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10 Myths about Psychoanalysis you should know



Myth 1: Psychoanalysis is all about sex. 

This is probably the most common myth about psychoanalysis, probably stemming from Freud's Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, where he addressed the question of infantile sexuality, sexual "perversions" and the question of the "sexual instinct" in neurosis. However, psychoanalysis is more about the individual human experience and the workings of the unconscious than it is about sex per se. Sexuality plays a major role in the human experience but it is certainly not the only aspect of the human mind of interest to psychoanalysts.

Myth 2: Psychoanalysis never ends. 

Although it is true that psychoanalysis takes longer than most psychotherapy approaches, termination and ending is an important part of the psychoanalytic process and often, the most enriching part. The reason why psychoanalysis requires time is because it aims at a deep understanding of oneself and a significant change in healing, which can only be achieved over time in a safe, trusting and honest relationship to oneself in the presence of another.

Myth 3: Psychoanalysts require that you lay on the couch.


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Fatherhood in the Movie “Boyhood”

With Oscars 2015 just behind us, you probably heard about the movie "Boyhood," which was nominated for Best Picture and traces the aging of a boy, named Mason, along with that of his family. We see the main characters age naturally over the course of twelve years, accompanied by the popular music of the times, creating a sense of nostalgia and a unique appreciation for music. In fact, music seems to be a character of its own in this movie, inviting us to listen to life with a different set of ears.

This is not the only reason why this film is an extraordinary piece of art, however. In another post, I discuss the meaning of good enough mothers as depicted in the movie "Wild" and how good enough mothering (a term coined by the British Pediatrician and Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott) lays the foundation for a healthy development. "Boyhood" in its own right, depicts how important the role of men and fathers is in the growing up of children, something psychoanalysis pays special attention to.


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How Psychoanalysis Differs from Psychotherapy

The talking cure

Psychotherapy is a rather generic term - social workers, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can all call themselves therapists. Psychoanalysis is an experience - you cannot call yourself a psychoanalyst without having done your own analysis. The same is not always true for psychotherapy - not all psychotherapists have gone through their own therapy.

Before there was psychotherapy, however, there was psychoanalysis. Freud “invented” the psychoanalytic method, or the “talking cure,” together with his friend and mentor Breuer, a Viennese psychiatrist, who worked with female hysterics (an old-fashioned diagnostic term for what today is classified as conversion disorder).

In his work with his patient Anna O., a pseudonym for Bertha Pappenheim, one of the first feminists, Breuer discovered that after she was able to speak about the origin of her symptoms, they disappeared. Hence, “the talking cure.”

The difference

The presumption that talking has healing powers fuels many psychotherapeutic practices today. No one argues against that. What is the difference between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis then?


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What is Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a way of listening, a way of living, a philosophy and an art form; a theory about the human condition and a clinical practice. It is an experience of being listened to, accepted, heard and validated; an experience of being "alone in the presence of another," yet feeling utterly connected. Psychoanalysis is a form of clinical practice that allows for an understanding of oneself, ones thoughts, feelings and behaviors and an awareness of who we truly are as human beings.

Many people still harbor the misunderstanding that psychoanalysis pathologises the individual and puts people into pre-determined categories that feel judgmental, invalidating and diminishing. In truth, psychoanalysis emphasizes the uniqueness of everyone's experience and seeks to create meaning, specific to each person's unconscious and history. Oftentimes in psychoanalysis, we have to sit with the unknown, the anxiety-provoking and the uncomfortable.