Free association is a technique used in psychoanalysis (and also in psycho dynamic theory) which was originally devised by Sigmund Freud out of the hypnotic method. According to that perspective, all our mind produces has an unconscious root we can reach by means of free association.
How We Can Apply
Lying on a couch (a position imposing a certain state of relaxation), the patient speaks freely of anything that may cross his/her mind, without searching for some specific subject or topic. The flow of his/her thoughts is free, and followed with no voluntary intervention. The important thing is that the critical mind does not intervene to censor spontaneous thoughts. We truly have the drive to censure the products of our thinking, starting from various criteria: moral, ethic, narcissistic, cultural, and spiritual. The method of free associations demands us to temporarily give up intellectual censorship and freely speak about any thought.
What is the result of this involuntary talk? Later analysis of thoughts produced by means of the above-mentioned method reveals certain repetitive topics indicative of psychic complexes of emotional charge. These complexes are unconscious. They are autonomously activated by chance verbal associations, and influence conscious psychic life in a frequently dramatic manner. The task of psychoanalysis is to bring such complexes to the surface of conscious mind, and integrate them into the patient’s life.
- Example of free associations
Lying on a couch, in dim light and in a peaceful room, the patient produces the following free associations:
I am thinking of the fluffy clouds I seem to see with my very eyes. They are white and pearly. The sky is full of clouds but a few azure patches can still be seen here and there…
Clouds keep changing their shapes. They are fluid because they are condensed water particles…
I am thinking I may have an obsession about this water. The doctor has told me I am dehydrated; there’s not enough water in my body. He suggested I should drink 2-3 liters of water every day. Mineral water or tea!I thought there is a connection between my need to add salt to my food and thirst. My body has found itself a pretext – salty food – to make me drink more water. I have a lot of thoughts about the manifestations of my body, which seem logical and aim at inner balance. Everybody has in fact got an inner physician in oneself. What need is there of an outside doctor then? If you allow yourself lie at the will of your free inclinations, with no assumptions whatsoever, you will have the intuition of making things that may surprise you, nevertheless useful to your body and securing your health and high spirits.
I read somewhere that one can be one’s own doctor… Everybody can be one’s own doctor.
We put a stop here to the flow of our patient’s associations. We may notice these are indirectly related to the relationship with her therapist. Her associations related to the spontaneous medicine of her body lead to the idea that no physician is in fact necessary. The patient thinks the psychoanalyst has in fact no contribution to her well being, that she could very well do without one.
Assessment in Freud’s Theory: Free Association and Dream Analysis
Freud considered the unconscious to be major motivating force in life our child hood conflicts are repressed out of conscious awareness. The goal of Freud’s systems of psychoanalysis was to bring of psychoanalysis was to bring these repressed, fears and thoughts back to the level of consciousness. He developed two methods of assessment:
Free Association and Dream Analysis
Freud’s development of the technique of free association owes much to Josef Brewer. He used the technique with some success and called the process catharsis. After a while, Freud abandoned hypnosis and seeking a technique other than hypnosis for helping a patient recall repressed material. He encouraged the patient to relax and to concentrate on events in the past. The memories were not to be omitted, rearranged or restructured. Freud believed that there was nothing random about information uncovered during free association and that it was not subject to a patient’s conscious choice.
He believed they were significant. Basically resistance is the sign that the treatment is proceeding in the right direction and that the analysis should continue to probe in that area. Part of the psychoanalyst’s task is to break down or overcome resistances so the patients can confront the repressed experience.
Dream analysis is a technique involving the interpretation of dreams to uncover unconscious conflicts. Freud believed that dreams represent, in symbolic form, repressed desires, fears and conflicts. So strongly have feelings been repressed that they can surface only in disguised fashion during sleep. In this technique of dream analysis, Freud distinguished two aspects of dreams: the manifest content, which refers to the actual events in the dream, and the latent content, which is the hidden symbolic meaning of the dream’s events. Over the years, he found consistent symbols in his patient’s dreams, events that signified the same thing for nearly everyone.
Clinical Psychologist Umar Raza