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Freudian Dictionary

Psychology and Dreams

The psychology of the schools has never been able to say what dreams mean. It has not known what to do with them; if it tried to explain them, it had to become unpsychological, to fall back on sense-stimuli, unequal depth of sleep in the various parts of the brain, etc. But one may say that a psychology which cannot explain dreams is also useless for the elucidation of normal psychical activity, and has no claim to be called a science.[1]

Psychology and the Id

Psychology blocked its own access to the sphere of the Id by holding to an assumption which seems natural, but is in fact untenable; namely, that all psychical acts are conscious, that what is mental is actually distinguished as such by the very fact of being conscious, and that, if unconscious processes do take place in our brains, these do not merit the name of mental acts.[2]


It is important to stress the point that for Freud himself psychoanalysis was a psychology. In 1923 he wrote: "Psychoanalysais is the name (1) of a procedure for the investigation of mental processes which are almost inaccessible in any other way, (2) of a method (based upon that investigation) for the treatment of neurotic disorders and (3) of a collection of psychological information obtained along those lines, which is gradually being accumulated into a new scientific discipline" (1923a, p. 235).

Rarely in his writings did he make any mention of contemporary work in "academic" psychology, however. He sometimes cited authors who wrote in German (Wundt, Hering, and Ehrenfels), French (Binet and Claparède), or English, like Darwin and his cousin Francis Galton, or Stanley Hall, whom he met in 1909 on his voyage to the United States, but such references remain episodic. The two most frequently cited authors are Fechner, from whom he borrowed the principle of constancy in the framework of his energy approach to psychic function, and Pierre Janet, with whom he had a long controversy based both on a conflict of prestige and priority and on a fundamental theoretical divergence: Janet explained hysteria in terms of reduced "psychic tone," whereas Freud saw the effects of conflictual tension in it.

One could therefore consider Freud to be ill informed about work by psychologists in his own time. This would probably be completely false: his interest in memory and perception fits readily into the framework of a "psychology of the faculties," which was still very much present in Project for a Scientific Psychology (1950c [1895]), the main points being reviewed in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a). Over the years, however, his concepts, which were initially strongly influenced by the dominant empiricist associationism of the late nineteenth century, progressively evolved toward a radically different approach to memory and perception that allows for the effects of deferred action and also focuses on the psychoses and delusions (Perron). This provides a new solution to the whole problem of the relations between the "reality of the external world" and "psychic reality," a solution that has nothing in common with the views developed elsewhere in psychology.

We must also bear in mind that while he was still at school it was from a psychologist, albeit an amateur, Herbart, that Freud acquired the fundamental ideas of psychoanalysis, ideas such as repression, the threshold of consciousness, and the unconscious (Andersson)—these were the origins of the topical model of metapsychology. The origins of the economic model can be found in the "energetic" trend that included, among others, Brücke, his mentor, and Fechner. The "dynamic" model is specifically psychoanalytic. There is also what is sometimes referred to as a "fourth point of view," the developmental perspective: case studies analyzing the stages in the development of a given child were very much in vogue in psychology between 1880 and 1930, from Baldwin and Binet to Piaget himself. With the cases of "Little Hans" and the "Wolf Man" Freud fit into this stream of ideas in his own way.

After Freud, what were and what are the influences of psychology on psychoanalysis? And conversely, what are the influences on psychology of psychoanalysis? The asymmetry is patently clear. Although certain psychoanalytic developments are deliberately based on ideas and facts coming from disciplines such as psychiatry, biology, linguistics, sociology, and ethnology, it is not easy to cite analogous importations from psychology or any of its so-called scientific branches (experimental psychology and differential psychology, for example). Perhaps the epistemological (in terms of basic postulates) and methodological gap is such that this type of importation seems unacceptable to psychoanalysts, who dread a "psychologization" that would empty metapsychology of its essential substance. In Europe, at any rate, the opposition to Hartmannian "Ego Psychology" has often been justified in this way. However, psychoanalytic theories on memory, perception, and thought processes would gain by being better informed about the current work of psychologists and neuropsychologists on these questions, and it is regrettable that they are still too often discussed in psychoanalysis in the same terms in which Freud posed them.

This discrepancy could be attributed to the "narcissism of minor differences," the separation between things that are too similar. However, it is obvious that, seen from the reverse point of view, the influences of psychoanalysis on psychology are of major importance, in at least three respects:

   * In terms of theories. Certain research trends have developed in experimental and differential psychology based on hypotheses that have been imported from psychoanalysis (albeit with distortions and simplifications): work on selective forgetting of unpleasant experiences and on aggressive behavior caused by frustration.
   * In terms of techniques. Here we are referring mainly to so-called "projective" and "expressive" trials. It is important to remember that Rorschach, a psychiatrist at the Burghölzli asylum (directed by Bleuler, and where Jung also worked), created his famous ink blot test in the context of psychoanalytic ideas, as they were accepted in that institution around 1920. It is patently obvious that in recent years psychoanalytic theory has had a strong effect on this Rorschach test, as well as so-called thematic tests (Murray's TAT), both in terms of research work and its interpretation in individual clinical practice. As for children's drawings (classified among the "expressive" techniques), it has become commonplace though nevertheless still pertinent to interpret them in psychoanalytic terms, as Françoise Dolto illustrated particularly well.
   * In more general terms, a whole new sector of psychology has developed in a context where many consider psychoanalytic references to be dominant, which creates no small difficulties for the professionals in question (Perron).

