What Makes Free Association Work and Why Does It Fail?

free association

If you’re looking for the mindset association with inner dynamics training, visit this page. 

Freud asked patients to free associate. We all know that.

But what’s the proper mindset for free associating effectively. Yes, there are ways to free associate correctly! Doing it wrong will impede progress. Let’s make sense of this.

Free Associating the Right Way

To free associate well, you need to understand the following:

  • Purpose of Free Association
  • The Goal of Free Associating
  • Free Association’s Mechanism

The Purpose of Free Association

The purpose of free association is to facilitate psychic healing. It’s a method used with intention and that intention is to increase mental wellness. Simple!

The Goal of Free Association

When you practice free association in a clinic setting, the goal is to discover unconscious information that had been forgotten or repressed.

Free association aims to uncover the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that operate outside of conscious awareness. When you’re emotionally suffering for no apparent reason, apparent is the operative word. It’s not apparent to you consciously.

Free Association’s Key Mechanism

Here’s the key to fulfilling the goal and purpose of free association. Get the mechanics right!

Anyone can free associate. All you do is relax and say out loud any thoughts or feelings that enter your mind, without editing any of them.

Without. Editing. 

Oh yes! We have the foundational healing mechanism. It’s something you don’t do. Do not edit your thoughts and feelings before expressing them.

Now, you may not know your unconscious mind. It’s powerful and opinionated and NOT concerned with what other people might think if you let some of it’s darker thoughts out.

You are concerned, of course!

What will the psychoanalyst think? Am I an awful person for feeling this way? If I say this out loud, does that make it true? It can’t be true!

Yet, if you’re doing true (not fake) free association, express those horrific, morbid, socially unacceptable thoughts and feelings just the same. Put them on the psychic table. If you don’t, you’re not free associating. You’re offering edited commentary, most of which will be useless in your healing.

The Part of you Who Hates Everyone

hate everyone

You just want to be left alone, I get it. You’ve been hurt. People have proven they aren’t trustworthy. They only think about themselves.

It’s as if a part of you were screaming:

Screw them. Everyone just leave me alone. I don’t want to be part of anyone’s life. And I don’t have to be. You can’t make me – not anymore.

I don’t belong among people. I never did, otherwise, I’m sure I would have found a way to fit in. But not me. It might have looked like I was fine, but I never was. I was always scared. I played the chameleon. Just be who they want you to be. People are too stupid to notice anyway.

Be myself? What for? There’s no point in that. Be myself for whom? If I let down my guard, I’ll get slaughtered – again. Not gonna happen!

I’m at peace when I’m by myself, period. When I have to be around people, I fake it. I get through it. That’s all the hope there is for my relationships.

And stop telling me I live in a social world. I’ll never be able to escape people. Don’t give that “we’re social beings” and “interdependent society” b.s.

You’re just trying to lure me into trusting people who are fundamentally untrustworthy. The only predictable thing about people is that – given enough time – they will hurt you.

I’ll take my chances on my own. I’m not saying I’m happy or anything, but I’m safe and that’s all that matters.

Any other questions?

You got the message, now what?

Let’s take a quick inventory.

• A part of you hates people

• It feels alienated

• It’s alienated from YOU as well

• You probably don’t know this part of you well

• Other parts of you hate this part

• You probably have a different part who longs to belong

The bottom line: Within you there is alienation and conflict among different parts of your personality. This leads to conflicting feelings. You feel compelled to avoid people. You long to fit in  – to belong.

Is there a solution?

Like all parts-oriented work, you should approach this from a position of self-compassion. The central problem is one of inner disconnection and alienation. The solution must begin within yourself. In other words, stop the isolation and inner conflict.

You can do this by centering yourself and calling forth the part of you who hates people. Consider it your goal to eliminate the disconnect between you and this important part of your psyche. Hang out with this part of you. Learn about it. Let it tell you its story.

The majority of people need a facilitator for this kind of inner parts work. But it isn’t 100% necessary. Just think of the part of you that hates people, realizing that it’s just a part of you. Talk to it. This is a normal thing to do.

What seems less normal (but more common) is to allow parts of you to hijack your consciousness and force you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t want to do, like avoid people at all costs.

Here’s a Personal Development Promise you’ll Love

So you want to grow and develop as a person. Great. I’ve got a plan for you.

First, you must commit yourself to a course of action. And it’s a lot of work. In fact, personal development is a lifestyle more than anything. If you embrace this lifestyle, it will involve the following.

