Charcot, the most important precursor of psychoanalysis

Edith Sánchez wrote for The Mind is Wonderful, a good synthesis of the life and work of Jean-Martin Charcot:

Jean-Martin Charcot was above all a student of the brain. His research allowed us to lay the foundations for understanding diseases such as sclerosis. He also explains many aspects of cerebral hemorrhages and others such as Friedrich’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome. However, his curiosity took him again and again to the ward for the so-called simple epileptics. There 90% of the patients were classified as hysterical and .

Charcot showed that hysteria was not in the womb, but in the brain. He also postulated that the origin of these seizures, hot flashes, paralysis and other unexplained symptoms could lie in an experience of the. Almost simultaneously, he proposed the idea that this illness could be treated through hypnosis. This is how one of the most fascinating scenarios of those times emerged: the Tuesday sessions.

In them Charcot presented cases of hysteria, almost within the framework of a hysterical scenario. That is, theatrical. The French doctor showed, one by one, how the symptoms disappeared under the state of hypnosis. And not all of them were women: it was proven that this also happened with men.

Charcot was harshly criticized by many of his contemporaries. They accused him of being unscientific and of having turned his Tuesday sessions into a circus. The claims were not fair. Charcot had a deep scientific spirit and that is why he did not close himself to any option. Soon, he found analogies between hysteria and.

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Charcot’s theories have not been proven. But, without a doubt, his work paved the way for medicine to become more interested in the development of mechanisms that would allow us to understand and treat mental disorders from a more scientific stance. A path that we have not yet finished building, but in which we have made a lot of progress.