Black and white photograph of seven mature and older men in suits, sitting and standing
Seated (left to right): Sigmund Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, Hans Sachs. Standing (left to right): Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones. 1922. © Alamy

A History and Lexicon of Psychoanalysis to 1935

An overview to accompany the historical fiction serial novel “Secrets of the Velvet Trap,” published by Tantalizing Tales.

10 min readFeb 28, 2024

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The following provides a general background on psychoanalysis in 1935. The information focuses on aspects of interest for the serial novel Secrets of the Velvet Trap.

SERIES LINK | READER’S GUIDE | PSYCHOANALYSIS

Ancient philosophers pondered the nature of the mind, offering theories on rationality, emotion, and ethical behavior. Medieval physicians continued a belief that imbalances in the body’s four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile) controlled the mind. By the Enlightenment, medical approaches to understanding the mind incorporated observational and anatomical studies.

Introduced by Dr. Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century, psychoanalysis revolutionized the understanding of the mind by proposing that unconscious processes, psychosexual development, and repressed desires played significant roles in mental health. This marked a paradigm shift by emphasizing internal psychological processes over purely physiological or philosophical explanations.

Freud had invented a novel approach to understanding the mind, and his theories and methods of treatment laid the groundwork for a new discipline that would profoundly influence psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy, as well as literature, art, cultural studies, and public discourse.

Psychoanalysis aimed to bring unconscious conflicts into consciousness to understand and resolve them, and thereby lead to symptom relief. Techniques included free association, dream analysis, and the interpretation of slips of the tongue.

The setting for a psychoanalytic session was a quiet, private office designed to put the patient (also called the analysand) at ease. The patient would lie on a couch, facing away from the analyst. The analyst sat in a chair positioned behind the head of the couch, taking notes. The analyst remained a neutral, opaque figure. Sessions were four to five times a week and could continue for years.

In addition to theoretical courses and supervised clinical work, psychoanalysts underwent a personal analysis. This process, often referred to as training analysis, was considered crucial for several reasons: it was meant to ensure that analysts had resolved major issues to prevent these from interfering with their clinical work, to deepen their understanding of theory through personal experience, and to help them develop the necessary empathic skills to effectively engage with patients.

Training committees within psychoanalytic institutes assessed the progress and suitability of candidates for practice. This system of self-regulation was not without its critics. Debates existed over the pressure for conformity to specific doctrines, the power dynamics between analysts and trainees, and the overall effectiveness of such an intensive approach. Rarely did a trainee contravene the theoretical approach of his own analyst.

The establishment of institutions helped to solidify the movement and facilitate its international growth. The International Psychoanalytical Association, founded in 1910, played a crucial role in this expansion. The community disseminated ideas through new journals, conferences, and training institutes across Europe and America

By 1935, psychoanalysis was undergoing a period of diversification and expansion, laying the foundation for what could be considered the second generation. This generation started to explore new areas and introduce concepts that expanded on or diverged from Freud’s original theories.

Freudian-themed modern internet memes.

The Seduction Theory

Sigmund Freud’s seduction theory proposed that neuroses were the direct result of sexual abuse in childhood. Freud later believed most memories of trauma were fantasies or unconscious desires rather than literal, historical events. The move away from the seduction theory allowed a deeper exploration into the unconscious and further development of dynamic forces.

This shift marked the transition from a theory that emphasized external events (seduction or trauma) as the direct cause of neurosis, to one that emphasized intrapsychic processing. This was a critical moment that would define psychoanalytic thought for decades to come.

Sándor Ferenczi was a close colleague and analysand of Freud. Nevertheless, when Freud changed his thoughts on childhood sexual trauma, Ferenczi maintained a strong belief that neuroses often arose from literal, historical events.

After he presented his seminal paper, Confusion of Tongues Between Adults and the Child — The Language of Tenderness and of Passion, in 1932, he was ostracized. Publishers released the paper in German in 1933, but efforts to suppress its radical challenge kept it from the English-speaking world until 1949.

In addition to his beliefs on trauma, Ferenczi also challenged the orthodox view on countertransference (the therapist’s unconscious emotional reactions to the patient). Freud believed countertransference should be minimized or eliminated, and his approach emphasized the analyst’s detachment and interpretation of the patient’s transference (the patient’s unconscious feelings toward important people in their past projected onto the analyst) as the primary therapeutic action.

In contrast, Ferenczi emphasized a mutual emotional exchange in analysis and the importance of countertransference. His use of countertransference included a more active, empathic engagement with the patient, including expressions of care, affection, and even physical contact. He posited that such approaches could recreate a nurturing environment that many patients lacked in their development.

