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Emerson, L.E. (1914). Internationale Zeitschrift Für Aerztliche Psychoanalyse. Psychoanal. Rev., 1(2):221-229.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Internationale Zeitschrift Für Aerztliche Psychoanalyse

(1914). Psychoanalytic Review, 1(2):221-229

Internationale Zeitschrift Für Aerztliche Psychoanalyse

L. E. Emerson, Ph.D.Author Information

(Vol. I, No. 2)

1.   Some Remarks on the Concept of the Unconscious as Used in Psychoanalysis. sigmund freud.

2.   Stages in the Development of the Sense of Reality. S. ferenczi.

3.   Further Suggestions as to the Technique of Psychoanalysis. sigmund freud.

1. The Concept of the Unconscious in Psychoanalysis.—An idea—or any other psychical element—can be in consciousness at one moment and in the next instant vanish. After a while it may return unchanged. One is forced to assume that it exists in the psyche but is latent to consciousness.

“An unconscious idea is one which we do not note, but whose existence we concede because of other signs and proofs.”

Post-hypnotic suggestion teaches us the importance of the distinction between conscious and unconscious. Such an experiment teaches us still more: We advance from a mere descriptive to a dynamic interpretation of the phenomenon. An idea suggested during hypnosis remains unconscious but at the appropriate moment becomes effective. Thus- an idea is at the same time unconscious and real.

The psychic life of the hysterical patient is filled with real but unconscious thoughts, from which arise all their symptoms. A hysterical woman may vomit because she thinks she is pregnant, without being aware of it. We learn through the analysis of neurotic phenomena that a latent or unconscious thought need not necessarily be weak, and that the existence of such thoughts in the psyche may be established by indirect proof of the most powerful sort. We distinguish between different kinds of latent and unconscious thoughts. We have been accustomed to think that a thought was latent because it was weak, and that as soon as it became strong it entered consciousness. But there are thoughts which cannot penetrate consciousness no matter how powerful they may become. We name the latent thoughts of the first group “fore-conscious,” while the expression “unconscious” is reserved for the second group. The expression

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unconscious” which formerly was used in merely a descriptive sense now has a wider meaning. It denotes, not merely latent thoughts in general, but especially certain thoughts with a definite dynamic character, namely those, which in spite of their intensity and reality are held out of consciousness. Through the differentiation of fore-conscious and unconscious thoughts we abandon the domain of mere classification and give a meaning to the functional and dynamic relations existing in the activity of the psyche. We find an actual fore-consciousness which goes over into consciousness without difficulty, and an actual unconsciousness which remains unconscious and appears to be split off from consciousness. It is not impossible for this unconsciousness to break into consciousness but to do so requires the expenditure of a certain exertion. When we try to study ourselves we find a certain “defense,” and when we work with a patient we find a “resistance,” which we must overcome. Thus we learn that the unconscious thoughts are kept out of consciousness by a living force, while with fore-conscious thoughts nothing intereferes with their entrance into consciousness. The next most probable theory which we can construct, in the present state of our knowledge, is the following. The unconscious is a regular and unavoidable phase in the processes which are at the foundation of our psychical activity. Each psychical act begins as unconscious and can so remain, or so develop that it becomes conscious, acording to whether it meets resistance or not. The distinction between fore-conscious and unconscious then is not primary, but depends on the “defense” activity.

But the distinction between fore-conscious and unconscious activity and the knowledge of its separating boundaries is neither the latest nor the most important of the results of psychoanalytic investigations in the psychic life. That is the dream. Psychoanalysis is founded on dream analysis.

A typical case of dream formation may be described in the following manner: A thought process which has retained some of its tendency to activity is beginning to be called up on account of the psychical activity of the day, but escapes notice on account of the general lowering of interest which leads to sleep and forms the psychical preparation for sleeping. During the night this thought process becomes associated with one of the unconscious wishes which are always present in the psychic life of the dreamer, from childhood, but which are usually repressed and thus excluded from conscious existence. The thoughts which remain from the day's activity, through the unconscious assistance of this borrowed force, now become active and manifest themselves in consciousness in the form of a dream.

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Three things have thus come about: (1) The thoughts have gone through a transformation, disguise, and misrepresentation which is due to their relation to the unconscious. (2) The thoughts, for a time, occupy consciousness which otherwise would not have been accessible to them. (3) A bit of the unconscious, to which this otherwise would have been impossible, thus emerges into consciousness.

