About Modern Psychoanalysis

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Modern psychoanalysis starts with the assumption that human behavior is unconsciously motivated. Sigmund Freud dedicated his professional life to the study of these unconscious forces. Those who followed him further refined the field, Hyman Spotnitz being one. He asserted that the nuclear problem in severe narcissistic disorders was not due to repressed sexual content, but to bottled-up aggression. His aim became to resolve these patients’ resistances to saying everything, including their hostile as well as loving feelings for the analyst. He soon discovered that the process of “saying everything” was facilitated when the patient perceived the analyst as being like himself. When the analyst does nothing to contradict the patient’s perceptions and follows the patient’s contacts, a “narcissistic transference” develops based on similarity more than on sexual attraction. This narcissistic transference is often tinged with the negative feelings that the patient has about himself as well as the people he encounters. The findings of modern psychoanalysis have contributed new insights into both the dynamics of emotional illnesses and the mechanism through which the analytic process approaches these conditions.

These theories of the treatment of emotional illness include: (1) ways that each patient processes destructive impulsivity in the analytic setting; (2) transference repetition including not only experiences from the oedipal stage of development but also from the prenatal as well as the first two years of life; (3) the systematic utilization of patient-induced countertransference feelings and the use of emotional interchanges between analyst and analysand as an important clinical tool; and (4) use of variations in techniques as necessary to aid in the understanding of patient dynamics and to resolve resistance to personality maturation.

The aim of modern psychoanalysis is to cure patients—to free them from maladaptive and destructive repetitions that dominate their lives and behavior. To liberate patients from recurrent emotional states means that they will have a fuller range of feelings, be more in touch with objective reality, and may, as Freud hoped, be successful in love and work.