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Chapter 1: The Ancestry of Dynamic Psychotherapy (The Discovery of the Unconscious)

The origins of dynamic psychotherapy can be traced back to primitive peoples (medicine men, shamans). While to civilized people, the sight of a medicine man extracting an illness appears to be nonsensical quackery, it is important to understand that these methods were often effective. It is impossible to understand the meaning of this belief or custom without taking into consideration the sociological nature of the community.

There are many accounts of demonic possession in the Western world over the last twenty centuries. But the manifestation of possession and stories of with-hunting gradually disappeared, mostly because of the influence of the Enlightenment, which dispelled belief in the devil – even religious circles gave less importance to him.

But there are other ways in which rudimentary forms of psychotherapy was used. Human beings often feel their lives are dull and uninteresting, and receive no attention from their fellow men, including their families. There are accounts from Madagascar, for example, that show that therapeutic procedures were aimed directly towards the gratification of these frustrated needs.

Primitive healers played a more essential role in his community than the modern physician.

Sigerist writes: “It is an insult to the medicine man to call him the ancestor of the modern physician. He is that, to be sure, but he is much more, namely the ancestor of most of our professions.” 79  He is not only concerned with the welfare of his people (from making rain to providing victory in war); he is often a dreaded wizard, is sometimes the bard who knows of the origin of the world and of the history of his tribe.

One remarkable feature of archaic Eastern cultures was the elaboration of highly developed techniques of mental training, often with psychotherapeutic results, founded on philosophical and religious ideas. Most famous among them is Yoga, a highly elaborated mystical technique.

In the West, techniques of mental training are associated with philosophical schools. In the Greco-Roman era, the practice of philosophy was not merely the acceptance of a doctrine. The Pythagoreans, the Platonists, the Aristotelians, the Stoics, and the Epicureans were not just adherents to philosophical ideas, but members of organized schools called “sects” that imposed on them a specific method of training and a way of life. Each school practices and taught a method of psychic training.

The Pythagoreans, a community bound by strict discipline, followed severe dietary restrictions, exercises in self-control and in memory recall. They studied mathematics, astronomy, and music.

The Platonists searched for truth, which was expected to be a by-product of the conversations between teachers and students.

The Aristotelian school was a research institute of encyclopedic scope. The idea of psychic training was stressed among the Stoics and Epicureans. The Stoics learned to control emotions and practiced written and verbal exercises in meditation and concentration. They chose a topic – for example, death – and the goal was to dissociate it from all established opinions, fears, and memories that are associated with it. Another practice was “consolations” which were written or told to a person in sorrow.

The Epicureans avoided facing evil directs, they evoked past and future joys. They resorted to an intensive memorization of maxims, which they constantly recited either mentally or out loud. These actions undoubtedly exerted psychotherapeutic action in many individuals.

Some think that Stoicism has certain features that can be found in the Adlerian and existentialist schools of today, and that some of the characteristics of Plato’s Academy can be found in the Jungian school, whereas Epicurus tried to remove anxiety, and in that sense, has been compared to Freud.

Philosophical psychotherapy did not merely consist of the methods of collective education. discipline, and mental training that they taught on a collective level. They could also inspire methods for individual therapy, as evidenced by Galen ·s treatise On the Passions of the Soul. 90

Scientific Psychotherapy

During the end of the 16th century, there was the birth of modern science. Knowledge before this point depended on deduction and observation, while modern scientific knowledge is based on experimentation and measurement. Science aims to unify human knowledge. There is only one science, which has many branches. This means that distinct schools cannot exist side by side, each with its own methodology. Medicine thus became a branch of science, and psychiatry a branch of medicine, and psychotherapy an application of psychiatry – based on scientific conclusions.

In that sense, the physician becomes more a technician and specialist. Since science is all-inclusive knowledge, it cannot admit that extra scientific healing has any validity, and this explains the contempt of “official” medicine for all other kinds of medicine, including primitive and popular medicine (which contains elements of primitive medicine).

But modern dynamic psychiatry is divided into several “schools.” Does this mean dynamic psychotherapy is a regression into the past, or rather that the scientific method was unable to cover the total personality of man, and must be supplemented by other approaches?

The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic PsychiatryChapter 1: The Ancestry of Dynamic Psychotherapy (The Discovery of the Unconscious) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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