A Short Account of Psychoanalysis - Freud, Sigmund

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I Psycho-analysis grew up in a narrowly-restricted field. At the outset, it had only a single aim - that of understanding something of the nature of what were known as the ’functionalę nervous diseases, with a view to overcoming the impotence which had so far characterized their medical treatment. The neurologists of that period had been brought up to have a high respect for chemico-physical and pathologicoanatomical facts; and they were latterly under the influence of the findings of Hitzig and Fritsch, of Ferrier, Goltz and others, who seemed to have established an intimate and possibly exclusive connection between certain functions and particular parts of the brain. They did not know what to make of the psychical factor and could not understand it. They left it to the philosophers, the mystics and - the quacks; and they considered it unscientific to have anything to do with it. Accordingly they could find no approach to the secrets of the neuroses, and in particular of the enigmatic ’hysteriaę, which was, indeed, the prototype of the whole species. As late as in 1885, when I was studying at the Salpetric I found that people were content to account for re, hysterical paralyses by a formula which asserted that they were founded on slight functional disturbances of the same parts of the brain which, when they were severely damaged, led to the corresponding organic paralyses. Of course this lack of understanding affected the treatment of these pathological conditions badly as well. In general this consisted in measures designed to ’hardenę the patient - in the prescription of medicines and in attempts, mostly very ill-contrived and executed in an unfriendly manner, at bringing mental influences to bear on him by threats, jeers and warnings and by exhorting him to make up his mind to ’pull himself togetherę. Electrical treatment was given out as being a specific cure for nervous conditions; but anyone who has endeavoured to carry out Erbęs detailed instructions must marvel at the space that phantasy can occupy even in what professes to be an exact science. The decisive turn was taken in the eighties, when the phenomena of hypnotism made one more attempt to find admission to medical science - this time with more success than so often before, thanks to the work of Li´ beault, Bernheim, Heidenhain and Forel. The essential thing was that the genuineness of these phenomena was recognized. Once this had been admitted, two fundamental and unforgettable lessons could not fail to be drawn from hypnotism. First, one was given convincing proof that striking somatic changes could after all be brought about solely by mental influences, which in this case one had oneself set in motion. Secondly, one received the clearest impression - especially from the behaviour of subjects after hypnosis - of the existence of mental processes that one could only describe as ’unconsciousę. The ’unconsciousę had, it is true, long been under discussion among philosophers as a theoretical concept; but now for the first time, in the phenomena of hypnotism, it became something actual, tangible and subject to experiment. Apart from all this, hypnotic phenomena showed an unmistakable similarity to the manifestations of some neuroses.

It is not easy to over-estimate the importance of the part played by hypnotism in the history of the origin of psycho-analysis. From a theoretical as well as from a therapeutic point of view, psycho-analysis has at its command a legacy which it has inherited from hypnotism. Hypnosis also proved a valuable aid in the study of the neuroses - once again, first and foremost, of hysteria. Charcotęs experiments created a great impression. He suspected that certain paralyses which appeared after a trauma (an accident) were of a hysterical nature, and he showed that, by suggesting a trauma under hypnosis, he was able to provoke paralyses of the same sort artificially. The expectation...
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