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A METHOD OF SELF-ANALYSIS
By E. PICKWORTH FARROW.
It may be interesting to give an exact description of a method of selfanalysis adopted by the writer which has enabled him to recollect (and recover from the ill-effects of) a large number of former repressions and complexes in his mind. He was formerly entirely unaware of the existence of these complexes and would probably have denied their existence. These complexes included a very bad castration complex dating back to between the third and fourth year of lifel and a very early incident closely associated with the weaning process—the latter dating back to the age of eleven months? He has also subsequently recollected and removed most of his Edipus complex by this process and feels much better in health as a result. The earliest incident recollected so far through following this method goes back to about the age of six months, and an account of this is about to be published 3. The fact that it has proved possible ultimately to remember such a very early occurrence as this is a striking proof of the efficacy of this process.
He has since found that the method of self-analysis described herein is very similar to the method employed by Prof. Freud on himself a number of years ago—in particular that Prof. Freud devoted attention only to the most insistent conscious thought at any moment; though previously the writer had had experience of two analysts whose methods differed very markedly from the true Freudian ones-particularly in regard to this point of always keeping to the surface of consciousness 4.
Although other people have worked at rather similar methods of self-analysis, some of the points mentioned in the following paper may be new, for the writer thought of the particular method described and did the work entirely by himself, following it solely because he found a note-writing method beneficial while he was with the two analysts, and little thinking that the method of devoting attention solely to the most insistent conscious thought at any given moment was the proper method to follow.
1 See the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, January, 1925. 2 See The Medical Press, April 29th, 1925. 3 See a forthcoming issue of the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse. * Psyche, January, 1925.
He found he was only able to follow the method at irregular intervals to commence with (about one hour per week), although he wished and intended to spend one hour a day at it. The chief cause of this irregularity was that a certain rather worrying matter had persisted throughout both his previous periods of analysis, had held up the results considerably, and had still retained most of its effects. He was consciously reminded of this particular matter each time he intended to continue the notewriting method, and thus tended to put the latter off. This, in passing, seems to the writer to be one of the chief advantages of analysis by an analyst—one has to attend for a fixed hour each day unless one chooses to throw one's money away, which, of course, nobody likes to do.
Every time that he did actually succeed in sitting down and restarting again at the note-writing method, however, he found that he could easily keep on for an hour or two. In fact, he wanted to keep on as long as possible, and the difficulty was to leave off, each of these periods producing a feeling of mental relief.
Mr A. G. Tansley had pointed out to the writer that the chief difference between note-writing and analysis as ordinarily understood lies, of course, in the impossibility of a transference in the former case. The writer had thought of this point and feared that it would render it impossible to obtain such good results with self-analysis as with an analyst.
It quickly appeared to him, however, that a transference was apparently unnecessary in his own case. He quickly obtained excellent and permanent therapeutic results by this method, and considers that it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to have obtained such results in the same time with some analysts. In any case, the therapeutic and scientific results far transcended those obtained with his two analysts, and they were obtained in far shorter time. The writer feels sure that he can promise most beneficial and interesting analytical results to any unanalysed person who will only be determined and persistent enough to follow the method described below.
After about five one hour periods of note-writing, taken at irregular intervals as described above, the effects of the worrying matter referred to, which had persisted throughout and had interfered with all the previous analytical work, disappeared almost entirely, and the writer found that he could sit down to the note-writing at prearranged times without much difficulty, or whenever he wished to, or whenever nothing else genuinely interfered, and the analytical work proceeded a pace.
DESCRIPTION OF THE METHOD.
As hinted above, the chief thing is that anybody wishing to work at this method should arrange to set a definite period apart for it each daypreferably in the evening when things are quiet and when one is most likely to be free from any interruptions—and to try his very best to stick absolutely to these times, and to reserve them entirely for this purpose, as if one had appointments with an analyst at a considerable fee for each hour.
The next thing to do is to provide oneself with a large and ample supply of best quality smooth writing paper and with a pen (preferably a fountain pen) of the kind with which one can write most easily and quickly. It is well to procure a very large supply of the good quality paper in order that the resistances may not have the excuse of the possibility of running out of paper if the method is persisted in, or if one writes too quickly or works at it too often. Also one may try to foster the idea that the paper may be wasted if the method is not persisted in.
On feeling able to keep an appointment with the note-writing method, sit down under the described conditions of quiet and likelihood of freedom from interruptions with the blank paper in front of one, and pen in hand. The method now to be followed is-write down on the paper whatever comes into one's conscious mind at any given instant—and this, in fact, is the great key of the method. If it occurs to one that this method is silly-write this down. If it occurs to one that it is a waste of time-write this down. If it occurs that one would like to be deeply analysed and wonders if one has some particular complex, but is quite sure that this method will never discover it-very well, write this down.
