Wednesday, June 6, 2018


Sigmund Freud
Psychoanalysis was established by Sigmund Freud, in 1895. While examining his patients, as a neurologist, Freud realized that many of his patients had neurological symptoms without any organic cause. He came to the conclusion that such symptoms result from inner conflicts that are repressed in the form of traumatic memories and experiences. Resolving those inner conflicts by uncovering the repressed memories into the conscious mind then became the underlying feature of psychoanalysis.
As psychoanalysis evolved, it began to gain popularity but at the same time faced criticisms. Freud’s associates like Alfred Adler and Carl Jung parted ways from him due to their disagreements and developed their own forms of psychoanalysis, keeping some of the basic elements the same. Like Adler and Jung, others had different perspectives about psychoanalysis, which became more prominent after the death of Sigmund Freud in 1939.
Despite the many modifications, over the years, classical Freudian psychoanalysis continued to have wide acceptance. It was found to be highly applicable in therapeutic settings as well as in day-to-day life. Psychoanalysis received its immediate expression through the needs of the mentally ill. It was, initially, a clinical-based discipline, and was not academically oriented.
It was due to this that psychoanalysis had a dominant role in psychiatry, as it was found suitable to clinical problems. Till the 1960s, psychoanalytic writings found an almost exclusive position in psychiatry and clinical psychology. It was one of the major reasons for the alarming rise of clinical psychology.  
Being clinically oriented, psychoanalysis resulted in huge advances in treatment of mental patients. It was one of the pioneer movements to treat mental patients more humanely. It is, in fact, the first of the five classical schools of psychology to give emphasis to mental illness. It stressed the importance of allowing patients to talk and express themselves. It is, thus, the forerunner of all the current approaches to counselling and psychotherapy.
Sigmund Freud
Even though there has been a decline in the usage of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, psychoanalysis is still considered to be fairly comprehensive. Psychoanalysis has led to the expansion of the domain of psychology. Before psychoanalysis, none of the systems pointed to the importance of studying the relationships among such concepts as the unconscious, infantile experience, and anxiety. Freud’s was, in fact, the first comprehensive theory of personality. Psychoanalysis also created a new way of dealing with mental disorders and revolutionized the conceptions of abnormality.
Psychoanalysis, however, has not restricted itself to mental illness. Apart from the understanding of abnormal behavior, psychoanalysis has also led to an understanding of normal behavior. It addresses both normal and abnormal behavior, and demonstrates that the psychological processes underlying both are fundamentally the same. Psychoanalysis has addressed a wide range of topics, apart from mental illness. It has contributed to ground breaking work on humour, marriage, death, friendship, suicide, creativity, competition, forgetfulness, mistakes, importance of culture, society, and war, and many other domains. Sigmund Freud being one of the most frequently cited authors in the psychology and the Division of Psychoanalysis (Division 39) being the sixth largest of all APA Divisions reflects the huge impact that psychoanalysis has had.
Further, psychoanalysis has helped in the generalization of psychology to other fields. By showing the usefulness of psychology in explaining everyday life phenomena such as religion, sports, politics, art, literature, and philosophy, the relevance of psychology has expanded to almost every sector of human existence. Additionally, it also created substantial interest in the field of psychology among other professionals like physicians and philosophers and even the general audience.
Psychoanalysis has also had an enormous influence on art and literature. This has led to literary and artistic expressions interpreted in light of the unconscious of the artist as well as the perceiver. It is for this reason that art is seen as symbolic, something that can be probed for unconscious meanings. The analysis of art is regarded as an extension of psychoanalysis.
One of the reasons for the popularity of psychoanalysis is that it has a strong influence on popular culture, which began immediately after Sigmund Freud’s visit to Clark University in 1909. Due to the rising of psychoanalysis, the 20th century saw a loosening of sexual restraints in behavior, arts, literature, and entertainment. It has become widely acceptable that inhibitions or repression of sexual impulses can be harmful. The emphasis of psychoanalysis on sex helped to popularize its ideas.
Even though being highly popular and contributing to the field of psychology in a major way, psychoanalysis has faced major criticisms, especially by the philosopher Karl Popper, regarding falsifiability and scientific validity. Popper, considered to be one of the greatest 20th century’s philosopher of science, majorly criticized the methodology used by Freud, which was solely based on clinical case studies and did not adhere to the commitment to the methodology expressed in the systems that were generated by academic research.
In later times, however, there has been a great deal of empirical research on psychoanalytic concepts, trying to give it scientific validity. This research was initiated by Anna Freud, and later carried forward by Heinz Hartmann, George Klein, and Henry Murray. Through their research, they have given empirical evidences of psychoanalytic concepts, which in turn, led to the acceptance of psychoanalysis in mainstream academic psychology.
In more recent times, advances in cognitive psychology and neurosciences have led to findings that are very consistent with Freudian concepts. These findings led a group of cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and psychiatrists began a movement and established a society called Neuro-psychoanalysis, which is an integration of Freudian concepts with neuroscience. This movement is often referred to as the second coming of Sigmund Freud.
The person at the forefront of this movement, known as the originator of Neuro-psychoanalysis, is the neuropsychologist Mark Solms. Along with Solms, neuroscientists like Daniel Schacter and Antonio Damasio argue that Freud’s conceptions of consciousness are corroborated by contemporary neuroscience.   According to Solms, Freudian concepts like the unconscious, repression, and pleasure principles can be supported by neuroscientific research.
