Freud: emotions and the past
Although criticisms of Freud are perhaps more known nowadays than his actual work, many of Freud’s ideas are still used in the fundamental core of today’s counselling environment. Freud’s belief that one’s past emotions could cause problems in one’s present was ground-breaking and this concept is accepted by many psychologists today. His idea that mental illness is not (necessarily) due to physiological but psychological reasons, which can be helped by talking openly and honestly about what is on one’s mind, remains accepted today.
The idea of talking freely is still at the heart of psychoanalysis and many counselling therapies in general today with the additional advantage of bringing “hidden” thoughts and feelings from one’s unconscious into one’s conscious. Similarly, many further therapeutic techniques have built upon this concept. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) attempts to help the individual modify their habitual patterns of cognition. These patterns of thinking have usually been learned as a child and although they served well in childhood, are no longer helpful in adulthood. Such patterns of cognition are only accessed through the client becoming consciously aware of their internal thoughts which can then be altered appropriately.
Today’s clients are more aware of the process of counselling from the outset, and are encouraged to talk about their thoughts, feelings and past with an empathetic, genuine, non-judgemental therapist who offers unconditional positive regard (in the case of client centred therapy).
Freud also used “free association” as a “talking freely” technique whereby the client responds to a word by saying what springs to mind in association with it. Freud claimed that this was accessing the unconscious mind. He believed too that unconscious thoughts and feelings slip out verbally from time to time (“Freudian slips”) revealing what one is really thinking and feeling.
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Storr, A. (1989) Freud: A very short introduction, New York, Oxford University Press Inc.