the communication between therapist and patient were studied in relation to some physiological changes that were also recorded (American Psychiatric Association 1961). A number of related studies have not yet come to fruition.

The data obtained by appropriate recording techniques are not only detailed and accurate, but they are also in permanent form and can be reviewed for various purposes. Various content analyses are possible (based, for example, on type-token ratios, silences, kinesic and other para-linguistic features, dyadic interactions, the effects of interpretations). It is possible to place the coded material, with various transitional probabilities, into a computer and then test hypotheses by asking questions of the computer.

One of the unresolved problems in this kind of study is the degree to which the analysis should be microscopic or macroscopic (thematic). To some extent, each analytic hour has a “topic,“and it may be that this will in some cases be lost in the detailed linguistic analysis. The answers will not come a priori but only after much work has been done to find the methods most fully appropriate to the subject matter under investigation. Care has to be taken not to obtain so much data that there is an information overload upon the investigator; selectivity with due regard for objectivity and criteria of relevance will have to be worked out here as in all quantitative investigations.

Outcome versus process studies. An important distinction has to be made within studies of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy between outcome studies and process studies. While there is a place for outcome studies (”What proportion of the treated patients improve or get well?“), these are extremely difficult to do in the case of psychotherapy, for a great many reasons: (1) Diagnosis of the severity of the presenting symptoms can be made on a quantitative basis with only the greatest of difficulty. For one thing, a patient who appears more severely disturbed may be in a temporary crisis that would disappear spontaneously, while another patient who appears less disturbed may have a deep-seated character disorder very resistant to change. A long-standing illness, which is usually more difficult to cure than one of more recent origin, may be brought to the therapist’s attention because for some reason the patient is now ready to be cured and presents himself for treatment at a time when the therapeutic result can be quickly achieved. (2) Estimates of degree of improvement are hard to obtain, even with careful follow-ups, for the patient and his relatives are subject to the same difficulties in estimating improvement that the therapist faces in diagnosing severity of ailment. (3) The degree of skill of the therapist and his appropriateness for the given patient are not sufficiently stated by a record of his training or by a knowledge of the general method that he claims to use. (4) Appropriate control groups of patients with similar severity of symptoms treated either by other methods, or not treated at all, are hard to establish. The reported success of easier and superficially more objective therapies, such as the so-called behavior therapies, have to be judged against the successes of all sorts of magical and faith cures that take place without the benefit of science. Although outcome studies are difficult, improved ones are very much needed to establish the therapeutic value of alternative therapies. [SeeMental disorders, treatment of, article onbehavior therapy.]

Studies of process, that is, of movement (whether progressive or regressive) taking place within and between psychotherapeutic sessions, are at present much more promising, although these too are hard to design and the results yielded to date are not very striking. In the careful study by Bellak and Smith (1956) of progress in therapy, it was found that the judges were in substantial agreement about the patients, but what they agreed on was the persisting personality structure of the patients, not the dynamic changes taking place as therapy progressed. [SeeMental Disorders, Treatment Of, article onPsychologicalTreatment.]

Miniaturized procedures with nonpatients

Rather than study the records of a patient in psychoanalysis, it is possible to select out certain features, such as free association, and study them. A start in this direction was made by Colby (1960a), who had a subject free associate alone with a tape recorder and then with a silent observer present; the differences in the subject’s productions were noted. A number of possible parameters come to mind: sitting up, lying down, facing or not facing the therapist, note taking and recording, the number of days between sessions, having parallel sessions of husband and wife, mother and child. Many of these focal points recur in treatises on psychoanalytic method, but few have been put to actual comparative tests.

The early studies of Masserman (Masserman & Yum 1946) show how aspects of therapy can be studied through the treatment of experimentally induced neuroses in animals, particularly aspects of “working through“in the overcoming of fears, and aspects of the influence of drugs (alcohol) in relation to conflict. While these studies are limited when done with nonverbal subjects, they pose some searching questions for psychoanalysis. For example, if the experimental neurosis can indeed be defined as a neurosis, it raises doubts about a very central psychoanalytic dictum, namely, that the Oedipus complex constitutes the nuclear complex of every neurosis.

Hypnosis as a means of study

The fact that psychoanalysis grew out of Freud’s experience with hypnosis, of which the psychoanalytic couch is a historical residual, makes the bridges between what happens in hypnosis and what happens in psychoanalysis easy to construct. Although Freud turned his back upon hypnosis early in his career, other psychoanalysts have continued to see its relevance. Two illustrations may serve to show some of the many experimental possibilities.

Some psychoanalysts, particularly Franz Alexander, have proposed what has been called the specificity hypothesis regarding psychosomatic symptoms—that is, that under defined kinds of stress some people will give symptoms of one kind while others will yield different symptoms. Using hypnosis, Graham, Stern, and Winokur (1958) induced differential attitudes hypothesized as appropriate to Raynaud’s disease and to urticaria (hives) in subjects not suffering these ailments. When these subjects were placed under stress, the physiological responses were indeed found to be the ones more nearly appropriate to the ailment corresponding to the induced attitude.

In somewhat related experiments, Kehoe and Ironside (1963) produced depressive reactions under hypnosis and then studied both the gastric secretions and other correlates of the experimentally evoked depression.

The possible services of hypnosis in the study of various motivational and psychodynamic problems have been reviewed by Hilgard [1964; see alsoHypnosis].

Psychophysiological studies

In establishing a functional system, Freud somewhat reluctantly turned away from the neurophysiology in which he was trained, which he had used extensively and not unwisely in his early theorizing. At a number of times, however, Freud indicated that he hoped eventually for a physiological basis for psychoanalysis (e.g., 1920). Some contemporary investigators in the field of psychoanalysis believe that the time is now ripe to provide a better neuro-physiological anchorage for psychoanalytic propositions, and their research endeavors illustrate this concern. Weiner and others (1957) were able to predict which of a number of inductees would become peptic ulcer casualties as a result of the strains of military service. They used data on serum pepsinogens in defining the sample, and then, using psychological information alone, predicted that ten cases among a much larger number would be most likely to develop ulcers during basic training. Of these, seven had proven ulcers before the end of training; of the remaining inductees in the sample, only two developed ulcers. Hence, the psychological tests not only had picked out the promising cases but had missed very few. The psychological factors emphasized as predisposing to ulcers were an intense need to maintain relations with others, a need to please and placate authority figures, and fears of expressing hostility or of experiencing loss.

The newer physiological methods of studying dreams have made possible another contact between experiment and psychoanalysis. Thus the function of dreams as tension reducers is supported by studies of dream deprivation in which the sleeper “catches up“by dreaming more frequently on nights following those during which his dreaming has been interrupted [Dement 1960; see alsoDreamsandPsychosomatic illness].

Studies of motivational conflicts

Psychoanalysis can be considered a motivational psychology with primary emphasis upon motivational conflicts and their consequences. These areas lend themselves well to experimental study, including animal studies. One of the experimental studies of the derivatives of conflicting motives is that of Clark (1952), in which he aroused sexual motives by displaying nude pictures to college students and studied the overt and symbolic expression of sex under various conditions, including mild intoxication at a fraternity beer party. He found that anxiety under ordinary circumstances (for example, being in a college classroom) inhibited manifest sexual expression but gave rise to increased symbolic expression of sex; the reverse occurred under the influence of alcohol—that is, there was more manifest sexual expression and less symbolic expression [SeeConflict, article onPSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS; MOTIVATION].

Studies of cognitive processes

There is by now a large literature based upon tachistoscopic perception and related methods, much of it motivated by an interest in psychoanalytic concepts. Many of the studies on tachistoscopic perception relevant to psychoanalysis were reviewed by Charles Fisher in the introduction to a monograph translating two classical studies (Pbtzl et al. 1960).

We may take as representative of these the study by Paul and Fisher (1959) which investigated the hypothesis that the exposure of a figured visual stimulus below the level of awareness would produce images that would reflect, both directly and in transformed ways, the influence of the stimulus, its meanings, and its forms. The experimental procedure was to expose a simple double-profile figure within a circular outline at 1/100 of a second, slightly out of focus; this alternated with the exposure of a blank slide. After each exposure the subject was asked to draw whatever images came to mind. These drawings were then sorted by a number of experienced judges as more likely to have followed the figured stimulus or the blank one. The judges were only moderately successful, but taken together the results were highly significant statistically, indicating some influence from the exposed figure. From the published figures it is evident that there was little direct representation of the exact figure as exposed; the most directly representative figures consisted of overlapping or multiple circles. Some degree of transformation would, of course, be implied by psychoanalytic theory as well as by other theories [SeeAttentionandPerception, article onUNCONSCIOUS PERCEPTION].

Studies of learning and retention

The concept of motivated forgetting is represented in psychoanalysis through some aspects of repression, in which memories, while active, are not available to direct recall.

Clemes (1964) gave a Kent-Rosanoff test to subjects of known hypnotic susceptibility in order to find the words which in the normal waking state were affect-laden and caused difficulties in response (”complex indicators“), such as long reaction times. He hypothesized that these words should be appropriate targets for repression relative to words more neutral for the subject. He tested the hypothesis by constructing for each subject a list of words to be memorized, half neutral and half affect-laden for him. The list was memorized under hypnosis, and then the suggestion was given that half the words would be forgotten (posthypnotic amnesia) until a release signal was given. Counting only the words that fitted the paradigm of repression (temporarily forgotten but recovered), he found that these were disproportionately the target words selected on the basis of the word association test. Thus hypnosis served conveniently to test an appropriate hypothesis about repression.

A study of associative priming by Schwartz and Rouse (1961) illustrates another convergence between research formulated within a psychoanalytic frame of reference and the kinds of study generally familiar within the laboratories of academic psychology. These investigators found, for example, that in a test of immediate memory words that were forgotten had nevertheless “primed“their associates, so that the associated words were selected beyond chance expectation on a subsequent recognition test from which the original stimulus words were omitted. Thus their results bear on free association in relation to recall, as well as upon the experimental psychology of learning, recall, and recognition.

Maturation and development

Psychoanalysis is also a developmental psychology. The formal theory of psychosexual stages is well known, with the child experiencing and coping with various stages of development on the way to maturity (the characteristics of each of which have been correlated under the general headings termed oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages). The addition of the psychosocial stages by Erikson (1959) has enriched the theory, showing that eventually early identifications become welded into either a healthy or a pathological identity. He also carried the scheme through adolescence into later maturity. Erikson’s psychosocial scheme is an appealing one, but so far it has received essentially literary treatment; it needs both theoretical and empirical clarification [SeeIdentity, PSYCHOSOCIAL].

The success with which Whiting and Child (1953) were able to predict, on the basis of reported child-rearing practices, certain beliefs about illness on the part of adults in many nonliterate cultures gives some support to the significance of early childhood in shaping personality structure. Of course, these same children are brought up by the very adults who trained them in childhood, so that the impact of their training is not over once and for all. A learning-theory interpretation fits the facts as well as a psychoanalytic one, and indeed, Whiting and Child use such an interpretation. Yet the influences they chose to study (feeding, toilet training, sex, aggression, dependency) have their origins in psychoanalytic modes of thought. The corresponding animal studies, initiated by Hunt (1941), showed that white rats which experienced early feeding frustration hoarded food excessively later on, when new frustrations presumably reactivated the early patterns of insecurity.

The attempts to support psychoanalytic conceptions about the importance of breast feeding, weaning, toilet training, and the like have led to somewhat equivocal results, with Orlansky (1949) concluding from his review of cross-cultural data that the ground plan of formal psychosexual stages through which infantile libidinal drives are channeled is less satisfactory than some sort of sociocultural interpretation. However, it is clear that the answers have not all been found, and psychoanalysis has made an abiding contribution by calling attention to the significance of the early years and of appropriate mothering to personality development [SeePersonality, article onPERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT; Socialization].

Personality structure, defenses, and cognitive styles

Psychoanalytic personality theory assumes that in the course of his history (particularly, but not exclusively, early history), the individual achieves a personality structure which is relatively stable. If some kinds of influences are extreme, a personality “syndrome“such as anal compulsivity may emerge, with the triad of traits—-orderliness, stinginess, and obstinacy (Sears 1943). Another such syndrome is said to be the authoritarian personality (Adorno et al. 1950). These personality structures are relatively stable, but may change slowly, as within a successful psychoanalysis. [SeePersonality, Political, article onconservatism and radicalism.]

Empirical assessment of personality structures, cognitive styles, defense preferences, and coping mechanisms has assumed large proportions, one evidence of it being the prominence of projective tests (Rorschach inkblots, the Thematic Apperception Test, Blacky dog pictures) designed to reveal aspects of the personality structure not always manifested in outward behavior [SeeDefense mechanisms].

