Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Freud pities physicians who dismiss the psychic lives of their patients

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There's not a psychologist alive who can write one-tenth as well as Freud (even in translation).

"Nothing takes place in a psychoanalytic treatment but an interchange of words between the patient and the analyst. The patient talks, tells of his past experiences and present impressions, complains, confesses to his wishes and his emotional impulses. The doctor listens, tries to direct the patient’s processes of thought, exhorts, forces his attention in certain directions, gives him explanations and observes the reactions of understanding or rejection which he in this way provokes in him. The uninstructed relatives of our patients, who are only impressed by visible and tangible things—preferably by actions of the sort that are to be witnessed at the cinema—never fail to express their doubts whether “anything can be done about the illness by mere talking.” That, of course, is both a shortsighted and an inconsistent line of thought. These are the same people who are so certain that patients are “simply imagining” their symptoms. Words were originally magic, and to this day words have retained much of their ancient magical power. By words one person can make another blissfully happy or drive him to despair, by words the teacher conveys his knowledge to his pupils, by words the orator carries his audience with him and determines their judgments and decisions. Words provoke affects and are in general the means of mutual influence among men. Thus we shall not depreciate the use of words in psychotherapy, and we shall be pleased if we can listen to the words that pass between the analyst and his patient.
Psychoanalysis is not to be blamed for a difficulty in your relation to it; I must make you yourselves responsible for it, ladies and gentlemen, at least insofar as you have been students of medicine. Your earlier education has given a particular direction to your thinking, which leads far away from psychoanalysis. You have been trained to find an anatomical basis for the functions of the organism and their disorders, to explain them chemically and physically, and to view them biologically. But no portion of your interest has been directed to psychic life, in which, after all, the achievement of this marvelously complex organism reaches its peak. For that reason psychological modes of thought have remained foreign to you. You have grown accustomed to regarding them with suspicion, denying them the attribute of being scientific, and handing them over to laymen, poets, natural philosophers, and mystics. This limitation is without doubt detrimental to your medical activity, since, as is the rule in all human relationships, your patients will begin by presenting you with their mental facade, and I fear that you will be obliged as a punishment to leave a part of the therapeutic influence you are seeking to the lay practitioners, nature curers, and mystics whom you so much despise."

-- Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis 

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