A brief account of the main principles behind
Henrik C. V. Hansen
Rational Psychoanalysis was developed by the Danish psychoanalyst Erik Carstens (1896-1970) in the period from 1930 to
1970. He was himself a trained psychoanalyst in the Freudian school with such renowned learning analysts as Jarnö Harnik and Wilhelm Reich. This education was partly taken in Switzerland, where Carstens was the school superintendent of a self-established,
free school, whose students in many cases were problem children. In 1930 he returned home to Denmark and started a revision of Freud's and Jung's theories. The motivation for embarking on this work was, first and foremost, that he was dissatisfied with the
scientific ambiguity that prevailed within the theories of the above. This effort resulted in an authorship of 14 books in the period 1933-1970.
In the book: Is man an
automaton? Erik Carstens himself sets up a theory of cognition for psychoanalysis, among other things by a very detailed and factual critique of cognition theorists such as David Hume, Kant and Descartes. The book deals with and solves, among other things.
the following questions: 1) Belief in the causal axiom, 2) What is reality? 3) The epistemological relationship between soul and body and 4) The relationship between epistemology and science. In addition, he sets up a new symbol theory that clarifies the significance
of the scientific concept for the formation of the theory. This epistemological dissertation is in itself revolutionary, but also lays the foundation for the axioms that are the basis of Rational Psychoanalysis.
The scientific question
The scientific requirements for the theory formation within Rational Psychoanalysis are in accordance with the requirements for the science subjects, which will
be argued for in the following:
1) The theories are based on axioms:
Axioms are some, for the science in question, basic theorems that have the task of explaining the view of reality that one takes in connection with the formation of theory. For
example, in mathematics, the following axiom has been established: Two parallel lines will never intersect. These theorems cannot, by their nature, be scientifically proven, but must be investigated using epistemology. It is therefore of crucial importance
for a scientific theory that the epistemological basis is in order, as otherwise it will be possible to make reasoned objections to the established axioms. Furthermore, axioms have the task of delimiting the research area so that the causal theorem can be
used. Examples of axioms within Rational Psychoanalysis will be given later.
2) The theories are formulated using unambiguously defined concepts:
Concepts are the words (symbols) that a science uses to describe the conclusions, in the form of theories,
that the research has resulted in. That there must be no doubt about what a concept means, is because it is the only way to ensure that there are no misunderstandings in connection with the communication that must necessarily be between researchers when they
have to verify each other's results. If uncertainty can arise here, the "verification" is of course no longer a guarantee of the truth of the theories.
3) The basic concepts are carefully chosen:
By this point is meant that it is of crucial importance
that one chooses some basic concepts that everyone can in principle relate to. This is because it is otherwise impossible for a researcher who has to familiarize himself with the theories to assess the reasonableness of the chosen basic concepts.
The unconscious is a poorly chosen basic concept for the following reasons:
1) It is practically impossible to draw a sharp line between conscious and unconscious memories.
2) It is theoretically impossible to draw a sharp line between the conscious
and the unconscious.
3) The unconscious spiritual content, by definition, cannot be observed directly.
One can therefore in principle postulate anything in connection with the unconscious, and it is almost done. Likewise, the symbols of drift, displacement,
and sublimation have the tedious property of being as complicated as the original problem, the neurosis, and likewise they are more difficult to observe.
Examples of basic concepts from Rational Psychoanalysis: Trauma, inhibition and belief (the significance
of these basic concepts for theory formation will be elucidated later).
In addition, Erik Carstens describes in his entire authorship how he relates in theory to the development and application of the theories of Rational Psychoanalysis. The scientific
is therefore not something implied in Carsten's authorship, but is included as an organic part of the argument he puts forward for his theories.
The healthy and the sick soul life I
to the theory formation within Rational Psychoanalysis is the postulate that man can experience himself as being in two significantly different states of mind. One condition is called "the healthy soul life" and is characterized by the person experiencing
himself as being in good contact with reality. The second condition is called "the sick soul life" and is characterized by the person experiencing himself as being shy, inhibited or in the violence of an inner conflict, whereby the ability for true recognition
of reality can be significantly reduced.
The above postulate can be considered as the axiom that forms the foundation of the Rational Psychoanalysis. It will be formulated shorter later, but first it will be examined whether it is at all reasonable to
accept the axiom. This can be done by e.g. to look at the theory of inhibitions.
First 3 statements you typically hear in
1) I'm sure it's an inhibition, since I
previously reacted completely differently and better
2) In those and those surroundings I am inhibited, but in others I am not
3) To those and those times I am inhibited, to others
I am not
As an example, one could mention being hampered by authorities such as, e.g. sin chef.
Inhibition is defined by the axiom:
A mental function is inhibited when it takes place more slowly or worse than normal.
Since it is reasonable
to assume that most people can understand the above 3 statements and example, it has already been argued that the symbol inhibition is a well-chosen basic concept. With this, a basis has been found for the theory formation, which most people can immediately
accept. The question then must be: "How do inhibitions occur?" The scientist will try to find the answer by systematically studying people with inhibitions in order to find another phenomenon that inhibitions can be linked to.
