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Free Association

  Free association, in psychiatry, is a mental exercise where the patient first turns his or her attention to a subject which is meant to be analysed because it is causing questions or anxiety, and then allows thoughts to run freely from there. Special attention must be taken to avoid censoring, modifying or omitting anything. If this difficult process can be kept going by the analyst, the hidden meaning behind the subject in question will eventually show itself. Freud discovered that many unimportant lapses in memory could reveal hidden thoughts through free association. The apparently random forgetting of a word, for example, would be found through this process to have a definite meaning and be caused by complex psychological factors. Importantly, not only was the technique able to bring pathogenic ideas to the surface, it also had the effect of relieving symptoms and obsessions at the same time.

Because of these discoveries Freud held that no psychological event was random. In this sense everything a person does is determined. This general principle is called psychic determinism.

One source for the free association technique may have come from Freud\'s Jewish heritage. There are numerous meditation techniques, employed in Jewish mysticism, which bear a striking resemblance to free association: ways for example to find the true meaning of a sacred text by employing a similar kind of word play, looking for key words and searching for anagrams. MJ

Further reading Sigmund Freud, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.



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Other Terms : Biological Control | Jungian Thought | Monophony
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