The literature on cognitive styles is represented by Witkin and others (1962) and by Gardner and others (1959). Witkin and his associates have been concerned with field dependency and field independency, aspects of cognition with personality correlates. Gardner and his associates have given more emphasis to such distinctions as that between the sensitizers and the levelers. While these studies have a background in gestalt conceptions as well as in psychoanalytic ones, what makes them relevant to psychoanalysis is their demonstration that personality structure and momentary needs affect cognitive activity. This is, of course, a prominent conception in psychoanalysis—as, for example, in rationalization and projection.

Studies of a more ecological character are also possible, as in the investigations of differences in defense preferences of children of blue-collar workers and white-collar workers (Miller & Swanson 1960). It is difficult to intervene experimentally in the upbringing of children to study the long-term effects, but it is possible to capitalize upon some naturally occurring events which produce similar data to those that would be obtained from a controlled experiment. One such naturally occurring event is the loss in childhood of a parent through death. The consequence of such a loss can be studied in groups as though an experiment had been undertaken to see what happens to the child if a parent is permanently removed. Such studies have been done and through a combination of statistical and clinical observations have reached two major conclusions. First, the age at which a mother has been lost in childhood provides a target date for personality disturbance or mental illness, the illness being triggered when the child who suffered loss has grown to adulthood and has a child of the age at which the loss occurred (J. R. Hilgard & Newman 1959). Second, the incidences of certain mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia, are related to these losses of a parent in childhood (J. R. Hilgard & Newman 1961). Such studies give support to the role of parents in normal personality development and to the reactivation at times of adult crisis of the stresses associated with periods of deprivation in childhood.

Because too many inferences are involved it is not possible to draw up a scoreboard to mark the successes and failures of experiments in validating psychoanalytic propositions. However, those non-psychoanalysts who have summarized experimental investigations of psychoanalytic theories have found a great deal of the evidence favorable to psychoanalysis (Blum 1953; Farrell 1951; Hilgard 1952; Hilgard & Bower 1966; Sarnoff 1962; Sears 1943). Unfortunately they have not been able to point to many experimental findings that have clarified and strengthened psychoanalysis, or, indeed, that have had much impact on either its theories or its practices. The full impact of experiment will not be felt until psychoanalysis is moved forward and enriched by the results that are reported. Experimental studies cannot be expected to do all the work of theoretical reconstruction as psychoanalysis advances and becomes assimilated within social science, but the interaction between experiment and theory should prove to be a vital part of that reconstruction.

Ernest R. Hilgard

[Directly related are the entriesExperimental design; Mental disorders, article onexperimental study.Other relevant material may be found inFantasy; Interviewing, article ontherapeutic interviewing; Observation; ProjectiveMethods.]


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In a 1928 entry on the subject for the Handwörterbuch der Sexualwissenschaft (Concise dictionary of sexual research), Sigmund Freud (18561939) defined psychoanalysis as "the name (1) of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (2) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline" (Freud, vol. 18, p. 235). Freud's description understates the immense richness and complexity of his achievements in the study of the workings of the ungovernable impulses of the mind, which have had far-reaching and lasting impact on humanities thinking about itself, and whose many facets can only be hinted at here below.


Initially trained as a neurologist, Freud began working with hysterical and neurotic patients as an outgrowth of his private medical practice beginning around 1883. In 1895, in Studies on Hysteria, co-written with his mentor Josef Breuer, Freud first formulated the theories and method that would later become psychoanalysis. In 1899, after a decade of working with such patients amid ridicule and isolation from the Viennese medical establishment, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, his major work. Though it sold only six hundred copies during the five years following its release, by 1910 Freud had attracted a number of students, mostly physicians, from throughout Europe to the practice of psychoanalysis, and succeeded in establishing the International Psychoanalytic Association. Among the most prominent of these early psychoanalysts were Karl Abraham (18771925), Sándor Ferenczi (18731933), Ernest Jones (18791958), and Carl Jung (18751961). Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Freud, and was for a time his anointed successor to the leadership of the analytic movement, until their relationship dissolved in 19121913 over Jung's denial of the centrality of sexuality in neurotic conflict. Jung went on to formulate his own ideas, including the notion of a collective unconscious governed by a universal symbolic order ("arche-types"), as "analytical psychology."

Freud continued to work and publish right up until his death from cancer in September 1939, revising and significantly expanding his theories; increasing numbers of psychoanalysts throughout Europe joined him in this effort. Psychoanalysis continued to flourish, in Europe and the United States, until the outbreak of World War II forced many analysts to flee their homes in Europe. Following the war, analytic institutions continued to expand, and became especially vital in the United States, England, and France.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Mind

In Studies on Hysteria, Freud wrote that "hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences," and with those words summed up the fundamental insight of psychoanalysis. Through his work with his neurotic patients, and later, through his own self-analysis, Freud became convinced that the symptoms from which they sufferedwhich ranged from hysterical blindness to obsessive thoughts and behaviors, to near-catatonic stateswere the result of conflicts in the mind between unacceptable ideas and wishes that sought expression, and forces in the mind opposing that expression. Unable to find an outlet in consciousness, these unacceptable, "repressed" wishes manifested themselves in other, compromised ways, in neurotic symptoms, slips of the tongue, and dreams. To explain how this came about, Freud devised a revolutionary concept of how the mind works.

Freud was influenced by the biological and physical sciences of his time, and his first theory of the mind was governed by a principle of energy discharge. Conceiving of the mental apparatus as an organism, Freud postulated a system whose purpose, as in a biological nervous system, was to maintain its equilibrium by reducing energy (or tension) in itan imperative Freud called the pleasure principle.

Later, based on this model, Freud distinguished two modes of thinking, which he termed the primary and secondary processes, which were identified respectively with free and bound energy (with energy ultimately coming to mean libidinal, or sexual energy), and the workings of the pleasure and reality principles. These antagonistic pairs were the starting point for the conflictual, dynamic perspective from which Freud consistently viewed mental processes.

Conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.

To demonstrate his theory of mental functioning, Freud devised a topographical model made up of three connected systemsconscious, preconscious, and unconscious which set up a stratified, differentiated relation among psychic contents, on a continuum from surface/conscious to depth/unconscious. The unconscious represents the largest set, comprising all sensory perceptions, both internal and external. The preconscious encompasses all those perceptions that have been perceived but not excluded from consciousness by repression. Finally, conscious perceptions are those that have come into awareness.

In this first model, the unconscious is identified with the primary process, whose purpose is the free discharge of energy; the preconscious/conscious system (the two agencies were often functionally united), on the other hand, is identified with the secondary processes, and with the binding of energy. Freud supposed that mental conflict was the result of antagonism between unconscious psychic contents pressing for discharge (according to the pleasure principle), and the censorship "guarding" the preconscious/conscious system (reality principle). When successfully kept out of consciousness, the repressed impulses continued to seek discharge, eventually succeeding through the "compromise formations" of dreams, slips of the tongue, and neurotic symptoms.


Repression was the name Freud gave to the defensive warding off of unacceptable thought contents from consciousness. This process was the result of the dynamic conflict within the mind between opposing forces of instinct and "reality," and the agencies that housed them: the unconscious and the preconscious/conscious systems.

In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud likened the agent of repression to a censor. The function of this censorand of repression itselfis to keep from consciousness psychical contents that, though in their discharge (or expression) are pleasurable in themselves, must come into conflict with other exigencies, typically those that proceed from the external world, morality, or the person's own wishes.

Freud came to regard neurotic illness as the result of conflicts between the drive of unconscious products toward expression and their repulsion by the defenses of censorship. He saw repression as the cornerstone of all these defensive processes, and considered other defensive processes to be derived from it. It thus became the essential task of psychoanalysis to undo the effects of repression, to bring the unacceptable unconscious contents into awareness, and through this discharge to free up the psychical energy that was absorbed in the prevention of that discharge (in neurotic symptoms).


In his earliest work with the neuroses, Freud supposed them to originate either in constitutional factors or in the traumatic effect of actual sexual seduction. In 1897, however, Freud concluded that the majority of the accounts of seductions he had from his patients had little basis in reality. To account for this conclusion, to the existing two "predispositions" to neurosis Freud added a third cause: repressed wishes for instinctual gratifications, which manifested themselves in fantasies. These fantasies, typically sexual (and incestuous) in nature, which Freud initially took for real events, actually belonged to the province of psychical reality and had the traumatic force of "material" reality. Because of their unacceptable nature, these fantasies, originating in the unconscious, threw the psychic apparatus into turmoil when they came up against the censor and were repressed, able to assert themselves only in the compromise formations of dreams and neurotic symptoms. Freud came to believe that it was these fantasies of unacceptable wishes that were the determining factor in the majority of neuroses.

Infantile Sexuality and the Oedipus Complex

This was so because of infantile sexuality, the discovery of which Freud was led to by his abandonment of the seduction theory. Freud's original theory of traumatic seduction as a two-phase processin which the initial seduction was experienced passively, often without any traumatic significance, and registered only as traumatic and repressed as a result of a later event (often without sexual significance), typically during adolescenceprepared the way for Freud to understand the sexual desires (and autoerotic activities) of infants, which were themselves uninhibited until their repression at the time of the Oedipus crisis, and which were concealed behind the fantasies of seduction.

According to Freud, the establishment and eventual destruction of the Oedipus complex was the necessary, biologically determined culmination of the infant's progress through the psychosexual phases of development, and his initiation into the object world (the social order). These phasesoral, anal, genital, and phallic were characterized by the development of the child's capacity for libidinal satisfaction (through the discharge of tension) from primitive autoerotism to object- (person-) oriented love, as well as the child's increasing psychic complexity. Each of these phases was rooted in the infant's physiological development, as well as in the development of the infant's relation to the world. The oral phase was modeled on the importance of eating, and the infant's relationship to its mother through the incorporation and refusal of her breast; the anal phase centered on the infant's struggles for control over bodily functions, as well as for autonomy from his or her parents; and the genital and phallic phases involved the discovery first of genital satisfaction, then satisfaction through others, and later of symbolic satisfactions outside one's own body.

Freud emphasized the psychological importance of the infant's first tie from birth (or before) with its mother, a quasi-symbiotic unity that gave way in stages to differentiation and autonomy. This tie to the mother was primary irrespective of gender, but left the child of each gender with a different imperative. For the male child, in order to reproduce, and in obedience to the incest taboo, he needed to give up his tie to and desire for his mother in favor of other, female objects. For the female child, she must give up her attachment to female objects altogether.

Around three to five years of age, in consequence of his approach and attainment of genital sexuality (which is also to say, object-related sexuality), the child experiences sexual desire for his parents. In the positive Oedipal situation, the male child feels desire toward his mother, and jealously regards the father as a rival; Freud assumed that most children had direct knowledge of this rivalry through witness of the primal scene of intercourse, either between their parents, or from another source (such as the sight of animal copulation). Freud also assumed that the child had by this time become aware of the anatomical difference between the sexes, and from this discovery, inferred the threat (or in the case of the female, the fantasized "fact") of castration the loss of the penis as punishment for his incestuous wishes.

The conjoining in his mind of these factors, of his rivalry with his father for his mother's love and the threat of castration, awakened in the male child an intense anxiety, and set in motion the repression of the child's incestuous desires, and a subsequent switch in identification from the now dangerous mother to the powerful and punishing father. Significantly, the male child did not at the same time renounce his sexual desire for the opposite sex.

As a result of the dramatic repression of the Oedipus complex, the child unconsciously internalized the Oedipal situation, and especially the punitive idea of the father, as a way to ensure continued protection from castration. These new internalized others collectively became the new superego, which henceforth governed the child's object-oriented actions, and superintended his sense of morality.

In the female child, the discovery of the "reality" of her castration led to penis envy, and with it a hatred of her mother, a sense of rageful betrayal at having been left unmade, unfinished. In her anger, Freud postulated that she would turn toward the father, and seek from him a penishis penisand later a baby.

Freud believed a girl's sexuality was initially dominated by her clitoris, her "little penis." Only with the move to vaginal sexuality was a woman's sexual maturation complete. Freud himself, however, remained unconvinced as to the motives for this change.

The "phallocentric" nature of the Oedipus complex had far-reaching consequences for female development. Without the threat of castration, the girl's movement toward heterosexual object choice is not characterized by the same intensity of repression as the male's, and consequently, Freud believed, the superego development that was the legacy of the Oedipus complex was less developed.

