Psychoanalysis, History of

One of Sigmund Freud's basic psychoanalytic claims was that dreams and symptoms were wish fulfillments (Freud 1900; for italicized terms see Laplanche and Pointalis 1973). A particularly simple example is that in which a thirsty person dreams of drinking, and thereby temporarily pacifies the underlying desire. Schematically, in the case of real satisfaction, a desire that P (that I get a drink) brings about a real situation that P (I get a drink), and this in turn brings about an experience or belief that P which pacifies the desire, that is, causes it to cease to operate. In Freudian wish fulfillment, by contrast, a desire operates to bring about an experience- or belief-like representation of satisfaction (I dream of drinking) and so pacifies the desire in the absence of the real thing. Freud hypothesized that this process was effected by the activation of neural prototypes of past desire-satisfaction sequences, and he took this to be the mind/brain's earliest and most basic way of coping with desire (1895).

FREUD found this pattern of representational pacification in more complex instances, and was thus able to see dreams, symptoms, and many other depictive phenomena as representing the satisfaction of unfulfilled wishes or desires, which could be traced back to childhood and bodily experience. Analysis indicated that little children attached great and formative emotional significance to very early interactions with their parents in such basic proto-social activities as feeding and the expulsion and management of waste. These involved the first use of the mouth, genitals, and anus, and the early stimulus of these organs apparently roused feelings continuous with their later uses in normal and abnormal sexuality (1905). Little children's motives thus included desires to harm or displace each parent, envied and hated as a rival for the love of the other, as well as to preserve and protect that same parent, loved both sensually and as a caretaker, helper, and model. Because these desires were subject to particularly radical conflict they were characteristically repressed, and thus rendered unconscious, and kept from everyday planning and thought.

Repression entailed that such desires could enter consciousness only in a symbolic form, and so could be expressed in intentional action only via symbol-forming processes such as sublimation (1908). Symbolizing incestuous desires in terms of ploughing and planting mother earth, for example, could render such activities meaningful as expressions of wish fulfilling phantasy. Thus, according to Freud, the activities of everyday life acquired the kind of unconscious representational significance he had found in dreams and symptoms, and were accordingly subject to unconscious reinforcement, inhibition, etc. Infantile desires (or the contents of infantile neural prototypes) were not lost, but were continually rearticulated through symbolism so as to direct action toward their pacification throughout life. This was thus the primary process through which desire was regulated.

Particular phantasies also realize many of the mechanisms described in psychoanalytic theory. Thus phantasies of projection assign (usually undesirable) traits from the self to another, whereas those of introjection assign (usually desired) traits of the other to the self. The "good in/bad out" operation of these mechanisms, and the processes of identification that they effect, are significant for both individual development and social organization.

The young child achieves self-control partly by forming phantasy images derived from the parents as regulators of its early bodily activities. Because these "earliest parental imagoes" (1940) embody the child's infantile aggression in a projected form, they are introjected as a super-ego far more threatening and punitive than the actual parents. Later the child identifies with its parents in their role as agents, that is, as satisfiers and pacifiers of their own desires, and these identifications form the ego. The members of many groups identify with one another by introjecting a common idealized leader or cause (1921: 67ff), or by projecting their destructive motives into a common locus that thereby becomes a legitimated focus of collective hate. Those who find such a common good or bad object feel united, purified, and able to validate destructive motives by common ideals. The processes that establish the individual conscience thus also create a pattern of "good us/bad them" that enlists its ferocity in the service of group aggression.

After the Nazi occupation many analysts left Europe, and post-Freudian psychoanalysis evolved in distinct ways in different countries, often in response to analysts who settled there. In England, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein developed techniques for analyzing the play of children. This made it possible for child analysts to confirm and revise Freud's descriptions of childhood, and to propose further hypotheses about infancy.

