Abreaction (German: Abreagieren) is a psychoanalytical term for reliving an experience to purge it of its emotional excesses—a type of catharsis. Sometimes it is a method of becoming conscious of repressed traumatic events.

Psychoanalytic origins

The concept of abreaction may have actually been initially formulated by Freud's mentor, Josef Breuer;[1] but it was in their joint work of 1893, Studies on Hysteria, that it was first made public to denote the fact that pent-up emotions associated with a trauma can be discharged by talking about it.[2] The release of strangulated affect by bringing a particular moment or problem into conscious focus, and thereby abreacting the stifled emotion attached to it, formed the cornerstone of Freud's early cathartic method of treating hysterical conversion symptoms.[3]

Early in his career, psychoanalyst Carl Jung expressed interest in abreaction, or what he referred to as trauma theory, but later decided it had limitations in treatment of neurosis. Jung said:

Though traumata of clearly aetiological significance were occasionally present, the majority of them appeared very improbable. Many traumata were so unimportant, even so normal, that they could be regarded at most as a pretext for the neurosis. But what especially aroused my criticism was the fact that not a few traumata were simply inventions of fantasy and had never happened at all.[4]

Later developments

Mainstream psychoanalysis tended over time (with Freud) to downplay the role of abreaction, in favor of the working through of the emotions revealed through such acting-out of the past.[5] However, Otto Rank explored abreaction of birth trauma as a central part of his revision of Freudian theory;[6] while Edward Bibring revived the notion of abreaction as emotional reliving, a theme subsequently taken up by Vamik Volkan in his re-grief therapy.[7]

Abreaction therapies

In Scientology, Dianetics is a form of abreaction that science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard borrowed from the United States Navy[8] when he spent three months in a San Diego hospital in 1943 with the complaints of an ulcer and malaria.[9] Hubbard later wrote, in his autobiography My Philosophy, that he had observed abreactive therapy in the hospital, though in later life he claimed to have made the discovery on his own after being wounded in battle and given up as untreatable.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Introduction to Studies on Hysteria
  2. ^ Salman Akhtar, ed. (2009). Comprehensive dictionary of psychoanalysis. London: Karnac Books. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  3. ^ S Freud, On Psychopathology (PFL 10) p. 72-3
  4. ^ Collected Works of C.G. Jung, volume 4, Freud and Psychoanalysis: Some Crucial Points in Psychoanalysis, Jung-Loy Correspondence (1914).
  5. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (London 1946) p. 572
  6. ^ S Freud, On Psychopathology (PFL 10) p. 309
  7. ^ J Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (London 2005) p. 55
  8. ^ "War Psychiatry in the Merchant Navy". Proc. R. Soc. Med. 38 (5): 217–26. March 1945. PMC 2181173. PMID 19993044.
  9. ^ L. Ron Hubbard -- Messiah? Or Madman?, Chapter Two
  10. ^ A Piece of Blue Sky, Chapter Two, Page Five

External links

Autogenic training

Autogenic training is a desensitization-relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz by which a psychophysiologically determined relaxation response is obtained. The technique was first published in 1932. Studying the self-reports of people immersed in a hypnotic state, J.H. Schultz noted that physiological changes are accompanied by certain feelings. Abbé Faria and Émile Coué are the forerunners of Schultz. The technique involves repetitions of a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation and is based on passive concentration of bodily perceptions (e.g., heaviness and warmth of arms, legs), which are facilitated by self-suggestions. The technique is used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders.Biofeedback practitioners integrate basic elements of autogenic imagery and have simplified versions of parallel techniques that are used in combination with biofeedback. This was done at the Menninger Foundation by Elmer Green, Steve Fahrio, Patricia Norris, Joe Sargent, Dale Walters and others. They incorporated the hand warming imagery of autogenic training and used it as an aid to develop thermal biofeedback.

Breaking point (psychology)

In human psychology, the breaking point is a moment of stress in which a person breaks down or a situation becomes critical.The intensity of environmental stress necessary to bring this about varies from individual to individual.


Carbogen, also called Meduna's Mixture after its inventor Ladislas Meduna, is a mixture of carbon dioxide and oxygen gas. Meduna's original formula was 5% CO2 and 95% oxygen, but the term carbogen can refer to any mixture of these two gases, from 1.5% to 50% CO2.


