Why You Should Try Psychoanalysis Before You Die. ~ Dr. Claudia Luiz

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I didn’t become a psychoanalyst overnight; after 25 years of practice, I’m still learning how to do it.

Here’s the thing about psychoanalysis: you keep finding things out about yourself that you didn’t know. Or at least, that you hadn’t said out loud before. Either way, you evolve.

And that’s mostly what I want to say about why you should try being in analysis before you die: because it’s a great method for how to stop solving and start evolving. I’m going to tell you what has to happen to evolve, because it’s not something you can just do.

Now, I don’t know if you believe in the unconscious or not, but I do. Thank you, Freud! (Harvard researchers now call it the “adaptive unconscious.”) Simply put, there’s just no way that you can register everything about yourself at one given moment. Like it or not, we’re inexplicable.

And the reason we are so mysterious to ourselves is because that is the nature of how we stay mentally organized. Our mental organization may look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book—all wobbly and shaky—but nonetheless, however foolish and faulty, it keeps us sane.

Psychic structure, and the fact that you are inexplicable, happens for a reason. You may not, for example, want to think about how little you exercise, because you don’t want to remember that you don’t like your body, which you don’t want to remember because, hidden from consciousness, is the idea that if you liked your body, you’d dump your partner, have to go out and find another partner, and possibly have to be alone for the rest of your life because you are so greedy.

The unconscious is a quirky place.

Many thoughts that you have outside the realm of your immediate consciousness are often ridiculous, which is probably why you filtered them out in the first place. I once treated a man who would scream at the top of his lungs every time his wife overcooked the chicken. What he was filtering out was that he was abusive, like his father. Instead, he felt abused by his wife’s chronic, relentless, apparently totally enraging overcooking of the chicken, and that idea kept him feeling sane. We filter things for reasons.

Now, what does it take for a man like that to realize that overcooked chicken is not, after all, reason to start screaming? What does it take for us to be gentle towards ourselves and others?

Enter: psychoanalysis! But wait. Because it isn’t what you think it is. We’ve come a long way since Freud, so hang on to your hat, and I’m going to surprise you with how we evolve in psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalysis today is not a three-times-a-week commitment to talking to the ceiling while someone sleeps behind you, who will wake up only long enough to tell you how f*cked up you are and why. We’ve come a long way, baby!

Freud provided, among six or seven different meta-theories of the mind, something called drive theory. This is a much-overlooked theory that purports that we have two energies, aggressive and libidinal, that, when they work together properly (otherwise known as fusion) make it possible for us to conquer the world.

A person with fell-fused drives has a lot of energy to do good things in a peaceful way. A person whose drives are not fused well is going to be spending too much energy trying not to be aggressive. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, trying not to be aggressive. It leaves you without enough energy left over to become enlightened or de-clutter your closet.

Poor fusion can lead, on the flip side, to being too aggressive without realizing it, leading to getting a smaller inheritance and poor service at the post-office. Whiners and complainers and bitches and assholes would be good examples of people whose drives are not well fused, because they don’t like either themselves or anybody else. You can’t use your aggressive energies, because you don’t like them, and you can’t use your libidinal energies because they are otherwise employed. Which, by the way, happens to all of us, at some point in time or other.

Psychoanalysis with a drive theorist is really going to take you places because when a drive theorist can help you whine, complain or be an asshole in a new way, things change. This is because there are three emotional experiences that can happen in psychoanalysis when you are being yourself, and it is these emotional experiences, and not more (albeit great) ideas, that create shifts in emotional energies.

So it’s emotional experiences that you should search for in psychoanalysis and life to evolve. Like being heard. Deeply understood. Instead of what we usually look for when we talk, which is an attitude adjustment; a quick and easy way of being “fixed.” Emotional experiences strengthen us enough to stumble upon the things we don’t yet know about ourselves.

When you discover what you did not yet know about yourself, change happens magically. I listened to that abusive man rant about his wife for a long time. One thought led to another, and I learned how abused he had been. One day, he stopped abusing his wife. Just like that.

Because I had recognized him, emotionally, which led to him to be able to realize that he was a pretty angry guy. He stopped going into fight or flight when the chicken got overcooked and could see it for what it was: a badly cooked meal, not an affront to his dignity and manhood. Your destiny shifts when emotional experiences open you up to yourself. You attract different energy and you put a different energy out. You are not controlled by unseen emotions: you have choices.

So you have to try psychoanalysis before you die. Evolving really does beat solving because there’s so much more to you than your conscious ability to problem-solve. You probably know that. Because you’ve probably noticed that you can have all the best solutions in the world—from reaching enlightenment to perfectly de-cluttering your closet spaces—and, chances are, you will still be as un-enlightened and prone to clutter as ever.

Just go to your psychoanalyst once a week—that’s all you need these days. Give it at least a couple of years. Hopefully during that time you will complain a lot or, better yet, be a complete asshole. Which is where the power of analysis lies. Because your analyst is going to be the one person in your life who will not react negatively to you. Instead, they will be fascinated when you start to open up about yourself, and want to know more.



