Crucial Importance Of First Five Years Of Life :
Central to psychodynamic theory, initially developed by Sigmund Freud, is the assertion that events occurring to the child between birth and five years of age have the most vital effect upon his/her psychological development.
Safe World Versus Unsafe World :
Crucially, according to psychodynamic theory, it is during these first five years of life that an individual’s view of whether the world is fundamentally safe or unsafe is formed ; which of these two opposing views the child develops depends upon the treatment s/he receives from his/her mother / primary carer – I elucidate upon this below :
- if the child’s mother / primary carer is loving and nurturing towards him/her then s/he is likely to develop the belief that the world is an essentially safe place
- if the child’s mother / primary carer mistreats / neglects him/her then s/he is likely to develop the belief that the world is an essentially unsafe place
The Role Of The Unconscious :
Another concept of fundamental importance to psychodynamic theory is the absolutely critical role played by the UNCONSCIOUS MIND.
According to Freud, the unconscious mind contains memories, urges, impulses, thoughts and feelings that are cut off from conscious awareness ; frequently, according to Freud, this is because they are painful, cause us mental conflict, cause us anxiety or are otherwise unacceptable to us.
However, even though these ‘banished’, ‘buried’, ‘cut off’ memories, urges, impulses, thoughts and feelings lie outside of our conscious awareness they, nevertheless, POWERFULLY INFLUENCE HOW WE FEEL AND HOW WE BEHAVE.
The Iceberg Metaphor :
The metaphor most commonly used to help explain the unconscious mind is that of the iceberg. Just a very small part of an iceberg is visible above the surface of the water and, in this way, according to Freud, it is similar to the mind. The visible part of the iceberg represents the conscious mind, whereas by far the largest and most powerful part of the mind – the unconscious mind – lies below the surface of the water. In other words, the visible part of the iceberg represents the conscious mind whereas the submerged part represents the unconscious mind. (The surface of the water, therefore. represents the division between the conscious and the unconscious).
One method that can facilitate discovery of what is going on in a patient’s unconscious mind is to analyse his/her relationship with his/her therapist. It is theorized that such an analysis can be insightful due to a process in psychodynamic theory known as TRANSFERENCE that operates within the context of this relationship.
What Is Transference?
Transference can be defined as : the redirection of emotions (usually onto a therapist) that were originally felt in childhood (towards the parents and/or significant others).
To provide a simple example : the anger a patient expresses towards his/her therapist may be redirected anger that the patient originally felt towards his/her mother during childhood.
Transference Focused Therapy :
Kernberg, of New York Hospital, Cornell University, modified Freud’s original therapeutic techniques to develop TRANSFERENCE FOCUSED PSYCHOTHERAPY which involves analysis of the process of transference that occurs via the patient’s relationship with the therapist ; it is the aim of the therapy that, by such analysis, the patient’s fundamental personality disturbance may be resolved, rather than just (relatively superficial) symptoms of the presenting psychological disorder.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).