Following on from yesterday’s post is an equally fascinating interview with behavioural neuroscientist and psychoanalyst Dr Maggie Zellner. It’s a conversation under the title: “On the Couch in a brain scanner! Putting the neuro back into Freud”
“Putting the ego, id and subjective self back into the brain sciences, and vice versa. That's the ambitious quest of neuropsychoanalysis…”
I wish the conversation had been longer.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…One of the things that psychoanalysis uses is looking at the feelings and the ideas and the expectations that the patient is having in relationship to the analyst, and that's what we call transference. And the idea being that we have expectations, we call them templates, that get formed in childhood and when we encounter significant people, especially like in a therapy situation where you're dependent on the person -- you may think of them as an authority figure and so on -- it's very easy for those childhood templates to get activated. And so that's one of the things that we wanted to work on in psychoanalysis, is sort of looking at the patterns of behaviour, the expectations, kind of what I as a patient am inhibiting within myself and so on. And that can come out very effectively in analytic treatment where you're seeing a person more often and are really encouraged to literally talk about whatever comes to mind…
…Natasha Mitchell [interviewer]: It's a psychodynamic approach - what's the dynamic in psychodynamic?
Maggie Zellner: We have the idea that we have different agencies in our mind. That we have on the one hand we have very primal impulses and wishes to have relationships, to be successful, to maybe even be aggressive, to be competitive, and that those primal energies we can roughly think of in terms of the id that Freud talked about. Then we have another set of functions that have to do with negotiating between our internal impulses and wishes and the realities of the outside world and that we can think of broadly speaking as our ego functions. So our ego is involved with perceiving what's out there in reality, registering what our needs are, what our fears are, and so on, and making decisions about how we're going to go about a given experience. And then we can think of the super ego as the collection of rules about behaviour, what we allow ourselves to do, what we prohibit ourselves from doing and sometimes what we impel ourselves, or push ourselves to do…
Natasha Mitchell: In some sense that's our moral mind I imagine?
Maggie Zellner: From a psychoanalytic point of view we would say that oftentimes those components of the mind are interacting with each other. Sometimes they are in conflict with each other. Furthermore each realm the id, the ego, the super ego could have competing impulses or rules within them so that we have the idea that we have a very dynamic inner world that then comes out in behaviour. Some of our inner world we have access to consciously, so the idea in terms of psychoanalytic treatment is that oftentimes people are stuck in a certain pattern of behaviour and they may think that they're doing it for such and such a reason but if they engage in a deep process of psychoanalysis they can really come to understand that their certain fears and certain wishes that were really driving that behaviour, that once that can become accessible to consciousness then you have an ability to make different decisions.
Another aspect of the dynamic process is that if you're carrying sort of a reservoir of unprocessed fear or anger at a certain person that you consciously, or your super ego says you shouldn't be angry, that's bad, but the anger is still in there in your inner world, it's going to get expressed in other ways. Maybe you'll then procrastinate or you'll act out with a boss or something like that. So that's another level of the dynamic aspect of psychotherapy…”
You’ll find the podcast here.