“Psychoanalysis” is the Word of the Week at school. The word was chosen because today marks the eightieth anniversary of the death of Sigmund Freud. The father of psychoanalysis was born in 1856 and died on this day in 1939.
Students were invited to note that Freud established links between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the mind. There was no mention of how circular were many of the arguments developed by Freud.
Studying Sigmund Freud, seemed about the hammering of facts into a shape that fits the theory. Freud’s major work focused on the symbolic importance of items in dreams. Things present in a person’s dreams were claimed to confirm theories and there not being present in the person’s dreams meant only that the person was in denial; either way the theory was confirmed.
Freud’s writing seemed to suggest a man obsessed with seeing every moment as a confirmation of his theories regarding sex. In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life he wrote:
As the girl’s uncle, a very old man, entered the room, we both jumped to our feet to bring him a chair which stood in the corner. She was more agile than I and also nearer the object, so that she was the first to take possession of the chair. She carried it with its back to her, holding both hands on the edge of the seat. As I got there later and did not give up the claim to carrying the chair, I suddenly stood directly back of her, and with both my arms was embracing her from behind, and for a moment my hands touched her lap. I naturally solved the situation as quickly as it came about. Nor did it occur to anybody how dexterously I had taken advantage of this awkward movement.
Occasionally I have had to admit to myself that the annoying, awkward stepping aside on the street, whereby for some seconds one steps here and there, yet always in the same direction as the other person, until finally both stop facing each other, that this “barring one’s way” repeats an ill-mannered, provoking conduct of earlier times and conceals erotic purposes under the mask of awkwardness. From my psychoanalysis of neurotics I know that the so-called naïveté of young people and children is frequently only such a mask, employed in order that the subject may say or do the indecent without restraint.
Couldn’t Freud’s problem have laid in a simple lack of co-ordination? However, to have disagreed Freud’s arguments would simply have invited the accusation one was in denial.
The students will discover for themselves how difficult it is to explain the mind, and how much more difficult it is to falsify the work of Sigmund Freud.