Psychoanalysis - more than the couch and Sigmund Freud
There are hardly any other therapeutic methods about which there are more rumours than psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is often reduced to the couch and Sigmund Freund. But what is it really all about? What does psychoanalysis look like today?
Basically, one can distinguish between stabilising and deepening work. In the case of traumatisation, for example, the aim is not to penetrate into the unconscious, but to stabilise in the here and now so that the trauma can be processed. Deeper work, on the other hand, can be important if you want to deal with your relationship patterns, for example. Here is a small example: If as a child your need for security was not sufficiently satisfied by your parents, then you suffer as a child. But in order to continue to function, the child learns to suppress this need and the pain and gets along well. On the one hand, this is an important protective mechanism of our psyche. On the other hand, it can also lead to difficulties later in life. For example, if you can't get involved in closeness in a partnership. You feel the need for security, but the other person may have a great fear of rejection and therefore you keep your distance. This mental conflict can manifest itself in a variety of symptoms, such as withdrawal, depressive thoughts and many more. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy/psychoanalysis can help you to get to know yourself better and to recognise such unconscious motives. Once you are aware of these patterns, you can work on finding new solutions.
And what about the famous couch? Working with the couch, i.e. lying down, is only one of many methods in psychoanalysis. It offers the possibility to intensify the therapy process and to penetrate into deeper layers of your experience - into the so-called unconscious. But of course it is not suitable for everyone. This decision is made on an individual basis. Basically, the couch is only used for longer therapy processes and usually only from a session frequency of at least two hours per week. It is also important that your inner self is stable enough to withstand this intensification. This may or may not be advisable, depending on the underlying theme. You can think of it like building a bridge. To renew a bridge, the upper layers are chiselled away. If the basic structure of the bridge is unstable, it might collapse. If, however, it has a stable base, it will withstand this and the new layers can then be applied again. And why is it important to penetrate the unconscious? Often we do not feel bad only because certain burdens have arisen in our current life, but because conflicts existed much earlier, which we can no longer remember, but which nevertheless continue to have an effect inside and influence our thinking, feeling and acting in the here and now. This brings us directly to the next prejudice about psychoanalysis - it is always only about childhood. Of course it is important to deal with these earlier conflicts and to become aware of them. But for that it is not necessary to talk only about childhood. The past conflicts also show up in current relationships and that includes the relationship between you and your psychotherapist.
Your life in the here and now has developed and been shaped by experiences, ideas and decisions. Your current actions are fed by your life experiences and your encounters and can be reshaped at any moment. How much it can be shaped depends on the power of your past. The more you are flooded with intense feelings that you may not be able to explain, the more you are influenced by diffuse moods and little inner flexibility, the less room there is for the creative and spontaneous. For example, do you feel trapped in a situation, do you have the feeling that you have to avoid certain situations because they trigger unpleasant feelings, or do you find yourself in the same unpleasant situations again and again? Then it can be helpful to get to the bottom of past conflicts. In order to not only rummage in the past, you can also use dreams and something called free association. I will explain this in more detail in a moment. But first, let's talk about dreams. Dreaming can be understood as a special kind of thinking that continues during sleep. You can imagine it in such a way that a barrier opens in your head during sleep and all the topics that we block out during the day can pass through. During the day, on the other hand, the barrier is closed because we are already exposed to so many stimuli. Therefore, discussing dreams leads us more to the hidden issues that influence your actions, feelings and thoughts. Free association can also be a tool to easily open this barrier even in waking life. This involves simply saying whatever comes to mind at that moment in the therapeutic session, without censoring and reformulating it. Admittedly, this is quite unfamiliar at first, but after a short time it can even feel really liberating.
So psychoanalysis is not just about fighting the obvious complaints, but looking for the underlying conflicts by reviving them in the here and now. For if one only combats symptoms and does not tackle the "evil at the root", then the complaints often reappear elsewhere in a slightly different form.
And who is this Sigmund Freud? Sigmund Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis, who made some important observations about the psyche and developed theories from them about how our psyche might function. To explain all the theories here would go far too far, but I can give you an example. Freud, for example, thinks that there are three important instances in our psyche. He called them id, ego and superego. In simpler terms, the id stands for your libidinal side, as when you do totally unthinking things or just follow your needs. The superego, on the other hand, is the conscience and tries to keep you sane. And the ego stands in between and tries to adapt both sides to your environment. If this balance gets out of whack, it can lead to complaints. But enough theory.
What is the difference between psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy?
Psychoanalysis is high frequency, as at least twice a week, but actually more frequent. It also takes place lying down. On the one hand, of course, not everyone can afford this and on the other hand, as written at the beginning, it is not suitable for everyone to work lying down.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy also includes the background knowledge that underlies psychoanalysis, but with a lower frequency of hours - usually once a week, in some cases twice a week - and takes place in a sitting position.
Finally, it should be said that according to studies, it is not so much the direction of therapy that matters, but the sympathy between therapist and patient. So if you are still unsure about which form of therapy is right for you, why not arrange an initial consultation with one or two of our WePractice psychotherapists and see who you like better?