Mark Solms
Solms examined patients of brain damage in the light of Freudian concepts. He found that the brain part known as the brain stem is associated with the core conscious also called the state of not being awake. Damage to this region makes the person unconscious. The brain area known as the prefrontal cortex is found to be associated with being aware and the ability to self-reflect. Solms likened these findings in terms of Freud’s unconscious (the part of the mind that consists of memories and emotions beyond awareness) and conscious mind (the part of the mind that consists of memories and emotions within awareness).
Proponents of neuro-psychoanalysis also compare the unconscious to the highly studied phenomenon of cognitive psychology referred to as nonconscious mental processing. These are processes that are implicit and have automaticity. Cognitive psychologists refer to such activities as beyond conscious awareness and intentional control. 
John Bargh
The social-cognitive psychologist John Bargh, on the basis of a number of studies in cognitive psychology on the phenomenon of nonconscious mental processing concluded that 95 percent of human behavior is determined by these implicit and automatic activities. Psychologists clearly mention that nonconscious cognition may not be similar to Freud’s unconscious, but it comes close to it and can be seen consistent with the tip-of-the-iceberg metaphor used by Freud in describing the conscious mind.

Nonconscious cognition may not be exactly the same as the unconscious mind, however, other studies by Solms reflect neuroscientific findings that are similar to specific aspects found in the unconscious.

Sigmund Freud suggested that one of the basic instinctual drives that individuals have is to seek pleasure and immediate gratification, which is guided by one of the structures of personality called the id. Neuroscientific research, by Solms, shows that the pleasure-seeking drives have their neurological origins in two brain structures, namely the brain stem and the limbic system. Further, the neurotransmitter called dopamine is centrally involved in most pleasure seeking behaviors. These findings indicate a neuroscientific basis of the Freudian concept of the id.
Neuroscientific research also identified the brain area of the frontal-limbic system to be associated with inhibition of impulses or impulse regulations. It has been found that when this brain area is damaged, the individual’s id-based pleasure seeking impulses increase.
In other words, basically in Freudian terms, the individual behaves as if the ego is not inhibiting the basic drives and that he/she becomes hostile, highly impulsive, and least concerned about social norms. Solms suggests that injuries to the frontal lobe lead to inability of individuals to stay reality bound and they start interpreting and reacting to events through their wishes or basic drives. This, according to Solms, provides a neuroscientific explanation of Freud’s concepts of id and ego.  
Sigmund Freud’s concept of defense mechanisms, especially repression, has been found to have a neuropsychological basis. According to Freud, in repression the unconscious keeps ideas, feelings, and unpleasant or threatening impulses out of consciousness. Neuroscientific research, by Solms, reports cases that explore the areas of the brain that may be implicated in the use and perseverance of defense mechanisms. A number of cases have demonstrated repression of unpalatable information when damage occurs to the right brain hemisphere and, if this damaged region becomes artificially stimulated, the repression goes away; that is, awareness returns. Additionally, these patients frequently rationalize away unwelcome facts by fabricating stories, which is an indication of demonstrating the Freudian wish-fulfilling defense mechanisms.
Apart from research in cognitive and neuroscience, recent research in social cognition has also given empirical evidences for Freudian concepts, especially the phenomenon of transference. Transference refers to holding mental representations of significant others in memory. According to Freud, transference occurs when childhood fantasies and conflicts associated with a parent or significant other are imposed on the psychoanalyst, during a psychotherapeutic session. This takes place outside conscious awareness.
Freud believed that people hold unconscious prototypes of individuals that determine their relationships with other new individuals that they meet. Transference becomes an important phenomenon as it helps the therapist to understand and uncover the conflicts and fantasies of the individual.
Susan Anderson
Susan Anderson and Adil Saribay have taken this notion and extended it to day-to-day life scenarios, calling it the social-cognitive model of transference, contrasting with the clinical, psychoanalytic phenomenon. According to the social-cognitive model, a significant-other representation gets activated in relation to a new person in similar ways as the transference process, indicating that it is not limited to therapeutic settings, and is not necessarily associated with psychopathology.  
A series of experiments have been conducted by researchers in which they deliberately activate significant-other representations. These researches show that people tend to fill in the blanks about a new person based on the knowledge of a significant-other, when that significant-other representation is triggered. Such researches on the social-cognitive model of transference give experimental evidences for the Freudian phenomenon of transference.
Therefore, contemporary research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and social cognition provide scientific explanations of many of Freudian concepts. These researches have made classical Freudian psychoanalysis relevant in today’s time, not letting it fade away from the realms of psychology.
On one the hand there have been contemporary researches that give evidence for Freudian concepts, and on the other hand there have been a series of recent researches that completely refute Freudian psychoanalysis. Recent research in the areas of memory, consciousness, trauma, and psychotherapy has not just been questioning, but has even provided evidences against phenomena that have shaped the foundation of Freudian psychoanalysis.
The central concept of Freudian psychoanalysis is the phenomenon of repression. Repression refers to the exclusion of painful, traumatic memories or undesirable urges that may have taken place in childhood, from the conscious awareness and pushing them into the unconscious. These lost/repressed memories are said to cause troubles to individuals in adulthood, in the forms of anxiety and other psychological problems. A way to treat these psychological problems, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, is to try to uncover or recover those lost/repressed memories, which is also known as recovered memory therapy.