Freud also suggested the presence in both genders of a negative Oedipus complex, involving the opposite series of identifications. In the male child, the father became the object of his (passive) sexual desire, fostering a sense of identification with his mother who was the father's sexual object. This constellation, too, required repression, and if this was insufficiently accomplished, Freud believed, it could serve as an important foundation for homosexual object choice.

Much of the rationale for the Oedipal struggle is rooted in the sexual, animal child's acceptance of the moral order of "civilized" culture, and it is often on this basis that it is criticized. Nevertheless, Freud believed that the Oedipus stage was central, not only because of its implications for the infant's psycho-sexual development, but also because it marked the infant's attainment of human subjectivity. With the Oedipus conflict the child also attained the capacity for "triadic relationships" (in which the child was able to regard others not simply from her own frame of reference, but as existing outside of and independent of her needs and wishesand hence different from and at odds with her own) and with it the complex capacity for symbolism that was the precondition for language and for thought itself, as well as for the free association that was at the heart of analytic work.

In later years, many aspects of the Oedipus theory have received critical scrutiny. Emphasizing pre-Oedipal aspects of childhood development, female sexuality, and the degree to which the Oedipus complex was ever really abolished, many theorists have revised and extended the conception of the Oedipus complex and how it is used in clinical practice in the early twenty-first century.

Among the most vital of these contributions have been those of Hans W. Loewald, who came to regard the Oedipal conflict as an unending struggle perpetuated in the superego against the internalized imagos (unconscious representatives) of one's parents. Equally important are contributions from Karen Horney, Jessica Benjamin, and others, which emphasize the differences in female sexual development from those of the male, and question the central importance of the castration complex for girls. Other recent theorists, such as Arlene Kramer Richards, have emphasized the importance of female genital anxieties as a distinct influence on female psychosexual development, thereby further questioning the role of penis envy in the psychology of women.

Later Revisions: Mourning, Narcissism, and the Beginnings of Object Relations

In 1914 Freud began a series of major revisions of his theory with a discussion of the distinction between normal and pathological mourning, the latter of which he termed melancholia. The difference is this: In normal mourning, one gradually lets go of the love one has lost, piece by piece, and the libido (love) invested in them is taken back into oneself (into the ego) so that it can be used again, either for new love or for other creativity. In melancholia, the mourner holds on to the loved one's love like a phantom limb, refusing to let go, so that the libido never returns to its source, and is thus depleted, leading to the familiar symptoms of depression: exhaustion, loss of appetite, and lack of interest in the world. (The refusal to let go happens, according to Freud, because a person turns the anger felt toward the lost one upon oneself.)

This discussion extended the idea, already present in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), of the role of the object in human psychic development and function. The theory of object relations was to have far-reaching impact on psychoanalytic theory, especially through the work of Melanie Klein.

In the Three Essays, Freud described two main aspects of sexual striving, the aim and object (pressure and source were additional, largely biological aspects of the instinct). Aim named the kind of gratification pressed for by the instinct, determined by the oral, anal, or genital desires of the infant that engendered it; this aim sought its satisfaction from an object.

Freud described objects (loved ones) as either anaclitic or narcissistic. Anaclitic objects took their model from an infant's parents or caregiversthose the infant relied on for survival. Narcissistic objects, on the other hand, were taken from the model of one's self and body, the original sources of satisfaction and pleasure.

Freud believed narcissism played a vital role in healthy development, and was the source of healthy striving and ambition, as well as camaraderie and nationalism. In pathological cases, however, the narcissist was unable to form or maintain relationships with others or with the outside world.

Freud thought narcissism originated in infancy, when the child took his own body as his first object (this he called primary narcissism ). In normal development, narcissistic satisfactions were gradually replaced by anaclitic ones, as an infant became attached to, and then differentiated from, his care-givers. Far from disappearing however, narcissistic strivings were taken into the psyche as a vital component of a person's sense of self, eventually laying the foundation for the ego ideal, which was the individual's compass for his ambitions and strivings, for the self as he wished it to be, and which would reward him with new editions of the satisfactions he had taken in infancy from the pleasures of his own body. Later, as the child moved into the genital, adult phase of sexuality, it was the danger to the narcissistic object (the penis), that ushered in the castration complex, the Oedipus complex, and the whole order by which adult mental life is governed.

Narcissism, and the entire process of the formation of object relations in infancy, became increasingly important to psychoanalysis, as disturbances of these early processes came to be seen as the root of the most severe kinds of psychopathologyincluding (in current terminology) narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and the psychoseswhich Freud had already termed the "narcissistic neuroses."

The Dual Instinct Theory/The Death Drive

In 1920 Freud opened Beyond the Pleasure Principle with a comparative discussion of the behavior of soldiers suffering from traumatic war neuroses (what would later be called post-traumatic stress disorder) and a child's game. In each of these situations, Freud observed behavior, such as the dreams of soldiers that compulsively reprised the occasion of their injury, or an infant's repetitive tossing away and retrieval of an object in symbolic enactment of her parent's departure, which seemed to contradict the impulse to satisfy and reduce tension. From these observations of the workings of the repetition compulsion, Freud adduced the existence of a force in human nature that operated against the pleasure principle and its imperatives of human self-preservation and gratification. Freud called this counterforce the Todestrieb the death drive (or instinct ).

The death drive was an extension of Freud's earliest writings, having to do with conservation of energy in the organism, and was also the latest version of the dualism that was a constant in his work. In his earlier thinking, mental conflict had originated among component instincts of the libidoego and object libido, self-preservative and erotic instincts. In the new conception, all these previous instincts were subsumed under the libido, or Eros, and opposed to the death instinct. According to the logic of the pleasure principle, energy was to be conserved at all costs. In view of the repetition compulsion, Freud amended his view: On the one hand, energy was to be conserved; on the other, according to the logic of the death drive, the reduction of tension demanded that energy be reduced to nothing, returned to a state of resta return to the inorganic stasis that Freud (borrowing from the science of his time) believed to be the original condition of all matter.

Freud saw evidence of the death drive in his observations of primary masochism and of hate, which he thought preceded any feeling of love. In these phenomena and others, Freud believed that the death drive was expressed as (or even synonymous with) aggression, and that it was frequently joined (fused ) to libidinal energy. Though evidence of aggression and the death drive were readily observable in these "fused" forms, Freud was unable to isolate pure expressions of the death drive. And indeed the operation of the drive remained opaque, "mythical," in contrast to the workings of the libido, which Freud had observed and described in detail.

Because of its opacity and apparent remoteness from clinical practice (Freud himself acknowledged the "speculative" nature of its origins), the death drive became perhaps the most controversial aspect of Freud's theoretical corpus. A number of analytic theorists continued to explore its implications following Freud's death, especially Melanie Klein, in whose work the death drive figures prominently.

Later Revisions: The Structural Theory

In 1923, in the wake of his revisions of the theory of instincts on the one hand, and of object relations on the other, Freud published The Ego and the Id, and with it sharply revised his original theory of the mind. In his new model, commonly called the "structural theory," Freud introduced three new agenciesego ("I"), id ("It"), and superego ("Over-I")to represent intrapsychic mental functioning. The ego referred to the self, as the executive agency of the psychic system, governed by the secondary process, and responsible for conscious thought, fantasy, defense, and symptom formation. The id was the realm of the unconscious processes and thoughts, governed by the instincts (libido and aggression) and the primary process. The superego represented the conscience, the critical (and also loving) internal representation of one's parents or caregivers that was the internalized legacy of the repression of the Oedipus complex. These new agencies reflected the increased prominence of object relations and the pervasive nature of conflict in the system, and a recognition that the essential goal of psychoanalysis was not merely to make the unconscious conscious, but to bring instinctual impulses under the sway of the ego.

Theory of Anxiety and Affects

Anxiety is at the core of the psychoanalytic theory of affects (feelings), and from the beginning of psychoanalytic thought has been recognized as central to an understanding of mental conflict (for it is through bad feelings that conflicts are felt and known). In his early work, Freud, in keeping with his early discharge model of mental function, considered anxiety to be a "toxic transformation" of undischarged libido. This failure of discharge could either be physiological ("realistic"), as in coitus interruptus or other incomplete or unsatisfactory sexual practices, resulting in "actual neuroses" or "anxiety neuroses"; or it could arise from repression (or its failure), as a symptom of the continued pressure of unacceptable desires, which led to the "psychoneuroses"hysterias and obsessions.

In 1926 Freud radically revised his ideas about anxiety, abandoning the distinction between neurotic and realistic anxiety, and the claim that repression caused anxiety. In this new theory, Freud distinguished two types of anxiety, a traumatic, reality-oriented "automatic" anxiety in which the system was overwhelmed, and a secondary, "neurotic" anxiety in which reprisals of these situations were anticipated, thus setting in motion defensive processes. "Automatic anxiety" was an affective reaction to the helplessness experienced during a traumatic experience. The prototype for this experience lay in the helplessness of the infant during and after birth, in which the danger proceeded from outside, and flooded a psychic system essentially unmediated by the (as yet unformed) ego.

The second form of anxiety originated within the psychical system and was mediated by the ego. This "signal anxiety" presaged the emergence of a new "danger situation" that would be a repetition of one of several earlier, "traumatic states." These states, whose prototype lay in birth, corresponded to the central preoccupations of different developmental levels, as the infant's needs become progressively abstracted from the original situation of immediate sensory overload to more sophisticated forms of need regulation capable of synthesizing the many elements facing it (from the reality and pleasure principles and the object world). These momentsloss of the object, loss of the object's love, the threat of castration, and the fear of punishment by the internalized objects of the superego which were experienced serially during the developmental process, could reemerge at any time in a person's subsequent adult life, typically brought on by some conflation of reality and intrapsychic conflict, as a new edition of anxiety.

This new way of conceptualizing anxiety was an outgrowth of Freud's late revisions of his theory (c. 1923) with the structural theory and his formulation of the mediating agency of the ego, and it had the effect of shifting clinical work on anxiety into the realm of the ego. The correlation of the dangerous situations with developmental stages also suggested a diagnostic aspect to anxiety, with the earlier types of anxiety indicating earlier fixations. In the work of later theorists, the presence of the earliest anxieties in clinical work were thought to be indicative of pre-Oedipal disturbances in development, and of corresponding structural deficits in the ego.

Despite his later formulations, Freud never explicitly abandoned his first idea of anxiety, and the two theories continued to coexist uneasily in Freudian metapsychology long after Freud's death.

Melanie Klein and Object Relations

Probably the most influential analytic thinker after Freud, Melanie Klein (18821960) articulated a prehistory of childhood development, whose history in Freudian thought commenced with the Oedipus crisis. Following Freud, the sequence of events she outlined had as its main theme the integration of the chaotic desiring world of the infant with the real world.

According to Klein, the infant's world was threatened from the beginning by intolerable anxieties, whose source she believed to be the infant's own death instinct (whose central importance she forcefully affirmed, in opposition to many other contemporary theorists). These "persecutory" anxieties, which were felt in the infant's own bodily needs as well as from the external frustrations to those needs, were overwhelming to the infant, and in order to combat them the infant resorted to defenses whose aim was to isolate her from them. Through these primitive defensesprojection, denial, splitting, withdrawal, and "omnipotent control" of these objectsthe infant put threatening, "bad" objects, outside herself and into the external world; simultaneously, she preserved the "good" objects, both within herself and externally, by splitting them off from their malevolent counterparts.

Perhaps the most fundamental of these processes were projection and introjection, which described the infant's first, primitive attempts to differentiate himself from the world, inside from outside, self from other, based on the prototype of oral incorporation (and spitting out) and the infant's relation to his first, nurturing/frustrating object, the mother's breast. The first objects were not the mature, "whole" objects of Oedipal development, but primitive "part" objects whose existence for the infant was determined solely by its function in the infant's world.

In the course of maturation, Klein believed that the infant introjected both "bad" and "good" objects, and that through processes of progressive internalization, these fragmentary objects were taken into the self, and became forerunners of the superego. Klein emphasized that this process (of introjection, projection, and re-introjection) was continuous and cyclical, leading to increasing synthesis as the infant gradually attained greater degrees of reality testing, differentiation, and control over her own psyche.

Klein divided pre-Oedipal development into the "paranoid/schizoid" and "depressive" positions. She located the paranoid/schizoid position in the first months of an infant's life, a time in which the infant was in helpless thrall both to the outside world and to his own instincts. Deprivation, the experience of need, and frustration, even though emanating from the infant's own body, were perceived during this phase as persecutory, and the infant responded by putting them outside of himself, "projecting" or throwing them away.

