Free association, the method introduced by Freud to replace hypnosis, is aimed at producing uncensored thoughts and feelings, thereby allowing greater access to unconscious motivation. The technique asks the patient to altogether abandon socially acceptable or prescribed conventions of communication by freely associating or saying whatever comes to mind. The method assumes that memories are ordered in associative networks and that over time the crucial ones will surface. The therapist, by assigning no special attention or importance to particular elements in the unfolding narrative, must remain in a state of equally open receptivity, or ‘evenly suspended attention’ in order grasp the flow of associations. For Freud, in the free-flowing expression of thought and feeling one finds evidence of conflicts/tension between unconscious impulse and a censorial repressive system aimed at the concealment of meaning and the preservation of safety. This is not unlike his understanding of how the dream is constructed: unconscious impulse (i.e. fantasy and wish) seek discharge but face resistance and censorship. It is only through various forms of substitution that the discharge is accomplished. With free association, such as dreaming, substitution is more easily accomplished than in normal waking life.
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