I will say a word and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Regardless of how random it may sound, how embarrassing it might appear, just say it. Does this ring a bell? It reminds you of your childhood days, doesn’t it? During my school days, I remember this game was such a hit. It was trending right from the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s Neelam show to classroom breaks and night stays. Well, it has been trending way before that, since the time of Sigmund Freud.
This game is similar to a concept called Free association. Sigmund Freud developed this process to explore the unconscious mind. It became the keystone in psychoanalytic therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy deals with exploring the unconscious mind and how it influences your thoughts and behavior. Free association was a method that was used to tap into the unconscious mind.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Freud asked the person to lie down on a couch, a position that usually helps a person to relax. He encouraged the person to concentrate on their past and spontaneously say whatever comes to their mind, regardless of how embarrassing, trivial, painful it might be, without any reservations, or rearrangement, or omission of the thought or memory that has occurred. To speak in free association is to fall apart, to come undone, to unpack, removing each layer of thoughts, feelings, and emotions and to dive into the deep subconscious.
Freud believed that no information is random in free association. He said many of our thoughts and actions are based on our subconscious and are more often than not are an outcome of our problems. The material that is disclosed by the person during free association is an outcome of past conflicts that surfaces to the conscious mind. He would analyze the material to find the hidden meaning in it thus finding the source of a person’s problems and revealing it to them.
EFFECTS OF FREE ASSOCIATION
“Unfortunately, repressed emotions do not die. They are silenced. But they continue to affect the person”
– Sigmund Freud
- Uncover hidden thoughts– We tend to push away our painful thoughts deep in our subconscious. If those thoughts are important to us in any way free association helps to reveal them. The revelation of those thoughts will help us to deal with it consciously and hence find closure and solace.
- Expression of Oppressed feelings– Sometimes some feelings saturate within us because it is very difficult and painful to deal with them at that moment. Free association helps us to express those bottled up feelings in a safe space, thus finding a sense of relief and ability to move on.
Free association is not commonly used in therapy these days. But, a modified version of it still used. For eg. a therapist might ask the client to pen down whatever comes to their mind, regardless of how irrelevant or random it might be and share it with the therapist. The therapist and the client will discuss the matter that’s written and the therapist might ask questions about the matter which helps the hidden thoughts to surface on a conscious level of mind.
BENEFITS OF FREE ASSOCIATION
Free association provides a safe space, free of self-judgment where a person can interact with their true feelings and emotions. It allows connecting the conscious to the subconscious. It makes us see what we truly feel about some things, things that we don’t share with others, and avoid telling ourselves as well in normal circumstances. This paves a way for a person to confront the buried thoughts and find closure. It gives us a chance to look at certain things in a different light and hence gives us a way to move past the unresolved feelings smoothly.
Free association is a very interesting approach in therapy. It might not be a self-sufficient tool for therapy but it surely gives significant contribution in the progress of the therapy. So after all, that game does have some Freudian logic to it.
Take it easy,
(MA Clinical Psychology, PGD Counselling)