The early objectsbeginning with the breastwere experienced alternately as "good" or "bad" according to whether they were perceived as nurturing or destructive; and again partly on the model of the breast, the infant took in (introjected) or dispelled (projected) them according to their relative safety or danger. In this way, Klein believed, the infant took in and preserved those feelings in the external world that were felt as "good," while expelling from herself those destructive feelings directed "into" the object that threatened the relation with the object.

In the depressive position (roughly corresponding to the second six months of life), the trends established in the first months of life were extended. In this stage, the infant was able to bridge the gap between "good" and "bad" objects, and between his own experiences of love and hate, which created them. He became capable of ambivalence, and his awareness gradually grew to encompass the object world outside himself and his mother, who, in a crucial development, he now perceived as a discrete, whole object. The infant became aware of his own destructive impulses and, fearing the loss of his object's love (by his destructiveness), attempted to inhibit them, to preserve, protect, even resurrect the object that he continually destroyed in unconscious fantasy, or phantasy. His anxious awareness of his aggression toward the object/mother (which Klein called guilt ), and subsequent efforts to contain his own anxieties by curtailing these impulses (efforts Klein termed reparations ), led the child to an increasing tolerance for ambivalence, and acceptance of a position of mediation between the needed, loved object and his own instincts that threatened to destroy the object, preparing the way for stable object relations, first with the mother and then with other objects.

For Klein, both paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions represented normal developmental phases on the road to mature object relations; her use of the word position was indicative both of her view of this developmental scheme as normative and her conviction (derived from Freud) that "fixation" at such positions was the source of later psychopathology. The defenses of early infancyincluding projection, splitting, withdrawal, and denialbecame the prototype for the defenses of more severely disturbed patients, whose pathology Klein traced to disturbances in early development.

Klein saw the infant's efforts to bind and modify persecutory and depressive anxieties as the central struggle in the infant's development, and as the essential precursor to all subsequent mental development. Through this progressive process, the anxieties were modified, structuralization increased, and the anxieties and impulses that gave rise to them were themselves diminished. She saw all defense as directed against these anxieties, and regarded the earliest defenses, especially splitting, as the foundation for repression, which she viewed as itself a restricted and refined form of splitting. She also saw forerunners of the Oedipal conflict and the superego in the very first months of life. Indeed, Klein's theory attributed to the infant from the first months of life a range of sophisticated, dyadic and triadic emotionsincluding greed, envy, and jealousythat implied an acute sense of others and her relation to them, far earlier than was accepted in Freudian psychology.

The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Practice

In "On Beginning the Treatment" (1913), in explaining the method of free association, a hallmark of psychoanalytic technique, Freud likened it to a train journey. "Act as though, for instance, you were a traveler sitting next to the window of a railway carriage and describing to someone inside the carriage the changing views which you see outside" (Freud, vol. 12, p. 135). The "landscape" thus revealed was that of the patient's own inner world, its features psychic conflicts; at the heart of the psychoanalytic method is the proposition that interpretation of unconscious conflicts, and the subsequent insight gained by the patient, are themselves mutations of those conflicts. The patient's fantasies and unconscious desires are thrown upon the person of the analyst, through a phenomenon known as transference. Transference, literally the unconscious carrying over into the present of the meaningful relationships of the past, and of the fantasies and repressed wishes that shaped them, is at the core of all kinds of analytic therapy.

But in clinical work, especially with more disturbed patients, many therapists of the early twenty-first century embrace the value of a "therapeutic object," and indeed believe that this kind of work is essential to any kind of therapeutic progress with such patients. The idea of the therapeutic object is related to British analyst D. W. Winnicott's notion of the holding environment and to analytic empathy, an idea especially prominent in Heinz Kohut's work with narcissistic patients. Both these writers assumed that an infant's development is inescapably bound to her relations with her first caregivers, and that the emergence of the subjective, intrapsychic world coincides with the development of the infant's relations with these early objects. They presume, in different ways, that pathology, particularly more disturbed pathology, results from disturbances in this process, and that it is among the tasks of psychodynamic therapy to supplement the patient's earliest, often deforming, object relationships with newer healthy models, which can be internalized over time. According to this view, by revisiting and remodeling the earliest patterns of relating to the world (through internalization of new objects), lasting change may be effected both in the patient's internal world and in her relationships with new objects in the present.

This point of view is not shared by all contemporary analysts, least of all those "classical" analysts, who maintain that psychopathology is by and large derived from Oedipal and post-Oedipal development, that is, the point at which a patient begins to make symbolic sense of inner impulses and distorts them according to the repression. The classical view tends to play down or deny the importance of structural, ego "deficits" in early (pre-Oedipal) development resulting from inadequate nurture.

Psychoanalysis and Its Vicissitudes

The fate of psychoanalysis seems emblematic of the whole history of the Western world during the twentieth century. Psychoanalysis first flourished in the final days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at a time of unrivaled prosperity and intellectual ferment. World War I disrupted the progress of analytic institutions, but its barbarities may have played a role in Freud's revisiting some of his fundamental assumptions, most notably about the role of aggression in the human psyche, which led him ultimately to the death drive.

World War II forced the mass exile of psychoanalysts from Europe, many of whom, like Freud, were Jews from the occupied nations. Four of Freud's sisters perished in concentration camps, as did many of those analysts who remained in their home countries. Many of the émigrés resettled in England, the United States, and South America, and the field flourished in these areas as a result. Psychoanalysis in each of these regions is marked by its local influences, and the variety of psychoanalytic discourses in the early twenty-first century is such that one group may find the theories and practices of another unrecognizable.

Even within each region, the evolution of psychoanalytic theory and technique since the death of Freud has been marked by discord and schism, perhaps stamped by the Oedipal struggles whose mysteries psychoanalysts seek to plumb. This has been the case since the birth of the field, and the history of psychoanalysis is replete with examples of this: Alfred Adler (18701937), Wilhelm Stekel (18681940), Jung, Otto Rank (18841939), Ferenczi, Wilhelm Reich (18971957)all were close members of Freud's circle, and all broke with Freud, in disputes fueled as much by personal as theoretical tensions.

Later fissures in the analytic community include the secession of Jacques Lacan (19011981) from the "classical" French establishment; in London, the intense conflict between adherents of Klein and Anna Freud; and in New York, the divisions that caused Karen Horney (18851952), Sandor Rado (18901972), Harry Stack Sullivan (18911949), and others to leave their places of training to found independent institutes. This discord has persisted into modern times, though the diminished influence of psychoanalysis and the proliferation of rival therapies and theories of mind have muted and submerged the original tensions, even as new voices constantly emerge to challenge their predecessors.

Though its impact has been felt most strongly in the West, analytic ideas have traveled around the world. By the early twenty-first century, analytic institutes had been founded in India, Korea, and Japan.

Impact on Other Disciplines

The influence of psychoanalytic theory upon contemporary thought is difficult to overstate, and equally difficult to quantify. Fundamental concepts of a dynamic unconscious, repression, ego, infantile sexuality, and the Oedipus complex have passed into popular discourse. Psychoanalysis is the root of all contemporary forms of psychotherapy, and as a clinical modality has had an enormous impact on the treatment of mental illness and on the fields of psychology and psychiatry, though this influence has been challenged in recent years by the rise of biological psychiatry. Though the scientific validity of its methods and premises has been hotly disputed, neuro-scientists, including Mark Solms, Antonio Damasio, Jaak Panksepp, and Joseph LeDoux, were actively conducting research in the early twenty-first century to correlate psychoanalytic ideas with the latest findings in brain science.

In the humanities, psychoanalytic theory has strongly influenced approaches to literary texts, biography, history, creativity, and sociology. Freud himself was the first to apply psychoanalytic principles to the arts, through readings of Wilhelm Jensen's novel Gradiva (1903), Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann's "The Sand-Man" (1817), and several of William Shakespeare's works; and through psychobiographical essays on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Leonardo da Vinci. Freud also explored the implications of his ideas upon anthropology, history, and, perhaps most famously, religion, which Freud considered a primitive, quasi-psychotic projection, and which he considered at length in The Future of an Illusion (1927) and Moses and Monotheism (1939). The poet Wallace Stevens characterized Freud's influence as "a whole climate of opinion," and the writings of Freud and other analysts, especially those of Jacques Lacan, have inspired countless artists and thinkers, including André Breton, André Gide, Benjamin, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Slavoj Zizek; and cultural movements such as surrealism, dada, existentialism, deconstruction, and postmodernism.

See also Consciousness ; Mind ; Psychology and Psychiatry .


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Matthew F. von Unwerth

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Sigmund Freud himself provided the most complete, and now most classical definition for his invention, psychoanalysis: "Psycho-analysis is the name (1) of a procedure for investigating mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (2) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline" (1923a [1922], p. 235). This definition, intended for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is still widely used today by many psychoanalytic training institutes.

Freud also wrote that the best way to understand psychoanalysis was to study its history. Its origins could be traced to the young Viennese doctor's medical practice. He frequently treated "nervous" patients, for the most part described as suffering from "hysteria," a field he came to specialize in after his return from Paris and his work assisting Jean Martin Charcot. He needed to heal these patients and develop a clientele large enough to support his growing family, even though therapeutic procedures at the time were practically nonexistent. The available techniqueselectric shock, isolation in medical clinics, and sedativeswere soon abandoned. Hypnosis appeared to him at first to produce miraculous results, but it turned out to be a dead end, and he decided to apply the "cathartic method" that his mentor, Joseph Breuer, had discovered during the treatment of the patient known as Anna O. Taking the symptom as its starting point, this method strove to have the patient recall the circumstances of its first occurrence, and a successful outcome depended on this recollection by means of talk, which was supposed to make the symptom disappear.

Freud then discovered the "resistance" that patients would put up during the search for pathogenic "primal scenes," as if they wanted to keep the origin of their illness secret. The material that was "repressed" in this way always involved old memories associated with specific events related to the earliest sexual activity of children. His suggestion that such a sexuality even existed greatly shocked many of his contemporaries. His patients soon began drawing his attention to their dreams, which he encouraged them to recount. In keeping with his belief in determinism, Freud concluded that dreams fulfilled a functionthe safeguarding of sleep through the fulfillment of wishes that had been ignored by consciousnessand consequently had an "unconscious" content, a meaning that could be deciphered. The analysis of resistance and the interpretation of dreams, together with the method of "free association," became the pillars of the psychotherapy to which Freud, in 1896, gave the name "psychoanalysis." The term appeared for the first time in an article written in French, "Heredity and the Aetiology of the Neuroses" (1896a).

By the first years of the twentieth century, the principal features of psychoanalytic treatment that still define it at the beginning of the twenty-first had been established: The patient was placed on a couch and the therapist remained out of sight. The patient was asked to say whatever came to mind. Sessions were fairly long, frequent, and expensive, so that the treatment would become an important part of the patient's life and so that the bond with the psychoanalystthe "transference"would become the principal engine of the attempt to reconstruct the past and weaken the defenses the patient had set up against the pressure from contradictory drives. But the initial therapeutic successes were not as consistent or as long-lasting as Freud had hoped. The transference could become hostile and give rise to a "negative therapeutic reaction," leading to the discontinuation of treatment or its indefinite extension.

Freud was less a therapist than a researcher, something he often recognized; it was primarily his students and successors who introduced improvements to his methods, or different but connected methods, to make the "therapeutic" aspect of psychoanalysis more effective.

Thus Carl G. Jung and Hermine von Hug-Hellmuth worked with psychotic patients, and Anna Freud and Melanie Klein with children. Otto Rank and Sándor Ferenczi sought to improve psychoanalytic therapy and make it more effective. They introduced so-called "active" techniques and tried to shorten the length of therapy, even exploring a form of "mutual analysis." Traces of these early initiatives can be found in psychotherapeutic methods developed years later. Similarly, the extension of psychotherapy to patients presenting problems of psychosis or addiction, and the development of group analysis and psychodrama all tended to point up the therapeutic value of psychoanalysis. Some psychoanalysts sought to render their approach more effective by forging links with the neurosciences.

Following Freud, however, who quipped about the profession's "furor sanandi, " other psychoanalysts emphasized the research implications of treatment. Thus Jacques Lacan, who in 1957 spoke of curing patients as merely an "extra" benefit of psychoanalysis, and who in 1964, when he founded theÉcole freudienne de Paris, described training analysis as "pure"as opposed to simply "therapeutic"psychoanalysis, clearly represents the tendency that embraces the third of Freud's three basic definitions of psychoanalysis.