The idea of treating psychological problems by recovering repressed childhood memories has been a contention of a huge controversy, which originates to the early 1990s, known as the memory wars. Recovered memory therapy has been at the receiving end of heavy criticisms, discrediting the central idea of Freudian psychoanalysis.
Elizabeth Loftus
One of the leading the persons behind these criticisms is the well-known cognitive psychologist and human memory expert, from the University of California, Irvin, Elizabeth Loftus. Loftus has been involved in research in memory for over 20 years. She has a number of books on memory, including, The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse.
The work of Loftus on eyewitness testimony has been groundbreaking. Her research showed that eyewitness testimonies are not always accurate and can easily be manipulated by misinformation, giving rise to false memories. She conducted a series of experiments in which she showed that false memories can be implanted in individuals. Similar mechanisms, according to Loftus, can be applied in recovered memory therapy sessions. She came to this conclusion when she investigated cases of a number of parents claiming to be falsely accused of sexually abusing their children.
A large number of women during recovered memory therapy sessions are able to recall specific details of how they were sexually abused by their parents or a close relative. Psychotherapists claim that they are able to uncover traumatic memories of being sexually abused in childhood, helping them to overcome their psychological problems. Loftus completely discredits the idea of repressed memories being recovered, claiming that memory does not function in this manner.
Loftus argues that the memories that are recovered are not accurate - memories are not like video recordings in which every past thought, emotions, and experiences are stored safely and can be recovered easily. Memories are more of reconstructive in nature. This means that past events that are recalled are not in an accurate manner, but are a blend of fact and fiction. The assumption of therapists that memory works as per the video-recorder model and not the reconstructionist model leads to the creation of false memories – memories of events that do not exist.  
According to Loftus, it is easy to make someone believe something to be true even if it has not occurred, especially in highly suggestible situations like recovered memory psychotherapeutic sessions. The memories that are recovered are mostly false memories. These false memories are implanted, unknowingly, by overzealous or biased therapists.
The individuals after being in multiple of such recovered memory therapy sessions end up believing things that have not even taken place; they actually start believing that they have had traumatic experiences (sexual abuse in the cases investigated by Loftus) in their childhood. In a number of cases, it has been found that people end up believing that they had experienced paranormal activities such as being abducted by aliens.
Strengthening her claims regarding the notions of repression and recovered memories, Loftus also states that the hippocampus, brain area that plays an important in the formation of memories, is not properly developed in early childhood. Due to this it is impossible that accurate memories are stored for a really long time and retrieved in adulthood. The human brain, therefore, according to Loftus, is incapable of recovering accurate memories from early childhood.
Richard McNally
In the same light as Loftus, Harvard psychologist and expert in trauma research, Richard McNally argues that there is no such thing as repression. In a number of his researches he shows that there is no scientific evidence of repression. On the basis of his research, he further suggests that people actually do not forget their traumatic experiences; they in fact very well remember the traumatic events.
Traumatic events due to being highly emotionally arousing are remembered in a better manner rather than being forgotten. A good example of this is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), in which people keep getting flashbacks of their past traumatic experiences.
Further, McNally in his researches found that recovered memories are not genuine; they do not correspond to real events; for instance people being able to recall satanic ritualistic abuse or alien abduction. McNally also found that people recall such instances only after undergoing recovered memory procedures.
McNally like Loftus, argues that memory does not operate like a video recorder and that recollections are always reconstructive in nature. Regarding this he found that false memories of emotionally negative events can be implanted in recovered memory procedures.
These researches by Loftus and McNally create serious doubts and completely refute the phenomenon of repression, which is the central concept of Freudian psychoanalysis. They give clear research evidences that disprove the idea of repression.
John Kihlstrom
In contemporary times, one of the biggest critics of Sigmund Freud is the University of California, Berkeley, psychologist John Kihlstrom. Known for his work on consciousness, Kihlstrom has heavily criticized Freud in many of his writings. Kihlstrom states that Sigmund Freud in contemporary times is irrelevant and his ideas are completely obsolete. He argues that from 1950s onwards, with the rise of cognitive-behavioral therapies and empirical approaches to personality, Freud’s theories can be considered to be archaic.
According to Kihlstrom, Freud’s theory of personality and psychotherapeutic techniques are completely dead as many of his ideas such as the psychosexual stages, Oedipus complex, or childhood origins of adult personality have no empirical evidence. He also argues that there is no empirical evidence that psychoanalytic psychotherapy is more effective than any of the behavioristic and cognitive therapies.
Kihlstrom further states that there is no scientific evidence of the Freudian concepts of the unconscious and repression, which play a central role in Freudian psychoanalysis. He argues that the discovery of cognitive unconscious or nonconscious (mentioned above) and that the concept of automaticity (automatic processes) cannot be considered as evidences of Freudian unconscious.
Automatic processes are unintentional, involuntary, effortless, consume little or no attentional capacity, and take place outside conscious awareness. Processes like implicit memory (any effect of a past event on an individual’s thoughts, actions, and experiences, without any conscious reflection of that event), implicit perception (influence of an event without conscious perception of that event), implicit learning (acquiring of knowledge without conscious awareness of what has been learnt) are included in automatic processes. Such processes have been found to generate conscious mental contents like percepts, memory, feelings, and desires.
