“The hysterical attack corresponds to a memory from a patient’s life.”Sigmund Freud

Early in Sigmund Freud’s studies he adopted Joseph Breurs’s cathartic procedure more commonly referred to as hypnotism. Freud depended on the method of hypnotism to resurrect another state of consciousness in which the spontaneous production of phantasies would reveal facts hidden from the consciousness (Van Reterghem, 1915). Breur based his technique of hypnotism on the fact that the symptoms of his patients were based on traumata. Which are traumatic experiences in their lives that have been repressed. He later conceptualized that with the application of a cathartic procedure being under a state of hypnosis would allow the patient to attain another state of consciousness that would allow one to relive the impressed experiences leading to the recollection of an experience (Brill, 1917) However, Freud felt when one is in a state of hypnosis “. . . many could not be brought into the desired deep degree of provoked sleep” (Van Renterghem, 1915). Thus, Freud rejected the technique of hypnosis and replaced it with the technique of free association. Freud’s concept of free association is similar to Breur’s spontaneous phantasies in that feelings or emotions associated with an element of a dream are embedded in the unconscious.

Freud aimed to perfect psychoanalysis, thus he had a great appreciation for all forms of verbal treatment including hypnotism. During the earlier period of Freud’s studies he applied hypnotic suggestion. When hypnotic suggestion is used as a method of treatment, the patient is introduced with a new idea from the outside to replace the morose idea which provides the immediate destruction of the troublesome symptom (Van Renterghem, 1915). Hypnotic suggestions works to induce sleep, still pain, silence fear, and abolition functional disturbances. Therefore, it should be applied only when a quick comprehension is desired. Otherwise, the application of psychoanalysis should be used to eliminate the troublesome idea in its entirety. Freud felt psychoanalysis is “what we need if we wish to attain the radical cure of psychoneurosis, as far as we can ever speak of a radical cure” (Van Renterghem 1915). Psychoanalysis targets the root of the trouble that underlies the threshold of the consciousness with an aim of a fundamental cure. Lines of the famous playwright  Joost van den Vondel appear tailored to the beliefs held by Sigmund Freud.

“The physician must not only know how high the pulse has mounted, and where the sickness lies, which makes him groan with pain, but he must see the cause, from where the great weakness of this sickness came.”

Ultimately, hypnosis has laid the foundation upon which Freud paved his royal road to the unconscious mind into his influential dream theory.

By: Ellen Higinbotham

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