Freud's Converts

Views: 694
Ratings: (0)

This work is an exploration of the relationship between psychotherapy and religion. Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers were chosen for this exposition because both of them were seduced by the high status given to science. Both founders of psychotherapies, they left a legacy which is not that of scientists whom they claimed they were. Both Freud and Rogers had a problematic relationship with religion, and this has had a lasting effect on the work and attitudes of their respective followers. In order to explore effectively this relationship, this work begins with a critical examination of the historical context in which both Freud and Rogers worked, and how in their determination to be scientists both missed the importance of the religious. It continues with an exploration of the effects of this legacy on the work of contemporary psychotherapists.The context in which their followers work relies on a relationship with the founder, which goes beyond that of science, and in addition, each practitioner is influenced by socio-economic circumstances that are particular to them. The resistance from psychotherapists to embrace religion has been complex, although, as it will be illustrated, today there are some who are acknowledging the importance of the spiritual.Psychotherapists have traditionally been considered the custodians of the real and that their clients are the ones suffering from delusions. With respect to their attitudes to religion - not least the spiritual - the positions seem to be reversed.

List price: $25.99

Your Price: $20.79

You Save: 20%

 

9 Slices

Format Buy Remix

1: Science and Status

ePub

In 1993 Time magazine claimed “Freud is dead”1. However, over a decade on the evidence is to the contrary. Attention to Freud by both Freudians and psychodynamic practitioners, if we can use publications about him as a measure of interest, shows little sign of abating. Interest from elsewhere, the media, and his critics in particular, also indicate that interest in him is very much alive, although it is not unusual to find Freud in discussions about God, which is what the article in Time is about. If Freud had been successful in his mission, to have psychoanalysis accepted as science, his work would more often be found on the scientific pages of the popular press and of scientific journals than on those pages where it is most often found in discussions about religion.

As will be discussed below a good deal of criticism about Freud and his psychoanalysis is in relation to the “lack of scientific validity” of his theories and of the attitude of Freud and his followers to him and his work. The attitude is illogical, and ranges from reverential at one end to demonising at the other. Attitudes to Freud and psychoanalysis are rarely balanced and rarely from a perspective which is dispassionate. Perhaps this becomes more understandable when we notice that Freud had an unbalanced view of himself and his work which he modelled effectively. At times his self belief was countered by over whelming self doubt. Such swings in attitude appear normal for the prophet, which is often how Freud has been viewed. He is compared to religious leaders, gurus, comparisons which Freud himself also indulged in.

 

2: The Construction of Freud

ePub

So who is this man who has transcended the bounds of normal criticism? This chapter aims to deconstruct some of the stories about Freud which have become taken for granted, part of psychotherapeutic folklore. When studying a figure such as Freud one faces the challenge of the volume of information and consequently one has to be selective in a process which by definition is exclusive. The result of this is that it is unlikely that anyone will find a definitive Freud. The following, is one version of Freud. He was born on the 6th May 1856. Even this has been disputed with some believing it was March. Renée Gicklhorn is persuasive that May is more likely correct1. It was predicted from the moment of his birth that Sigismund Freud was destined for great things. Sigismund the name on his birth certificate he changed to Sigmund. However, he was known to the family as Schlomo2, an old family name, sometimes translated as Schelomo, a Hebraic version of Solomon from shalom meaning peace3. His mother had pet names for him and called him “her little Sigi” and “her little Blackamoor”4. Although the validity of these has been questioned there is no reason that it has to be either/or: it was probably both and others.

 

3: (i) Freud’s Legacy

ePub

The perpetuation of the many myths of Freud relied on a community which grew up in response to his character and his work. The community began with a small group of friends, colleagues, meeting in his home at Berggasse 19, in central Vienna on a Wednesday evening. The original four members, Stekel, Adler, Kahane and Reitler, who became the first psychoanalysts after Freud, met up to discuss ideas. By 1908 this group had grown too big to continue to meet in Freud’s home and the bigger group was named The Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. However, it continued to expand and move beyond Vienna, and subsequently became known as the Psychoanalytic Movement. Whilst this did not happen overnight it was fairly quickly established as a movement of some significance.

Phyllis Grosskurth, a biographer who falls into the critical camp, illustrates the degree of commitment which was necessary for the development of the movement.1 For example, she notes that not only were there weekly meetings but once “the committee”, a group whom Jones suggested should meet together to make sure that psychoanalysis developed in the way that Freud wanted it to, was established they went on specific trips to discuss the future of psychoanalysis. Of this group we shall hear more below. However, although it was intended as a secret group, many people seemed to know about it. Minutes of their actual meetings add to the correspondence between them and show evidence of their individual commitment both to Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. The fact that it was called a movement at all is significant and there was a great deal of resistance to this term at the time. “Movement” implied a less than scientific group. Ernest Jones argued that movement was appropriate and cited others such as the:

 

(ii) Contemporary Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

ePub

So, where does psychoanalysis and, therefore, subsequent psychodynamic psychotherapy belong? As we shall see, about this there is little consensus.