That system, which manifests itself to us by signs or symptoms, composed of single processes which are unconscious, in lieu of a better name, we call the unconscious. This is the third and most important sense which the expression “unconscious” has gained through psychoanalysis.

2. Stages in the Development of the Sense of Reality.—As Freud has shown us, the development of the psychic forms of activity of the individual consists in the gaining of freedom from the originally ruling principle of pleasure and its peculiar mechanism of repression, through the adaptation to reality, that is, through the examination of reality by judgments grounded in objectivity. Thus out of the “rimary” psychic stage, as it manifests itself in the psychic process of primitive beings (animals, savages, children) and in primitive mental states (dream, neurosis, plantasy), arises the “secondarystage of the waking thinking of normal men.

In the beginning of his development the new-born human being seeks satisfaction wholly through energetic wishes (ideas), thereby leaving simply unobserved (repressed) unsatisfactory reality, but failing to satisfy the wish, represents it to himself as present. He can thus satisfy his needs without trouble by positive and negative hallucinations. “At first the absence of the expected satisfaction, the undeceiving, has the result, that he seeks satisfaction through hallucinations. Instead of this the psyche must determine to perceive the real relations of the outer world. Thus is introduced a new principle for psychic activity: no more only what is pleasant gets perceived but also what is real, even if it shall be unpleasant.”

Freud, while investigating these problems, has left unanswered the question as to whether the development of the secondary process out of the primary, is gradual or step-wise; whether such development can be known or whether the question is unanswerable. An earlier work of Freud's suggests that the chasm between the pleasure principle and the reality principle may be bridged by the principle of omnipotence. The feeling of omnipotence is a projection of the feeling that certain irresistible impulses mast be slavishly followed. From the explanation of the feeling as a symbolic phenomenon the question is raised, where does the child get the assurance to identify thinking

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and acting? According to the author it is in the mother's body. Here the embryo lives like a parasite. It has no need that is not satisfied. It has the feeling of being omnipotent, for the feeling of omnipotence is to have everything, that is necessary to satisfy any desire: to wish for nothing; to be without need.

This feeling persists after the child is born, but gradually its ego is developed by the experience of the powers of natural forces which force themselves on the child. The learning of the powers of nature constitutes the essential content of the development of the ego. In consequence of the unpleasantness of the new environment the first wish of the child can be no other than to get back into its mother's body. This wish is practically realized daily, at first, for from the subjective standpoint of the child he gets everything he wants by crying for it {period of magic-hallucinatory omnipotence). The first sleep is nothing else than the successful reproduction of the situation in the mother's body by the shutting out of all possible external stimulation. The next period of the child's life is the period of omnipotence with the help of magic gestures: i. e., when he can get what he wants by reaching for it, and the nurse recognizing his desires, aids him. But with the increase of his desires goes an increase of conditions which must be met and often the outstretched hand must be drawn back empty. Thus he comes gradually to a painful difference in his experience. He must distinguish, from himself, certain malicious things which will not obey his will, as the outer world, %. e., separate the subjective psychical content (feelings) from objective (sensations). The author calls the first of these stages: Introjection; the second, Projection.

The next stage beyond magic gestures is speech. This is the period of magic thinking and magic words. Speech is one of the bodily means used by the child to express its wants. Conscious thinking by means of words is the highest accomplishment of the psychical apparatus. Just as at first the child thought he could get what he wanted by magic gestures so now he thinks he can get his wants supplied by magic words.

Reality has closer relations to the ego than to the sexuality of a person for two reasons, (1) because the sexuality is less dependent on the external world (it can satisfy itself longer through atitoeroticism), (2) because during the latent period it is suppressed and does not come in contact with reality at all. Autoeroticism and narcissism are the stages of omnipotence in affairs of love. So long as one limits his love to himself he can preserve the illusion of omnipotence in love.

One can suppose that the “wish content” of the neurosis (which

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the symptoms represent as fulfilled) depends on the phase of libido development; while the “mechanism” of the neurosis depends on the stage of the ego development. It is even quite easily thinkable that by the regression of the libido to an earlier stage of development the grade of the sense of reality which has been determined by the fixation time, also again comes to life in the mechanism of the symptoms. Since this earlier manner of testing reality is unrecognizable to the actual “I” of the neurotic, it can without further ado also enter into the service of the repression and be turned to the representation of censored feelings and thought complexes. Hysteria and the compulsion neurosis would be characterized, according to this conception, on the one hand through a regression of the libido to an earlier stage of development (auto-erotic, Œdipus complex), on the other hand in its mechanism a reversion of the sense of reality to the stage of magic gestures (conversion) or of magic thoughts (omnipotence of thought).

