Psychoanalysis in modern mental health practice
Like any discipline, psychoanalysis has evolved considerably since its inception by Freud over a century ago, and a multitude of different psychoanalytic traditions and schools of theory and practice now exist. However, some of Freud’s original ideas, such as the dynamic unconscious, a developmental approach, defence mechanisms, and transference and countertransference remain essential tenets of psychoanalytic thinking to this day.
Freud’s vision for psychoanalysis was ambitious. Psychoanalysis was not merely a mode of treatment, but a metapsychology—a new scientific discipline in its own right—based on its “procedure for the investigation of mental processes that are almost inaccessible in any other way”.1 Although Freud did not discover the unconscious,2 one of his greatest achievements was to make it the main object of investigation. This unconscious is dynamic, comprised of shifting feelings, fantasies, conflicts, memories, and desires that motivate our conscious thoughts and manifest behaviour, and which can be glimpsed through the window of dreams, but are kept out of consciousness by the force of repression because of their unacceptability to the social, moral, and ethical values of civilized thought. Although its nature has been much debated, the existence of a dynamic unconscious continues to constitute one of the fundamental underpinnings of psychoanalytic theory and practice to this day.
Man’s Essence and Man’s Existence:
What is man? The tradition of knowing oneself is a longer tradition than any other Science. This is a study in which the Knower and the Known are one. The object of the scientific inquiry is the nature of the scientist. The motivation to know man comes from a statement expressed in the Sanskrit language, “Sarvesham Svastir Bhavatu” which seeks the well-being of all the men of all races, of all cultures, of all religions, and of all nations.
Our efforts to support the well-being of man would be affected by our ability to discover the universal principles that describe the ‘real’ or ‘true’ nature of man. All human literary, philosophical, religious, and scientific traditions make assumptions about human nature. The basic assumption about human nature is that of finding it displayed in feelings, thoughts, moods, and mental states of the human individual from where human actions and behavior proceed. All such actions and behaviors that emanate from mental states show individualistic variations.
It will not be easy to discover universal principles that could clearly establish the basis of true and real human nature by simply studying human mind and its functions.
The structure and behavior of things contribute to their individual being and function. To understand human behavior, we may have to know the structure and behavior of the human living matter or substance to which we attach human identity and recognize it as the human person.
I try to know the human nature from the functional characteristics that are observable in biotic interactions of cells, tissues, organs and organ systems formed and developed by the human living matter and constitute the human organism. If a man is viewed as a multicellular organism, I try to discover the human nature of a subject who objectively exists because of the living functions of cells, tissues, organs and organ systems that provide the biological basis for that existence. In this context, I have explored the theories shared by biologist Konrad Lorenz, psychologist Dr. B.F. Skinner, philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and now I would like to review the Theory of psychoanalysis formulated by Dr. Sigmund Freud. It must be noted that all of them and several others have explained the human nature without explaining the connection between the nature that is observed and the biological basis for the existence of the human individual whose behavior and actions they have studied.
Psychoanalysis and the Principle of Determinism:
Dr. Sigmund Freud is known as the creator of Psychoanalysis. He is the author of several books; The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1909), Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1915 -1917), Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), The Ego and the Id (1923), The Future of an Illusion (1927), An Outline of Psycho-Analysis (1938), and others. He assumes that all phenomena are determined by the laws of Physics and Chemistry. He considers that man is a product of Natural Evolution and is subject to the same laws of mechanistic principles.
According to Freud, every event has preceding sufficient causes within the realm of the mind. He investigated for hidden causes in a person’s mind. Freud suggests that there are uncontrollable causes in every individual’s mind that determine the choices the individual makes. Freud contends that the mind includes ‘unconscious’ items of which the person has no ordinary knowledge. Freud postulates that the ‘unconscious’ mental state is dynamic in nature and that it actively exerts pressures and influences on what a person is and what he does. Freud coined the term Psychoanalysis to describe both the theories of Personality and the method of treating mental illness. Freud profoundly influenced man’s view of himself. Psychoanalysis involves the possibility of ‘unconscious’ mental states which have causal effects on people’s mental life. Psychoanalysis is based upon the idea that people could suffer from some idea or memory or emotion of which they are not conscious, but from which they could be cured by somehow bringing it into consciousness. Freud applied Psychoanalytic theory to the whole of normal mental life, not just to pathological conditions. He evolved a method of treatment to address the problems of neurotic mental disorders. The Freudian concept thus describes the powerful influence of the ‘unconscious’ mind on conscious thought and behavior and the equally powerful influence of the apparently forgotten past on the present.
Apart from using terms such as ‘unconscious’, ‘preconscious’, and ‘conscious’, he distinguished three major structural systems within the human mind or personality; the ‘id’ which contains all the instinctual drives seeking immediate satisfaction, the ‘ego’ which deals with the real world outside the person, mediating between ‘ego’ and the ‘id’, and the ‘superego’, a special part of the ‘ego’ which contains the conscience, the social norms acquired in childhood. Whatever can become ‘conscious’ or items that could be ‘preconscious’ is in the ‘ego’ and everything in the ‘id’ is permanently ‘unconscious’. Freud’s concept of man includes his theory of the ‘instincts’ or ‘drives’, the motive forces within the mind. Freud also shares the historical theory of individual human character and the adult character depends upon the experience of infancy and childhood. Freud says that individual well-being or mental health depends on a harmonious relationship between the various parts of the mind and between the person and the real world in which man has to live.
When we apply the Psychoanalytic theory to verify the contents of man’s ‘conscious’ or ‘unconscious’ mind, the basic assumption of Freud that man is governed by laws of Physics and Chemistry gets disproved. Human beings are vastly different from the entities studied by Physics and Chemistry. Psychoanalysis could only have individualistic applications. Psychoanalysis does not provide data that could be further tested empirically. We cannot test the usefulness or judge the efficacy of Psychoanalytic treatment in the same manner that is used to evaluate other therapeutic interventions.
Spiritualism and Consciousness:
I would like to explain ‘Spiritualism’ as the potency that is observed as the presence of consciousness in any given living organism or living cell. It is the chief biological characteristic of living matter. Spiritualism is the power that causes consciousness and awareness that is exhibited in the biological properties of living matter; biological properties such as Motion, Nutrition, and Reproduction by Cell Division. Spiritualism is the biological basis for human existence and it explains human nature which is expressed as an internal, mutually beneficial partnership, relationship, association, connection, and bonding between the cells, the tissues, and the organ systems of the human organism and the Whole Organism that represents the Human Person in the world he lives. Clinical Medicine provides the opportunities to promote the well-being of all people as it includes the principle of verification of the objective, biological basis of human existence.
Dr. Freud may explain as to why a man may choose to drink alcohol or use tobacco. But, his Psychoanalysis will not determine the behavior, action, and response of the man’s liver, heart, lungs, blood vessels and other cells, tissues, and organ systems to the choices that the man makes. While man makes mental choices for his actions and behavior, he has no freedom, no free will to make choices on behalf of his cells, tissues, and organ systems. While Freud lays the emphasis on a harmonious relationship between the various parts of the mind and between the person, I speak about harmonious relationships in the Whole Person and not simply between a few unobservable mental entities.
We need a theory that recognizes the spiritual nature of man’s living matter and the spiritual relationships that it formulates while developing and building the very complex multicellular human organism.
- Spiritualism – Human Existence and Human Nature (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism – Human Nature and Human Behavior (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism – Human Nature and Human Forms (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism – the Key to Human Nature (bhavanajagat.com)