These automatic processes are certainly unconscious and play an important role in conscious activities, and have been proven experimentally. But Kihlstrom argues that they cannot be considered as evidence for Freud’s unconscious. The automatic processes, Kihlstrom states are very different from Freud’s unconscious, which is represented by repressed contents like childhood trauma, emotional conflict, and sexual and aggressive urges.
Like Loftus and McNally, Kihlstrom completely discredits the phenomenon of repression. He also states that there is no scientific evidence of repression. He argues that experiments that claim to be evidences of repression do not involve any unconscious processes, and are simply evidences of suppression. As per Kihlstrom, the concept of repression is a clinical myth. Kilhstrom also states that Freud at best can be seen as a historical figure and is relevant only as a writer in the fields of language and literature, but has no relevance in psychology, in contemporary times.
The enormous impact that Sigmund Freud has had is undeniable. However, there is always the question of the relevance of Freudian concepts in the present-day. Advances in cognitive and neurosciences giving rise to the society called Neuro-psychoanalysis led by Mark Solms and research in social cognition by Susan Anderson and associates not only give cognitive and neuroscientific explanations of Freudian concepts, but even widen the scope of Freudian psychoanalysis.

In contrast, contemporary research in memory, trauma, consciousness, and psychotherapy give a different picture. Psychologists like Elizabeth Loftus, Richard McNally, and John Kihlstrom with their research completely discredit and refute the central concepts of Freudian psychoanalysis, suggesting that psychology in the present-day can do away with Sigmund Freud and his ideas.

Monday, August 21, 2017


The beginning of modern psychology is marked by the time when psychology was being established as a science, giving it a separate identity, making it different from philosophy. The major force behind this movement was Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of modern psychology. Wundt had been conceiving his ideas about psychology from the time when he was conducting research in physiology calling it the new science of psychology or simply new psychology.
Wundt believed that the field of psychology should adopt the methods of natural sciences, like physics. He expressed his ideas in his book Contributions to the Theory of Sensory Perception, published in 1858 in which for the first time he used the term experimental psychology. This led to the first formal course of psychology he began in 1862, called Psychology as a Natural Science. He further elaborated his book Principles of Physiological Psychology, published in 1873/74; all of this culminating into Wundt establishing the first ever experimental psychology laboratory at Leipzig, in 1879.
According to Wundt, psychology is the study of the mind, emphasizing on the structure and contents of consciousness, using the method of introspection, in an experimental framework. Wundt’s psychology led to the beginning of the first school of psychology by Edward Titchner, called structuralism, further establishing psychology as an experimental science that uses methods similar to that of the natural sciences.
Even though Wundt’s influence was widespread, there were other individuals who did not agree with Wundtian psychology. These individuals who were contemporaries of Wundt were not part of any common school of thought that rivalled Wundtian psychology. Like Wundt, they also wanted to expand psychology as a science, but collectively disagreed with Wundt in confining psychology to experimentation. These individuals, along with Wundt, were influential in their own way and played a significant role in the development of modern psychology.
One of the most significant persons of this movement was Franz Brentano. Brentano was one of the major early and significant psychologists who had an alternate view of the dominant Wundtian psychology. He was the person who came the closest to Wundt in terms of influence in the 19th century German psychology.
Brentano’s approach was empirical rather than experimental. He believed that the method of psychology should be observation instead of experimentation. He did not outright reject the use of experiments, but felt observation to have a broader scope.
Franz Brentano
The movement started by Brentano came to be known as Act Psychology. He opposed Wundt’s view that psychology should be the study of the structure and content of consciousness. Brentano’s system centered around the idea that interaction between individual and the environment is inseparable. Accordingly, psychological events are defined as phenomena and cannot be reduced to smaller components without losing their identity. In regard to this, Brentano argued that the subject matter of psychology should be mental activity rather than mental content. Brentano’s act psychology, thus, argued against the elementism of Wundtian psychology.
Brentano proposed his perspective in his book Psychologie vom vom empirischen Standpunkt (Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint), published in 1874. He defined psychology as the science of psychic phenomena expressed as acts and processes. He viewed consciousness as a unity in terms of acts, opposing the existing reductionism and elementism.
In redefining the subject matter of psychology in terms of mental acts, and the unity of consciousness, Brentano proposed the method of observation; he preferred an empirical method over experimentation. However, he was not proposing a return to speculative philosophy. He, instead, proposed the method of systematic observation.
Brentano, also, moved towards the development of the method of phenomenology in psychology. According to him, phenomenology is a descriptive method. He believed that the method of phenomenology will be useful in describing psychological acts in a subjective, experiential manner, that is, describing objects in the environment as part of the process of perceiving. This method was further developed by his student Edmund Husserl, who is considered the founder of phenomenological psychology.
Brentano’s Act psychology, later on, played an influential role in the beginning of other movements in psychology. The idea of mental acts in terms of the unity of consciousness being the subject matter was influential in the development of Gestalt psychology. Laying emphasis on subjective experiences helped in the beginning of phenomenological psychology, which eventually also led to the development of the humanistic movement in psychology.
Brentano, therefore, is regarded as the intellectual heir to the Gestalt and phenomenological movements in psychology. Being one of the first persons to oppose experimentation, during the dominance of Wundtian psychology, also makes his perspective being influential for the development of Functionalism.
Brentano had a strong influence on Carl Stumpf, who was a major figure in German psychology and is considered to be one of the greatest rivals of Wundt. The most influential work of Stumpf was Tonpsychogie (Psychology of Tones), published in two volumes, first in 1883 and then in 1890. He had a lifelong interest in the unity of musical experience, making him one of the pioneers of the psychological study of music.
