How can simply talking have transformative power? To really speak freely, and to be heard in the way a psychoanalyst works, allows a person to discover themselves. It can be surprising…
A ball player having a slump started talking to a therapist and discovered that he was conflicted about success because his brother was failing in business. This surprised him because he was not aware of this before talking. In fact his dreams had been about this brother for several weeks.
In psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy, the way a person operates is played out in the relationship. For instance, during a first consultation session a person said she hated my waiting room. When we talked about it we learned that the real issue for her was waiting. She had been kept waiting all her life – and the very idea of a room for waiting was upsetting. So the first consultation gave us both a big clue to her whole life – from starting school, work, friends, and even sex. This lady in waiting became fascinated as she began to explore the myriad feelings that waiting evoked.
Could Freud Have Been Right?
People love to talk about how Freud was wrong. Are they afraid to talk about ways he was right? Some of his ideas make so much sense that we incorporate them into our everyday lives, ideas like the interpretation of dreams or the Freudian slip. Psychoanalysis is a living, effective treatment that is in use and continues to evolve to this day.
Freud recognized that a part of what motivates and bothers us takes place at the UNCONSCIOUS level – a level unknown to the person, but one highly influential over the person’s actions, memories, relationships, decisions, etc.
What Do I Talk About?
When a person chooses to do psychoanalytic work the focus is determined by the patient and analyst together. I tell my patients that before I can say anything meaningful I want to get to know them. I explain how talking can help and how saying whatever comes to mind will give us a good idea of the territory we need to explore. Analytic work is a journey and each person charts their own map to reach their destination. The analyst is like the guide whose job it is to clear the paths the patient decides to travel.
As we go along we will make new paths. As we travel relationships change and a sense of safety increases. Sure, sex usually comes up at some point but nothing is pushed by an analyst. Psychoanalysts are not advice givers–there are plenty of places to get advice– but they do help the patient make her own choices.
Love And Hate In The Consultation Room…
What happens in the psychoanalytic office is in some way a microcosm of what happens in life. Love, hate, rage, fear of trusting, admiration, envy, passionate feelings, erotic ideas, separation difficulties, boredom, all of these and more come to life in treatment. The analyst becomes a stand in for many people and many aspects of people. This is why the analyst has had her own analysis – and long years of education including supervision.
Her ability to greet these often raw emotions is key. She provides a safe, confidential setting, with appropriate boundaries where whatever happens can be tolerated and understood. Frequently, the understanding comes from connecting the present to the past and allowing the feelings once experienced to surface. If a child felt abandoned or felt left alone consistently, this will impact his present life in unique ways. One way might be difficulty in ever trusting another to be there.
What Is A Psychoanalyst?
In today’s world, psychoanalysts come in all stripes. One thing they have in common is their deep interest in helping us search out what troubles us and to lighten the burdens we carry. Who is a good analyst? In my mind a good analyst is someone who knows how to listen with non-judgmental ears. Benevolent curiosity is the most precious tool an analyst has and if the patient can practice it, half the work is done.
Psychoanalytic work is tailored to the individual. Some people take to it quickly, others go slowly. But there seems to be a force in all of us that wants to explore. A psychoanalyst makes a good guide.