Free Association


Posted on 14th January 2011 by admin


The concept is not new, not invented or even learned. It is based on an awareness that can indeed be taught. It is a discipline.

The concept is derived from the studies of the grandfathers of analytical psychology. Sigmond Freud studied the concept of Free Association years ago. It was a technique that he revealed where an analysand (person being analyzed) would speak openly about whatever crossed their mind. To most it appeared to be an exercise in random thought. But Freud knew that there was no such thing as random thought. He knew that the thoughts that came to mind and were then spoken were actually linked in some way…based on logic. Since logic is truly mathematical, he was able to apply a siphon to the stream of conciseness and in turn understand what was actually happening deep in the mind of the patient.

It is still a standard part of our culture today to recognize a “Freudian Slip”. It has become commonplace. Yet we have assumed that this type of analysis is reserved for the couch, when in reality, it occurs everywhere around us in the form of interpersonal communication.

Freud identified the theory of free association and how it could reveal the unconscious. He focused on how it revealed “dark” secrets. Mainly because in his time and culture, many topics remained taboo and repressed in healthy minds. As social structures evolved, the thin line between unconscious thought and “dark” secrets disappeared.

It was many years before Freud himself took a look at his own process and discovered that the analytical process could be heightened. He found that if the analyst was conscience of this train of thought, and even became involved in the train itself, it could create an unconscious dialog with the patient, thus reveling even more than he had previously believed. He then focused on teaching analysts to lead conversation and thus was born his concept of the “Freudian Pair”.

If we remove the patient / doctor structure from his theories, we see that in fact this Freudian Pair exists in any dialog between two people. The conversation starts with the salutations that are specific to the culture and then it may be triggered by an outside stimulus and thus the conversation begins. Both parties volley back and forth responding to the train of the conversation and therefore creating an interwoven mind mind map in synch. It is why humans can sit and converse and are stimulated or inspired by talking to those who share the same mind mind maps. These common mind mind maps become what attracts us to others intellectually and then socailly..and eventually becomes the commonality that makes up community and ideology.

The Freudian Pair was taught to allow the analyst to control the free association. The key to the process was that the analyst must “free their mind” and serve as an association “lubricant” of sorts. This catalyst brought full control over free association and thus provided a rigid structure of logic. When this logic is set against the mind map, it becomes the key to understanding what is on the mind of the analysand. Thus therapeutic discovery driven by the free association, and apparent random thought of the analysand.

This “awareness” that Freud taught is the key to listening between the lines. You cannot read a book and learn how to read the thoughts of others, you must first become aware of the process. Then practice for a long time. Practice on strangers and associates, where emotion cannot distort the mind mind maps.

Then once this awareness becomes routine, you can begin to control the course of the dialog and respond accordingly to the mind map of the individual. If you suspend your own emotion and train of thought, then you can focus on that of whom you are speaking. Freud taught analysts to steer the association, in conversation you can steer the dialog using this same principal.

This can be found in very crude forms in alleged psychic “cold readings” where an analysts proposed random questions and then proposed new, seemingly unrelated questions to the analysand until they steer them to an unconscious thought that the analysand was having and in most cases did not even know themselves. Then, at the very moment that the analysand realizes that this unconscious fact has emerged, they must confront the truth of it as well as the fact that the analyst has extracted that information. Charlatans have used this technique of centuries under the guise of psychic phenomenon and even higher spirituality. When in reality it is nothing more than analytical psychology being applied to interpersonal communication.

© 2004 Cris Ippolite ‘Listening between The Lines’

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