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About this book

A beautifully written exposition of Freud's ideas and how they emerged from the zeitgeist of the age, Stevens offers students and general readers a stimulating and uniquely balanced assessment of Freud's work. He also examines its implications for society and for understanding the person. The best and most readable introduction to Freud available.

Table of Contents

Prelude: The Individual as Integrator

1. Prelude: The Individual as Integrator

Abstract
As a way in to the more direct account of Freud’s ideas which follows in Part One, this introductory chapter tries to give a feel for the essence of the Freudian way of looking at ourselves. It also briefly sets this in context by broadly contrasting psychoanalysis with other approaches found in psychology for making sense of who we are.
Richard Stevens

Freud and Psychoanalysis

Frontmatter

2. Freud — The Man

Abstract
A 200-foot steeple was perhaps the only distinguishing characteristic of the little town of Freiberg, situated some 150 miles north-east of Vienna in what is now Czechoslovakia. It was here on the 6th of May1 in 1856 that Freud was born, the first child of the third wife of a cloth merchant. His father was 41 at the time of his birth and already had two grown-up sons from his first marriage. One of Freud’s first playmates was his own nephew who was a year older than him. His mother, who was 20 years younger than her husband, eventually had seven more children but Sigmund remained her ‘undisputed darling’. Freud has attributed his later self-confidence in the face of hostility to the fact that he was his mother’s favourite. Although the family was Jewish, orthodox practices and beliefs were not emphasized. For a time, Sigmund had a Catholic nurse who would take him with her to mass.
Richard Stevens

3. The Unconscious

Abstract
One of Freud’s first findings as a therapist was that the real motivation for an act may be disguised and not even apparent to the person who performs it. This is illustrated by the case of Bertha Pappenheirn, the patient of his colleague Breuer, which is recorded in their joint publication Studies in hysteria (where Bertha is referred to as ‘Anna O’).
Richard Stevens

4. Psychosexual Development

Abstract
In 1905, Freud produced his paper ‘Jokes and their relation to the unconscious’. He regarded jokes as in some ways analogous to dreams (it was this similarity that had prompted his friend Fliess to suggest to Freud that he write about them). A joke does not express its meaning directly but usually presents it in abbreviated or distorted form or as a set of clues. The joke comes when the listener draws the appropriate inference and the latent meaning becomes apparent.
Richard Stevens

5. Psychodynamics

Abstract
As described so far, Freudian theory suggests a dynamic, purposive conception of the person. There is a basic driving urge to satisfy instinctual need which provides the source of all psychic energy. It is also a conception which stresses the significance of conflict and the ways in which an individual seeks to balance the various forces acting upon and within him. If direct attainment of satisfaction is blocked either because of external restraints or because of inner censorship by conflicting feelings internalized as a result of identification with significant others in the child’s life such as parents, this energy may seek some other form of expression — in fantasy, dreams or unconsciously influencing the form of actions. Thirdly, Freudian theory emphasizes the significance of development and the often abiding consequences of conflicts and experiences in early life.
Richard Stevens

6. Theory of Neurosis

Abstract
Before leaving this exposition of Freud’s ideas, I would like to consider briefly his theory of neurosis and the practice of psychoanalysis as therapy. In a sense, the former at least has already been covered in the preceding sections. As Freud put it, ‘the theory of neuroses is psycho-analysis itself.’1 All the ingredients for understanding Freud’s view of neurosis have been presented in considering his idea of a dynamic unconscious, his theory of psychosexual development and the operation of defence mechanisms. Freud, in effect, draws no strict dividing line between normals and neurotics. It is a difference of degree rather than kind. He considered as one of his chief findings that:
The neuroses (unlike infectious diseases, for instance) have no specific determinants. It would be idle to seek in them for pathogenic excitants. They shade off by easy transitions into what is described as the normal; and, on the other hand, there is scarcely any state recognized as normal in which indications of neurotic traits could not be pointed out.2
Richard Stevens

7. The Practice of Analysis as Therapy

Abstract
This is not a book on psychoanalysis as therapy. The focus rather is on Freud’s conception of the person and how this has influenced our view of the human condition. So, in this account of psychoanalysis so far, I have concentrated largely on its theory and made relatively little mention of its techniques for therapy. It is important to distinguish between the two. They clearly go hand-in-hand. Freud’s theory evolved out of careful observation of his patients and, in turn, influenced the therapeutic procedures he adopted. But reading Freud’s clinical studies, it is hard to avoid the suspicion that ‘curing’ patients was subsidiary to his interest in therapeutic work as a source and testing ground for his ideas.
Richard Stevens