You will ALWAYS be involved in one or more of the following:

• Therapy
• Coaching
• Courses
• Books
• Practices

Yes, it’s expensive. Budget at least $1000 per month. And it takes time, too. Daily practice of an hour or so a day will be the norm.

Will it All Pay Off?

Certainly. Heres’ what I can promise.

Life will become a little less miserable until you die.

You see, life’s a bitch. It’s hard. We all suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s no escaping it. Rather, there is only one true escape and that is death, which will come soon enough.

However, if you join my personal development program, you will suffer a little less, perhaps enough to take the edge off. As long as you keep pouring your heart and soul into the work, your suffering will reduce, bit by bit. When you die,  you will indeed die a little less miserable. Are you up for that?

You should be. When the options in life are to suffer a lot or a little less than alot, choose the lesser of the suffering!

Everyone Wants to Kill their Mother

kill your mother

If you steep yourself in the world of psychoanalysis, you’ll soon believe that everyone wants to kill their mother. Do you want to kill your mother?

If you think not, a good analyst might suspect you of denial.

Let’s not confuse this post with the infamous Oedipus Complex, in which young boys don’t want to kill their mother. They want to fuck her. Dad is the one who gets killed in this fantasy. For girls, the Electra Complex serves the same repressive desire to kill mom and have her way with dad.

In this post, we’re merely referring to the less dramatic desire to off good ole mom. And we should take it somewhat seriously. Children do kill their parents. And moms kill their kids.  It’s not something to trifle with. Are kids who actually kill their parents much different than the rest of us? Or do they simply have less impulse control? Are kids who kill their parents just further to the side of a sliding scale of parent-killing desire?

If the psychoanalysts are correct, we all have repressed desires to eliminate our mother (or parents). These desires may manifest as chronic anger or irritation at mom. In psychoanalytic theory, these dark desires fall under the name of aggression. And boy does humanity have a nasty case of aggression. It may end the world and I know that you don’t need to see the evidence. The inhabitants of the earth may very well destroy themselves.

Universal Aggression

Are we all struggling with aggression, suppressing desires to kill and maim and destroy? According to Freudian types, you betcha. In fact, repressing such desires, according to the theory, requires a ton of psychic (not tarot card stuff) energy. And it creates anxiety and depression and shame. To struggle with unconscious manifestations of aggression while we’re hell-bent on showing the world a happy face. That may sum up human psychology well.

It doesn’t tell us what to do when we suspect the presence of a deep pool of pure hostility, resting beneath the surface. The only saving grace may be that this unseemly condition may be the norm. Everyone is fighting the same inner beast, to one degree or another.

What do Do with your Burning Rage

According to psychoanalysts? Stop kicking the dog and un-repress yourself. De-repressing – letting the rage OUT, is more of a process (that could take years) than an event. Which may be a good thing if you think about it. Imagine a lifetime of anger suddenly breaking through to the surface. You might explode.

I once frequented a Reichian therapist who insisted that emotional blockages must be cleared slowly. She was right. There are breakthroughs from time to time but if you intend to clear decades of emotional baggage, plan to spend time. What else are you going to do? Continue to inwardly stew on it? Let it continue to build up until you self-destruct? Do your work of letting go and treat it as a lifestyle. It’s really the only option.

Find a practice that accesses and releases deep emotions and then practice, practice, practice until you die.

The Brief Therapies

And then there are the brief therapies that suggest our issues need to take a long time to clear. If you take this claim at face value, it’s total bullshit and no one knows it better than practitioners of brief therapy.

Brief therapy can be immensely valuable for resolving a litany of problems. It’s focused, pragmatic and much less expensive. Yet, there’s no brief cure for a lifetime of repressed rage. Now, you can engage in brief therapy for a long time – that’s an option. But don’t think some slick NLP or hypnosis practitioner is going to swish away these issues or restructure their thoughts in a session or two.

This is coming from me, an NLP trainer at the iNLP Center. The iNLP Center certifies NLP practitioners, many of who are life coaches that want to offer fast and friendly solutions to their clients.

The Final Word

It’s part of the human condition. Anger, rage, and self-centered discontent make up part of who each of us is. It behooves us to do something about it and it’s not a quick fix. If you’re carrying around a cesspool of rage, you’re 100% normal. Find a form of healing release and stick with it. Don’t expect overnight results. You’ll just be angry when they don’t happen.