Although highly controversial at the time, his ideas led to later developments in relational psychoanalysis, corrective emotional experience, and trauma theory.

Ernest Jones was instrumental in establishing psychoanalysis in Britain and promoting it internationally. Although a staunch advocate of Freudian ideas, Jones was analyzed by Ferenczi. He sought to develop a theory of primary female sexuality that went beyond the emphasis on the phallic stage and penis envy and the Oedipus complex. His theory predated later emphasis on pre-Oedipal stages.

Melanie Klein challenged Freud’s focus on psychosexual development stemming from biological drives that envisioned female sexuality as a pathologized deviation from a primary male sexuality. She argued that anxiety and emotional experiences, not just biological drives, play a significant role in the development of the psyche.

Psychoanalysis in Chicago

The introduction of psychoanalysis to Chicago followed on Sigmund Freud’s visit to the United States in 1909, where he delivered a series of lectures at Clark University.

Chicago Psychoanalytic Society was founded in 1931. It served as a professional organization for psychoanalysts in the Chicago area, providing a forum for discussion, presentation of work, and the promotion of ideas and education.

The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis was founded in 1932. Its establishment marked a significant development in education and training in the United States. The Institute provided formal training, including both theoretical education and clinical training. Beyond training, the Institute also engaged in research and the provision of psychoanalytic therapy services to the community.

Franz Alexander was the most prominent figure in early Chicago psychoanalysis. He moved to Chicago in 1930 and became the first director of the Institute in 1932. He was a Hungarian who had trained under Ferenczi in Budapest. Alexander made significant contributions to theory and therapy in the areas of psychosomatic medicine and the corrective emotional experience, and he experimented with different therapeutic processes.

The Great Depression (1929–1939) provided a backdrop against which Chicago psychoanalysts examined the impact of economic hardship on mental health. The period also saw the beginning of a uniquely American contribution, marked by a greater emphasis on the interplay between individual psychology and social conditions.

Lexicon

Anal Stage (1–3 years): Centers on the pleasure associated with bowel and bladder control, highlighting a child’s early struggle with authority and autonomy.

Analysand: The patient in psychoanalysis.

Analytic Session: The meeting between psychoanalyst and patient, typically lasting for a set time and occurring regularly.

Anxiety: A feeling of dread or apprehension often related to repressed thoughts or experiences surfacing to the conscious mind.

Conscious: The part of the mind that includes everything within an individual’s awareness.

Corrective Emotional Experience: A therapeutic process where individuals confront and rework past negative emotions within a safe and supportive environment to promote healing and growth. (Properly defined in the 1940s.)

Countertransference: The reactions of the psychoanalyst towards the patient, influenced by the analyst’s own unconscious feelings and past experiences.

Defense Mechanisms: Unconscious psychological strategies to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Common examples include repression, denial, and projection.

Denial: A defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality.

Displacement: A defense mechanism where emotional impulses are redirected from a real object to a safer substitute to avoid confrontation or anxiety.

Dream Analysis: The technique of interpreting dreams as manifestations of unconscious desires and conflicts.

Fetishism: A form of sexual deviance involving erotic attachment to an inanimate object or an unusual part of the body. (“A detail that keeps unconscious an entire history of infantile sexuality.” Hans Sachs, 1923)

Fixation: A persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage, due to unresolved conflicts, leading to adult personality characteristics reflecting this stage.

Free Association: The technique in which the patient says whatever comes to mind without censorship or filtering. This process helps reveal unconscious thoughts and feelings.

Genital Stage (puberty onwards): Marks the resurgence of sexual interests and the establishment of mature sexual relationships, with a focus on genital gratification and the capacity for love.

Id, Ego, Superego: The three parts of the psychic apparatus defined by Freud. The id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual desires; the ego is the organized, realistic part; and the superego plays the critical and moralizing role.

Identification: A conscious or semi-conscious emulation of another’s role or characteristics as a way of coping or belonging, serving in the formation of identity and ego, involving a deliberate aspect of choosing whom to emulate, with an outcome observed in social behavior and personality development that reflects a broader and more integrated sense of self.

Introjection: An unconscious assimilation of others’ attributes into one’s own psyche, serving as a defense mechanism aimed at managing psychological distress or anxiety by internalizing aspects of others, with an outcome that leads to internal conflicts or issues if the internalized attitudes or values are at odds with one’s own beliefs or desires.

