In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis Freud elaborated his theory of the unconscious and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising id, ego and super-ego. Freud postulated the existence of libido, an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt. In his later work Freud developed a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.
Though in overall decline as a diagnostic and clinical practice, psychoanalysis remains influential within psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy, and across the humanities. As such, it continues to generate extensive and highly contested debate with regard to its therapeutic efficacy, its scientific status, and whether it advances or is detrimental to the feminist cause. Nonetheless, Freud’s work has suffused contemporary Western thought and popular culture. In the words of W.H. Auden’s 1940 poetic tribute, by the time of Freud’s death, he had become a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives.
Judith Lewis Herman is a contemporary psychiatrist who studies trauma and posttraumatic stress (PTSD). She developed the diagnosis of Complex PTSD.
Herman has spent the majority of her career addressing issues arising from posttraumatic stress and in particular, incest. On the topic of incest, Herman wrote Father-Daughter Incest in collaboration with Lisa Hirschman in 1981. Herman also wrote Trauma and Recovery in 1992. She has received awards for her work, including the American Medical Women’s Association award in 2000, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association bestowed the title of Distinguished Fellow upon Herman in 2003.
Herman’s best-known contribution to the field is her development of the diagnosis of Complex PTSD. Herman found that victims of prolonged or multiple traumas frequently developed symptoms that were markedly different from those associated with traditional PTSD. The development of Complex PTSD commonly results from a feeling of captivity or powerlessness that lasts for an extended period of time rather than just for the duration of one traumatic event. Victims of sex trafficking, domestic violence survivors, people who have been repeatedly raped or assaulted, prisoners of war, and those who have experienced several different traumas are susceptible to the disorder.
Herman is seen as an expert in the treatment of trauma and is an advocate for victims of traumatic crimes. Herman uses her experience and education to enlighten professional and legal communities and the public to the sensitivity of victims after traumatic events. She has educated family members, counselors, therapists, and other educators on how to interpret the hesitation, denial, and fear expressed by survivors of incest and other abuses. This information has helped clinicians better understand a survivor’s perspective and has paved the way for more empathic communication between professionals and survivors of trauma.