What is Psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis was founded by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud in the nineteenth century as a means to cure mentally disturbed patients.

The basic principles within psychoanalysis stipulate that a person’s development is influenced and/or determined by often forgotten and repressed events in early childhood and that a person’s overall behaviour is largely influence by irrational drives that are rooted in the unconscious.

Conflicts between the conscious and the unconscious, or with repressed material, can materialize in the form of mental or emotional disturbances, for example: neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depression. Freud believed that liberating the elements of the unconscious was achievable through bringing this repressed material into the conscious mind.

Key terms and concepts in psychoanalysis:

  • The Unconscious
  • The talking cure
  • Ego, Super Ego and Id
  • Manifest Content & Latent Content
  • Condensation & Displacement
  • Repression & The Return of the Repressed
  • Sublimation
  • Symbols
  • Family Drama
  • Dreamwork
  • Freudian Slip
  • The Uncanny
  • The Death Drive
  • Doppleganger
  • Monstrous Projections
  • Fetish

Over time, psychoanalysis has been revised and developed in different directions. Some of Freud’s colleagues and students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Jung, went on to develop their own ideas independently.

Psychoanalysis can also be applied to literature, film and art. Find out about the use of Psychoanalysis as a theory in Literature.