Carl Stumpf
The influence of Brentano on Stumpf is reflected in Stumpf adopting the method of phenomenology. Like Brentano, Stumpf suggested that the primary data for psychology are phenomena. According to him, phenomenology is the analysis of unbiased experience, in the sense that experience just as it occurs. He disagreed with Wundt’s approach of reducing experience into smaller elements. He believed that breaking down experience into smaller components makes it artificial and therefore unnatural.
Stumpf, through his publications, had a heated debate with Wundt concerning the proper description of melodies. He did not agree with Wundt in reducing melody to its smaller sensory elements. He believed in the unity of melody. This view of Stumpf resembled the phenomenological view, later on developed by Edmund Husserl.
Stumpf passed his version of act psychology and phenomenology to his students. Among those students were Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka, who along with Max Wertheimer were two of the founders of the Gestalt movement. The Gestalt movement began in opposition to Wundtian psychology and the structural viewpoint. In this way, Stumpf turned out to be a leading precursor to Gestalt psychology and thus led to the creation of an alternate view to Wundtian psychology in Germany.
The beginning of modern psychology, in terms of establishing psychology as an independent scientific discipline, was largely due to the enormous efforts of Wilhelm Wundt, especially his emphasis on experimentation. At a time when Wundtian psychology was dominant and consistently on the rise, leading to the development of the structural perspective, it was Franz Brentano and, later on, Carl Stumpf who proposed an alternative perspective.
Opposing Wundt’s idea of reducing conscious experience to sensory elements, Brentano and Stumpf proposed the idea of mental acts and phenomena. Their emphasis on the unity of consciousness and subjective experiences led to the beginning of the Gestalt and the phenomenological movements in psychology, making their approach to be highly significant in the development of modern psychology. Their perspectives, thus, can be regarded as very successful.
The perspectives of Brentano and Stumpf indicate that psychology right from an early stage has been a multi-method and multi-perspective discipline. If there was Wundt’s elementism, reductionism, and experimentation, there was also Brentano’s unity of phenomena, subjectivity, and systematic observation. Both viewpoints were significant in their own rights, with respect to modern psychology. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness. It is a trance that is induced by another person, often referred to as a hypnotist. It also involves high levels of suggestibility, which is believed to enable the hypnotist influence voluntary and involuntary behavior in the person who is in the hypnotic state.
There has always been an element of mystery and enigma associated with hypnotism. Hypnosis has often been talked about in ancient myths and folklore, and has been associated with magic spells, which a person uses to control the mind of others. It is this aspect of hypnosis that makes it a part of occultism, which also has made it a matter of skepticism.     
Hypnosis, used in its current form is associated with the Scottish surgeon James Braid. He gave the term neurohypnology and wrote a book on it in 1843. He was also known to be the first person to use the terms hypnotism and hypnotist. Neurohypnology was then shortened to the term hypnosis. Due the significance of Braid in the usage of hypnosis in its current form, he is often considered the first genuine hypnotherapist or the founder of hypnotherapy and the father of modern hypnosis.
Even though Braid is regarded as the first genuine hypnotherapist, the scientific roots of hypnosis can be traced back to the 18th century German physician, Franz Mesmer. He later established himself in Vienna and then in Paris. Mesmer was a strong believer in the theory of animal magnetism. He theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects and called it animal magnetism.
He believed that each individual or any other animate object has an invisible natural force or a magnetic force field. This magnetic force field influences the bodily functioning of the individual. For a healthy person, according to Mesmer, the force field is evenly distributed. But it is unevenly distributed for someone who is unhealthy.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Mesmer believed that he could use magnets (mineral magnetism) to evenly distribute the force field and thus cure the diseases of any person. After successfully using magnets to cure people, he began to use his own hands (animal magnetism) to cure them. Mesmer used to touch the body parts of his patients by magnets or his own hands and in doing so, he would cure his patients.
After being highly successful, Mesmer, in 1788, opened a clinic in Paris. He began to treat patients of hysteria, individually as well as in groups. He used the same techniques that he used in Vienna. His treatment involved patients of hysteria sitting in a darkened room, with soft music playing in the background. Mesmer, being dressed like wizard, then entered the room holding a stick in his hand that had a magnet attached to it. Mesmer used to mostly touch the effected part of the body of his patients by his hands, and sometimes by the stick with a magnet. Miraculously, the hysteria patients used to get cured by this. This led to Mesmer becoming very popular. His method of treatment came to be known as mesmerism.
Even though Mesmer became highly popular and his treatment was very effective, skeptics were not ready to believe him. After investigating the matter, they felt Mesmer’s method was unscientific and the treatment to be a mere imagination. Mesmer was considered to be a fraud and a charlatan, and was banned from practicing his method of treatment. Eventually, Mesmer faded away into obscurity.
Years later, further investigations into mesmerism revealed that instead of animal magnetism, Mesmer actually created a trance-like situation that also involved a lot of suggestibility. The induced trance made the patients of hysteria susceptible to suggestibility, which helped in the patients being cured. What Mesmer believed to be animal magnetism, was actually artificially created trance coupled with suggestibility. Later, modifications in mesmerism were made, eventually being known as hypnosis. Mesmer, thus, came to be known as the first person to use hypnosis, although it was not the kind of hypnosis that began to be used in modern times.
