From Analysis to Action; New Trends in the Psychological Sciences

By Oppenheimer, Agnes | UNESCO Courier, January 1984 | Go to article overview

From Analysis to Action; New Trends in the Psychological Sciences


Oppenheimer, Agnes, UNESCO Courier


From analysis to action

New trends in the psychological scinces

PSYCHOLOGY, which at one time was a branch of philosophy, has always attempted to assert its independence by establishing a particular goal and a specific method of approach. Its vocation has been to study the psyche of the individual, along with his cognitive, emotional and behavioural processes, based on the concept of man as an individual represented by a biological, medical, physical or metaphysical model.

Shortly before the turn of the century, Freud's discovery of unconscious processes could have caused irreparable damage to psychology, the scope of which was limited to the sphere of consciousness. On the contrary, this revised view of man gave psychology a foundation and a new point of departure. Similarly, developments in the social sciences were to define this discipline in terms of then recent advances in sociology, linguistics, economics and other areas.

To this day, no clear preference has been expressed either for including psychoanalysis as a part of general psychology or for accepting that since psychoanalysis is centred on unconscious manifestations, it breaks away from the point of view of classical psychology and exists as an independent science. In the United States psychoanalysis claims to be the basis as well as an integral part of a broader field of psychology, which itself is concerned with pathology and health. In France, it is most often looked upon as a distinct field, not derived from any other.

Psychology has itself split into several fields of specialization: social psychology, psychometry, clinical psychology (personality tests), developmental psychology and psychoanalytical psychology.

Psychoanalytical theories remain a major point of reference in testing, pathology and laboratory research, whether efforts are made to apply them to other fields or to refute them.

It is inappropriate to distinguish psychological and psychoanalytical approaches by referring to health and pathology, as the borderline separating the two is difficult to ascertain and should be drawn with care. Some therapies are based solely upon psychoanalysis, while others are purely psychological; all refer to different theories that must be taken into account.

Historical perspective is an essential feature herein, to the extent that it recreates certain aspects of individual development and forms an integral part of all psychological parameters.

The definition of the unconscious is inseparable from the manner in which it was discovered. Freud sought to cure symptoms of hysteria using hypnosis. During patients' trance states, he realized that their recalling certain traumatic memories caused the symptoms to disappear. He also noticed that "abreaction', or gaining awareness of a traumatic event to which emotion is attached, has a healing effect. Forgetting is the cause of neurosis, in other words, unconscious activity exists.

Little by little, Freud substituted free association for hypnosis. He found that the act of forgetting is motivated and that subjects tend to resist their memory. A fantasy, a psychological phenomenon, comes to replace the traumatic and pathogenic memory. Unconscious desire is seen in its different ramifications, hence the Oedipus and castration complexes orient human development.

Psychoanalytical treatment is intended to recognize intrapsychical conflicts stemming from the subject's unconscious. The method consists of reserving judgment concerning the reality of the events mentioned. The external factor is not denied, but its impact is measured in terms of the resonance it finds in the individual. The individual recreates his conflicts during treatment and the interpretation of this reaction through transference enables the patient to become conscious of his psychical determinism. The analyst's attitude, therefore, must be neutral when comprehending and judging phenomena. …

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From Analysis to Action; New Trends in the Psychological Sciences
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