Klein (1975) noted that the uninhibited play of children in analysis showed that their conflicts were rooted in unconscious images that represented versions of their parents as both unrealistically good and extremely bad and malevolent. She explained these as resulting from a process of projection that represented the other as containing disowned aspects of the self, which in turn was fragmented and depleted by the projective loss. Klein called this projective identification, and hypothesized that it operated most forcefully before the child gained a working grasp of the concept of identity, and hence before it recognized that the parental figures it felt as bad were the same as those it felt as good. Klein called this preobjectual phase of development the paranoid-schizoid position, the term "paranoid" marking the extremity of the baby's potential for anxiety, and "schizoid" the fragmentary way it represents both itself and its objects. As the infant starts unifying its images, this phase yields to the depressive position, so named because unification entails liability to depression about harming or losing the object (principally the feeding, caring mother), now seen as complex (frustrating as well as gratifying) and liable to be misconceived, but also as unique and irreplaceable.

Klein's discussions of the child's relation to phantasied objects, characteristically different from those in the actual environment, inaugurated the object-relations approach to psychoanalysis, continued by Ronald Fairbairn (1954), Donald Winnicott (1958), and a number of others of the so-called British School. Accounts in these terms have now been elaborated by all schools (see Kernberg 1995). Klein's ideas were applied to groups by Wilfred Bion (1961), and by Bion (1989) and Hanna Segal (1990) to the infantile origins of symbolism and thought. They also influenced John Bowlby (1980), whose work fostered extensive study of child-parent attachment (Ainsworth 1985; Karen 1994).

Freud introduced the ego and super-ego both as functional systems mediating between the individual's innate drives and the external world, and as modelled on persons. In this he attempted to combine functional explanation with the empirical claim that the way persons function depends upon their internal representations of themselves and others. This mode of explanation, called ego-psychology, was elaborated by Anna Freud (1936), and by Heinz Hartmann (1958) and his colleagues in the United States. Hartmann focused particularly upon the attainment of autonomy in object-relations, which he took to be dependent upon object constancy, the ability to represent self and other consistently, despite absence and changes in emotion. This was carried into empirical research on children by Renee Spitz (1965), and developed further by Edith Jackobsen (1964) and Margaret Mahler (1968) and her associates, who sought to describe the process of individuation that issued in object constancy.

More recently, Heinz Kohut (1977) has argued that the pathology of the "fragmented" or "depleted" SELF requires a new "self-psychology" for its conceptualization. He introduces the notion of "self-object," that is, another who is experienced as performing essential psychological functions for the self, and so felt part of it. When the parents fail in essential self-object functions the child -- or the analytic patient in whom such needs have been re-activated -- responds with narcissistic rage, and may become convinced that the environment is fundamentally hostile. Kohut compares this situation to Klein's paranoid-schizoid position, and the fragmentation and depletion with which he is concerned is evidently linked to that which Klein describes as consequent on infantile projective identification (for a recent synthesis see Kumin 1996).

Psychoanalysis in France has been particularly influenced by Jacques Lacan, whose resonant formulations (1977) link analytic ideas with themes in French philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. A baby who joyfully identifies itself in a mirror, according to Lacan, thereby represents itself as having a wholeness, permanence, and unity that anticipates and facilitates its ability to move and relate to others. But this identification is also an alienation, for the infant now regards itself as something it does not actually feel itself to be, and which it may yet fail to become. Identifications with others are simultaneously enabling and alienating in the same way, so that the external images by which the self is constituted always threaten to confront it as reminders of its own lack of being.

Lacan assigns these images to an order of representations that he describes as the imaginary, and contrasts with the symbolic order of personal and social sign-systems whose elements are constrained by rules of combination and substitution comparable to those of natural language. The combinations/substitutions of (representations of) objects in dreams and symptoms, or again in the course of development, can be seen as constrained by such rules, and so as instances of metaphor, metonymy, and other linguistic forms. So, Lacan argues, the unconscious is structured like a language. Comparable structuring holds for social phenomena. Thus the resolution of the Oedipus Complex is a development in which the boy forgoes an imaginary relation with the mother to occupy a place in the social order that is symbolic, social, and constitutive of human culture. As in the prior instance of the mirror, the child secures a potentially fulfilling identity via the enabling but alienating assumption of an image, this time of the symbolic father, who embodies the social laws regulating sexual desire and providing for its procreative satisfaction.

See also

Additional links

-- James Hopkins


Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1985). 1: Patterns of infant-mother attachment: Antecedents and effects on development. 2. Attachment across the life span. Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med. 6:771-812.

Bion, W. R. (1961). Experiences in Groups. New York: Basic Books.

