Early Psychoanalysts Primer
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Early Psychoanalysts Primer

No one has ever seen the unconscious but we know it exists because of its powerful effects, just as we know that atoms split and electrical impulses travel.  Each one of us has an unconscious.  It governs our breathing, our digestion, our heartbeat, every step we take; it also serves as our storehouse for all secret, seething memories.  Our unconscious helps propel us to success or failure.  It can haunt us, making life a nightmare, or it can delight us, help us to live more richly.

Psychoanalysis is a science - the science of the understanding the mind.  It is also an art - the art by which an individual may become acquainted with his unconscious feelings and release imprisoned emotions, giving up illusions that once were useful but have become redundant and bring only unhappiness.

Through the ages philosophers, physicians and theologians sought answers to the mystery of the human mind.  Why could man not find happiness in this best of all possible worlds?  What caused man's mind to break down?   Why did man commit violent crimes?  Why could he not control his emotions through the use of reason?  And why did man dream?  Was there a purpose?  For centuries there were no answers.
On July 28, 1774, Franz Otto Mesmer, a Viennese doctor stumbled on what may have been the first clue.  He was treating a twenty nine year old woman who suffered from severe episodes of convulsions (beginning with headache, and followed by delerium, vomiting, paroxysms of rage, then a partial paralysis).  On this day he tried something new, and brought to her bed three magnets, placing one over each leg and a third heart-shaped one on her stomach.  She convulsed…then was amazingly free of pain!  Following a few more treatments her attacks disappeared completely…though they later returned and further treatment was required.  For the most part Mesmer was judged a "quack" by his colleagues and accused of fraud. 

Mesmer's discovery that one man may possess enough power over another to relieve psychic illness led to the knowledge that, with help, man possesses the power within himself to heal himself.   In effect, Mesmer mesmerized his patients and helped open the door to psychoanalysis.

Twenty years after Mesmer placed the magnets, the scene shifts to France, 1793, the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution.  Paris had two madhouses, the Bicetre and the Salpetriere.  Conditions were horrific!  Crying, screaming depressed men and women lived in damp dungeons without light or air in chains, guarded by by convicts who treated them like wild beasts.

Dr. Phillipe Pinel, 1745-1826, a deceptively shy young man was appointed physician-in-chief to the Bicetre just after the first bloody days of the revolution and was appalled at the conditions.  He set his own revolution in motion…recognizing the pyschosis and medical connotations.  He released the "wild beasts" from their chains, and some got well.  One fellow saw the sky for the first time in 40 years.  Pinel lightened the burden of the psychotic, the extremely emotionally ill, and introduced medical care into mental hospitals.  He helped pave the way for psychoanalysis.

Toward the end of the 19th century the Saltpetriere became a center for research on hysteria under the tutelage of Jean Martin Charcot.  Charcot used hypnotism to produce hysteria in his studies.  He was responsible for making hypnosis an acceptable medical tool, both as treatment and research, during a period when many advances were being recorded in medicine.  The first center of post graduate education was formed under Charcot and young doctors interested in studying the human mind began to flock to the Saltpetriere.  One young doctor who sat through his lectures in 1885 and 1886 was a slender, dark haired Viennese.  His name was Sigmund Freud.

Charcot opened up the world of neurology, and worked to bring the together psychology and medicine.

While Charcot hypnotized patients and produced various symptoms of hysteria, he concluded that hypnosis brought out the underlying hysteria and that only hysterical men and women could be hypnotized.  Hippolyte Bernheim, 1840-1919, a researcher at a clinic in Nancy, south of France disagreed.  He believed that the hysterical symptoms were due to the orders of the hypnotist, who freed the suggestibilty of the patient.  This was later proven to be true

Bernheim said "In truth, we are all potentially or actually hallucinating people during the greatest parts of our lives."

When Bertha Pappenheim suddenly became ill in 1880 while nursing her dying father, she insisted that a physician a physician listen to the torment of her heart.  The world knew her as "Anna O"

Her mother called in Josef Breuer, a well known Viennese physician who treated her, primarily with hypnosis for eighteen months, at which time she appeared to recover her help.

A few months later he described what had happened to a young medical student he had met at the Institute of Physiology…the student was Sigmund Freud.  Freud was entranced with the story and questioned Breuer endlessly, pressing him for details.  Both Anna O and Josef Brauer contributed to the scientific discovery of psychoanalysis.

