Psychoanalysis, the beginning of which was laid by Freud, undergoes constant controversy and discussion. Nevertheless, although his ideas endure some modifications, they have a relatively strong influence on psychology. Wanting to understand the causes of mental and psychological conditions and neurosis interfering with a person, he assumed that previous traumas provoked them. According to Freud, trauma experiences were forced out of consciousness but still determined human behavior. Psychoanalysis suggests that by transferring the unconscious ideas to the conscious, a person can experience the liberation of emotions – catharsis, and get rid of neurosis, which prevents them from flourishing and happy living. Freud’s assumptions originated during a collaboration with Josef Breuer and work with a patient known as Anna O. As a result, psychoanalysis was built on observations rather than laboratory experiments. Despite the lack of experimental evidence, ideas and methods of psychoanalysis quickly became a popular tool for understanding the mind.
The popularity of Freud’s views was ensured by their explanatory power and seeming potential for application. He created Conscious-Unconscious-Subconscious and Id-Ego-Superego models to explain people’s behavior. The extent to which Freud’s models and assumptions could explain the differences and complexities in people’s behavior attracted the attention of other practitioners. Moreover, the idea of the unconscious occupied the scientific thought of the nineteenth century for some time before Freud. In various forms, the concept was discussed by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and other philosophers. However, the ideas were not sufficiently developed or played a supporting role, and Freud made the views more scientific and definite and connected them with psychology.
Another potentially attractive aspect of using psychoanalysis after its appearance is its independence. Initially, Freud presented psychoanalysis as a direction, separated from medicine and psychiatry. As a result, he was ready to teach students who did not have medical training and attracted many people interested in a new direction. Moreover, Freud presented many ideas within the framework of psychoanalysis, and covered pathologies, dreams, and then more philosophical concepts – art, social order, and religion. He also connected with various disciplines, including biology, anthropology, brain anatomy, and psychology. Simultaneously, there is an assumption that psychoanalysis was not considered in regard to the necessity of scientific evidence to be valuable. Psychoanalysis is closely intertwined with commonsense psychology, that is, people’s understanding of themselves, and as a result, can be considered validated without applying the scientific methodology.
The use of psychoanalysis in practice was based on association and interpretation, for which it was necessary to listen carefully to the client. Moreover, Freud proposed schemes for interpretations that could be used in practice. Although earlier, conversation and listening were also part of treatment, one can assume that this was a new, more attentive way to listen and analyze patients, and practitioners could find a new meaning in their words. Thanks to the use of this approach, and its noticeable effect, psychoanalysts considered that psychotherapeutic sessions are the best field for conducting treatment. Consequently, observing patients and monitoring their behavior for further interpretation has become a popular scientific method.
Thus, Freud’s ideas, which are the foundations of the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, had no evidence from experiments, but they gained popularity among his contemporaries. The reasons for this spread were the theoretical rationale for the idea of the unconscious, which has long worried the scientific environment, the potential to explain human behavior, and a change in approach to practice. Moreover, Freud combined and defined many ideas within psychoanalysis, created connections with other disciplines, and isolated it in a separate direction. Connections between psychoanalysis and commonsense psychology also contributed to the fact that its widespread usage did not require experimental evidence.