In general the development of the sense of reality may be represented as a series of repressions, to which men are compelled, not through spontaneous striving for development, but through necessity, through adaptation—demanding refusal. The first great repression comes necessarily through birth, which takes place without active help, without the purpose of the child. The embryo which would much rather remain longer undisturbed in the mother's body is cruelly forced, however, into the world, and must forget (repress) the pleasure-winning ways of satisfying itself and adapt itself to new conditions.

All the things we would have are found in fairy tales. We are in reality weak, but in the fairy tale our heroes are strong and invincible. We are limited in our activities and knowledge through time and space, but in fairy tales one lives forever, and can be in a hundred places at once, see into the future and know the past. Thus the fairy tale, as an art product, brings back to the adult the lost feeling of omnipotence.

3. Technique of Psychoanalysis.—Freud takes patients only provisionally for 1-2 weeks to rule out dementia praecox (schizophrenia according to Bleuler, paraphrenia according to Freud).

Too long preliminaries before beginning the real analysis has a bad effect. It gives an opportunity for the übertragung to develop uncontrolled by the observation of the psychoanalyst.

It is especially difficult if friendly or social relations exist between the physician and the patient or their families.

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One must regard the distrust of the patient for the treatment as a symptom, not a reason for giving it up.

Important points to consider are time and money.

Each patient should have a definite hour. It should be daily, with the exception of Sundays and holidays. Light cases, or those from a distance, have three days a week.

The question as to how long the treatment should last is unanswerable. One needs a half or a whole year at least, and therefore one should so inform the patient. A treatment broken off before completed is like a surgical operation unfinished. It is natural to desire to shorten an analytical case, but one cannot get rid of this, that, or the other symptom alone. The neurosis possesses the character of an organism. It must be cured as a whole or not at all. The next thing to consider is the question of money. Money is treated very similarly to sexual things, with most cultured people, with the same disputes, prudery or discrimination, therefore the analyst must treat it with the same sincerity he does things in the sexual life. The wise man does not allow large bills to pile up but sends in a monthly statement. The analyst cannot make even by hard work as much as other medical specialists. Free treatment is not often successful. Many resistances grow out of it. With the young woman it is the übertragung, and with the young man the father-complex which interferes. There are occasionally poor patients who can be benefited.

Freud makes it an absolute rule to have the patient lie down on a lounge. His reasons for this are partly historical, and partly because it is easier for the analyst and partly because it helps minimize some of the resistances, especially those against exposure, and the Obertragung.

It is immaterial whether one begins the work with a life history, a history of the illness, or with childhood memories of the patient. One allows the patient to choose the starting point. One says to him, therefore, before I can say anything about you I must know you much better, please tell me all that you know about yourself.

This differs, however, in one essential respect from an ordinary conversation. One says to the patient, while you are seeking different thoughts and memories, you will observe that apparently unimportant thoughts will spring up in your mind, you will say to yourself, this or that does not belong here, or this is quite unimportant, or this is senseless, one does not need to tell that. Do not give in to this critical impulseTell everything that goes through your mind. Regard yourself as a traveller who sits at the window and describe everything you see. Finally, do not forget you have promised with complete candor, and do not hold back anything because it may be unpleasant.

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Patients, who reckon their illness from a certain moment, usually start from the moment of their sickness; others, while not understanding the relation of their illness to their childhood often start with a history of their whole life. One should not expect a systematic recital in any case and should never demand it. Such part of the history will later have to be gone over anew, and only by this repetition will the additions appear which are so important, and yet are unknown to the patient.

There are patients who carefully prepare their story from the first in order to use the time of treatment to the best advantage. This apparent zeal is really resistance. One dissuades the patient from such preparation which is only for the purpose of preventing the exposure of unwished facts. It the patient is sincere in his praiseworthy desire, the resistance will take its share of the intentional preparation and the most valuable material will be concealed. One will soon notice that the patient finds still other methods to avoid a long treatment. He will talk over the case with an intimate friend and tell him all the thoughts he ought to tell the doctor. The case thus has a leak through which the best runs off. One will soon come to the time then when he will advise the patient that the relation is to be only between the patient and his doctor and that all other persons are to be excluded. At later stages of the treatment, as a usual thing, the patient does not seek such confidants.