Marquis de Puysegur
One such person who made modifications in mesmerism was Marquis de Puysegur. He was a member of the Society for Harmony, a group that promoted animal magnetism. Puysegur discovered that artificially creating a peaceful, sleep-like scenario could induce trance in people. He named this situation as artificial somnambulism. He found this artificially induced sleep-like situation as an effective therapeutic technique.
Puysegur discovered that during this sleep-like situation, individuals are highly susceptible to suggestions. He found that people would follow instructions such as laughing, crying, or dancing. In the somnambulistic state, due to suggestibility, they believed that they could feel no pain, or they could feel sensation in parts of the body that are paralyzed. He also found that, people did not remember anything during the trance state, after they come out of it. In all, what Puysegur had found is almost what is known about hypnotism in today’s time.
Puysegur modified mesmerism and renamed it as artificial somnambulism, which was almost like the hypnotism practiced in today’s time. However, the person who gave hypnotism credibility and made it acceptable in the mainstream is the Scottish surgeon, James Braid.
James Braid
Braid was initially skeptical about any trance inducing or artificial sleep-like situation. He was highly intrigued by the possibilities, and after extensive investigation, which involved a lot of experimentation, he changed his views. He believed that a trance situation could be created, but not in the ways in which Mesmer used to do it.
Unlike Mesmer, Braid induced trance by asking individuals to focus their attention on illuminated objects like a candle flame or small mirrors that were held at different distances from the face. This prolonged concentration, according to Braid, caused physical exhaustion, which made them susceptible to suggestibility. Any resulting change in behavior was explained by suggestibility, and not by any kind of magnetic field, as was believed by Mesmer.
Braid, thus, gave a proper scientific explanation for the induced trance, which made it acceptable in the field of medicine. A key feature discovered by Braid is that people have greater sensory awareness during the induced trance, for instance a person displaying an extremely high ability in hearing as compared to normal consciousness. He also found that during the trance, autonomic bodily processes can be controlled to a great degree. These findings were important to further establish it in the medical field.
Braid named this induced trance situation as neurypnology (meaning nervous sleep), which was also the title of his book published in the year 1843. In the book he described 25 different cases in which he used neurypnology to treat varied conditions such as pain in the spinal cord, stroke, paralysis, headache, and sensory impairment. He later changed the name from neurypnology to neurohypnology (taken from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep). This was later shortened to hypnosis.
The efforts of Braid made neurohypnology (later named as hypnosis) as a subject of scientific research and a valid clinical technique that can be used for treating various medical conditions. He thus, came to be known as the first genuine hypnotherapist. He defined neurohypnology as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature”.
Auguste-Ambroise Liebault
Braid might have given hypnosis credibility, but it became popular due to the developments that took place in France. The French physician Auguste Ambroise Liebeault was convinced about the effectiveness of hypnosis. Liebeault believed that all mental disorders, especially hysteria, can be treated by hypnosis. Very soon he successfully began treating many patients of hysteria and other disorders by hypnosis.
Liebeault began gaining a lot of popularity and his perspectives gradually began to develop into a school. In 1866, he established the suggestion-centered school of psychotherapy. Because Liebeault practiced near the city of Nancy, France, it came to known as the Nancy School. It was only during this time when the term hypnosis began to be used.
Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim
The Nancy School attracted many scholars and physicians. One of them was the physician Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim. At Nancy, Liebeault had been treating patients of hysteria successfully by simply hypnotizing them and telling them that their symptoms will be gone when they will be awakened. Bernheim was persuaded, and after that both of them began working as a team. Bernheim also became the spokesperson of the Nancy School.
Bernheim believed that everyone was susceptible to suggestibility, and that some are more susceptible than the others. According to Bernheim, the more susceptible to suggestibility the easier it is to hypnotize that person. This susceptibility to suggestibility and hypnosis, later, came to be known as the trait of hypnotiziability. In treating patients successfully with hypnosis, Liebeault and Bernheim together helped establish the idea that hysteria and other mental disorders have psychological causes.
During the same time, the famous French physician and neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot, was also using hypnosis on hysteria patients very successfully. Charcot was working at the La Salpêtrière hospital at Paris. He, however, differed in his views about hysteria and hypnosis. He believed hysteria to be a neurological disorder and hypnosis to be a clinical feature of it. Unlike Liebeault and Berheim, he did not think that everybody can be hypnotized or that hypnosis can be used to treat hysteria and other mental disorders.
Jean-Martin Charcot
Because Charcot believed hypnosis to be a clinical feature of hysteria, he felt that only hysterics can be hypnotized. He believed that hypnosis can be used to induce the symptoms of hysteria on hysterical patients, and thus used hypnosis only as a way of studying hysteria. He never felt of it to be as a treatment of hysteria. He was very efficient in hypnotizing patients, often demonstrating it for students.
The difference in perspective on the causes of hysteria and the usage of hypnosis between Charcot and his school of thought and the Nancy School led to a huge heated debate between the two. This is considered to be one of the earliest academic debates in psychology. Eventually, the Nancy school was triumphant over Charcot. The Nancy School, thus, became an important landmark in firmly establishing hypnosis as a method of treatment of mental disorders.
Even though Braid gave hypnosis scientific credibility and acceptance, and the Nancy school made it widely popular, over the years, hypnosis has always been associated with skepticism, uncertainty, and controversies. The heated debate on the use of hypnosis between Charcot and the Nancy School was just the beginning when it came to controversies associated with hypnosis.
