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Overview

Psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory were created by Sigmund Freud out of his own perceptions of the psychodynamic dimension of human life. As a result of his work, and the work of Margaret Mahler and others, since, we now have a clearer view of how neurosis and other forms of psychopathology keep each person from becoming genuinely whole and free.

As Freud revealed, and as contemporary psychoanalysis now sees with ever-greater clarity, neurosis is the result of a fantasized battle that takes place in each person, outside of consciousness. It occurs in a realm of mind that is something like a virtual reality in which illusory versions of ourselves seek to win over, escape and overpower an illusory version of the primary caretakers of childhood. Unfortunately, as part of neurosis, we mistake the unconscious fantasies that rage in this virtual realm for something real and we project those fantasies onto the world, unconsciously setting up our lives so they resemble the drama inside us. More specifically, we set up our lives so they will be full of limitations, thus keeping ourselves contained within a narrow realm.

What Freud and psychoanalysis never fully appreciated is that we do this, to a significant degree, because the state of being healthy and whole is itself experienced as a mortal danger. People flee from wholeness and health into neurosis and they monitor themselves, once again largely outside of awareness, to make sure they won't stray too far beyond the bounds of neurosis into the dangerous world of psychological health.

This may well be the most essential insight of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory. It may also be the essential dilemma of human existence, since how far we can allow ourselves to go into wholeness and health will determine the kind of life we live and the kind of people we become.

Part One