Psychoanalysis and History

Psychoanalysis and History

Psychoanalysis and History

Psychoanalysis and History

Excerpt

It was an acute observer of men and matters who once remarked: "If you want to hide something, put it in the most obvious place." For centuries, mankind seems to have followed this advice: in an effort to avoid self-knowledge men ignored not only their dreams but the behavior of their children, until Sigmund Freud detected the hidden psyche under the disguises of commonplace and everyday life. Like Sherlock Holmes, Freud was a master logician and detective, and for him, too, his conclusions when once reached were "elementary."

Unfortunately, for most of us there is little that is elementary about psychoanalysis except its observed materials. The theories and the techniques are sophisticated, complicated, and often tenuous, which poses major difficulties to our acceptance of them. First, they touch us in our most sensitive area; ourselves the product of repressions, resistances, and sublimations, we are now asked to break through these to a new self- awareness. Second, as I have tried to suggest above, they appeal to a whole mass of clinical evidence which is so familiar to us that familiarity has bred, not overt contempt, but a more subtle version: dismissal. Everyday slips of the tongue, our dreams and fantasies, the desires and actions of our children, the all-too-frequent newspaper-reported "perversions" of our adult neighbors--to these we turn the averted eye of overfamiliarity. And when to all these are added psychoanalysis' pretension to be a science, of the most subtle kind, and its attempt to build theoretical . . .

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