By creating psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, I known as the "Father of Psychoanalysis" made it possible for man to set free the turbulent emotions that torment him, cause him to make costly mistakes and poor decisions and bring indescribable suffering to himself and others.  Psychoanalysis has influenced the lives of millions in terms of the greater understanding it has brought to the rearing of children, to education and medicine, to law and criminology, to religion, sociology, literature and drama.  Many human sciences have benefited, some to the point of complete revolution.

In the beginning Freud used hypnosis almost exclusively in treating his patients, but found himself disturbed that it did not work as well or give him lasting results as he desired.  He developed and began using free association, whereby his patients would relate every thought that came to mind during their sessions.  More and more it seemed to work.

Freud was famous for his work on Id/Ego, dream, Oedipus complex, narcissism, aggression and many other theories; the true leader of the field.

Alfred Adler, 1870-1937.  Adler was the first of Sigmund Freud's rebellious disciples.  He disagreed completely with Freud's ideas of "sexuality in neurosis" and instead believed that "inferiority and superiority" was the power that dominates man's behavior, and that almost everyone has problems with feelings of inferiority.  These feelings would stem from such things as being "hated" or "pampered" as a child, or being a member of a minority group, or growing up in poverty or too much wealth, being spoiled or having a childhood physical defect. (including an imperfection of the body, fatness, albinism, bowlegs etc)

Adler is known, as he would often point out with pride, as the inventor of the "inferiority complex".

Sandor Ferenczi, 1873-1937, of Hungary,  remained a loyal follower and close friend of Freud's.  They often vacationed together

Ferenczi was known for his experiments in the technique of psychoanalysis, in addition to elaborating on many of Freud's theories, including the understanding of homosexuality.  He tried innovations in an effort to discover what was best for each patient and offered a flexible schedule.  It was Ferenczi who drove home the theory of counter-transference (in which the analyst's hidden feelings might be aroused by the patient)

He and Freud eventually ended that friendship, due largely to the time demands Ferenczi made on Freud. 

Carl Jung: (1875-1971)  Carl Jung was the second of Freud's fallen disciples.  An independent thinker who was first quite taken with Freud's theories, and who was expected to be Freud's successor, increasingly followed his own path and by 1916 when he published the Psychology of the Unconscious he split from Freud's theories.  He attacked Freud's theory of libido and reformulated it.

Jung emphasized the role of opposites in psychic life - conscious vs. unconscious, love vs. hate, thought vs. feeling and so on.  If one aspect became dominant consciously, the other became dominant unconsciously by default.  He had more clinical experience with psychotic patients and their thinking than did Freud.  Jung was immersed in the rich symbolic lore of many cultures and was sensitive to the transference of neurotic tendencies, especially from mother to child.

In later years Jung's work took a pseudomystical and religious direction and became increasingly remote from clinical experience and application.

Otto Rank(1884-1939)  For many years a devoted follower of Freud's teachings, Otto Rank gradually defined his own divergent ideas.  Rank did not accept Freud's theories of the Oedipus complex and instead related all neurotic anxieties to birth trauma.  Separation anxiety was essential to his theory, since he believed all later forms of separation reactivated the primal anxiety of the birth trauma.

Ernest Jones (1887-1958) was a pioneer Welsh analyst who wrote the massive three-volume biography of Sigmund Freud. 

On the death of Freud September 23, 1939 Ernest Jones delivered the funeral oration.  In it he said:

"A great spirit has passed from the world.  How can life keep its meaning for those to whom he was the center of life?  Yet we do not feel it as a parting in the full sense, for Freud has so inspired us with his personality, his character and his ideas that we can never truly part from him until we finally part from ourselves in whom he still lives.  His creative spirit was so strong that he infused himself into others.  If ever man can be said to have conquered death itself, to live on in spite of the King of Terrors, who held no terror for him, that man was Freud.  And so we take leave of a man whose like we shall not know again.  From our hearts we thank him for having lived; for having done; and for having loved."


These were the pioneers of psychoanalysis.  Future analysts embroidered, changed, expanded upon and refined many of the theories but the theories of Sigmund Freud remain the standard.


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