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The id, ego and Freud

ANUSHA NARAIN
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People Sigmund Freud passed away in September 1939, changing the way the world thought about everything— parents, jokes and the unconscious

Dream runSigmund FreudPhoto: AP
Dream runSigmund FreudPhoto: AP

“Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?” It began with this question, born in the mind of Sigmund Freud. He spent his life answering this question (and its derivatives) and came up with ideas we’ve been trying to forget since.

After all who wants to know what goes on up there? Who wants to know the truth behind all that anger, jealousy, and fears; those strange sexual fixations and bizarre dreams? Who wants to know the secret wishes that lurk in the darkest recesses of the unconscious?

Apparently Freud did, and after long years of analysis, rumination and cigar smoking, he saw the light and went on to thrust the burden of all the castration anxiety, penis envy, deprivation complex, to name a few, upon the blissfully ignorant humanity.

And so, a cigar was never again a cigar; it was a phallic symbol. “A joke was a very serious business” (as Winston Churchill also averred); the paranoid was never entirely mistaken; a slip of tongue, or the Freudian slip as it’s now called, was “to cause a reaction that will ensure a subconsciously desired destiny,” (as defined in the Urban dictionary). Our dreams were a quagmire of symbols and a means of wish fulfillment; the desires that lived in the unconscious, those that couldn’t be fulfilled in civilised society because of their violent or sexual nature. “The mad man is the dreamer awake,” Freud said.

Freud came along, reached way down below into our very core, grabbed by the throat all the anxieties that we hid so lovingly in our subconscious in those early years, and shoved them in our face. His work was done, he died on September 23, 1939, and left us with the awareness of all things uncomfortable.

But self-realisation is better than living in an illusion. “Being entirely honest with one’s self is a good exercise,” he said.

So, here we are today, all because of Freud, taking a long, brave look at our muddled heads; analysing every feeling, every memory, with no thought being too trivial or too weird; without resistance or judgement walking along the royal road to the unconscious-the seat of all self-knowledge and enlightenment.

The revelations so achieved, through techniques such as free association and dream analysis, are ultimately meant to help us deal with conflicts (not eliminate). “A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world,” said Freud. Knowing oneself also consequently leads to accepting all shades of being human, even the grey ones. Freud believed maturity was achieved when one became tolerant of ambivalent feelings, which means, feelings of love and hate can coexist. “Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate,” he said.

Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the author of Interpretation of Dreams changed the way mankind looked at itself. He uncovered the squeaky clean facade and revealed the real bag of complications that we possibly could be, with sexual gratification and self-importance being the two main motivators, with every habit being a substitute for “the one great habit”, and of course the fact that the love for our parents was peppered with a little bit of Oedipus or Electra Complex. Freud was lambasted for his controversial theories, and many questioned their universality. But all the criticism aside, there is a lot to be learned from one of the greatest minds ever.

Buried under all the uncomfortable truths is Freud’s gift of hope: “Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength”, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful,” and “There are no mistakes”. So, don’t beat yourself up. And apparently, all forgotten thoughts find a place in the endless unconscious.

ANUSHA NARAIN

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