History of Psychoanalysis

The history of the major discoveries in psychoanalysis is largely interwoven with the life
and professional career of a single man, Sigmund Freud.
The book Studies on Hysteria actually marks the beginning of psychoanalysis, although
the term was not used by Freud until a year later (1896). Prior to this time, he spoke of ?Breuer's
cathartic method,? and occasionally of ?psychical analysis.? By 1896, Freud had made some
notable changes in the original technique.
For one thing, he had given up the use of hypnosis. He had found that some patients
could not by hypnotized readily, and the results at other times had been disappointing. Secondly,
he had observed that, while hypnosis suspended the patient's resistance to recalling painful
feelings and memories, the gains were only temporary. Thirdly, he had a temperamental distaste
for the magical connotations that always surrounded the hypnotic state.
Instead he modified the technique, asking the patients simply to report as faithfully and
unreservedly as possible what occurred to them while in his presence. To keep distractions to a
minimum and to insure the greatest possible relaxation, he asked the patient to recline on a
couch, sitting behind him, out of his field of vision. He had also noted that when the patients
diligently followed what came to be known as ?the fundamental rule,? their associations
regularly began to turn to personal and troublesome matters, ultimately leading to the core of
their neurotic difficulties. The new method of free association (although the associations were
not ?free? in the usual sense) was as simple as it was ingenious. The term psychoanalysis as a
method treatment is inseparable from the technique of free association.
Psychoanalysis, however, has at least two additional meanings, which soon came to the
fore. The first grew out of the treatment of hysteria, and to this date, psychoanalysis is identified
as a specific and specialized form of psychotherapy.
The second meaning, while related to the first, is nevertheless a different one.
Psychoanalysis, in this sense, is a method for investigating the working of the human mind, and
as such constitutes a remarkable breakthrough in psychological research. Here for the first time
was a technique for gaining access to layers of the mind which had hitherto been hidden from
direct observations, and which provided highly revealing insights into the origins of the human
personality as well as the causes of neurotic conflicts. Thus psychoanalysis in the hands of Freud
gradually led to a new understanding and appreciation of the tremendous importance of early
childhood in shaping the human personality.
The third meaning refers to psychoanalysis as a theory of personality. Searching for a
method to treat hysterical patients, Freud was brought face-to-face with the mainsprings of the
human mind. By the end of the century he still has not given up hope of reducing psychological
phenomena to the laws of physics and chemistry, but eventually he made a clean break and
became a psychological investigator who attempted to explain psychological phenomena in
psychological terms. Again, this was an achievement of the first order, which is not always fully
appreciated.(Freud and Modern Psychoanalysis, 1,7-11)