From the late 1800’s until the 1930’s, psychologists were divided about what they should study and how they should study it. Four major schools developed. These schools were: structuralism, behaviorism, Gestalt psychology, and psychoanalysis. The last of which, the content of this paper refers to. Psychoanalysis is a method of analyzing psychic phenomena and treating emotional disorders that involves treatment sessions during which the patient is encouraged to talk freely about personal experiences and especially about early childhood and dreams (Feldman, 1999).
Psychoanalysis is both a theory of mental functioning and a specific type of psychological treatment philosophy (Grunbaum, 1984). Freudian psychoanalysis refers to a specific type of treatment in which the analytic patient verbalizes thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst formulates the unconscious conflicts causing the patient’s symptoms and character problems, and interprets them for the patient to create insight for resolution of the problems (Hendrick, 1999). When psychoanalysis was started it was not in the shape of psychoanalysis.
When it began, it was in the shape of hypnosis. When we look at the history of psychoanalysis, we find a few major influential figures- before Sigmund Feud-who contributed significantly to the development of psychoanalysis: viz Franz Anton Mesmer, The Nancy School- Liebault and Bernheim, Jean Martin Charcot, and Josef Breuer (Bootzin ; Acocella, 1988). Franz Anton Mesmer was a German physician and astrologist, who discovered what he called magnetisme animal (animal magnetism) and other spiritual forces often grouped together as mesmerism.
The evolution of Mesmer’s ideas and practices led Scottish surgeon James Braid to develop hypnosis in 1842. Mesmer’s name is the root of the English verb “mesmerize”(Grunbaum, 1984). After studying at the Jesuit universities of Dillingen and Ingolstadt, he took up the study of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1759 (Thompson, 2002). In 1766 he published a doctoral dissertation with the Latin title De planetarum influxu in corpus humanum (On the Influence of the Planets on the Human Body), which discussed the influence of the Moon and the planets on the human body and on disease.
This was not medical astrology—relying largely on Newton’s theory of the tides, Mesmer expounded on certain tides in the human body that might be accounted for by the movements of the sun and moon (Grunbaum, 1984). In 1774, Mesmer produced an “artificial tide” in a patient by having her swallow a preparation containing iron, and then attaching magnets to various parts of her body (Bootzin & Acocella, 1988). She reported feeling streams of a mysterious fluid running through her body and was relieved of her symptoms for several hours.
Mesmer did not believe that the magnets had achieved the cure on their own. He felt that he had contributed animal magnetism, which had accumulated in his work, to her. He soon stopped using magnets as a part of his treatment (Hendrick, 1999). In 1775, Mesmer was invited to give his opinion before the Munich Academy of Sciences on the exorcisms carried out by Johann Joseph Gassner, a priest and healer. Mesmer said that while Gassner was sincere in his beliefs, his cures were due to the fact that he possessed a high degree of animal magnetism.
This confrontation between Mesmer’s secular ideas and Gassner’s religious beliefs marked the end of Gassner’s career as well as, according to Henri Ellenberger, the emergence of dynamic psychiatry (Grunbaum, 1984). The scandal which followed Mesmer’s unsuccessful attempt to treat the blindness of an 18-year-old musician, Maria Theresia Paradis, led him to leave Vienna in 1777. The following year Mesmer moved to Paris, rented an apartment in a part of the city preferred by the wealthy and powerful, and established a medical practice.
Paris soon divided into those who thought he was a charlatan who had been forced to flee from Vienna and those who thought he had made a great discovery (Grunbaum, 1984). In his first years in Paris, Mesmer tried and failed to get either the Royal Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society of Medicine to provide official approval for his doctrines. He found only one physician of high professional and social standing, Charles d’Eslon, to become a disciple. In 1779, with d’Eslon’s encouragement, Mesmer wrote an 88-page book Memoire sur la decouverte du magnetisme animal, to which he appended his famous 27 Propositions.
