Psychoanalysis is the process by which unconscious dynamics that make us unhappy with our selves and our relationships are made conscious so that healing and growth can occur. As treatment unfolds you will come to understand yourself and your relationships better and experience more freedom to make choices about how you want to live your life.
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Psychoanalysis is based on the idea that our adult personalities are the result of many developmental stages -- what happens first to the infant and then to the child shapes the way we see the world, the kind of relationships we form, the way we feel about ourselves in relation to others and the needs we seek to have fulfilled.
Through the process of psychoanalysis we can get in touch with the past in order to re-experience and re-examine the formative and sometimes painful experiences we have had. Psychoanalysis helps us come to terms with the relationships we had during the growing up years -- both the good and the bad.
The concept of the "repetition compulsion" is a central idea in psychoanalysis. The compulsion to repeat is curious because what is repeated is not pleasurable. On the contrary, it is usually a painful and destructive pattern of feeling and behaving. A common refrain of my patients is: "Why do I keep doing this?"
Different "brands" of psychotherapy explain the causes of repetition compulsions in a variety of ways. For example, behavioral therapists treat the repetitions as bad habits that can be changed by conditioning. Cognitive therapists view the repetitions as irrational ways of thinking that can be changed by rational thinking. The psychoanalytic perspective, in contrast to the cognitive or rational approaches, views the repetition as unconscious. The concept of the unconscious is a cornerstone of psychoanalytic thinking.
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Freud believed the repetition compulsion was an unconscious drive toward self-destruction -- a reflection of the "death instinct." Most psychoanalysts have rejected the concept of the death instinct and believe these repetitive feeling states and behaviors were originally adaptive and necessary for a child's psychic survival, but in adulthood they are self-destructive.
Many contemporary psychoanalysts understand the repetition as an attempt at mastery -- the hope that this time the mother or father or grandfather (or their stand-ins) will behave differently. From this perspective, the woman who tries to seduce her male analyst by dressing seductively and making seductive remarks unconsciously wishes the male analyst (father) will not act out his sexual feelings toward her as her father did.