Those who consider themselves to be serious actors in psychoanalytic affairs continue to disagree about the nature of the psychoanalytic enterprise.105

Although there is no consensus about where psychoanalysis and indeed psychotherapy belong there is consensus about where it does not belong. This gives us a starting point for elimination. The biggest area of resistance within psychoanalysis and psychotherapy is to the metaphysical. With so much disagreement about what psychoanalysis is, it would naturally follow that it would be difficult to locate. To which discipline does it really belong? The majority of psychoanalysts would still claim that it has a place in the sciences. However, the ambiguous nature of the psychoanalytic and psycho-therapeutic enterprise has been, since its conception, and continues to be the subject of debate. Both insiders and outsiders engage in this debate. However, the reason for psychoanalysts’ resistance to the metaphysical stems from Freud, whose criticism of religion is well known. To criticise religion has been part of what it is to be a Freudian. To accommodate religion requires criticism of Freud. Adam Phillips claims:

 

4: (i) The Construction of Carl Rogers:

ePub

As illustrated in the chapter on the construction of Freud biographies, although a useful source of information, are not always consistent. Carl Ransom Rogers (1902–1987) was born on January 8th in the Midwest of America. Some say he was born in the suburb of Oak Park, others that he moved there when he was five. Oak Park was an exclusive area of Chicago but was intentionally kept as a separate area (even voted against becoming part of Chicago). Rogers was aware that his parents wanted to control who their children associated with and Oak Park seemed safe enough. This was not to last and the Rogers family were removed to a farm on which the children would be kept away from associating with people whom his parents deemed the wrong type. Rogers was twelve by the time they moved to the farm which has been described as a hobby for his father who by now was a successful business man. His family may be described as upper middle class. His father with an engineering business, his mother worked in the home. He claimed that his parents were loving, but controlling and called them “masters of subtle emotional control”1. Rogers was very critical of his mother and in particular her strict commitment to a religious life. Drinking alcohol was not part of the Rogers’ family life2, nor did they engage in a great deal of the common entertainment of the time. Rogers described himself as a sickly child but appears to have been quite intelligent and bookish, but claims that because they moved around and he had attended different schools he was prevented from forging meaningful friendships. In his late adolescence and early adult life he developed an ulcer which, significantly, abated when he left the family but was to arise in times of family conflict.

 

(ii) Person-Centred Theories and Practice

ePub

Like Freud, Carl Rogers’ life and practice became committed to atheism and, as noted, his overt rejection of religion has created a legacy full of tension and dissonance for his followers.

Person-centred counselling may be seen as a Protestant reformation of psychoanalytic Catholicism. Rogers and his followers tried to pare away all the hierarchical attitudes, the ritual, and other ways of practice which Rogers regarded as unnecessary accessories. Little did he realise that his movement would suffer the same sort of developmental hiccups which had occurred with Freud and the psychoanalytic movement.

Carl Rogers, the founder of Person-centred counselling, also created a movement which functions as a religion. Like Freud he had rejected his own family’s religious tradition and because of his disapproval of things religious would have been disapproving of the ways in which his approach has been developed. Rogers’ intention was to create something of a diversion, a counter to the traditions of psychology and psychotherapy. This he did by dismissing those things which had been fundamental to psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy. He saw psychotherapy as dependent on things which belonged to a bygone era, things which he thought superfluous—in this he echoed other movements which were anti-tradition. The traditions of psychoanalysis and its immediate descendents belonged to modernity, in so far as they relied on grand narratives and hoped for universals. Rogers excluded those elements which had been the foundation of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. He rejected the importance of the past and was not concerned with the Freudian ideas of denial, repression, or the unconscious and its processes. His choice to ignore, or give credit to, the influence of the past and his intent on stressing the here and now were very different to his psychoanalytic contemporaries. He was not concerned about whether the unconscious existed but whether or not its existence was relevant for the work of the client in their present life. Person-centred practitioners’ concern with the here and now, and not the past, has meant that dreams and other things which psychodynamic practitioners saw, and still see as indicators of unconscious communication, were and still are viewed with contempt. Rogers’ school of thought may be compared to that of Janet and Adler, who believed that an empirical approach to psychotherapy was the way forward. Rogers was the first practitioner to tape his sessions and then transcribe them, a process which is used as justification that what they do is objective and therefore scientific. Although, Rogers was a principal exponent of humanistic psychology between 1960–81 it is important to remember that the foremost experiences in his career were first the church, then psychoanalysis, then behavioural psychology and it was his disenchantment with these which led him to develop his own approach, which he originally named, Client Centred Therapy. In addition he was influenced by other theories popular in America during this period. For example, he had read the works of Alistair Hardy and William James15 on religious experience. His first experiences with encounter groups, which have become synonymous with his name, were when he was a seminarian. The humanistic psychology movement has been distinguished from other branches of psychology because of its American roots: an interesting concept when the roots of most Americans are from else where. Thus the histories upon which the tradition draws must be more diverse than is acknowledged. The ideas cultivated in humanistic psychology were drawn from European philosophies such as existentialism, from which Rogers borrowed the idea of experiencing and being in the world. In addition to this he adopted from phenomenology, the idea of suspending ones judgements/beliefs or “bracketing off”, or epoche, a concept taken from the work of Husserl. Here we can see more evidence of the presence of Europe in his work than is acknowledged.