These propositions outlined his theory at that time (Grunbaum, 1984). Mesmer understood health as the free flow of the process of life through thousands of channels in our bodies. Illness was caused by obstacles to this flow. Overcoming these obstacles and restoring flow produced crises, which restored health. When Nature failed to do this spontaneously, contact with a conductor of animal magnetism was a necessary and sufficient remedy. Mesmer aimed to aid or provoke the efforts of Nature. To cure an insane person, for example, involved causing a fit of madness.
The advantage of magnetism involved accelerating such crises without danger (Grunbaum, 1984). Mesmer treated patients both individually and in groups. With individuals he would sit in front of his patient with his knees touching the patient’s knees, pressing the patient’s thumbs in his hands, looking fixedly into the patient’s eyes. Mesmer made “passes”, moving his hands from patients’ shoulders down along their arms. He then pressed his fingers on the patient’s hypochondrium region (the area below the diaphragm), sometimes holding his hands there for hours (Hendrick, 1999).
Many patients felt peculiar sensations or had convulsions that were regarded as crises and supposed to bring about the cure. Mesmer would often conclude his treatments by playing some music on a glass armonica. By 1780 Mesmer had more patients than he could treat individually and he established a collective treatment known as the “baquet”(Feldman, 1999). In 1784, without Mesmer requesting it, King Louis XVI appointed four members of the Faculty of Medicine as commissioners to investigate animal magnetism as practiced by d’Eslon.
At the request of these commissioners the King appointed five additional commissioners from the Royal Academy of Sciences (Hendrick, 1999). These included the chemist Antoine Lavoisier, the physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, the astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly, and the American ambassador Benjamin Franklin (Grunbaum, 1984). The commission conducted a series of experiments aimed, not at determining whether Mesmer’s treatment worked, but whether he had discovered a new physical fluid.
The commission concluded that there was no evidence for such a fluid. Whatever benefit the treatment produced was attributed to “imagination” (Hendrick, 1999). In 1785 Mesmer left Paris. In 1790 he was in Vienna again to settle the estate of his deceased wife Maria Anna. When he sold his house in Vienna in 1801 he was in Paris. Mesmer was driven into exile soon after the investigations on animal magnetism. His exact activities during the last twenty years of his life are largely unknown. He died in 1815 (Feldman, 1999).
Next is The Nancy School which was an early French suggestion-centered school of psychotherapy that was founded in 1866 by Ambroise-Auguste Liebeault, a follower of the theory of Abbe Faria. It is referred to as the Nancy School to distinguish it from the antagonistic Paris School that was centered on the hysteria-centered hypnotic research of Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris (Grunbaum, 1984). Liebault was convinced that hypnotized subjects could be given suggestions which would help cure their illness.
Bernheim, as a noted physician, came to the conclusion that hypnotized subjects were more suggestible and varied in the hypnotized condition (Hendrick, 1999). Liebault and Bernheim draw considerable attention in France due to their work on hypnosis at the Nancy School. Hypnosis, they conceptualized, results from and is being a part of a suggestibility created by having a person focus on the idea of sleep. During the special sleep of hypnosis the person was in a unique rapport with the hypnotist.
Critical mental faculties were seen to be temporarily abandoned, resulting in increased amenability to suggestions made by the hypnotist. The hypnotized person had to obey the requests of the hypnotist. Hypnotic treatment in this tradition consisted of the induction of hypnotic sleep, followed by verbal suggestions given in a tone of supreme authority and confidence. This approach to hypnosis has been called the authoritarian approach (Grunbaum, 1984). Charcot is said to be the founder of modern neurology and one of France’s greatest medical teachers and clinicians (Hendrick, 1999). Charcot took his M. D. at the University of Paris in 1853 and three years later was appointed physician of the Central Hospital bureau. He then became a professor at the University of Paris, where he began a lifelong association with the Salpetriere Hospital, Paris; there, in 1882, he opened what was to become the greatest neurological clinic of the time in Europe. A teacher of extraordinary competence, he attracted students from all parts of the world. In 1885 one of his students was Sigmund Freud. Freud was awarded a government grant in 1885, enabling him to spend 19 weeks in Paris as a student of Jean M.
Charcot. Charcot, at time, was the director of the clinic at the mental hospital, the Salpetriere, and was then treating nervous disorders by the use of hypnotic suggestion. Fascinated by the apparent success of these treatments, Freud met and studied with several of the leading figures in the field (Grunbaum, 1984). Charcot’s group had been tackling the problem of hysteria, a term derived from the Greek word for “womb. ” Hysteria traditionally was seen as a condition of women and was characterized by unexplained fainting, paralysis, loss of sensation, tics, and tremors.
In time, Charcot came to see that men could also be so troubled. Although the mechanism of hysteria was not understood, Charcot showed that its symptoms could be cured by hypnosis. Freud’s studies under Charcot influenced him greatly in channeling his interests to psychopathology (Bootzin ; Acocella, 1988). In his practice in Vienna, Freud met many patients with nervous disorders for which there was no apparent physical cause. Their symptoms included paralyzed limbs, tics, tremors, loss of consciousness, memory impairment, and numbness that could not be explained.
These unexplained cases were labeled as “neurotic,” meaning that they were similar to neurological conditions. In time they became known collectively as “neuroses” (Feldman, 1999). Freud’s observation of Charcot’s use of hypnosis in the treatment of similar disorders led him to conclude that there could be powerful mental processes operating that remain hidden from conscious understanding. He began to employ hypnosis in his own practice, publishing articles on the subject in 1892. Freud came to understand hysterical neurotic symptoms as the product of a conflict between opposing mental forces (Bootzin ; Acocella, 1988).
Conscious forces representing “will” were balanced by unconscious opposing forces representing “counterwill. ” He understood hypnosis to act on the side of will to subjugate the counterwill, thus obliterating the symptom. The idea of conflict proposed in the 1892 paper “A Case of Successful Treatment by Hypnotism: With Some Remarks on the Origin of Hysterical Symptoms Through ‘Counterwill’” was to become a fundamental principle of psychoanalysis (Grunbaum, 1984). Breuer concluded that neurotic symptoms result from unconscious processes and will disappear when these processes become conscious.
Breuer introduced Freud to the cathartic method-talking therapy. It was the next important development in Freud’s theory of psychology. Breuer, who was a Viennese physician and a colleague of Freud, was involved in the treatment of a young woman Anna O. who was distressed while caring for her dying father. The patient had developed a number of hysterical symptoms, which Breuer initially treated by hypnotic suggestion. Initial success gave way to disappointment when on her father’s death her symptoms returned with increased severity (Hendrick, 1999).
Somewhat at a loss as to how to proceed, Breuer had continued to talk to his patient on a daily basis and in time she began to talk about various reminiscences from the past and about her daydreams. Remarkably, as her narrative revisited memories from the past, which were associated with the onset of a particular symptom, each symptom disappeared when accompanied by an emotional outburst. Breuer made use of this discovery to eliminate her symptoms one at a time. He called the treatment the cathartic technique.
The treatment was time consuming and required considerable effort to reach dimly recalled and otherwise inaccessible memories (Grunbaum, 1984). Freud and Breuer published the case and several others in 1895 under the title Studies on Hysteria. Their view was summed up in the statement “Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences. ” They proposed that when faced with emotionally traumatic memories, hysterics subjugate them from conscious appreciation to prevent the unbearable emotional pain and suffering that they cause.
Rather than being driven out of the mind, however, these memories are driven into an area of the mind that is unconscious and inaccessible. Here the memories may be redirected from the emotional system into the somatic system and appear as apparently unexplained physical symptoms (Hendrick, 1999). The cases that constitute Studies on Hysteria outline the transition from treatment by hypnotic suggestion to the earliest descriptions of what is now known as psychoanalysis (Grunbaum, 1984).
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Feldman, S. R. (1999). Understanding Psychology: International Edition. 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill College. The division of the McGraw Hill Companies.
Grünbaum, A., (1984). The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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