Psychoanalysis and Yoga

Jignasu Tushtibhav, Greece

I would like to share some thoughts related to psychoanalysis and yoga, two different paths of self-study, self-awareness and self-involvement.


In psychoanalysis you explore yourself, understand the thoughts of the mind, and throw light on different aspects of your personality. Rooted in the mind, the psychology of Freud is for many people the chosen way of understanding themselves. As Swami Satyananda says, “Our generation is suffering from infirmity of understanding. It talks about spiritual things but it is rooted in matter, we are rooted in matter and sensuality. We are rooted in the mind. It was precisely because of this that the psychology of Freud could become international. Only a civilization which is suffering the poverty of intellect can talk about Freudian psychology.” (Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Volume VI)

As a patient, in the process of classical Freudian psychotherapy using the mind, I explored my conscious and unconscious fears, faced the traumas of early childhood, understood the roots of my behaviour and the formation of my personality.

This can be a hard and painful process, which gradually can lead to a deep understanding and strengthening of the mind. However, it has nothing to do with the psychic aspect of one’s being. Therefore, I would say that it is personality-analysis rather than psycho-analysis, as it is called.

Need for the drashta

Yoga, on the other hand, deals with the personality aspects, with recognition and acceptance of the self, but is more than that. Yoga evolves all of a person’s potential, the physical, vital, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual qualities. In yoga one gets in touch with all levels of the mind.

In yoga one becomes familiar with the sense of awareness, witnesses one’s awareness and evolves the drashta attitude of the mind. The torch of awareness is a tool that is used in psychoanalysis, however, it is used in a more critical and egocentric way.

Being the witness of one’s awareness, the drashta, and the attitude of non-identification with the mind does not exist in the process of psychoanalysis, because in psychoanalysis there is no spiritual aspect.

The process in yoga is that first you let your feelings and your reactions out, while at the same time witnessing and observing them. In a second stage you witness them before they come out. Finally, you can transform the pattern of your mind which is working on many levels.

In the process of psychoanalysis, you are all the time identified with your mind, your thoughts, your emotions, your ego. You are trying to understand ‘the movie of your life’ by being involved in it. You remain stuck to your ego; even though your ego is psychoanalysed and purified, in a way, you are still that ego. This identification does not lead you to inner freedom, cannot give you the delight of simple joy.

Example: anger

By using psychoanalytical methods, you may realize that your anger comes from emotional fear, from not having received maternal love and care during your childhood. As soon as you realize this ‘game’ of the mind, which is a false attitude of protection, you understand one aspect of your emotional personality. However, even after this understanding and acceptance, you still identify with this aspect of your being. It is yourself. Anger is still you. On this path of psychoanalysis you are the body, you are the anger, you are your ‘angry’ mind and heart. To be aware of it is really important, but it is not liberating!

Yoga moves further. On the path of yoga, you are not the mind; you try not to identify with the doer, the performer. You have to learn to be a spectator of the movie of your life, thoughts and behaviour. From the yogic aspect, through practices such as antar mouna or SWAN meditation, you can understand the type and source of your anger, but you are learning to recognize yourself as an observer, a witness, detached from anger.

Swami Niranjanananda described a nice way of understanding the state of drashta: Imagine that your mind has two faces, the front or outside face is the doer, the performer, and the inside face is the state of the drashta, your spiritual nature.

Wings to fly

According to my understanding and experience, psychoanalysis has one limitation which is identification with the mind. You feel like you have wings, but you cannot fly!

In yoga, the drashta attitude is the first step towards connecting with joy, freedom and light for it propels you out of your ego! Developing the drashta you focus on yourself with an attitude of non-attachment, you stop being the centre of your thoughts and observe yourself by keeping a distance. You are like a good loving friend to your mind, a friend who is always there but does not intervene.

To be an observer and at the same time able to control the mind in the way you want can be a path to the freedom of the soul. The drashta attitude is part of the mechanics for using your wings to fly!