 

6: Roger’s Legacy

ePub

Below is an exploration of how contemporary person-centred therapists have responded to Rogers. As with Freud, many of Rogers’ followers are thinking people themselves and intent on building on the foundations which Rogers created: the death of the founder gives license for change. As we have noted, Rogers was adamant that the core conditions were necessary and sufficient, and that nothing else was required. Eugene Gendlin, a contemporary of Rogers, dabbled with the notion of adding what he called “focusing”. He believed that this could enable the client to locate feelings which were on “the edge of their awareness”. Brian Thorne also believes that “tenderness” could be added to Rogers’ “Trinity”. At a conference (in the University of Stirling, Scotland, 1990) three years after Rogers’ death in 1987, the followers of Gendlin and his ideas on focusing were gathering strength and confidence and even purists such as Bozarth and Temaner Brodley, who had been vehemently against any additions, were not challenging them in the way that they previously had. Although the tension has not yet been fully resolved between experientialists and purists, it may be that in time the reactions caused by the loss of the founder and the need to hang on to the, albeit illusory, authenticity of the tradition, will abate. The position of top dog in the person-centred tradition has as yet to be established: in the UK Thorne is certainly still a contender. The most recent evidence of this came at the BAPC conference (The University of Strathclyde 1999) where he behaved, and was treated, as if he was the new messiah, father figure of the person-centred approach.

 

7: (i) Post-Secular Psychotherapy

ePub

Religious studies may seem like the least likely area where the much needed rescue package for psychotherapy may be found. However, if religious studies is brave and includes in its repertoire post-secular philosophy there could be a way forward. First, a somewhat reductionist word on the post-secular. Post-secular philosophy cannot be described in a nutshell any more than other philosophies can but it posits the idea of a return to God without church. Given that the problem which psychotherapists have had with religion has been, in the main, institutionalised religion it is possible that without the institutional trappings religion may be more accessible to them. For example, Phillip Blond, an advocate of post-secular philosophy claims:

…these secular minds are only now beginning to perceive that all is not as it should be, that what was promised to them—self liberation through the limitation of the world to human faculties— might after all be a form of self-mutilation.1

Blond sees the world through the eyes of a forward thinking theologian, who has observed the challenges of the secular, and is willing to risk the criticism of institutional religions by offering a further possibility for the already unchurched. He states:

 

8: (ii) Post-Feminist Responses

ePub

It is important to say something of what feminists and post-feminists have brought to the study of religion, as well as to the study of psychotherapy. Their works have shown different means of exploring the unknowable unknown. This is exemplified in Ward’s observations of Cixious:

Cixious is less a theorist and more a practitioner, in her writing, of a religious way of viewing the world. Cixious’s work performs a spirituality. She has written: “When I have finished writing, when I am a hundred and ten, all I will have ever done will have been to attempt a portrait of God. Of The God. Of what escapes us and makes us wonder …I mean our divinity awkward, twisted, throbbing, our own mystery”1.

Cixious distances herself from the feminist model by claiming that she does not want to be part of the existing structures to which feminists aspire. Cixious is therefore allied with post feminism, although it is difficult to be such without acknowledging the role of feminism. Her work could prove crucial to the God work in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. In so far as God is not something which is other, but is the “I”, “our own mystery”. So when Bollas discusses the mystery of things he could embrace Cixious’s notion of “our own mystery” as God. This is a difficult concept to accept if your tradition has never made a place for God in any form other than as a neurosis.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780494630
Isbn
9781780494630
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata