Psychoanalysis: A Brief, Modern Introduction

Why do we get ruffled when we hear the word “psychoanalysis”? Is it because of what Sigmund Freud said: “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”?

There is no in-between when talking about psychoanalysis, you either love it or hate it! In this article, I will talk about what psychoanalysis is and why I think it is not well appreciated in our society these days. Let’s start with a quick introduction to its history…


The psychoanalytic theory is focused on the subconscious mind; repressed emotions, desires, thoughts, and memories. It all started with the Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud during the 1980’s with his observations on his clients during hypnosis sessions.

Freud and his colleague, Josef Breuer, noticed how their patients improved after bringing to the surface what was repressed or hidden in their minds into the waking state of consciousness.

Another fact about psychoanalysis is that it has a fundamental rule, based on the free association of ideas. You must say “the first thing that comes to your mind” and from there the session will start. It might sound a bit weird, but if the idea is to bring out what is not consciously known, we are to accomplish this via awareness of micro details in our speech, and specific words and concepts.

Questions Are Key in Psychoanalysis

Let me give you an example. Imagine someone comes to your clinic and it says “I always fall in love with violent people”, you cannot just say “well… just do not do that”!

You have to ask questions such as: What kind of violence are we talking about? What do you feel when your partner does that to you? and so on, until (in this example) we reach a moment where we realise his or her parent were the same, one was abusive and violent towards the other.

Therefore, in (short) conclusion we can say that this person was following a pattern that had been established energetically at home. It was a skewed or warped idea of love expressed and symbolic of the abusive father/mother dynamic perpetuated magnetically (even unconsciously) hence causing attraction to the same kind of negative mental energy in the future.

Psychoanalysis is Different from Psychology

Psychoanalysis is different from psychology because the latter is part of the medical system. It studies the person, their behaviour and mental illnesses, whilst the former studies the subconscious mind, the psyche, and goes beyond the medical system.

Therefore, we could say that psychology does not study the person because what is not conscious does not exist until we bring it to light. Quite deep, right? That’s the whole point, to aim at the root of the problem causatively and not at the symptom.

Now, not everyone liked the idea of psychoanalysis! First of all, it was a revolutionary idea, second, some people saw this as a “religion” due to Freud’s way of expressing his ideas and going against the grain of new ones.

In Carl Jung’s book Memories, Dreams, Reflections Jung mentions this. He explains how Freud thought of this theory as something “divine”. Jung’s point of view was completely different, he knew all theories would be surpassed at some point, but that was a hard pill for Freud to swallow. Jung was Freud’s student, but then he left to pursue his own ideas.

Once we know more about the origin, we can progress to the second part.

Psychoanalysis in Our Society

Nowadays, especially in Europe, this topic has lost its appeal, see the following points:

  • Psychoanalysis is a deep theory which can help people improve in the long run. Today however, most people want everything to be quick fix and instantaneous, we “do not have time” for long processes.
  • In companies, we only have psychologists whose approaches do not go very deep, so they can help people deal with their symptoms but not the root causes.
  • People are not aware of the value of psychoanalysis and there is this peculiar idea that “psychoanalysis is when you are in love with your mom/dad”! But it is of course, way deeper than that.
  • Another big problem is what the Argentinian psychoanalyst Juan Manuel Martínez mentioned in one of his videos. That as professionals, we fight against each other, that is why when people ask “what is the role of the analyst?” we do not know what to answer!

Instead of working together and focusing on finding the best way to help people, we want to be right and “have the last laugh.” I must say that ego is omnipresent in all professions but this case is a good example. One of the chief main reasons is that people do not want to ‘go to therapy’ let alone go that deep!

This stigma is still visible in some countries and places and we must change it
. We must let people know that asking for help is not “weak” but actually the complete opposite.

Some last thoughts in regards to the relationship between psychoanalysis and our society is that, even though we deny it, it is strongly present in our daily life:

  • In ‘hateful’ ideologies where the symbolism of the male or female figure is poignantly represented (like Jordan B. Peterson said in one interview; “ask a radical feminist how is the relationship with her father).
  • In our patterns and ‘ghosts’ from past generations (Gabor Mate talks about this).
  • Every time content from the unconscious mind merges into the conscious mind, better known as a “Freudian slip“. An example of this is when someone wants to say “I love you” to their partner but in the end, says the name of their ex…

This was just the tip of the iceberg mind you! If you’re interested, why not take a look at more psychoanalytic works from the likes of Freud, Carl Jung, Jacques Lacan, Karen Horney, Erik Erikson and more…? Let us know which theories you think are most practical and useful in the comments below!

Agustin Cardone

Agustin Cardone, from Argentina, currently lives in Ireland, and studies psychology in Mexico. He fell in love with sports when he started playing rugby at 14, soon becoming team captain. He now lifts weights and practices boxing as a way to release stress. He is highly interested in the relationship between body and mind, and is curious about how the brain works and why people do what they do. He would like to help people with addiction, depression, and personality disorders. He believes we all have a story to tell and that we should express it.

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