Catharsis (from Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing") is the purification and purgation of emotions—particularly pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration. It is a metaphor originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics, comparing the effects of tragedy on the mind of a spectator to the effect of a cathartic on the body.

Cäcilie M.

Cäcilie M. (Anna von Lieben, born Anna von Tedesco; 1847–1900) is the pseudonym of one of Freud's first patients, whom he called in 1890 his “principal client” and in 1897 his “instructress”.

Edward Bibring

Edward Bibring (1894-1959) was an Austrian/American psychoanalyst, and a member (from 1925) of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, closely associated with Sigmund Freud.

In 1921 he married his fellow analyst Grete L. Bibring, and in 1941 the pair emigrated to the US.

Engram (Dianetics)

An engram, as used in Dianetics and Scientology, is a detailed mental image or memory of a traumatic event from the past that occurred when an individual was partially or fully unconscious. It is considered to be pseudoscientific and is different from the meaning of "engram" in cognitive psychology. According to Dianetics and Scientology, from conception onwards, whenever something painful happens while the "analytic mind" is unconscious, engrams are supposedly being recorded and stored in an area of the mind Scientology calls the "reactive mind".The term engram was coined in 1904 by the German scholar Richard Semon, who defined it as a "stimulus impression" which could be reactivated by the recurrence of "the energetic conditions which ruled at the generation of the engram." L. Ron Hubbard re-used Semon's concept when he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950. He conceived of the engram as a form of "memory trace", an idea which had long existed in medicine. According to physician Joseph Winter, who collaborated in the development of the Dianetics philosophy, Hubbard had taken the term "engram" from a 1936 edition of Dorland's Medical Dictionary, where it was defined as "a lasting mark or trace...In psychology it is the lasting trace left in the psyche by anything that has been experienced psychically; a latent memory picture." Hubbard had originally used the terms "Norn", "comanome" and "impediment" before alighting on "engram" following a suggestion from Winter. Hubbard equates the reactive mind to the engram or reactive memory bank. An engram is described as a “cellular level recording” that includes both physical and emotional pain. Engrams are stored in chains or series of incidents that are similar. Hubbard describes the engram as “a definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue. It is considered a unit group of stimuli impinged solely on the cellular being.”In Dianetics and Scientology doctrine, engrams are believed to originate from painful incidents, which close down the “analytic function,” leaving a person to operate only on the "reactive" level, where everything, including pain, position and location are experienced as “aspects of the unpleasant whole.” This engram is restimulated if the person is reminded of the painful experience days later, causing feelings of guilt or embarrassment – another engram. This cycle is called a "lock" in Scientology terminology.Hubbard's concept of the engram evolved over time. In Dianetics, he wrote that "The word engram, in Dianetics is used in its severely accurate sense as a 'definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue'", which followed fairly closely the original definition in Dorland's. He later repudiated the idea that an engram was a physical cellular trace, redefining his concept as being "a mental image picture of a moment of pain and unconsciousness". According to Hubbard whenever an engram is stimulated it increases in power. Jeff Jacobsen compared auditing for engrams in Scientology to the Freudian psychoanalytic concept of abreaction, equating engrams to the painful subconscious memories that abreaction therapy brings up to the conscious mind. He quoted Nathaniel Thornton, who compared abreaction to confession. Dorthe Refslund Christensen describes engrams in layman’s terms as trauma, a means to explain the long and short term effects of painful experiences. According to Christensen, Hubbard wrote about the dramatization of an engram, where the one who suffered and recorded the pain as an engram relates all sensory perceptions during the time of the painful incident to the incident. These sensory perceptions become “restimulators” that remind the individual of the pain and triggers him or her to re-experience it.Scholar Richard Holloway writes that according to Scientology, engrams are “damaging experiences that happen by accident,” bruises through time implanted on thetans through the course of millions of lives. Sometimes the damage is intentionally inflicted by thetans who desired power over other thetans. Deliberate injuries are called implants in Scientology. Hubbard wrote, “Implants result in all varieties of illness, apathy, degradiation, neurosis and insanity and are the principle causes of these in man.” The Christian idea of heaven is a deceptive implant, Hubbard taught, for there is an infinite series of lives after the first, contrary to the Christian notion of the afterlife.Dianetics became Scientology in 1952 and the concept of clearing engrams remains a central part of the practices of the Church of Scientology.

