Therapeutic insights and blind spots

7 Jan 2012 |  for counsellors | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

Freud's colourful couch. Freud advocated that the analyst be a blank canvas, but himself would argue with clients, lend them money and gossip about his other patients.

Erich Fromm [1] succinctly lays out the crucial discoveries of Freud, that:

  • "people are largely determined by irrational drives

  • most of these drives are unconscious

  • attempts to bring them to awareness meet with energetic resistance

  • apart from their particular constitutions, peopleís development is largely determined by circumstances operating in childhood

  • unconscious drives can be hinted at from dreams and behaviour

  • conflicts between the conscious and unconscious can lead to neuroses

  • in making these conflicting forces conscious the symptoms tend to disappear and the person tends to experience greater freedom and joy"

Those of you who have had a powerful and effective experience of psychodynamic psychotherapy may recognise that sense of freedom and joy that comes with no longer bottling-up old emotions: it takes a lot of mental energy to keep old emotions under wraps, and when this is freed up, there can be a sense of lightness and energy that comes with no longer having that emotional drain, and the sense of vitality that comes with being reconnected with your heart-life. Where our pain is, is where our heart is, so that to anesthetise ourselves to that pain in various ways is to disconnect us also from that sense of joy, and from the rapture of being alive.

Whereas Freud thought of eros as a primary life-motivating force, Adler thought in terms of striving and success [2]. Both of these feel a little one-sided, and brings to mind Jungís notion of enantiodromia (made-up Greek for running in the opposite direction), that some people have more of one drive and some more of the other, so that if one is too far disposed towards one then there will be a tendency to move towards the other.

In some ways, Freudís own psychological make up reads, from history, as having been more Adlerian than Freudian and perhaps Freud found his conflicts with Adler more difficult to tolerate than the other did, given that Adlerís theories explained their conflict more elegantly than Freudís.

Maybe part of what made Freud uneasy about Adlerís work was that he saw in it his own shadow (to borrow a Jungian term). Freudís own psychoanalysis was self-analysis, and perhaps thereís a warning there, that we should be careful not to choose a therapist with the same blind-spots as ourselves.


1. Fromm, E, (1993) The Dialectic Revision of Psychoanalysis, Sage,

2. Adler, A. (1998) Understanding Life, Hazelden Foundation.

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