The Psychology of Free Association

Reference: The Scientific Method & Humanities

Reference: Free association (psychology) from Wikipedia

From Buddhism we get the following principle:

Looking at things just as they are can dissolve problems, confusions and suffering.

One of the applications of this principle is in the free association practiced in psychoanalysis.

Free Association is looking at the mind without interfering with it.

“In free association, psychoanalytic patients are invited to relate whatever comes into their minds during the analytic session, and not to censor their thoughts. This technique is intended to help the patient learn more about what he or she thinks and feels, in an atmosphere of non-judgmental curiosity and acceptance.”

A person can freely associate by oneself. The presence of a trusted therapist simply makes it easier for a person to do so.

“The method of free association has no linear or preplanned agenda, but works by intuitive leaps and linkages which may lead to new personal insights and meanings. When used in this spirit, free association is a technique in which neither therapist nor patient knows in advance exactly where the conversation will lead, but it tends to lead to material that matters very much to the patient. Its goal is not to unearth specific answers or memories, but to instigate a journey of co-discovery which can enhance the patient’s integration of thought, feeling, agency, and selfhood.”

It is “looking at the mind without interfering with it,” which contributes to any discovery. Relating what is in the mind to the therapist is secondary to looking and it is not the primary contributor to discovery and relief.



Free Association
In free association one looks at the mind without interfering with it. Attention may flip from place to place; but as one keeps looking non-judgmentally without resistance, a pattern may emerge. As one keeps looking, the pattern may reveal some inconsistency. Such free association is non-verbal.


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