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Freud, Free Association, and Hypnotherapy

Sigismund (subsequently shortened to Sigmund in 1877) Schlomo Freud (1856 - 1939), was the Austrian physician, neurologist, and founder of psychoanalysis. His family called him Sigi. He was the first-born of eight. His mother was his father?s third wife. She was about twenty years younger than his father. He had two half-brothers that were close in age to his mother, which may have fueled some of his Oedipus Complex theories. This theory contends that all little boys are instinctually driven to want to have sex with their mothers and that they want to kill their fathers to get them out of the way. His other theory, the Castration Complex, is the fear on the part of the little boys that when their fathers find out their desires, they will cut off their sons? penises. At eight years old, he started reading Shakespeare.

In 1885, Freud moved to Paris so that he could study the work of the famous neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere. Charcot, was helping the blind and paralyzed to see and walk again. He worked with patients who had no physiological defects and so he assumed their maladies were a dysfunction of their brain. He freed his patients from their handicaps through the use of hypnosis.

The next year, in 1886, Freud married and set up a private practice for himself in Vienna. One of his tools for the treatment of his patients was hypnosis, wherein he would guide the patient to recall and revisit repressed memories. He called his style of hypnotherapy the Cathartic Method. When the medical authorities caught wind that he was practicing the unorthodox techniques of Charcot, they threatened to deny recognition of his working on finding the origin of neurosis. Freud stopped supporting Charcot and publicly stated that hypnosis was too fallible to rely upon and that his patients could just as effectively recall key memories consciously.

Freud named one of his memory gathering techniques free association in 1896. He offered his patient a word, who in return would respond with whatever thought came into his mind, no matter how threatening or embarrassing. It was assumed at the time that all memories are arranged in a single associative network and that the key memories would pop up eventually with continued probing.

By 1910, Freud had gained international recognition. Freud discovered that he had cancer of the mouth and jaw in 1923. He braved 33 surgeries that we might find barbaric and continued to work until he died at 83 years old. Despite the cancer, he never stopped smoking his beloved cigars.

You can employ the same free association principles of Freud in these exercises. I have laid out the five steps to follow.

1. Ask your client to write down what he wants. It should be in the form of a simple sentence, i.e., "I want to be rich," or "I want to be happy," or "I want to be thin."

2. Sit facing your client squarely. Look him directly in the eyes and ask, "What is another word for the word I?" Allow the response and ask again, "Another word for I?"

Continue to ask and allow responses until you see or sense evidence that the client has entered fight or flight, i.e., breathing changes, swallowing, eyelid flutter, movement of hands or feet. If there is a long hesitation after your question, ask your question again.

3. When you know that the client has gone into fight or flight, take the next answer for that word and move onto the next word in the original sentence that the client made up.

Continue with all of the words of the original sentence until you have key words for each.

4. Write the key words down on a piece of paper for the client to look at. When you have finished with all of the words, give the paper to the client and allow him to form a sentence using all of the words. He can add words, change tenses, and change the sequence, but he cannot delete any of the words.

5. After the client has created a sentence, he should give the paper back to you. Ask the client to close his eyes and allow his imagination to create an image in response to the sentence as you read it back.

6. After the client has described the image that he has received, tap the center of his forehead lightly a few times and suggest that he will now understand the best direction to pursue in hypnotherapy and wait for his answer.

Tapping the center of the forehead causes an automatic overload to the limbic system because you are stimulating the nerve network there.

Your client will tell you a response directly from his subconscious mind about what you need to do in hypnotherapy to enable him to fulfill his need or he will give you an indication of what the real issue is that needs to be addressed in future sessions.

 

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