One person who very openly claimed his reservations with hypnosis was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and arguably the most well-known psychologist of the 20th century. Freud, early in his career, realized that many of his patients were actually suffering from hysteria. In 1885, he therefore, went to Charcot to study hypnosis.
After returning to Vienna, Freud found hypnosis to be not very effective. The reasons for this, according to Freud, were that everyone cannot be easily hypnotized, and that individuals deny what they have said or done in the hypnotic state. He also suggested that hypnosis may lead to the emergence of others problems.
The reasons for the ineffectiveness of hypnosis have been corroborated by researches done later on. Specifically, extensive research has been done on Freud’s claims of other problems coming into existence due to hypnosis.
A lot of research has been done on the concept of iatrogenesis. Iatrogensis refers to adverse effects or complications that may occur due to a medical treatment. It has also been found to be caused sometimes by psychotherapy.
A number of clinicians and researchers have claimed that dissociative identity disorder (DID), earlier known as multiple personality disorder is actually an iatrogenic condition. DID is a severe mental disorder in which an individual develops two or more relatively enduring identities or dissociated personalities. These identities occur in the individual alternately (that is why the identities are also referred as alters), displaying completely distinct behavior patterns, in which the individual is unable to recall anything that has taken place during the emergence any one of the alters.
The occurrence of DID has been very rare, which is what made clinicians feel that is an iatrogenic condition rather than a disorder. There has been compelling evidence that DID is caused by suggestion-based psychotherapy such as hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
The trance state during hypnosis makes individuals highly susceptible to suggestibility. In such a state, when the therapist asks some leading questions about another thought process or behavior pattern, it tends to induce DID. Such questions or instructions in a hypnotic state, which involves extremely high suggestibility, lead to the emergence of other alters.
Hypnosis is often used to discover presumed alters. The therapists sometimes try to reify the existence of alternate identities and thus, validating their existence. The patients’ constantly reifying and attending to alternate personalities adventitiously reinforces multiplicity.
Many studies have also shown that hypnotized patients show greater frequencies of alternate personalities as compared to non-hypnotized patients. Additionally, it has been found that therapists using hypnosis are more likely to diagnose patients with DID, which has been regarded to be as consistent with iatrogensis. Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, therefore, has often been found to induce and facilitate the symptoms of DID.
Apart from facilitating the symptoms of DID, hypnosis has also been found to be one of the major causes of false memory syndrome. False memory syndrome is the condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered on the memory of a traumatic event that has not taken place and is objectively false. The person’s life in a way is guided by the memory of an event or events that have never taken place. The false memory is so deeply ingrained in the individual that it orients his/her entire personality and lifestyle, leading to disruption in adaptive behavior.
There have been a number of individuals who have reported of being sexually abused in their childhood, but investigation did not reveal any forensic evidences. Likewise, a lot of people have reported of having paranormal experiences, with further investigation showing that none of such things have ever happened. Despite these events and experiences not taking place in reality, these people strongly believed in the occurrence of these events.
Research shows that some people develop such kinds of strong beliefs after going through hypnotic therapy. Hypnotic therapy involves recovery of lost memories – memories that have been repressed (pushed into the unconscious that is beyond conscious awareness), due to being traumatic. The idea behind this is that once those lost traumatic memories are recovered, they will help the patient to overcome the psychological problems that he/she has been experiencing.
Clinicians claim that this recovery of lost memories during hypnosis is not accurate. Sometimes, inadvertently, the therapist might implant false memories within the patient. The high susceptibility to suggestibility makes the individual under hypnosis believe things that have never occurred in the life of the person.
It has been found that the therapist due to suggestibility leads the person to believe such things. In the hypnotic state the person often says certain things that may be in his/her subconscious; something that he/she might have read somewhere or something that might have occurred with someone else. The therapist reacts based on these responses, and due to high suggestibility influences the person to believe that those events have occurred in his/her life. This then becomes strongly ingrained into the memory of that individual, leading him/her to develop false memory syndrome.
Many of such paranormal experiences like alien abduction, reincarnation, or encountering ghosts have been found to be actually a result of false memory syndrome that has been caused by hypnotic therapy. Therefore, instead of treating an individual from existing problems, hypnosis may actually lead to the development of newer problems like DID and false memory syndrome.
Over the years, despite the contributions of Braid and later the Nancy School in giving it hypnosis scientific validity, it has still not got that credibility. The basic nature of hypnosis has not been able to dissociate it from occultism. Even though it has been used as a clinical method, both in terms of treatment and research, the idea of hypnosis is still strongly associated with the element of mystery and magic.
Apart from being a clinical method, hypnosis, has often been used for entertainment purposes. A trance being induced making a person follow all kinds of instructions draws good viewership. It has become a kind of magic show that people enjoy. Skeptics also have strong doubts about the very reality of hypnosis, often claiming it to be a make-believe act that has no truth in it. All these controversies and skepticism associated with hypnosis has made clinicians and experts not to consider it in mainstream psychology and psychotherapy.
The controversies associated with hypnosis certainly raise questions over its credibility. However, the significance of the discovery of hypnosis cannot be denied. It was the discovery of hypnosis that led to the idea that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The causes of mental disorders are broadly categorized as somatogenic and psychogenic – somatogenic are biological causes and psychogenic are psychological causes.
