chapter  6
22 Pages

Psychoanalysis (part one): Basic concepts

Psychoanalysis has been a very important model of cultural analysis since its inception at the end of the nineteenth century. Psychoanalysis is chiefly associated with its founder Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), although over the years many other thinkers and theorists have added to the body of thought broadly identified as psychoanalysis, from Carl Jung (who advanced a theory of the “collective unconscious”) to many later day film theorists like Christian Metz, Robin Wood, Carol Clover, Barbara Creed, and Linda Williams. Arguably, the modern professions of psychiatry, psychology, social work, and the various forms of psychotherapy associated with them all owe their existence to the innovations made by Freud and other early psychoanalysts. Initially, Freud was interested in treating mental illnesses, and in order to do so he needed to develop a working model of the mind, or psyche. Once that model (or structure) of the healthy mind was inferred or deduced, it could then be used to analyze and treat mental illnessesdiseases or aberrations in a person’s affect and/or behavior that seemed not to have organic or physical causes. Psychoanalysis originally referred to these mental illnesses as neuroses, a term that broadly describes conditions like depression, hysteria, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, etc. Neuroses are usually less severe than psychoses, debilitating mental illnesses like schizophrenia in which the patient has lost touch with objective reality. Today, modern psychology and psychiatry recognize hundreds of mental disorders ranging from the mild to the severe. Modern medicine also has shown that there are biological bases for many of the illnesses that Freud and his followers thought were purely psychological. Today it is common to treat many psychological conditions with medicine, even as various forms of psychotherapy are also still practiced.