Psychoanalysis is a subspecialty of psychotherapy. It originated with Sigmund Freud, and traditional psychoanalysis rests on the belief that all people have unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories. As Freud saw it, a psychoanalyst was like a surgeon who could excavate (dig a whole into) someone’s psychological landscape. To begin, the psychoanalyst would identify the life experiences that hampered the patient’s emotional development. Then he would help the patient better manage impulses, efficiently and appropriately meet their own needs, and develop a moral compass that fostered prosperity and positive contributions to society.
You’re in luck! Dr. John Paddock is not a traditional analyst. In fact, he finds the term “analyst” outdated and misleading. He does not believe patients should be treated as problems that are evaluated, scrutinized, and interpreted without factoring in their humanity. Thus, his Atlanta psychoanalysis practice is anything but traditional.
While Freud believed that people could be “cured” by making their unconscious thoughts and motivations conscious to them, modern cognitive science has moved away from that thinking. Just as two scientists can examine the same data and draw different conclusions, so do humans filter their perceptions of interpersonal behavior through their own learned experience with people.
Dr. Paddock’s Atlanta psychoanalysis approach is simply to build a relationship where his patients experience being valued, understood, and genuinely related to. He is a relational and human-oriented psychoanalyst. By interacting with an inquiring, yet gentle analyst, patients learn to test new ways of interpreting experiences, along with new ways of interacting with others. This process involves:
- Understanding the origins of our relational patterns (i.e., characteristic wishes for and fears about connections with important people),
- Learning to block the patterns (or parts) that no longer provide satisfaction with people,
- Developing the will and internal strength to change
- Taking the risk to learn new patterns
It also involves uncovering unconscious influences that contribute to the dead ends people often experience in life.
Psychoanalysis requires consistent time and financial commitment (often meeting multiple times per week), and is sought by patients for whom other approaches have just not worked. Other times, they desire a more in-depth exploration and understanding of both their maladaptive patterns and their strengths.
A psychoanalysis session is about taking a comprehensive look at why patients’ ways of organizing interpersonal experience make sense (given their lived experience), but also about helping cultivate and fertilize each patient’s growing edge – in particular, their strengths and personal areas of resilience.
His practice during a psychoanalysis session is particularly characterized by his empathy. He asks questions to understand the ways patients construct moment-to-moment experiences, and how these patterns emerge naturally and manifest from lived experience. This involves listening to patients from their own point of view, and also drawing on others’ perspectives in relation to patients. He does not assume that he has the answers you want and need, rather he intends to partner and co-journey with you to discover together what will work best for you.
Dr. Paddock works collaboratively with his patients to help them understand why, based on their lived experience, they are having the difficulties that bring them to a psychoanalytic relationship in the first place. It is often because other prior approaches were not effective. He endeavors to create a relationship and alliance where each patient experiences being deeply heard, understood, and de-pathologized by embracing the following:
- That well-trained psychoanalysts like Dr. Paddock are in no way “objective” purveyors of truth, or a psycho-archeologist who dusts off the debris of lived experience to “reveal” patients as they truly are. This “objectivist” approach is a fantasy. Psychoanalysts like Dr. Paddock work with their patients to discover how their perception of the world and behavior are both understandable and due to life experiences, most often with significant others.
- That the well-trained psychoanalyst has learned to winnow out whether their reaction to the patient is because of their own learned history or actually consistent with how most people experience the patient.
- That the well-trained psychoanalyst accepts that the therapeutic process is intersubjective – both the patient’s and analyst’s subjectivity intersect much like a Venn diagram. It is through the analyst’s disciplined, spontaneous, emotional engagements that patients come to feel safe, and experience being heard, accepted, and understood. From this, personal change can emanate.
- That the well-trained psychoanalyst recognizes that the therapeutic relationship is characterized by mutuality. The analyst is skilled in asking probing questions, forming and testing hypotheses, showing empathy, and connecting the dots of a patient’s experience in a way they cannot already see.
- That the well-trained psychoanalyst knows that human behavior has multiple motivations (not just sexual and aggressive impulses, as traditional analysts believe), a position supported by extensive observation of infants.
- That the well-trained psychoanalyst knows much of the therapeutic action focuses on identifying, articulating, and supporting the patient’s strengths and anti-fragilities – the forward (or growing) edge – rather than on what’s “defect’ and “deficit.”