After studying a number of inhibitions, one will come to the conclusion that inhibitions occur in connection with trauma. By studying this connection carefully, one will also discover that the connection is such
that the inhibition is a condition that follows a trauma. The second basic concept in inhibition theory is therefore trauma, and it will be defined by the following axiom:
Trauma is a mental state where the soul life is overloaded and therefore in a chaotic
Example: If you get hit over the fingers when trying to hammer a nail into a wall, this blow can be so painful that "it blackens the eyes", i.e. that one gets into a traumatic state.
Anyone who has tried this will probably also be able to
nod in recognition that the desire to continue swinging the hammer has been inhibited, one has become more careful. From the example above, it can be seen that the inhibition (caution) followed the trauma (the blow to the finger).
It is then normal that
over time you regain the self-confidence that has been lost in connection with the trauma. This means that the inhibition decreases and that you again dare to swing the hammer released. This process is called "the natural healing powers of the mind".
if inhibitions under natural conditions decrease by themselves, then how can it be that there are inhibitions that do not seem to decrease over time, so-called fixed inhibitions?
The above example describes how a healthy person would react to a trauma, but there is also another reaction pattern. This reaction pattern can either be a result of the person having been repeatedly exposed to the same trauma, or that the person's mental
health even before the traumatic experience was weakened. Based on the above example, one could imagine that a person who already has very low self-esteem could react hysterically to the trauma (the blow to the finger). In that case, the person would e.g.
responds by throwing the hammer away with the words, "I am not good enough to hammer nails into." One sees that this phrase is an expression of the person's belief regarding his own abilities. It is probably also logical from now on that a person who has this
conviction will never be good at nailing it. The person has thus been chronically inhibited, and the inhibition has been fixed by the above belief. In other words, this belief is constantly in the back of the mind in the future, and will appear every time
the person thinks of hitting a nail. The trauma has thus caused the person to have a fixed idea of themselves. Belief is therefore the 3rd basic concept of inhibition theory and is defined by the following axiom:
Beliefs are an absurd belief regarding
The above is an example of an inhibition that most people would probably be able to live with without the big problems. Does an inhibition, on the other hand, affect such central functions as e.g. the speech, the thinking or the emotions it will
involve a halt in the person's natural development.
Beliefs are, as shown in the example above, a sentence that sums up a belief
about reality. Beliefs are always of an absolute nature, such as: "All Jews are stupid" or "all Copenhageners have greatness madness". Clearly, with such bias, it may be impossible to conduct a conversation with a positive outcome.
Beliefs can therefore
be a crucial obstacle to constructive development. The absolute character thus results in the belief in question always proving to be absurd.
In this statement, only examples of beliefs that have arisen in connection with trauma are given. However, they
can also occur in a number of other compounds, as indicated by the list below:
1. Mass impact, environmental impact
2. Suggestion from educator
3. Trauma in the event of abuse and / or conflict with the educator
4. Mental Illusions
abstractions (that you only see what you want to see)
It follows from the above example that when one has to overcome a fixed inhibition, it is done on
1) First, it is acknowledged that one has an inhibition (cf. the 3 statements)
2) Then you must try to find the creed that fixes the inhibition
3) The absurdity of this creed is acknowledged, whereby it loses its power over the
4) The underlying trauma will then be reactivated (coming up to the surface)
5) By now relating again to the old trauma, but now with a greater maturity, insight and possibly in collaboration with a psychoanalyst, one can find new solutions
to the traumatic experience. This dissolves the traumatic knot, and the soul's life will again take on the natural plasticity that it had before the trauma.
Theoretical conclusions in science I
The inhibition theory is a school example of:
1) A basic method: To cut off everything superfluous, to hit the core of a case, and to make the theory as simple and clear as possible.
2) To take as a starting point an observable phenomenon that is suitable as a basic concept, because in a simple
way it is connected with other observable phenomena.
3) That there must be an organic connection between theory and therapeutic technique: The theory must provide a full justification for the technique and the technique must when used fully confirm the
The healthy and the sick soul life II
One can thus conclude that one can either be in a state where soul life is inhibited,
or one can be in a state where soul life is normally functioning.
Regarding the inhibited soul life, it can be said that it emerges every time a certain situation arises, and that the person therefore always reacts in the same way, in other words: The
inhibited soul life is characterized by repetition. If you ask a disabled person if he or she is satisfied with his or her performance in the situations in question, you will naturally get the answer no, in other words: The disabled soul life is characterized
by its inadequacy. The above conclusion leads us to the following axiom for sick and healthy soul life:
Sick soul life is the part of soul life that consists of unnecessary and inappropriate repetitions. The healthy soul life is not subject to the same
On the basis of this review, it has become probable that it is reasonable to assume that one can be in two different states of mind:
1) A state where the perception of reality is characterized by reality testing (healthy soul life)
2) A state in which the perception of reality is determined by beliefs (sick soul life)
It follows from the above that it is not rational to distinguish between so-called normal on the one hand and neurotics on the other. This distinction does not go
through society but rather through the individual human being. Thus to understand that it is normal that there are both aspects of the person's soul life that are characterized by good recognition of reality and aspects that are characterized by beliefs. Ideally,
however, it must be the case that one wishes that as small a part of the soul's life as possible is subject to the dictatorship of beliefs, and it is precisely in this connection that Rational Psychoanalysis can be used.