In fact, no valid questions concerning the relations between psychology and psychoanalysis can be posed without first asking: which psychology, which psychoanalysis? In both fields questions are being asked concerning the permanently threatened unity of the respective disciplines. There is no doubt very little in common between the "pure" experimental psychologist working on the memorization of meaningless syllables and the clinical psychologist who is trying to understand the dynamics of phobic behavior leading to a total inability to work. In a similar vein, apart from very general principles, there is very little common ground to be found between Jacques Lacan, Heinz Hartmann, Melanie Klein, Heinz Kohut, Wilfred Bion, and numerous others.

Can these gaps between and within each of these disciplines one day be reduced? Such an effort presupposes an analysis of the epistemological bases of each approach, and it seems doubtful that such an analysis would produce any unified theory.


psychology (psychologie)

In his pre-1950 writings, Lacan sees psychoanalysis and psychology as parallel disciplines which can cross-fertilise each other.

Although he is very critical of the conceptual inadequacies of associationist psychology, Lacan argues that psychoanalysis can help to build an 'authentic psychology' free from such errors by providing it with truly scientific concepts such as the imago and the complex.[3]

makes of such comparisons, it is clear that Lacan's discussions of Psychosis are among the most significant and original aspects of his work.

Lacan's most detailed discussion of Psychosis appears in his seminar of 1955-6, entitled simply The Pychoses.

It is here that he expounds what come to be the main tenets of the Lacanian approach to madness.

Psychosis is defined as one of the three clinical Structures, one of which is defmed by the operation of foreclosure.

In this operation, the Name-of-the-Father is not integrated in the Symbolic universe of the psychotic (it is 'foreclosed'), with the result that a hole is left in the Symbolic order.

To speak of a hole in the Symbolic order is not to say that the psychotic does not have an unconscious: on the contrary, in psychosis "the unconscious is present but not functioning."[4]

The psychotic structure thus results from a certain malfunction of the Oedipus complex, a lack in the paternal function; more specifically, in psychosis the paternal function is reduced to the image of the father (the symbolic is reduced to the imaginary).

In Lacanian psychoanalysis it is important to distinguish between Psychosis, which is a clinical structure, and psychotic phenomena such as delusions and hallucinations.

Two conditions are required for psychotic phenomena to emerge: the subject must have a psychotic structure, and the Name-of-the-Father must be "called into Symbolic opposition to the subject."[5]

In the absence of the first condition, no confrontation with the paternal signifier will ever lead to psychotic phenomena; a neurotic can never 'become psychotic."[6]

In the absence of the second condition, the psychotic structure

   will remain latent. It is thus conceivable that a subject may have a psychotic
  structure and yet never develop Delusions or experience hallucinations. When
   both conditions    are fulfilled, the Psychosis is 'triggered off', the latent

Psychosis becomes manifest in hallucinations and/or Delusions.

      Lacan bases his arguments on a detailed reading of the Schreber case (Freud,
   1911c). Daniel Paul Schreber was an Appeal Court judge in Dresden who
   wrote  an account of his paranoid Delusions;         an analysis of these writings
  constitutes Freud's most important contribution to the study of Psychosis.
   Lacan argues that Schreber's Psychosis was triggered off by both his failure
   to produce a child and his election to an important position in the judiciary;
   both of these experiences confronted him with the question of paternity in the
   Real, and thus called the Name-of-the-Father into Symbolic opposition with the


      In the 1970s Lacan reformulates his approach to Psychosis around the notion
   of the BORROMEAN KNOT. The three rings in the knot represent the three orders:
   the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary. While in neurosis these three rings
   are linked together in a particular way, in Psychosis they become disentangled.
   This psychotic dissociation may sometimes however be avoided by a sympto-
   matic formation which acts as a fourth ring holding the other three together
   (see SINTHOME).
      Lacan follows Freud in arguing that while Psychosis is of great interest for

However, from 1950 on, there is a gradual but constant tendency to

dissociate psychoanalysis from psychology. Lacan begins by arguing that

psychology is confined to an understanding of animal psychology (ethol-

ogy): 'The psychological is, if we try to grasp it as firmly as possible, the

ethological, that is the whole of the biological individual's behaviour in

relation to his natural environment' (S3, 7). This is not to say that it cannot

say anything about human beings, for humans are also animals, but that it

 cannot say anything about that which is uniquely human (although at one point

Lacan does state that the theory of the ego and of narcissism 'extend' modern

ethological research; Ec, 472). Thus psychology is reduced to general laws of

behaviour which apply to all animals, including human beings; Lacan rejects

'the doctrine of a discontinuity between animal psychology and human

psychology which is far away from our thought' (Ec, 484). However, Lacan

vigorously rejects the behaviourist theory according to which the same general

laws of behaviour are sufficient to explain all human psychic phenomena. Only

psychoanalysis, which uncovers the linguistic basis of human subjectivity, is

adequate to explain those psychic phenomena which are specifically human.

     In the 1960s the distance between psychoanalysis and psychology is empha-

sised further in Lacan's work. Lacan argues that psychology is essentially a

tool of 'technocratic exploitation' (Ec, 851; see Ec, 832), and that it is

dominated by the illusions of wholeness and synthesiS, NATURE and instinct,

autonomy and self-consciousness (Ec, 832). Psychoanalysis, on the other hand,

subverts these illusions cherished by psychology, and in this sense 'the

Freudian enunciation has nothing to do with psychology' (Sl7, 144). For

example the most cherished illusion of psychology is 'the unity of the

subject' (E, 294), and psychoanalysis subverts this notion by demonstrating

that the subject is irremediably split or 'barred'.

See Also


  1. Template:QLA Ch. 2
  2. Template:QLA Ch. 2
  3. Lacan, Jacques. 1936
  4. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p.208
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p.217
  6. (see S3, 15