8. Freud’s Progeny — Developments in Psychoanalysis

Abstract
One of Freud’s greatest achievements was his capacity to stimulate the creativity of others. Psychoanalysis did not stand still. Freud’s ideas have been developed by his followers in a bewildering variety of ways. Before going on to examine the nature of psychoanalysis in Part Two, this chapter offers a broad review of some of the main strands in the evolution of psychoanalytic thought.
Richard Stevens

The Nature of Psychoanalysis

Frontmatter

9. Integration and Interpretation

Abstract
I would suggest that the two most significant features of psychoanalytic theory in terms of contributing to our understanding of social behaviour and experience are the integrative and semantic functions which the theory serves.
Richard Stevens

10. Psychoanalysis as Science?

Abstract
Psychoanalytic interpretation depends on the application of a set of concepts and procedures (like free association and dream-work) for deriving latent from manifest meanings. These in turn depend, in part at least, on a set of propositions which purport to explain why certain characteristics or behaviours come about. So, for example, the concept of anal character rests on a proposition about the influence of a particular type of infantile experience on adult personality. Freud often states or implies that such methods, concepts and propositions were derived primarily from his observations of patients in therapy. How far is this true? And what kind of basis could observations of this kind provide for his theory?
Richard Stevens

11. The Significance of Meaning

Abstract
What is it about mental life which makes it so intractable a subject-matter? I would like to suggest that the problems arise because its essence is meaning. This is an idea which has been hinted at earlier, in the discussion of therapy as education rather than as cure; Pribram and Gill’s comments on Freud’s Project also raised the notion of natural science and human meaning as fundamentally different realms of discourse. By referring to the essence of mental life as meaning, I am pointing to the fact that the conduct of our lives and relationships is ordered by concepts. The ways we conceptualize and feel about ourselves, other people or a situation will be fundamental to the ways we behave. In everyday life, we take this for granted. There are occasions when we explain behaviours by reference to causes. We were late because of the traffic. Or we attribute bad conduct to the effects of drink. More often though we assume we are the agents of our actions. For our explanations of behaviour in this case we resort not to causes but to reasons premised on beliefs and feelings. He got angry because she considered he had behaved badly. She signed the petition because she believed it might do some good. He did not go on holiday because he preferred to save the money instead. A critical difference about explanations of this kind is that they are open to negotiation. He might well be able to assuage her anger if he can convince her that what he did was with good intent.
Richard Stevens

12. A Personal Creation

Abstract
A point which has been made in the first chapter and touched on subsequently several times is that no theory is a mere passive, objective mirror of external reality. It is a construction which will reflect the values and characteristics of the theorist and quite probably the social and intellectual climate in which it was devised. It is particularly instructive to consider psychoanalysis from this perspective. As we have seen it is a generative theory, rich in content and difficult to evaluate empirically. And, as has been argued, Freud in creating it brought to bear all the diversity of his own intellectual and cultural awareness. It also has important roots in his own self-analysis. Furthermore, it is a theory which touches on ‘central aspects of man’s existence’ and, as Erikson has pointed out, in theorizing of this kind ‘we can only conceptualize what is relevant to us for personal, for conceptual and for historical reasons’.1
Richard Stevens

13. Moral Implications and Social Impact

Abstract
The relations between one person and another, between individual and social context, between a theorist and his theory are all two way. Each influences the other. As Erich Fromm has expressed the dialectical relationship between individual and society: ‘Man is not only made by history — history is made by man … passions, desires, anxieties change and develop as a result of the social process, but also … man’s energies thus shaped into specific forms in their turn become productive forces, moulding the social process’.1 Freud’s theory, as we have seen, was a product of a particular personal and social background. In its turn, it changed, not only Freud’s life, but the conception of humankind prevalent in Western society. Philip Rieff has pointed out that Freud ‘is not only the first completely irreligious moralist, he is a moralist without even a moralising message’.2 Freud, with the characteristic detachment of a scientist of his time, considered value judgements to have no place in his theory. Yet paradoxically his theories do have important ethical implications. Absorbed into our culture, they have demonstrated their potential to change the ways we behave and the moral judgements we make. The purpose of this chapter is to consider briefly this influence. What moral implications does psychoanalysis have? And what kind of impact has it had on the society in which we live?
Richard Stevens

14. The Relevance of Freud Today

Abstract
When we look back over the preceding chapters, what then are we to make of Freud? Does his theory provide any insights into the nature of the human condition? How relevant if at all are his ideas to us today?
Richard Stevens
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