Psychoanalysis 20226      (Home)

These are quickly constructed notes for making a presentation on psychoanalysis on 2/28/02..  They are not offered as “the last word” on anything.  ---Michael Russell


Psychoanalysis is a collection of techniques and a collection of theories which trace their lineage to the work of Sigmund Freud, which emphasize the role of the unconscious in explaining human behavior.


Techniques include:

Summary:  the less we know about someone, the more we invent them according to our fantasies, especially our fears.  By promoting relative anonymity and regularity, psychoanalysis achieves a mix of safety with a regressive environment in which earlier patterns of relating emerge in the transference.  By maintaining the frame we increase the likelihood that the impact of what the analyst does reveal or what changes there are in the frame, will be magnified in their impact, and lend themselves better to interpretation.


Theoretical perspectives (“clusters” of terms) that have emerged from these techniques:

I.                    The adaptive point of view.  Symptoms are understandable adaptations to actual events.

a.      The seduction hypothesis.  Neurotics suffer from reminiscences of childhood sexual trauma

II.                 The dynamic point of view.  Symptoms are responses to inner conflict, which may or may not have to do with actual events. The fantasy hypothesis.

III.               The topographical point of view.  A “map.”

a.      Conscious:  whatever we are aware of at a given moment

b.      Preconscious: whatever we easily could be aware of in our mental life, which we either are not presently aware of (who’s the current president?), or else which we are only dimly or marginally aware of (is it warm in here?)

c.      Unconscious: aspects of our mental life which are kept from awareness by resistance

d.      Dreams: the unconscious expression of a wish.

e.      Censor

f.        Condensation, displacement, sublimation, substitution, symbolism

IV.              The economic point of view.  Metaphor of a fixed amount of psychic currency.  Drives.  Libido.  A hydraulic (“plumbing”) metaphor

a.      Different vocabularies: Sex, sex & aggression, Libido, Eros, Eros & Thanatos

b.       Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology.  The puzzle of where in the “neurons” to locate defenses

c.      Fixation, cathexis, counter-cathexis, etc.

d.      Primary vs. secondary processes

V.                 The structural point of view

a.      Id – “it”—a cauldron of affect, impulse, tension seeking discharge

b.      Ego:  a “structure” to mediate between the Id and “reality”

c.      Superego:  the internalized fantasy of parental expectations, internalized to protect ourselves from the dangerous collision between our impulses and reality

d.      Anna Freud: the ego and the mechanisms of defense

e.      The attainment of “object constancy”

VI.              The genetic point of view: stages of psycho-sexual growth

a.      Oral:  power and satisfaction related to the mouth

b.      Anal: increasing satisfaction felt about bodily elimination, in an era including rejection, prohibition, “no”

c.      Genital or phallic:  increasing sensations of sexual excitation in an era of language acquisition and increasing awareness of sex role expectations

                                                               i.      Oedipal complex: identification with and competition with one parent for the affections of the other

                                                             ii.      Castration complex: the fear that what makes one special will be taken away as punishment for hostile competition

d.      Latent: Identification with same-sex peers.  Turning away from more blatant sexualized interest in parents

e.      Adolescent (or adult/genital): Re-emergence of explicit sexual interest in opposite sex



Some sub-divisions in the evolution of Freudian/psychoanalytic thinking:

1.      Classical psychoanalysis

2.       Classical ego-psychoanalysis:  Ana Freud

3.       Melanie Kleinà Object relations

a.       Bion

4.       D. W. Winnicott

a.       Fairbairn

b.      Guntrip

5.      Margaret Mahler

6.       Self-Psychology:  Kohut

7.       Lacan & French psychoanalysts



·         Paranoid-schizoid position

o        Projection, introjection, splitting

·         Depressive position

o        Reparation

o        manic defenses: devaluation

·         Wilfred Bion: 

o        Alpha processes

o        Beta bits

o       Containing the container

o        Destruction of links


Mahler:  separation and individuation

I.                  Normal infant autism

II.                  Symbiosis

III.                Separation and individuation

a.       Hatching, customs inspection

b.       Practicing

c.        Ambitendency

d.       Rapprochement

e.       On the road to object constancy  à

IV.              On the road to object constancy



·         Infantile omni-potency

·         Optimal disillusionment

·         Good-enough mothering

·        Transitional objects




·         Development of narcissism, evolution of the self

·         Interpretation of narcissistic injury

·         Transference.  Self-objects

o        Grandiose self

o        Idealized parental imago

o       Twin self



Jacques Lacan

·         Return to Freud

·        Mirror self and language

·         Father, language, the phallic