Patients who wish to keep their treatment secret because their neurosis is a secret, are not hindered. It is on this account that some of the most beautiful cases can not be known. The reason of the patient for his secret is obviously a revelation of his secret history. It one enjoins the patient at the beginning not to make a confidant of any other person he at the same time safeguards himself against many antagonizing influences. Such influences, at the beginning of a case, may be fatal.

If during the analysis it is necessary to resort to internal or other special therapy, it is best to call in a non-analytic colleague. Combination treatment of a patient with a given organic trouble is in most cases impossible.

One will occasionally meet with patients who begin the treatment with the assertion that nothing enters their mind that they can tell, although their whole life and the history of their sickness lies clearly before them. This is a strong resistance, raised to protect the neurosis. The energetic and repeated assurance that there cannot fail to be thoughts and memories of the beginning of their trouble, and that what interferes is only a resistance against the treatment,

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forces the patient finally to a confession, or discovers a part of their complex. Women, whose history contains a sexual aggression, men, with an excessively repressed homosexuality, will preface the analysis with such denials of thoughts.

Like the first resistance, the first symptoms or chance acts of the patient claim an especial interest, and betray a ruling, complex of the neurosis. A brilliant young philosopher, with exquisite esthetic ideas, hurried to pull his belt right before lying down. He proved to be a “koprophile.” A young woman, in the same situation, drew her dress hastily over her exposed ankles. She thus betrayed, what the analysis later proved, her narcissistic pride of her bodily beauty and her inclination towards exhibitionism.

As long as the ideas and expressing them goes along unhindered, one leaves the question of the übertragung alone. One delays handling this most delicate of all procedures until it has become a resistance.

The next question is a principle. When shall we begin to communicate the meaning of the analysis? When is it time to tell of the secret meaning of his ideas, to introduce the patient to the presuppositions and the technical procedure of the analysis? The answer can only come: only when there has been established a rapport, or übertragung. One must condemn the procedure which communicates the translation of his symptoms to the patient as soon as known, or for the sake of a certain triumph, throws the “solution” in his face at the first meeting. It will not be hard for a practical psychoanalyst to perceive clearly from the patient's complaint and his account of his sickness, the concealed wishes. But what a measure of self-conceit and inconsiderateness will be his if after the shortest acquaintance, he discloses to a stranger unfamiliar with psychoanalytic presuppositions, that he clings incestuously to his mother; that he harbors death-wishes against his wife; that he designs to betray his chief, etc. In later stages of the treatment it will be wise to communicate the meaning of his symptoms to the patient just before he is ready to see it himself, so that he has only to take a short step to understand it. It has been often noted that a premature disclosure resulted in a premature end of the treatment, as much on account of the resistances raised as on account of the relief experienced. One will make an objection here: It is then our task to prolong the treatment, and not rather to bring it as quickly as possible to an end? Does not the patient suffer on account of not knowing and not understanding, and is it not a duty to instruct him as soon as the doctor himself knows? The answer to this question leads to a short digression on the meaning

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of knowing and the mechanism of the curative effect of psychoanalysis.

In the beginning of psychoanalytic technique we put the highest value on intellectualistic thought dissociation and scarcely distinguished between the patient's knowing and our knowing. We thought it especially lucky if we could get information from outside sources, i. e., from parents, servants, or the seducer himself, and hurried to tell the patient the news in the sure expectation of thus bringing the neurosis and the treatment to a speedy end. It was very disappointing when the expected result did not come. Not once did the memory of the repressed trauma emerge as a result of the communication and description of it. One must lay the emphasis on the resistance and seek to overcome it.

The strange behavior of a patient which includes a conscious knowing with not-knowing, remains for so-called normal psychology obscure. Psychoanalysis gets over it with no difficulty because it recognizes the unconscious. The described phenomena however are the best known proofs of the conception that psychical processes are topically differentiated. The patient knows only of the repressed experience in his conscious thinking, but this fails to connect it with that place in which, in some way or other, the repressed memory is contained. A change can only take place if the conscious thought process is brought to this place and overcomes the repression resistance. The reason the conscious communication of the repression avails nothing is because it provides no opportunity for the expression of the wished-for action, which would end the symptoms, but becomes itself a resistance.

The Übertragung alone can remove symptoms, but that is no psychoanalysis. The treatment deserves this name only when the Übertragung is used as one means of overcoming the resistance.

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Article Citation

Emerson, L.E. (1914). Internationale Zeitschrift Für Aerztliche Psychoanalyse. Psychoanal. Rev., 1(2):221-229

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