Some apparently quite irrelevant memory may then occur-write it down. One's thoughts may then turn to some particular dream-write down what occurs to one about the dream. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, one's thoughts leave the dream and go on to some entirely different subject—very well, leave the dream and write down what occurs to one about this entirely different subject; and then write down whatever occurs to one after that. In short, write down on the paper whatever occurs to one's conscious mind from second to second during the analytical period—no matter how absurd, irrelevant, unpleasant, never-thought-of, improper, disrespectful of the method, or utterly mad it may seem to be—write it down on the paper as fast as one can from moment to moment.
When the writer was comparatively a beginner at this method, it happened several times that a memory occurred to him, going back quite a long way and with many details, and yet, before he could write down nearly all these details, some other thought or thoughts would come flitting insistently in his mind. This bothered him for the first few times, for, being anxious to get analysed as deeply as possible as quickly as he could, he was anxious to pursue and write down the memory in question as far back as he could. After trying to do this on several occasions and ignoring the intruding thoughts, he reverted to the method of writing down and continuing the intruding thoughts (i.e. of writing down whatever was most insistent in his mind from moment to moment), and left the memory and its details entirely for the time being. Subsequently he always followed the latter method, for he quickly found by experience how remarkable it was that the remaining and deeper portions of the memory which had been temporarily ignored or passed over, always came up again eventually and usually quite quickly. Not only this, but when this latter method was followed the remaining portions of the memory, when they did come up, came up with large quantities of particular additional associations of their own which would not have been obtained if the remaining portions of the memory had been followed in a forced manner, in the first place, by ignoring the intruding thoughts. Also that these particular additional associations enabled him to penetrate deeper than the first memory, whereas if the latter had been pursued in a forced manner by the exclusion of everything else, this progress might have been temporarily held up.
Many times on various days and nights during the period when he was doing note-writing in the evenings, apparently important particular thoughts would occur to him and he would think at the time, “By Jove, I must write that down during the next note-writing period.” When he came to the latter, however, he always found that, though he was aware that the particular thought in question was somewhere in his mind floating about in a semi-conscious state, he was then never able to write it down at starting, without overcoming enormous resistance. By that time he had, however, got into the way of only writing down his fully conscious thoughts from moment to moment, and then he would eventually find that the particular thought in question came up suddenly into full consciousness-apparently from nowhere—and was then written down automatically and with no effort whatever. When this happened, he was very much interested to notice how extremely appropriate the associations written down immediately were to the particular thought in question, and that the connections of these immediately foregoing associations with the particular thought were far cleverer than he could ever have thought of consciously.
The immediately foregoing thoughts frequently seemed to be of the nature of cover-memories for the subsequent particular thoughts, preventing the latter from reaching full consciousness until they were written down, cleared off, and removed. In fact the writer was very much surprised to notice, during the progress of the note-writing analysis, the extent to which many of the memories of his childhood, which he had previously regarded as quite passive, seemed to be actually covermemories for other particular incidents which had various kinds of emotional associations.
The writer found that when any particular seemingly important recollection was eventually reached and written down by the process of writing down only what he was thinking of, and fully conscious of, at any moment the emotion formerly associated with this particular recollection tended to disappear, and the recollection eventually tended not to recur again. In several instances the same subject seemed to recur several times, but only in a successively milder and milder form; but, in these cases, the writer suspects that the subject was not reached the first time solely by free-associations, but was partly forced.
This seems to have been the cause of the difference between the therapeutic effect of the notes which the writer made as described in this paper, and that of the notes which he made while with the first analyst?. In the case of the notes made while with the first analyst, the actual note-writing seemed to have little therapeutic effect in itself, but when the notes had been fully discussed with the analyst, a great therapeutic effect was obtained. The latter notes were not made by the process of free-associations, however, but were made often hurriedly, and also sometimes partly in the fear that he might run short of material for discussion during the analytical hour. They were thus rather, or perhaps very, forced and were not free-associations, but needed full discussion with the analyst before the process of free-association on them could be started.
The writer now knows that the fear of running short of material for discussion during an analytical hour arises solely through repressions; and, owing to these, one may fear that one's mind may become apparently a blank and one may fear the resulting apparent waste of time. As a matter of fact he is now convinced that one's mind is never a blank, but is always thinking of something, though one may not be fully aware of this, or of what it is thinking about, at any given time, or moment.
1 See Psyche, January, 1925.