What is the meaning of this video "What is psychoanalysis"?
May 28, 2013 1:18 PM   Subscribe

The blurb for the video "What is Psychoanalysis?" on this website claims that it "tries to show visually some essential components of the psychoanalytic process including the analytic function, transference, dreams, repetitions and the Oedipal conflict". Can someone point out at which points in the video these things are shown and by which images they are represented?
posted by fries to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've been watching this question hoping someone a lot more experienced than I would pop in. Alas. I'm in my first year studying psychoanalysis so please take anything I say with a huge grain of salt.

Off the top of my head:

The infamous couch is a function in psychoanalysis that allows a reclining patient to more freely associate because he's not focused on posture, or the analyst's facial expressions, or a fly on the wall. Reclining is supposed to also trigger feelings of (a good) vulnerability, and allows him to focus on his inner thoughts as opposed to the exterior world. However, most people feel uncomfortable reclining at first - partly because it's a bit clichéd at this point and partly because lying supine makes us feel unprotected, which is why the couch turns into a spiky, scary monster-thing that looks like it might eat the guy alive.

The part about dream analysis is when he's recounting a jumble of confusing images, symbols and letters. The analyst says, "A?" which turns out to be the missing piece that forms the word DREAM, suggesting that an good analyst is able to piece together the weird surreality of a dreamscape to find the kernels of truth or raw emotions that drive them.

Transference is when patients react to the analyst in ways that mirror relationships in the patient's ongoing life, often and especially the relationship the patient had with his mother as a young child. For instance, if the patient's mother was dismissive and neglectful, the patient might interpret a period of silence from the analyst as proof she's not paying attention. Notice that the patient has fantasies of the analyst with her arm around him, signifying not just that he longs for her approval, but that the analyst acts as a proxy or avatar of that first woman in his life, his mother, hence the Oedipal complex.

The scene where the guy is dancing and then the audience turns away from is a pretty self-explanatory form of rejection fears, but notice the analyst is one of those faces. One of the difficult parts about psychotherapy is that patients don't want to admit things to the analyst that might cause their analyst to dislike them. Any feelings an analyst has towards a client is called countertransference, by the way.

The part where the patient has a blank page that suddenly fills up with symbols is, I think, mainly a commentary that our psyches or inner selves are often knotted and feel very unknowable until we talk about them aloud and find meaningful patterns that we never realized we participated in, such as choosing unreliable partners or drowning ourselves in work to avoid feelings of pain or guilt or whatever.

If you have any questions about something more specific I'll do my best to help out, but hopefully someone else more savvy can help out.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:49 PM on May 28, 2013

Um, these are just guesses. My credential is that I read some Freud in grad school. I am not a psychoanalytic therapist, or anything remotely like one.

The basic setup is that the analysand (the guy on the couch) gets yelled at by his boss at work, which makes him feel sad and distressed. He tells his analyst (the woman in the chair) all about it and together they explore the meaning of his emotional reaction. I think it's implied that his reaction is out of proportion to the event; it distresses him more than it would distress most other people, which is a hint that there's extra emotional meaning in the event for him.
  • the analytic function: I'm not sure about this one, unless it encompasses the whole psychoanalytic session (and the implied ongoing therapeutic relationship between the analyst and analysand).
  • transference: At 2:22, the analysand imagines the analyst with her arm around him. This suggests that he has feelings towards her. I think this is part of "the analytic function"—psychoanalysis supposedly works because the analyst is a safe, neutral party onto whom the analysand can transfer various feelings that he has towards other people in his life. The work of analysis is to explore and understand those feelings.
  • dreams: At 1:18, with slight prompting from the analyst (she offers the letter A, a starting point), the analysand's confused mix of symbols and letters resolves into the word "dream." Perhaps a question from the analyst has prompted him to remember a meaningful dream. At 1:20 there is a wavy effect over the analysand as he begins to recount his dream. In the dream, he gives a performance that is rejected by the audience (they stick their tongues out in an "ick" expression), perhaps connecting with the way the boss rejected the analysand's performance at work. Both the analyst and the boss appear in the dream. At 2:04 there's another wavy effect and we transition from the dream account back to the analytic scene, where the analysand is sitting up and sweating, apparently very disturbed by the dream material that he's been recounting.
  • repetitions: At 0:41, we see the analysand right after he's been reprimanded at work. Floating above his head are the ghost-like (or god-like) heads of other men. They zap him with lightning bolts from their mouths. These might represent other relationships he's had in the past with men like his boss. He keeps getting himself into similar relationships over and over, and re-experiencing past traumas. This helps to explain why getting yelled at at work upsets him so much.
  • the Oedipal conflict: The (male) boss could be read as a fearsome father figure and the (female) analyst could be read as a more beloved mother figure. At 2:11, the analysand pictures a hybrid figure who looks like the analyst but has a mean expression on her face like the boss. The analysand is so troubled by the image that he whips around to look at the analyst and confirm that she doesn't really look like that. The analyst is then pictured with sad and happy masks (the classic symbols of Greek tragedy and comedy; the Oedipal conflict is of course named for the Greek tragedy of Oedipus Rex) coming out of her mouth. The analysand looks comforted by this interpretation and seems to get some emotional resolution from it. At 2:20, the analytical couch turns from a threatening, spiky form to a normal piece of furniture. At 2:22, the analysand imagines the therapist with her arm around him in a comforting, perhaps maternal gesture. At 2:24, the analysand pictures his interaction with the boss again, but this time the boss looks less fearsome and threatening; the analysand is able to see the conversation as a normal workplace interaction and not as a repetition of earlier traumas.

    posted by Orinda at 5:31 PM on May 28, 2013

    As an actual psychoanalyst, I would say zoomorphic and Orinda did a fine job--better than I would have done. Psychoanalysis is no longer a unified thing and has as many conflicting "schools" as there are churches call claiming to be Christian. In my case, the video bears little similarity to what I do. And if may "interpret" the video, I find it significant that the filmaker left out any indication that the analyst got paid for her work.
    posted by Obscure Reference at 5:45 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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