Bion, W. R. (1989). Second Thoughts: Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis. London: Heinemann.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and Loss. Vols. 1-3. New York: Basic Books.

Fairbairn, W. R. D. (1954). An Object-Relations Theory of the Personality. New York: Basic Books.

Freud, A. (1936). The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. London: Hogarth Press.

Freud, S. (1895). Project for a Scientific Psychology. In Freud (1974) vol. 1.

Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. In Freud (1974) vols. 4, 5.

Freud, S. (1905). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. In Freud (1974) vol. 6.

Freud, S. (1908). Civilized Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness. In Freud (1974) vol. 9.

Freud, S. (1921). Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. In Freud (1974) vol. 18.

Freud, S. (1940). A Short Outline of Psycho-Analysis. In Freud (1974) vol. 22.

Freud, S. (1974). The Standard Edition of the Collected Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Translated by J. Strachey, Ed. London: Hogarth Press.

Hartmann, H. (1958). Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation. New York: International Universities Press.

Jackobson, E. (1964). The Self and the Object World. New York: International Universities Press.

Karen, R. (1994). Becoming Attached: Unfolding the Mystery of the Mother-Infant Bond and its Impact on Later Life. New York: Warner Books.

Kernberg, O. (1995). Psychoanalytic object relations theories. In B. Moore and B. Fine, Eds., Psychoanalysis: The Major Concepts. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Kohut, H. (1977). The Restoration of the Self. New York: International Universities Press.

Klein, M. (1975). The Writings of Melanie Klein. London: Karnac Books and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.

Kumin, I. (1996). Pre-Object Relatedness: Early Attachment and the Psychoanalytic Situation. New York: Guilford Press.

Lacan, J. (1977). Écrits. New York: Norton.

Laplanche, J., and J. B. Pontalis. (1973). The Language of Psycho-Analysis. London: Hogarth Press.

Mahler, M. S. (1968). On Human Symbiosis and the Vicissitudes of Individuation. New York: International Universities Press.

Moore, B., and B. Fine. (1995). Psychoanalysis: The Major Concepts. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Segal, H. (1990). Dream, Phantasy, and Art. London: Tavistock/Routledge.

Spitz, R. (1965). The First Year of Life: A Psychoanalytic Study of Normal and Deviant Development of Object Relations. New York: International Universities Press.

Winnicott, D. (1958). Collected Papers: Through Pediatrics to Psychoanalysis. New York: Basic Books.

Further Readings

Cavell, M. (1993). The Psychoanalytic Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Clark, P., and C. Wright, Eds. (1988). Mind, Psychoanalysis, and Science. Oxford: Blackwell.

Erwin, E. (1996). A Final Accounting: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Freudian Psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fink, B. (1997). A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gardner, S. (1993). Irrationality and the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gay, P. (1988). Freud, A Life for Our Time. London: J. M. Dent.

Gill, M., and K. Pribram. (1976). Freud's Project Re-assessed. London: Hutchinson.

Glymour, C. (1992). Freud's androids. In J. Neu, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Freud. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grunbaum, A. (1984). The Foundations of Psychoanalysis: A Philosophical Critique. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Grunbaum, A. (1993). Validation in the Clinical Theory of Psychoanalysis. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

Hinshelwood, R. D. (1990). A Dictionary of Kleinian Thought. London: Free Associations Books.

Hopkins, J. (1997). Psychoanalysis, post-Freudian. In E. Craig, Ed., The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Hopkins, J. (1998). Freud and the science of mind. In S. Glendinning, Ed., The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia of Continental Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Kitcher, P. (1992). Freud's Dream: A Complete Interdisciplinary Science of Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kline, P. (1984). Psychology and Freudian Theory: An Introduction. London: Methuen.

Lear, J. (1990). Love and Its Place in Nature. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux.

MacDonald, C., and D. MacDonald, Eds. (1995). Philosophy of Psychology: Debates on Psychological Explanation. Oxford: Blackwell.

Masson, J., Ed. (1985). The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887-1904. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moore, B., and B. Fine. (1990). Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Neu, J. (1992). The Cambridge Companion to Freud. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wollheim, R. (1991). Freud. 2nd ed. London: Fontana.

Wollheim, R. (1994). The Mind and its Depths. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.