Latency Stage (6-puberty): A period of relative calm where psychosexual development is paused, and children focus on social interactions and developing skills and friendships.

Libido: The psychic energy derived from the sexual instincts that acts as a driving force behind a broad range of human behaviors, such as the driving force behind creativity, intellectual pursuits, and emotional connections, the love between parents and children and friends. Libido also expresses itself through aggressive behaviors, as part of the struggle for survival and dominance, and the formation of defense mechanisms.

Neurosis: A term for a class of mental disorders involving chronic distress but neither delusions nor hallucinations, thereby distinguishing it from psychosis.

Oedipus Complex: A child’s unconscious sexual desire for the opposite-sex parent and jealousy toward the same-sex parent, creating a triangular dynamic. Occurring from 3–6 years old.

Oral Stage (0–1 year): Focuses on pleasure derived from oral activities such as sucking and biting, reflecting an infant’s initial interaction with the world.

Penis Envy: The envy a female child feels towards males upon realizing she lacks a penis, leading to feelings of inferiority and a desire for the male genitalia as a symbol of power and privilege.

Phallic Stage (3–6 years): Characterized by a child’s discovery of their genitals and the beginnings of the Oedipus complex, where the child develops unconscious desires for the opposite-sex parent.

Pre-Oedipal Phase: The early period of a child’s psychosexual development, characterized by primary attachment to the mother and the formation of fundamental psychic structures before the emergence of the Oedipus complex. Occurring from 0–3 years old.

Primary Male Sexuality: The Oedipus complex, which focuses on castration anxiety and penis envy, and places female sexuality as merely a distortion of male development.

Projection: A defense mechanism in which individuals attribute their own unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and motives to another person.

Psychoanalysis: A therapeutic approach and theory of personality developed by Sigmund Freud, focusing on unconscious processes as they are manifested in a person’s behavior.

Psychosexual Development: The theory that children pass through five stages of development (oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital) that shape their personalities and behaviors.

Psychosomatic Medicine: Posits that repressed emotional conflicts can manifest as physical symptoms and diseases, emphasizing the interrelation between the mind and body in the development and treatment of illnesses.

Reaction Formation: A defense mechanism where an individual unconsciously expresses feelings, thoughts, or behaviors that are opposite to their actual, often unacceptable, desires or emotions.

Regression: A return to earlier stages of development in response to stress or conflict, exhibiting behaviors characteristic of those stages.

Repression: The mechanism by which unacceptable desires or memories are excluded from conscious thought and left to operate in the unconscious.

Resistance: The patient’s unconscious defense mechanisms that block the progress of therapy, often manifesting as reluctance to discuss certain topics.

Sadism, Masochism: Inherent aspects of the human libido, initially expressed in an infantile form, that normal development integrates and sublimates into socially acceptable behaviors.

Sadomasochism: A complex psychological dynamic that involves deriving pleasure from experiencing pain (masochism) and inflicting pain (sadism).

Seduction Theory: Suggested that neuroses were the result of sexual abuse during childhood.

Slips of the Tongue (Parapraxes): Unintentional errors in speech where a word is mistakenly substituted for another, often revealing underlying thoughts, feelings, or conflicts.

Sublimation: A defense mechanism that channels potentially maladaptive feelings or impulses into socially acceptable or culturally productive activities.

Symbolization: The process by which unconscious desires or thoughts are transformed into elements that stand in for and disguise the true underlying wishes or conflicts, not only in dreams through images and scenarios that disguise their true meaning, but also in behaviors, where actions and symptoms can symbolically express and fulfill repressed wishes or conflicts.

Transference: The patient’s unconscious feelings toward important people in their past projected onto the analyst.

Unconscious: The part of the mind that contains thoughts, memories, and desires that are outside of conscious awareness but still influence behaviors and emotions.

SERIAL NOVEL | Secrets of the Velvet Trap - Historical Drama

7 stories
Four digital paintings that served as covers for the first four chapters of the novel Secrets of the Velvet Trap. The paintings show the characters Dr. Eleanor Wentworth, Eddie, Vivian, and Dr. Victor Stahl

SERIAL STORY | Tales from the Velvet Trap - Historical Pulp

6 stories
A woman wearing a tuxedo stares at the viewer, a crowd of club patrons in the background, warm palette
Two women intimate on a couch in a cozy home, the brunette wearing a tuxedo, the blonde in a dress, circa 1929
Woman in a tuxedo with two fashionably dressed women in a dark, 1920’s speakeasy

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