Glossary of psychiatry

This glossary covers terms found in the psychiatric literature; the word origins are primarily Greek, but there are also Latin, French, German, and English terms. Many of these terms refer to expressions dating from the early days of psychiatry in Croatia.

History of hypnosis

The development of concepts, beliefs and practices related to hypnosis and hypnotherapy have been documented since prehistoric to modern times.

Although often viewed as one continuous history, the term hypnosis was coined in the 1880s in France, some twenty years after the death of James Braid, who had adopted the term hypnotism in 1841.

Braid adopted the term hypnotism (which specifically applied to the state of the subject, rather than techniques applied by the operator) to contrast his own, unique, subject-centred, approach with those of the operator-centred mesmerists who preceded him.

List of psychotherapies

This is an alphabetical list of psychotherapies.

See the main article psychotherapy for a description of what psychotherapy is and how it developed (see also counseling, and the list of counseling topics).

This list contains some approaches that may not call themselves a psychotherapy but have a similar aim, of improving mental health and well being through talk and other means of communication.

In the 20th century, a great number of psychotherapies were created. All of these face continuous change in popularity, methods and effectiveness. Sometimes they are self-administered, either individually, in pairs, small groups or larger groups. However, a professional practitioner will usually use a combination of therapies and approaches, often in a team treatment process that involves reading/talking/reporting to other professional practitioners.

The older established therapies usually have a code of ethics, professional associations, training programs, and so on. The newer and innovative therapies may not yet have established these structures or may not wish to.

Marco Sfogli

Marco Sfogli (born April 4, 1980) is an Italian guitarist. He has appeared on several albums.


In the post-World War II era, the technique of narcosynthesis (as it was later called) was developed by psychiatrists as a means of treating patients who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Narcosynthesis — also called sodium amytal interview, amobarbital interview, and amytal interview — uses a technique of free association as well as dream and transference material during the session as a basis for uncovering relevant topics for later therapeutic discussion.

Practice of Psychotherapy

Practice of Psychotherapy is Volume 16 in The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, a series of books published by Princeton University Press in the U.S. and Routledge & Kegan Paul in the U.K. It contains essays on aspects of analytical therapy, specifically the transference, abreaction, and dream analysis. There is also an additional essay, "The Realities of Practical Psychotherapy", which was found among Jung's posthumous papers.The book brings together Jung's essays on general questions of analytic therapy and dream analysis. It also contains his profoundly interesting parallel between the transference phenomena and alchemical processes. The transference is illustrated and interpreted with a set of symbolic pictures, and the bond between psychotherapist and patient is shown to be a function of the kinship libido. Far from being pathological in its effects, kinship libido has an essential role to play in the work of individuation and in establishing an organic society based on the psychic connection of its members with one another and with their own roots.Detailed abstracts of each chapter are available online.

Primal therapy

Primal therapy is a trauma-based psychotherapy created by Arthur Janov, who argues that neurosis is caused by the repressed pain of childhood trauma. Janov argues that repressed pain can be sequentially brought to conscious awareness and resolved through re-experiencing specific incidents and fully expressing the resulting pain during therapy. In therapy, the patient recalls and reenacts a particularly disturbing past experience usually occurring early in life and expresses normally repressed anger or frustration especially through spontaneous and unrestrained screams, hysteria, or violence. Primal therapy was developed as a means of eliciting the repressed pain; the term Pain is capitalized in discussions of primal therapy when referring to any repressed emotional distress and its purported long-lasting psychological effects. Janov criticizes the talking therapies as they deal primarily with the cerebral cortex and higher-reasoning areas and do not access the source of Pain within the more basic parts of the central nervous system.Primal therapy is used to re-experience childhood pain—i.e., felt rather than conceptual memories—in an attempt to resolve the pain through complete processing and integration, becoming real. An intended objective of the therapy is to lessen or eliminate the hold early trauma exerts on adult behaviour.

Primal therapy became very influential during a brief period in the early 1970s, after the publication of Janov's first book, The Primal Scream. It inspired hundreds of spin-off clinics worldwide and served as an inspiration for many popular cultural icons. Singer-songwriter John Lennon, actor James Earl Jones, and pianist Roger Williams were prominent advocates of primal therapy. Primal therapy has since declined in popularity, partly because Janov had not demonstrated in research the outcomes necessary to convince research-oriented psychotherapists of its effectiveness. Proponents of the methodology continue to advocate and practice the therapy or variations of it.