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Editor: Travis May

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anonymous Mar 8, 2015 9:05am

If therapy is just once a week for two years, should it not be called psychotherapy, not psychoanalysis?

anonymous Sep 15, 2014 3:31am

Ego-driven individuals are loathe to commit themselves and must be exposed .
We must try to unearth self-knowlledge and try and establish the inner trueth.
Often the problem is one of inner conflict .
The unconscious mind may well be a problem.
We must strive against irrational wishes and primitive drives.
Political chaos and and violent nihilism threaten society .
Freud may be the answer .
This is my experience.

anonymous Sep 15, 2014 3:25am

Have a particular interest in psychoanalysis and find your article vet interesting !

anonymous Sep 8, 2014 3:35pm

Great article! I like the idea of "stop solving – and start evolving". I think I might use that as my therapy slogan 🙂 It gets exactly at why psychodynamic/ psychoanalytic therapy is different from CBT and med management.

anonymous Sep 3, 2014 9:48am

The in-depth knowledge of psychoanalysis offers us an opportunity to speed up our evolution. Buried inner dynamics determine much of our emotional experiences, along with our capacity for self-regulation and even our mental and creative abilities. Our egotism, however, hates to be humbled by recognition of how much vital content, along with inner conflict, is being churned up in our unconscious mind. Shaping our personalities are competing impulses, painful self-doubt, irrational wishes, and primitive drives. The political chaos and violent nihilism now threatening civilization are directly related to this inner chaos and its consequential unevolved consciousness. Ego-driven individuals are loathe to consider this self-knowledge, and they are quick to deride Freud and others who have endeavored to expose it. We must bravely struggle to unearth self-knowledge. Resistance to inner truth can only lead to self-defeat and self-destruction.

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 8:03pm

Thanks Claudia

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 4:39pm

A well done piece of writing for psychoanalysis in the 21st century.

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 7:43am

Thank you for this!! Well said! I was a peer support councilor at the police department (along with wearing a few other police hats, like criminal investigator, patrol division, tactical, etc..). Everyone ought to have a mental health resource. Thank you for what you do.

    anonymous Aug 27, 2014 12:59pm

    Thank you for your response..

anonymous Aug 27, 2014 6:46am

Wonderful! Please do..

anonymous Aug 26, 2014 8:28pm

Two years! To do what?
Freuds psychoanalytic model is so far off reality it should be banned. It causes more trauma than it resolves and for clients already in trauma or carrying serious anxiety or depressive disorders it is dangerous. Unconscious changes its programs in seconds, even PTSD, when it understands it is causing harm. Just chatting about the issues embeds them deeper.
When is someone in government going to wake up that mental health is getting worse, not better? It would be more helpful to talk to a dog, or a tree, or just breath some fresh air than spending 2 years and an enormous amount of money on psychoanalysis.

    anonymous Aug 27, 2014 12:59pm

    I totally agree with you, Gary. It is very dangerous. In the field, I have seen people have breakdowns as a result of treatment. Methods of interpretation can break down a person, as well as "acceptance" and exploring – like rubbing salt in a wound. I think it's very important to talk about these things. I had a patient that was having a breakdown and she was brought to stability by her mother, who walked her in nature and had her look at the trees, the clouds, and the leaves.

    anonymous Aug 27, 2014 3:27pm

    If I may interject a thought here. I'm not expert on psychoanalysis but, I know PTSD well. The escape hatch to survival for me was not sitting with a therapist, although I'm sure that helped. It was when I discovered the ideas that I found in Eckhart Tolle's books. I was in horrible shape till I developed the ability to be present in the literal truth of what exist right now. When I taught myself the physical symptom that came seconds before the downward spiral. And when I understood the ideas about how the past and future are so heavily conceptualized. Now, when I feel it coming I can stop and draw myself into the reality of this exact moment and have some room to breathe. The question for me was/is: "what the hell does Me/I mean?" I find that it can be so laden with past/future concept that it can easily go to crazy places and there is no thinking my way out of it. Thinking is the problem. I really appreciate everything that mental health workers do. There's a lot of people who need help but, won't reach out for it.

      anonymous Aug 28, 2014 2:00pm

      Thank you Idrathernot – focusing on your feelings is not good for PTSD. Finding balance is! There is a time and place for contemplation and inner work, and for searching for the hidden dimensions of our psyche…

      anonymous Oct 6, 2014 10:52am

      That sounds a lot like the mindfulness based therapies.

anonymous Aug 26, 2014 12:35pm

A-m-a-z-i-n-g. I've been seeing my psychotherapist for a long time but have only just now "seen" this, with your help. Thank you, can I forward this article to her, please?

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Dr. Claudia Luiz

Dr. Claudia Luiz is the award winning writer and author of The Making of a Psychoanalyst. She is being called “a new voice in America for how change really happens.” Follow her on her websiteFacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.