In his daily practice, however, Freud never differentiated between what he experienced and what he theorized later. His letters to Wilhelm Fliess allow us to follow, almost day by day, the theory-building that turned psychoanalysis into the "depth psychology" Freud hoped would supplant academic psychology. A work of construction thenbut also of deconstructionFreud considered his ideas to be superstructures whose existence was necessarily ephemeral, and anticipated new discoveries better adapted to the knowledge obtained from clinical practice. A first model, developed in 1900, which described a psychic apparatus formed of three agenciesthe unconscious, preconscious, and consciouswas replaced in 1923 by another conceptual scheme comprising the id, the ego, and the superego. And while Freud remained firmly committed to the Oedipus complex, he had, over a period of forty years of work, fleshed out the speculative aspects of his metapsychology with new concepts that improved and sometimes reversed his earlier hypotheses: narcissism, the death instinct, the phallic stage, the splitting of the ego.

Alfred Adler, in 1911, and Jung, in 1913, made their final breaks with Freud over theoretical disagreements and formed their own schools. The first psychoanalytic theory to be developed that broke with Freud's theories while also claiming to further the Freudian tradition was Melanie Klein's, developed between 1930 and 1962. Klein radically revised the Freudian view of the first moments of the formation of the mental apparatus, on the basis of her clinical experience with very young children and her interest in psychoses. Her theoretical model invoked very early stages she referred to as "depressive" or "paranoid-schizoid" positions, and she held that the Oedipus complex originated at a much earlier age than Freud thought. Her opposition to Anna Freud, who insisted on strict fidelity to the spirit and letter of her father's theories, gave rise to several important "controversies" (1941-1945) that determined the orientation of the British Psycho-Analytical Society after the Second World War. Following Klein, Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion, and Ronald Fairbairn helped develop British psychoanalytical theory and practice. In the United States a number of derivative psychoanalytic theories came into being, some of which parted ways with classical Freudian theory. The theory of ego-psychology was introduced by Heinz Hartmann, Ernst Kris, and Rudolph Loewenstein, and was for years the major reference point of American psychoanalysis. Heinz Kohut developed a theory of narcissism, and Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan were cofounders of a "culturalist" approach. Erik Erikson's work was also notable.

In France, Jacques Lacan, under the banner of the "return to Freud" in November 1955, proposed new models that in his view could better account for the constitution of the "subject" and the relationship between the subject and the unconscious. The three categories of the real, the imaginary, and the symbolic; the primacy of the phallus; the object a ; Borromean knots; and mathemes were so many milestones in an evolving theory that Lacan developed week by week, from 1954 to 1981, in his famous seminars. His idiosyncratic use of the findings of modern linguistics, inspired by Ferdinand de Saussure, of structuralism, and of logical and mathematical models, enabled him to make an audience of even communities like the Catholic Church and the Marxist orthodoxy, which had previously rejected "Freudian doctrine" as "unscientific."

Whether or not psychoanalysis is a science has been debated for years, and the issue reappears regularly in the news. For epistemologists like Karl Popper and a host of other critics, the statements made by psychoanalysis cannot be considered scientific since they cannot be "falsified" and because the theory cannot be "refuted." For Freud, the scientific status of his theory was never in doubt, and he considered his metapsychological hypotheses no more implausible than those of contemporary physics. Psychoanalysis, as far as he was concerned, was a "natural science" ("Naturwissenschaft "). Despite holding a position deemed by some close to "scientism," Freud clearly distinguished his belief in a scientific ideal and the consistency of his hypotheses concerning the unconscious from a Weltanschauung, a "vision of the world" whose totalizing tendencies and illusory nature he feared. In The Question of Lay Analysis, he wrote: "Science, as you know, is not a revelation; long after its beginnings it still lacks the attributes of definiteness, immutability and infallibility for which human thought so deeply longs. But such as it is, it is all that we can have" (1926e, p. 191).

Freud also insisted on the importance of psychoanalysis as a cultural phenomenon and a special instrument for studying and understanding other cultural phenomena. On July 5, 1910, he wrote to Jung: "I am becoming more and more convinced of the cultural value of psychoanalysis, and I long for the lucid mind that will draw from it the justified inferences for philosophy and sociology" (p. 340).

His letters to Wilhelm Fliess already illustrate the extent to which his psychological discoveries provided new insights for the understanding of literature and visual art, and how their study provided him with new ideas or proofs of the correctness of his views. It was Sophocles who provided Freud with the name for his "Oedipus complex," discovered during his self-analysis in October 1897. In 1913 he indicated the fields of knowledge he felt would benefit (1913j) from psychoanalytic concepts. Aside from psychology, he listed the science of language, philosophy, biology, the history of the development of civilization, aesthetics, sociology, and pedagogy.

He confirmed this interaction in the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis : "In the work of psychoanalysis links are formed with numbers of other mental sciences, the investigation of which promises results of the greatest value: links with mythology and philology, with folklore, with social psychology and the theory of religion. You will not be surprised to hear that a periodical has grown up on psychoanalytic soil whose sole aim is to foster these links. This periodical is known as Imago, founded in 1912 and edited by Hanns Sachs and Otto Rank. In all these links the share of psychoanalysis is in the first instance that of giver and only to a less extent that of receiver" (1916-1917a, p. 167-68).

Despite the charge that Freudian concepts cannot be applied outside the framework of the treatment and notwithstanding the superficial way they have indeed too often sometimes been used, the fact is that "applied psychoanalysis" has profoundly modified our view of literature and the fine arts, of biography, and of sociological and political realities. Freud set the example by the way he approached Wilhelm Jensen's story "Gradiva," Leonardo da Vinci's life, and Michelangelo's sculpture, to mention only a few of his contributions. But on several occasions he expressed his reservations about the value of the psychobiographies produced by some of his followers and successors.

Toward the end of his life his clinical work took a secondary position to his writings on the great problems of religion and culture: The Future of an Illusion (1927c), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a [1929]), and especially his last work, Moses and Monotheism (1939a [1934-1938]), which expands upon the anthropological ideas he had extensively covered in Totem and Taboo (1912-13a).

Later, the spread of Freudian ideas attracted the interest of writers, artists, and critics, who made use of them to enrich their own work. The Surrealists were among the first, but novelists, painters, and dramatists borrowed from psychoanalysis as well. Created at the same time as cinematography, psychoanalysis has inspired filmmakers from the early days. One has only to think of Secrets of a Soul (Geheimnisse einer Seele ), the film G. W. Pabst made in 1926 in spite of Freud's reservations; or of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Spellbound and Vertigo ; or of Freud, the Secret Passion, by John Huston, prepared with the help of Jean-Paul Sartre and released in 1962, in which Montgomery Clift plays the role of Freud; or, for that matter, of the comic treatment of psychoanalysis by Woody Allen.

Throughout the twentieth century, the discoveries of psychoanalysis and its theory of the unconscious have profoundly modified the rules mankind has established concerning its behavior and sexual taboos, its relation to guilt, to femininity, and more generally to other people, about whom a whole new unconscious aspect was now apprehended. Obviously, however, the wide dissemination and renown of psychoanalysis were themselves the product of the twentieth century. Psychoanalysis was inspired and carried along by that century, with its excesses, its political ideologies, its economic and religious ups and downs, and above all, its terrible conflicts, which despite all claims to civilized behavior mobilized the darkest and most barbaric of human impulses just as Freud had understood and feared (1915b, 1933b [1932]).

In so many waysthe liberalization of behavior, the advancement of the status of women (both inside and outside feminist movements and in spite of their virulent criticisms of Freudianism), the dawning recognition of sexual minorities (even though in Freudian theory their preferences have been explained as arrested libidinal development and more or less archaic fixations), a different approach to the subject and its relation to itself and the otherpsychoanalysis has become a part of everyday life throughout the so-called "Western" world and is not about to simply disappear, despite all the wild swings of fashion.

Its expansion toward other cultural sensibilities, like the multiplication of the often contradictory theories and techniques that claim allegiance to it, as demonstrated by this Dictionary, show that psychoanalysis has never been a dogma or the kind of closed theory caricatured by dishonest critics. In his own time Freud defined those "cornerstones," which seemed to him to provide the foundation that his successors would trace back to him: "The assumption that there are unconscious mental processes, the recognition of the theory of resistance and repression, the appreciation of the importance of sexuality and of the Oedipus complexthese constitute the principal subject-matter of psycho-analysis and the foundations of its theory. No one who cannot accept them all should count himself a psycho-analyst" (1923a [1922], p. 247). Nothing has really changed regarding the basic principles, in spite of the considerable diversity found in theoretical research and methods of practice, which has enriched the great network of the global psychoanalytic movement.

The recent rapid development of the neurosciences does not signal any decline in the value of the listening procedure that psychoanalysis has offered for more than a century in its attempt to understand and treat mental suffering. Apparently contradictory theoretical systems will eventually intersect and enrich each other, and the pessmism of the Cassandras can be answered with Freud's remarks, written in 1914: "At least a dozen times in recent years, in reports of the proceedings of certain congresses and scientific bodies or in reviews of certain publications, I have read that now psychoanalysis is dead, defeated and disposed of once and for all. The best answer to all this would be in the terms of Mark Twain's telegram to the newspaper which had falsely published news of his death: 'Report of my death is grossly exaggerated"' (1914d, p. 35).

Alain de Mijolla


Freud, Sigmund. (1912-13a). Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.

. (1913j). The claims of psycho-analysis to scientific interest. SE, 13: 163-190.

. (1915b). Thoughts for the times on war and death. SE, 14: 273-300.

. (1916-17a [1915-17]). Introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. Parts I and II. SE, 15-16.

. (1923a [1922]). Two encyclopaedia articles. Psycho-analysis. SE, 18: 234-255.

. (1926e). The question of lay analysis. SE, 20: 177-250.

. (1930a [1929]). Civilization and its discontents. SE, 21: 57-145.

. (1933b [1932]). Why war? (Einstein and Freud). SE, 22: 195-215.

. (1939a [1934-38]). Moses and monotheism: Three essays. SE, 23: 1-137.

Freud, Sigmund, and Jung, Carl. (1974a [1906-13]). The Freud/Jung letters: The correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (William McGuire, Ed., and Ralph Manheim and R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1996). Psychoanalysts and their history. International Psychoanalysis: The Newsletter of the IPA, 5 (1), 25-28.

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Psychoanalysis is a form of psychotherapy used by qualified psychotherapists to treat patients who have a range of mild to moderate chronic life problems. It is related to a specific body of theories about the relationships between conscious and unconscious mental processes, and should not be used as a synonym for psychotherapy in general. Psychoanalysis is done one-on-one with the patient and the analyst; it is not appropriate for group work.


Psychoanalysis is the most intensive form of an approach to treatment called psychodynamic therapy. Psychodynamic refers to a view of human personality that results from interactions between conscious and unconscious factors. The purpose of all forms of psychodynamic treatment is to bring unconscious mental material and processes into full consciousness so that the patient can gain more control over his or her life.

Classical psychoanalysis has become the least commonly practiced form of psychodynamic therapy because of its demands on the patient's time, as well as on his or her emotional and financial resources. It is, however, the oldest form of psychodynamic treatment. The theories that underlie psychoanalysis were worked out by Sigmund Freud (18561939), a Viennese physician, during the early years of the twentieth century. Freud's discoveries were made in the context of his research into hypnosis. The goal of psychoanalysis is the uncovering and resolution of the patient's internal conflicts. The treatment focuses on the formation of an intense relationship between the therapist and patient, which is analyzed and discussed in order to deepen the patient's insight into his or her problems.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a modified form of psychoanalysis that is much more widely practiced. It is based on the same theoretical principles as psychoanalysis, but is less intense and less concerned with major changes in the patient's character structure. The focus in treatment is usually the patient's current life situation and the way problems relate to early conflicts and feelings, rather than an exploration of the unconscious aspects of the relationship that has been formed with the therapist.

Not all patients benefit from psychoanalytic treatment. Potential patients should meet the following prerequisites:

  • The capacity to relate well enough to form an effective working relationship with the analyst. This relationship is called a therapeutic alliance.
  • At least average intelligence and a basic understanding of psychological theory.
  • The ability to tolerate frustration, sadness, and other painful emotions.
  • The capacity to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

People considered best suited to psychoanalytic treatment include those with depression, character disorders, neurotic conflicts, and chronic relationship problems. When the patient's conflicts are long-standing and deeply entrenched in his or her personality, psychoanalysis may be preferable to psychoanalytic psychotherapy, because of its greater depth.