Theoretical conclusions of science II
The requirements set out in the article for scientific theory may in some circles be perceived as antiquated. It is not uncommon today to encounter
the view that it is not at all possible to give any unambiguous definition of what is meant by a scientific theory. However, it is not important what one can possibly expand the concept of science to, as in Rational Psychoanalysis it is always the goal to
honor the strictest requirements that can be set. The definition of science used here is: The purpose of setting up scientific theories is to explain the underlying causes of the appearance of the observed phenomena.
For the empirical sciences, this definition
gives rise to two considerations:
1) That the research area is delimited, as otherwise it is not possible to use the causal theorem.
2) That the observed phenomenon is repeated regularly so that the observations can be summarized in a scientific
It is seen that the above requirements are met by taking the basic axiom as a starting point. In part, the theory of inhibition is a theory that deals exclusively with the sick soul life, and this is sharply demarcated from the rest of the soul life
by the axiom. On the one hand, the sick soul life is precisely defined by (unnecessary and inappropriate) repetitions, whereby it can be analyzed empirically in order to establish laws for the observed phenomena.
Assessment of the theory
When the sick soul life is determined by beliefs, it means that there are certain parts of the soul life that are acceptable in relation to the belief, and conversely,
that there are certain parts of the soul life that are not acceptable. The unacceptable aspects of soul life Freud would say were repressed into the unconscious. However, he never managed to explain this phenomenon in a satisfactory way. From this statement
it appears that by choosing one's basic concepts with care, such as by taking the concept of inhibition as a starting point, one does not run into problems at all such as the definition of "the unconscious" and "displacing forces". When one takes as a starting
point the above-mentioned symbols, "the unconscious" and "repression", one goes, so to speak, the opposite way in theory formation, which gives an incomprehensible theory.
The above exemplifies an important point regarding the formation of scientific
theory: One can not claim that a theory describes reality, but one can, based on other requirements, assess one theory in relation to the other. A number of requirements have already been mentioned above with regard to the question of whether this is a scientific
theory at all. In the case of two scientific theories, these can be assessed in relation to each other according to the following principles:
When a new theory appears as a competitor to an old one, we often demand that the new theory explain all the
data that the old theory explained, and that:
1) We should choose a theory that explains a lot of data rather than one that explains a few. And that it additionally explains phenomena that the old man could not explain.
2) Given that two theories
explain equal amounts of data, we prefer a theory that leads to, and explains, new observations rather than one that only explains already known data.
3) We prefer a simple theory over a complicated one.
It is my experience that when applying the
theories of Rational Psychoanalysis in its entirety, it is possible to clarify all the issues where unclear and incoherent theories have otherwise been prevalent and that:
Re 1) Based on many years of study, it is my opinion that there are no theories
that explain as much data as Rational Psychoanalysis. In addition, a large number of phenomena are explained, such as ego cleavage, neurotic guilt, shyness and a theory of narcissism, which fully clarifies the questions that Freud leaves behind.
Rational Psychoanalysis is an open theory formation. This makes it always possible to attach new theories to those already created. A principle also known from physics, but not from, for example, the Freudian school.
Re 3) Rational Psychoanalysis will
always have the goal of making the theories easy to understand, as the precise communication between analyst and analyst is of crucial importance for both the therapeutic process and the research. It is my opinion that this goal has been achieved better here
than by other theories I know.
In this short statement, of course, it has only been possible to give an example of a very small part of the theories, but all theories within Rational Psychoanalysis follow the same principles.
In this statement, it is argued that soul life can appear in two different states: a state where the perception of reality is good, and a state where
the perception of reality is determined by beliefs. This conclusion implies that it is irrational to divide people into neurotic and normal. On the contrary, the dividing line between the well-functioning soul life and the neurotic soul life passes through
the individual human being, so that we probably all have to accept a certain portion of neurotic reactions in our daily lives. However, it is also obvious that it is desirable that the sick soul life dominates one's existence as little as possible. It is therefore
my opinion that it is definitely worth making an effort to familiarize oneself with the theories of Rational Psychoanalysis, as this gives one a very powerful tool in hand to deal with the beliefs that would otherwise unify choices and patterns of action in
an inappropriate way, as this is crucial, not only for the welfare of the individual, but also for the cultural development of a society.
Finally, one must of course be warned against starting an analysis solely on the basis of this statement, as only
what is most necessary for the understanding is included here.