The target in Psychoanalysis

We shall not cease from exploration                                           

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

(Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot)

The American poet T.S. Eliot expresses through poetry one of the targets of psychoanalysis.

Usually the person who visits the office of a psychoanalyst seeks relief of his symptoms or answers for his problems. The target in the classical Freudian psychoanalysis is to bring into consciousness repressed (unconscious) thoughts, desires and feelings in order to release the person from repeated feelings that become unbearable. Most of the times these feelings are misrepresented and control the person’s emotional life.

Freud was clear regarding the guidelines of the therapy; the patient should lie on the couch and free associate. In free association the patient talks by saying whatever comes to his mind. Along the way Freud realised that many times resistances were raised and therapy was reaching a stalemate. For Freud the resolution of these resistances was the use of interpretation. By interpreting the unconscious motivations for resistances and behaviours of the patient, Freud aimed to bring the patient into a conscious recognition of his unconscious.

The classical Freudian Psychoanalysis is not so widespread today as it was in the past even though it is still followed by some schools of thought worldwide. The use of interpretation, even though it seemed very promising at the time and successful with many cases, showed weaknesses. Freud’s position of making the unconscious conscious is something that many schools of psychoanalysis don’t follow. On the contrary, what is considered therapeutic for the analysand is to say everything which would eventually bring the person into a self-knowledge.

Dr. Hyman Spotnitz, founder of Modern Psychoanalysis, said that the target of the therapist is to help the analysand resolve the resistances which interfere with the person reaching his goals in life. Such resistances, if never resolved, could lead the person into a neurotic conflict, or to more serious results like psychosis and somatic diseases. Whatever intervention from the therapist has as target to help the analysand come to a better understanding of his own psychodynamic.

In the process of the therapy and while various resistances get resolved, feelings would emerge on the surface. The therapist would welcome and explore with the analysand all feelings, positive and negative. These feelings could be feelings that along our development (usually in infancy and early childhood) and for various reasons have been repressed and entered the unconscious, or feelings that for some reason were never developed when they should. When, along the process of the psychoanalytic therapy, such feelings come into consciousness, then we could experience what Eliot beautifully describes, “…to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”