Psychoanalysis is not usually considered suitable for patients suffering from severe depression or such psychotic disorders as schizophrenia, although some analysts have successfully treated patients with psychoses. It is also not appropriate for people with addictions or substance dependency, disorders of aggression or impulse control, or acute crises; some of these people may benefit from psychoanalysis after the crisis has been resolved.


In both psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the therapist does not tell the patient how to solve problems or offer moral judgments. The focus of treatment is exploration of the patient's mind and habitual thought patterns. Such therapy is termed "non-directed." It is also "insight-oriented," meaning that the goal of treatment is increased understanding of the sources of one's inner conflicts and emotional problems. The basic techniques of psychoanalytical treatment include:


Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, on July 26, 1875, to a Protestant clergyman who moved his family to Basel when Jung was four. While growing up, Jung exhibited an interest in many diverse areas of study but finally decided to pursue medicine at the University of Basel and the University of Zurich, earning his degree in 1902. He also studied psychology in Paris. In 1903, Jung married Emma Rauschenbach, his companion and collaborator. The couple had five children.

Jung's professional career began in 1900 at the University of Zurich where he worked as an assistant to Eugene Blueler in the psychiatric clinic. During his internship, he and some co-workers used an experiment that revealed groups of ideas in the unconscious psyche which he named complexes. Jung sent his publication Studies in Word Association (1904) to Sigmund Freud after finding his own beliefs confirmed by Freud's work. Jung and Freud became friends and collaborators until 1913 when Jung's ideas began to conflict with Freud's. During the time following this split, Jung published Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (1916, 1917) and Psychological Types (1921). Jung's later work developed from the concepts in his Two Essays publication and he became known as a founder of modern depth psychology.

In 1944, Jung gave up his psychological practice and his explorations after he suffered a severe heart attack. Jung received honorary doctorates from numerous universities and in 1948 he founded the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Jung died on June 6, 1961.

Therapist neutrality

Neutrality means that the analyst does not take sides in the patient's conflicts, express feelings about the patient, or talk about his or her own life. Therapist neutrality is intended to help the patient stay focused on issues rather than be concerned with the therapist's reactions. In psychoanalysis, the patient lies on a couch facing away from the therapist. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, however, the patient and therapist usually sit in comfortable chairs facing each other.

Free association

Free association means that the patient talks about whatever comes into mind without censoring or editing the flow of ideas or memories. Free association allows the patient to return to earlier or more childlike emotional states ("regress"). Regression is sometimes necessary in the formation of the therapeutic alliance. It also helps the analyst to understand the recurrent patterns of conflict in the patient's life.

Therapeutic alliance and transference

Transference is the name that psychoanalysts use for the patient's repetition of childlike ways of relating that were learned in early life. If the therapeutic alliance has been well established, the patient will begin to transfer thoughts and feelings connected with siblings, parents, or other influential figures to the therapist. Discussing the transference helps the patient gain insight into the ways in which he or she misreads or misperceives other people in present life.


In psychoanalytic treatment, the analyst is silent as much as possible, in order to encourage the patient's free association. However, the analyst offers judiciously timed interpretations, in the form of verbal comments about the material that emerges in the sessions. The therapist uses interpretations in order to uncover the patient's resistance to treatment, to discuss the patient's transference feelings, or to confront the patient with inconsistencies. Interpretations may be either focused on present issues ("dynamic") or intended to draw connections between the patient's past and the present ("genetic"). The patient is also often encouraged to describe dreams and fantasies as sources of material for interpretation.

Working through

"Working through" occupies most of the work in psychoanalytic treatment after the transference has been formed and the patient has begun to acquire insights into his or her problems. Working through is a process in which the new awareness is repeatedly tested and "tried on for size" in other areas of the patient's life. It allows the patient to understand the influence of the past on his or her present situation, to accept it emotionally as well as intellectually, and to use the new understanding to make changes in present life. Working through thus helps the patient to gain some measure of control over inner conflicts and to resolve them or minimize their power.

Although psychoanalytic treatment is primarily verbal, medications are sometimes used to stabilize patients with severe anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders during the analysis.

The cost of either psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy is prohibitive for most patients without insurance coverage. A full course of psychoanalysis usually requires three to five weekly sessions with a psychoanalyst over a period of three to five years. A course of psychoanalytic psychotherapy involves one to three meetings per week with the therapist for two to five years. Each session or meeting typically costs between $80 and $200, depending on the locale and the experience of the therapist. The increasing reluctance of most HMOs and other managed care organizations to pay for long-term psychotherapy is one reason that these forms of treatment are losing ground to short-term methods of treatment and the use of medications to control the patient's emotional symptoms. It is also not clear as of 2003 that long-term psychoanalytically oriented approaches are more beneficial than briefer therapy methods for many patients. On the other hand, patients who can benefit from a psychoanalytic approach but cannot afford private fees may wish to contact the American Psychoanalytic Association, which maintains a list of analysts in training who offer treatment for reduced fees.


Some patients may need evaluation for possible medical problems before entering psychoanalysis because numerous diseasesincluding virus infections and certain vitamin deficiencieshave emotional side effects or symptoms. The therapist will also want to know whether the patient is taking any prescription medications that may affect the patient's feelings or ability to concentrate. In addition, it is important to make sure that the patient is not abusing drugs or alcohol.


The primary risk to the patient is related to the emotional pain resulting from new insights and changes in long-standing behavior patterns. In some patients, psychoanalysis produces so much anxiety that they cannot continue with this treatment method. In other cases, the therapist's lack of skill or differences in cultural background may prevent the formation of a solid therapeutic alliance.

Normal results

Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy both have the goal of basic changes in the patient's personality structure and level of functioning, although psychoanalysis typically aims at more extensive and more profound change. In general, this approach to treatment is considered successful if the patient has shown:

  • reduction in intensity or number of symptoms
  • some resolution of basic emotional conflicts
  • increased independence and self-esteem
  • improved functioning and adaptation to life

Attempts to compare the effectiveness of psychoanalytical treatment to other modes of therapy are difficult to evaluate. Some aspects of Freudian theory have been questioned since the 1970s on the grounds of their limited applicability to women and to people from non-Western cultures. In particular, some psychiatrists with cross-cultural experience maintain that psychoanalysis presupposes a highly individualistic Western concept of human personhood that is alien to traditional Asian and African societies. There is, however, general agreement that psychoanalytic approaches work well for certain types of patients, specifically those with neurotic conflicts.



Blass, R. B. "On Ethical Issues at the Foundation of the Debate Over the Goals of Psychoanalysis." International Journal of Psychoanalysis 84 (August 2003): 929-943.

Gabbard, G. O., and D. Westen. "Rethinking Therapeutic Action." International Journal of Psychoanalysis 84 (August 2003): 823-841.

Lombardi, R. "Mental Models and Language Registers in the Psychoanalysis of Psychosis: An Overview of a Thirteen-Year Analysis." International Journal of Psychoanalysis 84 (August 2003): 843-863.

Roland, A. "Psychoanalysis Across Civilizations: A Personal Journey." Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry 31 (Summer 2003): 275-295.


American Psychoanalytic Association. 309 East 49th Street, New York, NY 10017. (212) 752-0450. http://www.apsa-co.org.


Free association A technique used in psychoanalysis in which the patient allows thoughts and feelings to emerge without trying to organize or censor them.

Interpretation A verbal comment made by the analyst in response to the patient's free association. It is intended to help the patient gain new insights.

Neurosis A mental and emotional disorder that affects only part of the personality and is accompanied by a significantly less distorted perception of reality than in psychosis.

Psychodynamic An approach to psychotherapy based on the interplay of conscious and unconscious factors in the patient's mind. Psychoanalysis is one type of psychodynamic therapy.

Regression The process in which the patient reverts to earlier or less mature feelings and behaviors.

Therapeutic alliance The working relationship between a therapist and a patient that is necessary to the success of therapy.

Transference The process that develops during psychoanalytic work during which the patient redirects feelings about early life figures toward the analyst.

Working through The repeated testing of insights, which takes up most of the work in psychoanalysis after the therapeutic alliance has been formed.

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Psychoanalysis, as a form of therapy, is based on the understanding that human beings are largely unaware of the mental processes that determine their thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and that psychological suffering can be alleviated by making those processes known to the individual.

Sigmund Freud originally developed the theory and technique of psychoanalysis in the 1890s. Freud's ideas are still used in comptemporary practice; however, many have been further developed or refined and some even abandoned. The theory and technique of psychoanalyis contnues to integrate new insights about human development and behavior based on psychoanalytic research and discoveries from related fields. Different schools of psychoanalytic theory have evolved out of the original Freudian one, reflecting a variety of ideas and perspectives. Psychoanalysis is practiced by a trained psychoanalyst, also referred to as an analyst.


Primary goals of psychoanalysis include symptom relief, increased self-awareness, and a more objective capacity for self-observation. Other aims might include improved relationships with others and the capacity to live a more deeply satisfying life. Typically, an individual seeks treatment in order to alleviate some difficulty, such as unhappiness in work or love, disturbances in mood or self-esteem, or troubling personality traits. With the exception of those that are physically based, psychoanalysis views such symptoms as related to unconscious mental processes, and because these mental forces are not within the individual's awareness, symptoms cannot be relieved with perseverance or with the help of friends or family. Through a slowly unfolding process, psychoanalysis demonstrates to the individual how unconscious mental processes affect current modes of thinking, feeling and interacting with others. It also demonstrates that these processes can be traced back to early experiences and relationships with caregivers and family members. This kind of insight enables the person to identify the sources of their sometimes troubling thoughts, feelings and behavior and, as a result, gives new meaning to current modes of functioning. This kind of transformation of character takes several years to accomplish due to the intense nature of the process. It requires a sacrifice of time, money, and mental energy. The resulting transformation offers the means for adaptive, enduring changes in personality. These are changes that enable the individual to live a more productive, satisfying and pleasurable life.


The term "psychoanalyst" can be used by anyone, so it is important to know the credentials of an analyst prior to beginning treatment.


In addition to having received advanced degrees in mental health (psychiatry, psychology, social work), trained psychoanalysts have also graduated from psychoanalytic training institutes. Institute training consists of three parts: course work on psychoanalytic theory and technique; supervised analyses (meaning that the candidate conducts analyses while being supervised by a seasoned psychoanalyst); and, third, candidates undergo a personal psychoanalysis. A personal analysis is considered a vital part of the training, as it enables candidates to learn about their own psychological processes. In turn, the knowledge enhances their capacity to treat others. This type of training program takes a minimum of four years to complete. Psychoanalysts also practice psychoanalytic psychotherapy , a less intensive form of treatment. It relies on the same theory of human development and a similar technique.


In psychoanalysis, an individual in treatment is seen four to five times per week for 45- to 50-minute sessions. The individual lies comfortably on a couch while the analyst sits in a chair behind the person, out of view. The person is then asked to say whatever comes into his or her mind. Although this structure varies depending on the theory and style of the analyst, this is the most typical and traditional manner in which sessions are conducted. These conditions are maintained consistently, making it possible for thoughts and feelings to emerge that had once been outside of the person's awareness. The process of free associating, or saying whatever comes to mind, is challenging because people are taught at a young age to keep many ideas and feelings to themselves. When the analyst is out of view, it removes the possibility for eye contact, making it easier to speak spontaneously. Free association is also made easier by the analyst's nonjudgmental attitudein listening to the individual, in the attention and interest given to seemingly unimportant details, and the objective and caring attitude with which the analyst understands the individual.

As the person speaks, unconscious sources of present-day difficulties gradually appear. Specifically, the analyst begins to notice repetitive aspects of behavior. Some of them may include particular subjects about which the person finds it hard to speak, as well as habitual ways in which the person relates to the psychoanalyst. The analyst begins to reveal these to the person in a gradual and thoughtful manner. Sometimes these revelations are accepted as correct and helpful. At other times they are rejected, corrected, or refined.

During the years of an analysis, the individual will grapple with new insights repeatedly, each time comprehending them in new ways. There will be an enhanced emotional and intellectual understanding, in addition to seeing matters from the perspective of different periods of life. As in all worthwhile learning processes, this one includes times of deep satisfaction and great frustration, periods of growth and regression. Overall, the analyst and individual work together to modify debilitating life patterns, to ameliorate troubling symptoms, and to release emotional and intellectual resources bound up in unconscious psychological processes. A transformation will occur eventually, and be one in which the person's understanding of themselves and of others, along with their productivity in work and capacity to love, changes in profound and enduring ways.

Who can benefit from psychoanalysis?

Anyone interested should seek a consultation with a psychoanalyst in order to determine if this treatment is appropriate. People often begin psychoanalysis also after having participated in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, which is a less intense form of treatment.