The origins of the psychogenic causes of mental disorders are linked with Franz Mesmer. It was Mesmer’s method of treatment, mesmerism, which later developed into hypnosis, that for the first time led to the belief that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The significance of hypnosis can be further exemplified in that it was this belief that made it possible to get rid of the superstitions associated with mental disorders, which was that all mental disorders are caused by being possessed by demons and ghosts.
Further, even though hypnosis has been plagued by alleged claims of ineffectiveness in terms of DID and false memory syndrome, in today’s time it has been found to very useful in the treatment of specific problems like anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This shows that hypnosis has not lost all of its credibility and is indeed effective with respect to some specific psychological problems.
Finally, hypnosis not yet completely being accepted as a part of mainstream psychology and still being associated with occultism has added to its intrigue, leading to a lot of curiosity. It has always been a subject of fascination. It may have its skeptics, but its skepticism has only increased its popularity among the masses and has made people wanting to know more about it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


The fifth part of series - Initially Not A Psychologist ...

Granville Stanley Hall

Granville Stanley Hall is regarded as one the most influential psychologists. He is the founder of the American Psychological Association (APA), one of the world’s largest academic bodies of psychology, and helped in establishing psychology as a profession.
Stanley Hall has compiled an outstanding record of firsts in psychology – in 1878, he received the first American doctoral degree in psychology; in 1879, he became the first American to study at Wilhelm Wundt’s laboratory; in 1883, he began the first legitimate psychology research laboratory in the United States; in 1887, he started the first English language journal of psychology (the American Journal of Psychology); in 1892, he organized the American Psychological Association (APA) and became its first president; and he is also known as one of the first applied psychologists.
Even though having such remarkable achievements in the field of psychology, Hall did not actually begin his career in psychology. He, initially, was not a psychologist.
Leading his life in uncertainties, Hall can be said to have begun his proper career as a teacher of English, French, and German literature at Antioch College, Ohio. He also served there as a librarian, choir leader, and preached in the chapel.
Earlier, Hall had joined the Union Theological Seminary, at New York City. He had little interest in being a pastor and left for Germany, where he studied philosophy, theology, physiology, and physics. He also spent a lot of time in theater. Till 1871, at the age of 27, Hall had no proper degree. It was during this time that he got into teaching at Antioch College.
The year 1874, perhaps, can be seen as a turning point in the career of Hall. He read the book, Principles of Physiological Psychology, written by Wilhelm Wundt, which got him interested in psychology. He then took leave from Antioch and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became an English teacher at Harvard. He also began graduate studies and did his research in the medical school. In 1878, he completed his dissertation on space perception, and thus, became the first person to have a doctoral degree in psychology, in the United States.
After receiving his doctoral degree, Hall left for Berlin and then Leipzig, to be Wundt’s student. He studied under Wundt during the first year of the psychology laboratory at Leipzig. Even though he was Wundt’s student, he conducted his own research on physiology, and later had little influence of Wundt on him.
When he returned to USA, from Leipzig, he began to emphasize the application of psychology to education, making him one of the pioneers of the psychology of education or educational psychology. He repeatedly urged the authorities at the National Education Association (NEA), USA, to have the psychological study of children as a major component of teaching.
He then delivered a series of lectures on education at Harvard, which eventually led him to be appointed as professor at John Hopkins University, in 1882. In 1883, he established a laboratory, the first legitimate psychology research laboratory in USA. He called it the laboratory of psychophysiology, where he taught a number of students who went on to become significant contributors in psychology.
In 1887, Hall began the American Journal of Psychology, which is the first English language journal of psychology. In 1892, he invited a dozen of psychologists to plan the establishment of an organization, leading to the formation of the American Psychological Association (APA). He was elected as the president, thus making him the founder and first president of the world’s largest academic body of psychology.
Hall started a number of psychology journals, apart from the American Journal of Psychology. In 1891, he started the Pedagogical Seminary (later renamed as Journal of Genetic Psychology); in 1904, he began the Journal of Religious Psychology; in 1910, he began the Journal of Race Development (later known as the Journal of International Relations, which was later called Foreign Affairs); and in 1915, he started the Journal of Applied Psychology. The American Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Applied Psychology are important publications even today.
Stanley Hall can also be credited, to quite an extent, for the worldwide popularity of psychoanalysis. In 1909, he invited Sigmund Freud to deliver a series of lectures on psychoanalysis, at Clark University. The lectures were very well received, and Sigmund Freud was highly appreciated. This was the first time that the American audience was exposed to psychoanalysis. It helped in making psychoanalysis to be known outside Europe and played an important role in making it being accepted as an academic discipline. This also played a role in the rise of the field of clinical psychology.
In 1924, in the year of his death, Stanley Hall was re-elected as the president of the APA. He is only the second psychologist, apart from William James, to have a second term as the president of APA.
Hall has made a number of significant contributions to the field of psychology. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of educational psychology, and one of the major forerunners of applied psychology. He also emphasized the role of genetics and evolution in psychology. Additionally, he is one of the first users of the survey technique, which is still considered to be an important research method in psychology.
From leading a life full of uncertainties, to becoming a teacher of literature, then developing interest in psychology after reading Wundt's book Principles of Physiological Psychology, and then later founding the American Psychological Association, Granville Stanley Hall made a number of remarkable accomplishments in psychology, and become one of the most renowned psychologists ever.