Psychogenic amnesia

Psychogenic amnesia or dissociative amnesia, is a memory disorder characterized by sudden retrograde episodic memory loss, said to occur for a period of time ranging from hours to years. More recently, "dissociative amnesia" has been defined as a dissociative disorder "characterized by retrospectively reported memory gaps. These gaps involve an inability to recall personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature." In a change from the DSM-IV to the DSM-5, dissociative fugue is now subsumed under dissociative amnesia.The atypical clinical syndrome of the memory disorder (as opposed to organic amnesia) is that a person with psychogenic amnesia is profoundly unable to remember personal information about themselves; there is a lack of conscious self-knowledge which affects even simple self-knowledge, such as who they are. Psychogenic amnesia is distinguished from organic amnesia in that it is supposed to result from a nonorganic cause; no structural brain damage or brain lesion should be evident but some form of psychological stress should precipitate the amnesia, however psychogenic amnesia as a memory disorder is controversial.

The Road to Total Freedom

The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology is a non-fiction book about Scientology by sociologist Roy Wallis. Originally published in 1976 by Heinemann, it was republished in 1977 by Columbia University Press. The original manuscript was the product of Wallis's doctoral research at Oxford under the tutelage of Bryan Wilson. Wallis, after a review of the original manuscript by Scientology leaders, made edits to about 100 passages before publication.

In the book, Wallis first analyzes the degree to which the Church of Scientology views itself as legitimate, as well as to what degree external society regarded the organization as "respectable" or "deviant". Furthermore, he provides a contextual history of the organization, including a discussion of the Dianetics movement founded by L. Ron Hubbard. Next, Wallis discusses the appeal of the Scientology practice of Auditing, and compares this to abreaction therapy. And finally, he examines how Scientology shifted from a cult to a sect in structure, and analyzes the authoritarian nature of the management of the organization.

While Wallis was researching the book, the Guardian's Office, Scientology's intelligence agency, investigated him. They assigned an individual as an undercover agent who pretended to be a student at Stirling University, where he was teaching. The agent inquired if Wallis was involved with illegal drugs. Wallis later discovered forged letters purportedly sent by him and designed to implicate him in controversial acts. Wallis assumed this was a reaction by the Guardian's Office to The Road to Total Freedom.

The Road to Total Freedom received generally positive reception in book reviews and media coverage. The Encyclopedia of Religion and Society acknowledged Wallis "displayed characteristic skill" in bringing a large amount of information together in an analysis of Scientology. Similarly, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries described the author's research as "substantively important", and Library Journal called it "a sociological analysis for the serious student, with all the appropriate scholarly apparatus".

Truth serum

"Truth serum" is a colloquial name for any of a range of psychoactive drugs used in an effort to obtain information from subjects who are unable or unwilling to provide it otherwise. These include ethanol, scopolamine, 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, midazolam, flunitrazepam, sodium thiopental, and amobarbital, among others.

Although a variety of such substances have been tested, serious issues have been raised about their use scientifically, ethically and legally. There is currently no drug proven to cause consistent or predictable enhancement of truth-telling. Subjects questioned under the influence of such substances have been found to be suggestible and their memories subject to reconstruction and fabrication. When such drugs have been used in the course of investigating civil and criminal cases, they have not been accepted by Western legal systems and legal experts as genuine investigative tools. It has been suggested that their use is a potential violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (the right to remain silent). Concerns have also been raised internationally through

the European Court of Human Rights arguing that use of a truth serum could be considered a violation of a human right to be free from degrading treatment, or could be considered a form of torture. It has been noted to be a violation of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture."Truth serum" was abused against psychotic patients as part of old, discredited practices of psychiatry and is no longer used. In a therapeutic context, the controlled administration of intravenous hypnotic medications is called "narcosynthesis" or "narcoanalysis". Such application was first documented by Dr. William Bleckwenn. Reliability and suggestibility of patients are concerns, and the practice of chemically inducing an involuntary mental state is now widely considered to be a form of torture.

Working through

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, working through is seen as the process of repeating, elaborating, and amplifying interpretations. It is believed that such working through is critical towards the success of therapy.The concept was introduced by Sigmund Freud in 1914, and assumed ever greater importance in psychoanalysis, in contrast to the immediacy of abreaction.

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