Individuals who are the most suited for psychoanalysis are those who have experienced satisfactions in work, with friends, in marriage, but who nonetheless experience a general dissatisfaction with their lifesuffering from long-standing depression, anxiety, sexual difficulties, physical symptoms without physical basis, or typically feel isolated or alone. Some people need analysis because their habitual ways of living interfere with experiencing greater pleasure or productivity in life. Individuals need to be psychologically minded with an interest in becoming more self-aware, and a determination to forgo quick symptom relief in favor of a more gradual therapeutic process.

Psychoanalysis is also practiced with children and adolescents, with some variation in technique. Specifically, fantasy play and drawings are used with children in addition to verbal communication. During the treatment of children and young adolescents, parents are consulted on a regular basis so that the analyst can develop a more holistic understanding of the youngster's world. The goal of child and adolescent psychoanalysis is to alleviate symptoms and to remove any obstacles that interfere with normal development.

With other treatments

Psychoanalysis is used at times with other forms of treatment. Medication may be warranted in selected situationsif an individual suffers from a severe mood disturbance which interferes with his or her capacity to participate in treatment, for example. In general, medication is used as a tool that allows the individual to benefit from the psychoanalytic process; it is an adjunct therapy, while psychoanalysis is the primary curative one. There are also occasions in which psychoanalysis is provided concurrently with couples therapy or family therapy or with group therapy . Treatment recommendations, whether for psychoanalysis alone or in combination with couples, family, or group therapy, are based both on the individual's particular needs and the practice of the treating psychoanalyst.

Finally, psychoanalysis is not only a type of therapy. It is also a theory of human development from infancy to old age, a method for understanding thought processes. It offers a way of thinking about aspects of society and culture such as religion, prejudice, and war.

Normal results

Normal results include symptom relief and an enduring, adaptive change in personality.

Abnormal results

Some individuals do not benefit from this in-depth form of treatment. They instead experience increased distress, or do not progress after a sufficient amount of treatment sessions have elapsed. In these cases, people are typically transitioned to a less intensive form of treatment such as psychoanalytic psychotherapy.



Galatzer-Levy, Robert, M.D. Does Psychoanalysis Work? New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Mitchell, Stephen A. and Margaret J. Black. Freud and Beyond. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

Oldham, John M., M.D. "Combining Treatment Modalities." In Textbook of Psychoanalysis, edited by Edward Nersessian, M.D. and Richard G. Kopff Jr., M.D. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.,1996.

Weinshel, Edward M., M.D. and Owen Renik, M.D. "Psychoanalytic Technique." In Textbook of Psychoanalysis edited by Edward Nersessian, M.D and Richard G. Kopff, Jr., M.D. Washington, DC:American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1996.


American Psychoanalytic Association. 309 East 49th Street, New York, NY 10017. (212) 752-0450. <http://www.apsa.org>.

International Psychoanalytical Association. Broomhills, Woodside Lane, London N128UD.<http//www.ipa.org.uk>.

Susan Fine, Psy.D

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A method of treatment for mental, emotional, and behavioral dysfunctions as developed by Sigmund Freud.

Developed in Vienna, Austria, by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), psychoanalysis is based on an approach in which the therapist helps the patient better understand him- or herself through examination of the deep personal feelings, relationships, and events that have shaped motivations and behavior. Freud developed his theories during the end of the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries in Vienna, Austria, where he was a practicing physician specializing in neurological disorders. Freud's interest originated in his medical practice when he encountered patients who were clearly suffering physical symptoms for which he could find no organic, or biological, cause. Freud's first attempt to get at the psychological cause of these patients' pain was through hypnosis , which he studied in Paris in 1885. He found the results to be less than he'd hoped, however, and soon borrowed from a Viennese contemporary the idea of getting a patient to simply talk about his or her problems. Freud expanded upon this practice, however, by creating the idea of "free association," in which a patient is encouraged to speak in a non-narrative, non-directed manner, with the hope that he or she will eventually reveal/uncover the unconscious heart of the problem. This sort of unbridled, undirected self-exploration became one of the signature tenets of psychoanalysis.

Continuing his research of the mind and the unconscious, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in 1900. In this work he outlined his ideas about the construction of the mind and human personality . This book was followed by the now basics of the Freudian canon: The Psychopathology of Everyday Life in 1904 and A Case of Hysteria and Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, both in 1905. By the second decade of the 20th century, Freud had become an internationally renowned thinker, and psychoanalysis had emerged as a significant intellectual achievement on par with the work of Albert Einstein in physics and in many ways comparable to the modernist movement in the visual arts. Psychoanalysis was in its prime and it became something of a fad to undergo psychoanalytic treatment among the Western world's elite.

Psychoanalysis and the development of personality

Freud believed that human personality was constructed of three parts: the id , the ego , and the superego . The id, according to this schema, is comprised largely of instinctual drivesfor food and sex, for instance. These drives are essentially unconscious and result in satisfaction when they are fulfilled and frustration and anxiety when they are thwarted. The ego is linked to the id, but is the component that has undergone socialization and which recognizes that instant gratification of the id urges is not always possible. The superego acts in many ways like the ego, as a moderator of behavior; but whereas the ego moderates urges based on social constraints, the superego operates as an arbiter of right and wrong. It moderates the id's urges based on a moral code. Having theorized this framework of human personality, Freud used it to demonstrate how instinctual drives are inevitably confounded with strictly social codes (by the ego) and by notions of morality (by the superego). This conflict, psychoanalytic theory supposes, is at the heart of anxiety and neuroses.

In dealing with these conflicts, Freud's psychoanalytic theory suggests that the human mind constructs three forms of adaptive mechanisms: namely, defense mechanisms, neurotic symptoms, and dreams. Freud believed dreams were vivid representations of repressed urges: the id speaking out in wildly incongruous nighttime parables. He considered dreams to have two parts, the manifest content, the narrative that one is able to remember upon waking, and the latent content, the underlying, largely symbolic message. Because Freud believed dreams to represent unfulfilled longings of the id, psychoanalysis deals heavily with dream interpretation.

Psychoanalytic theory also sees various neurotic symptoms as symbolic acts representing the repressed longings of the id. For Freud, a neurotic symptom was what we now consider a psychosomatic disorder, some physical symptom that has a psychological, or in Freud's terms, neurological, origin. Psychoanalytic theory suggests that conditions like blindness, paralysis, and severe headaches can result from unfulfilled longings that the patient is unable to confront on a conscious level. Because of this inability, the patient develops some acceptable symptom, such as headaches, for which he or she can then seek medical attention .

The final adaptive mechanism Freud suggested are defense mechanisms . Freud identified several defense mechanisms, such as repression, displacement, denial, rationalization, projection, and identification. Each has its own peculiar dynamic but all work to distance a person from a conflict that is too difficult to confront realistically. These conflicts, according to psychoanalytic theory, originate during one of the four developmental stages Freud identified. These stages, and the infantile sexuality he identified as occurring within them, are some of the most controversial aspects of psychoanalytic theory. Freud suggested that adult neuroses was a result of and could be traced back to frustrated sexual gratification during these stages, which are: the oral stage, birth to one year; the anal stage, 1-3 years; the phallic stage, 3-5 years; and latency, five years to puberty . Each of these stages is in turn divided into sub-stages. In each of the major stages, the infant has sexual needs which, because of social mores, are left largely unfulfilled, causing neuroses to originate.

It is during the phallic stage that Freud hypothesized the development of the Oedipus complex , easily the most renowned and controversial theoretical construction of the Freudian canon. The Oedipus complex suggests that during the phallic stage, a child begins associating his genitals with sexual pleasure and becomes erotically attracted to the parent of the opposite sex while at the same time developing an intense jealousy of the same-sex parent. While Freud's original theory excludes consideration of females, his contemporary, Carl Jung (1875-1961), expanded this particular dynamic and theorized an Electra complex for women in which the same psychodrama of erotic attraction and jealousy is played out from the young girl's point of view.

Freud's critics

From nearly the beginning, Freud and his construction of psychoanalytic theory have faced intense criticism. His most famous dissenter is Jung, his former disciple. Jung split with Freud in 1913 over a variety of issues, including, but certainly not limited to, Freud's emphasis on infantile sexuality. Jung had a different view of the construction of human personality, for instance, and had different ideas about how dreams should be interpreted and viewed as part of psychoanalysis. Alfred Adler , another disciple of Freud, broke with the master over infantile sexuality, positing a view that infants and children are driven primarily by a need for self-affirmation rather than sexual gratification. In modern times, Freud has been the target of criticism from many corners. Feminists especially criticize his understanding of "hysteria" and his theory of Oedipal conflict.

Freudian psychoanalysis focuses on uncovering unconscious motivations and breaking down defenses. Many therapists feel that psychoanalysis is the most effective technique to identify and deal with internal conflicts and feelings that contribute to dysfunctional behavior. Through psychoanalysis, the patient increases his understanding of himself and his internal conflicts so that they will no longer exert as much influence on mental and emotional health.

Further Reading

Hall, Calvin S. A Primer of Freudian Psychology. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.

Menninger, K. and P.S. Holzman. Theory of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Basic Book, 1973.

Mitchell, Juliet. Psychoanalysis and Feminism. New York: Vintage Book, 1975.

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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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"Whoever has admitted that transference and resistance constitute the linchpins of treatment forever belongs in our untamed horde," Freud wrote to Georg Groddeck on June 15th, 1917. He would later add: "The acceptance of unconscious psychical processes, the acknowledgement of the doctrine on resistance and repression, the taking into consideration of sexuality and the Oedipus complex are the principle tenets of psychoanalysis and the bases of its history, and whosoever is not prepared to subscribe to all of them should not count himself among Psychoanalysts" (1923a).

Since then, disputes have run to the heart of the various psychoanalytic institutes over didactic analyses and training. The absence of a consistent code, compounded by inconsistent statutory regulations which governmental authorities have and have not have enacted in different region, has further multiplied the number of pronouncements as to what each institute reckons should best define what a psychoanalyst is.

Freud had already stated a few of his own prescriptions: "It is therefore reasonable to expect of an analyst, as a part of his qualifications, a considerable degree of mental normality and correctness. In addition, he must possess some kind of superiority, so that in certain analytic situations he can act as a model for his patient and in others as a teacher. And finally we must not forget that the analytic relationship is based on a love of truththat is, on a recognition of realityand that it precludes any kind of sham or deceit" (1937c, p. 248).

The work of the psychoanalyst has been described as being quite similar to that of the patient. First of all he or she should be committed to the relationship and to analyzing his or her own motivations for being in it. He or she must also engage in interpretive listening, including to the manifestations of their own defenses. In short, a "free-floating" or "evenly-suspended" attention must be paid when dealing with the processes inevitably evoked or generated by the highly-charged affective moments to which psychoanalytic activity leads.

The term counter-transference has been considerably expanded upon since it first appeared in 1910, and the various meanings attributed to it attest to the intricacies that develop within the analytic situation (Sandler, Joseph, et al., 1973; Blum, Howard, 1986). These conceptual responses, like the so-called "neutrality" intended to make the analyst into a "mirror," attest to the receptiveness with which personal analysis, often called a "didactic" or "training analysis," was meant to equip the psychoanalyst. In the event, only a presumptive judgment may be made in this respect. It should be recalled that language is the analyst's fundamental operation medium. The psychoanalytic candidate must have mastered the unique system of language that a psychoanalytic dialogue will engage him in, as this language is far from being something that unfolds through one voice alone.

The "Rules and Procedures of the Training Committee, Representing the French SPP [Société psychanalytique de Paris]," composed in France in 1949, in which the style of Jacques Lacan is very much in evidence, detailed the criteria for the selection of candidates for apprenticeship in psychoanalysis in France in the wake of the Second World War: "Only through clinical examination may light be shed upon the deficiencies which disqualify the candidate as an aide to memory or judgment: traits pointing to future intellectual frailty, latent psychoses, cognitive difficulties compensated for otherwise; or as a guiding agent: psychical difficulties in the form of crises and mood swings including epilepsy, meaning Cyclothymia."

The "Rules and Procedures" also advise: "Among other disqualifying elements should be included such problems as might impair the basis of imaginary support the person of the analyst may furnish to transferential identifications in the generic homeomorphism of his body image: shocking deformities, visible mutilations and overt functional impairments . . . Secondly, the examiner should consider the candidate's cultural education, which is evidenced in the special kind of intellectual open-mindedness that grasps the meanings of words and inspires their usage."

Freud, relying less on specifics and caricatures in his catalogue of counter-indications, emphasized above all the characteristic element of commitment to the activity, which "cannot well be handled like a pair of glasses that one puts on for reading and takes off when one goes for a walk. As a rule, psycho-analysis possesses a doctor either entirely or not at all" (1933a, p. 153). The arguments that have taken place surrounding whether it is possible to practice psychoanalysis part-time, on the margins of other medical or university activities, are extensive.

While Freud regretted the fact that "It cannot be disputed that analysts in their own personalities have not invariably come up to the standard of psychical normality to which they wish to educate their patients" (1937c, p. 247), he also added: "It almost looks as if analysis were the third of those 'impossible' professions in which one can be sure beforehand of achieving unsatisfying results. The other two, which have been known much longer, are education and government" (p. 248).

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Abstinence/rule of abstinence; Active technique; Analysand; Boundary violations; Collected Papers on Schizophrenia and Related Subjects ; Counter-transference; Cure; Elasticity; Ethics; Evenly-suspended attention; Face-to-face situation; Framework of the psychoanalytic treatment; Fundamental rule; Initial interview(s); Interpretation; Lay analysis; Money and the psychoanalytic treatment; Mutual analysis; Negative therapeutic reaction; Neutrality/benevolent neutrality; Pass, the; Psychoanalysis; Psychoanalytic technique with adults; Psychoanalytic technique with children; Psychoanalytic treatment; Psychotherapy; "Recommendations to Physicians Practicing Psychoanalysis"; Supervised analysis (control case); Tact; Termination of treatment; Therapeutic alliance; Training of the psychoanalyst.


Blum, Howard P. (1986). Countertransference and the theory of technique: discussion. Journal of the American Psychoanalytical Association, 34.

Freud, Sigmund. (1923a [1922]). Encyclopaedia article: "The libido theory." SE, 18: 255-259.

. (1933a [1932]). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.

. (1937c). Analysis terminable and interminable. SE, 23: 209-253.

. (1960a). Letters of Sigmund Freud. (Ernst L. Freud, Ed.; Tania and James Stern, Trans.) New York: Basic Books.

Revue française de psychanalyse. (1949). Règlement et doctrine de la Commission de l'enseignement déléguée par la S.P.P., Paris, France. 13, (3), 426-435.

Sandler, Joseph; Dare, Christopher; and Holder, Alex. (1973). The patient and the analyst: the basis of psychoanalytic practice. New York: International Universities Press.

Further Reading

Litowitz, Bonnie, et al. (2003). The contemporary psychoanalyst at work. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51, 9-24.

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psychoanalysis A psychological theory and a method of treatment of psychological disorders, developed initially by Sigmund Freud, and extended in a variety of ways by later psychoanalysts. James A. C. Brown's Freud and the Post-Freudians (1964) is still a good introduction to the various schools.

The core of psychoanalysis is the theory of the unconscious and the structural model of the psyche as consisting of three interrelated systems of id, ego, and superego. The unconscious comprises ideas (and some would argue feelings) that are unacceptable, either because they are experienced as internally threatening to the existence of the individual, or because they are experienced as threatening to society. These ideas might be sexual in origin (Freud), aggressive and destructive ( Melanie Klein), or connected with early experiences of fear and helplessness ( D. W. Winnicott). The id is seen as the source of drives demanding immediate satisfaction, and the superego as internalized parental and social authority, the work of the ego being to mediate the resultant conflicting demands.

Freud's account of dreams provides the most elaborate analysis of the workings of the unconscious. He begins by stating that all dreams are wish fulfilments: they provide a fantasy satisfaction of desires that have been repressed into the unconscious. The unconscious itself is timeless and does not mature: we remain, at this level, infantile throughout our lives, demanding immediate satisfaction. Neither is it subject to the laws of logic, desiring contradictory things at the same time, a feature of human life often recognized when people point out that love and hatred of the same person are closely connected. When we sleep the repression of our unconscious desires is relaxed. However, they do not appear directly in our dreams, but are censored through processes that Freud refers to as dream work, of which there are four types: condensation, or the merging of several thoughts into one dream symbol (for example, a policeman in a dream might stand for a range of authority figures in life); displacement, in which a desire is displaced onto an object in some way connected with the original, perhaps by chance or similarity (thus, in the hackneyed example, we might dream of sexual intercourse as a train going through a tunnel); symbolization, or the turning of ideas into pictures (for example, dreaming of setting a table, but laying knives and forks without handles might indicate a feeling of being unable to handle a situation); and, finally, secondary revision, the rational gloss we put on a dream, turning it into a manageable story as we remember it. Freud thought that dream analysis should concentrate on symbols, rather than the story, which is merely a disguise.

The analysis of dreams leads to the central feature of psychoanalytic treatment—free association. The patient is asked to talk about whatever comes into his or her head in connection with the symbol, and from this a pattern of meaning emerges which allegedly takes us back to the original unconscious thoughts (see Freud 's The Interpretation of Dreams, 1900

Over recent years these ideas have been taken up in particular by structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers in various disciplines: as a theory of literary criticism, for example, when a text is read as a dream; as a theory of the production of meaning; and as providing a so-called decentred theory of the subject. The Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser incorporated the idea of a ‘symptomatic reading’ into his epistemology as a way of identifying the underlying structure (or problematic) of a theory.

Freud's theory of sexual development is probably the most widely known aspect of psychoanalysis. The child is seen as developing initially through oral, anal, and phallic stages, where the libido is expressed and satisfied at different points of contact between the body and the outside world—the mouth, anus, and genitals. Individuals can become arrested at or regress to any of these levels. However progress through them is the same for both sexes. An essential element of Freud's argument is that we begin life as bisexual, if not polymorphously perverse, and that heterosexuality is an often tenuous achievement, involving the subordination (repression or sublimation) of homosexual and other desires. This is achieved largely but not entirely unconsciously through the Oedipal stage of development. Both sexes take the mother as the first love-object. In the case of the little boy, sexual feelings towards his mother cannot be physically realized, and are experienced by him as a challenge to the father. This puts him in danger because of the father's superior strength and power. The danger is experienced as a threat of castration, and in the face of this threat combined with the promise of a woman of his own when he reaches puberty, the boy relinquishes his desire for his mother. The little girl has to make a more dramatic change from mother to father as the primary love-object. According to Freud, she experiences herself as already castrated, leading to early identification with her mother (see Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905).

This theory has played a prominent role in the development of modern feminism. For many it established Freud as irredeemably in favour of patriarchy; for others it provides a basis for an analysis of patriarchy. Juliet Mitchell, a British feminist, Marxist, and psychoanalyst, was the first modern feminist to defend Sigmund Freud, arguing that psychoanalysis offers a description and analysis of patriarchy, rather than a prescription for male domination (see Psychoanalysis and Feminism, 1976).

Freud's analysis of the development of the sexual object choice involves an understanding of the process by which the infant first of all seeks satisfaction through its own body (primary narcissism) and then through identifying with and introjecting the mother as part of its own psyche. Whereas classical psychoanalysis and Freud concentrated on the Oedipal stage, the development of psychoanalytic theory in Melanie Klein's work and British psychoanalysis in general focused on very early relationships with the mother, so that some feminists have tried to explain the development of gender differences in terms of the distinctive relationships between mothers and their young male and female children.

Psychoanalytic theory is not a monolithic block, but has developed through different national schools, and these schools tend to relate to social theory in different ways. The principal link between British psychoanalysis and social theory has been via feminist accounts of mothering. French psychoanalysis, through Lacan, has been associated with post-structuralism in general and post-structuralist feminism in particular. American ego psychology was incorporated by Talcott Parsons as a general theory of socialization. See also BOWLBY, JOHN; CRITICAL THEORY; JUNG, CARL GUSTAV.

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psy·cho·a·nal·y·sis / ˌsīkōəˈnaləsəs/ • n. a system of psychological theory and therapy that aims to treat mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into the conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association. DERIVATIVES: psy·cho·an·a·lyze / ˌsīkōˈanlˌīz/ (Brit. psy·cho·an·a·lyse) v. psy·cho·an·a·lyt·ic / ˌsīkōˌanlˈitik/ adj. psy·cho·an·a·lyt·i·cal / ˌsīkōˌanlˈitikəl/ adj. psy·cho·an·a·lyt·i·cal·ly / ˌsīkōˌanlˈitik(ə)lē/ adv.

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psychoanalysis Therapy for treating behaviour disorders, particularly neurosis, based on the work of Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis emphasises unconscious mental processes and the determination of personality by instinct, chiefly sexual development in childhood. Psychoanalytic techniques include free association and the analysis and interpretation of dreams. The patient expresses repressed conflicts through transference to the analyst. See also Adler; ego; Fromm; id; Jung; Klein; Oedipus complex; Reich; repression; superego

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psychoanalysis (sy-koh-ă-nal-i-sis) n. a school of psychology and a method of treating mental disorders based upon the teachings of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). Psychoanalysis employs the technique of free association in the course of intensive psychotherapy in order to bring repressed fears and conflicts to the conscious mind, where they can be dealt with (see repression).
psychoanalyst (sy-koh-an-ă-list) n. —psychoanalytic (sy-koh-an-ă-lit-ik) adj.

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psychoanalysisglacis, Onassis •abscess •anaphylaxis, axis, praxis, taxis •Chalcis • Jancis • synapsis • catharsis •Frances, Francis •thesis • Alexis • amanuensis •prolepsis, sepsis, syllepsis •basis, oasis, stasis •amniocentesis, anamnesis, ascesis, catechesis, exegesis, mimesis, prosthesis, psychokinesis, telekinesis •ellipsis, paralipsis •Lachesis •analysis, catalysis, dialysis, paralysis, psychoanalysis •electrolysis • nemesis •genesis, parthenogenesis, pathogenesis •diaeresis (US dieresis) • metathesis •parenthesis •photosynthesis, synthesis •hypothesis, prothesis •crisis, Isis •proboscis • synopsis •apotheosis, chlorosis, cirrhosis, diagnosis, halitosis, hypnosis, kenosis, meiosis, metempsychosis, misdiagnosis, mononucleosis, myxomatosis, necrosis, neurosis, osmosis, osteoporosis, prognosis, psittacosis, psychosis, sclerosis, symbiosis, thrombosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, tuberculosis •archdiocese, diocese, elephantiasis, psoriasis •anabasis • apodosis •emphasis, underemphasis •anamorphosis, metamorphosis •periphrasis • entasis • protasis •hypostasis, iconostasis

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psychoanalystbacklist, blacklist •handlist • cabbalist • cellist • checklist •playlist • wish-list •cartophilist, necrophilist, oenophilist (US enophilist) •nihilist • pugilist • homilist •bicyclist, tricyclist •stylist • cyclist • unicyclist •motorcyclist • hairstylist • shortlist •Gaullist, holist •spiritualist • fabulist •funambulist, noctambulist, somnambulist •oculist • populist •idealist, realist, surrealist •millennialist •ceremonialist, colonialist, neocolonialist •aerialist •editorialist, memorialist •industrialist •immaterialist, imperialist, materialist, serialist •trialist, violist •loyalist, royalist •dualist, duellist (US duelist) •intellectualist • conceptualist •textualist • mutualist • individualist •sensualist • contextualist •diabolist, kabbalist •cymbalist, symbolist •tribalist •herbalist, verbalist •medallist (US medalist) •feudalist • triumphalist • legalist •evangelist, televangelist •syndicalist • clericalist • physicalist •vocalist • animalist • maximalist •formalist • minimalist •analyst, annalist, cryptanalyst, panellist (US panelist), psychoanalyst •nominalist, phenomenalist •finalist, semi-finalist •communalist • regionalist •internationalist, nationalist, rationalist •sectionalist • conventionalist •Congregationalist, conversationalist, educationalist, representationalist, sensationalist •traditionalist • emotionalist •constitutionalist • functionalist •journalist, paternalist, photojournalist •papalist •monopolist, oligopolist •centralist •amoralist, moralist •oralist • neutralist •muralist, pluralist, ruralist •liberalist • naturalist • structuralist •agriculturalist, horticulturalist, multiculturalist •federalist • generalist •multilateralist, unilateralist •literalist • universalist •substantialist • specialist •consequentialist, essentialist, existentialist •racialist • provincialist • socialist •controversialist •catalyst, philatelist •documentalist, environmentalist, experimentalist, fundamentalist, instrumentalist, mentalist, orientalist, ornamentalist, sentimentalist, transcendentalist •fatalist • capitalist •recitalist, vitalist •Pentecostalist • anecdotalist •brutalist • medievalist •revivalist, survivalist •novelist

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