Monday, May 29, 2017

Done with Freud (for now)

I finally finished up Three Cases Studies, so I have gone through all of Freud's main studies of hysteria.  I have to admit, I found it a weird combination of clever insights and times when Freud imposed all kinds of assumptions onto a situation.  In particular in the Wolf Man case, he kept going back to this assumption that the patient had seen his parents having sex when he was 1 1/2 and this more or less scarred him for life.  Freud kept investing more and more into this presumed event -- that it must have happened at 5 pm, since there were 5 wolves in this drawing the patient did, etc.  Freud also seemed completely fascinated by words and basically puns, and large stretches of his analyses are propulsed by nothing more than wordplay.  One other reviewer said that Freud was hellbent on getting from A to B and would make any possible leap to get there -- reversals, dream logic, linguistic analysis, etc.  I find it a bit troubling how much rests upon such uncertain foundations, though most psychiatry has moved beyond Freud.

I was wondering if a modern day Freud would focus more on the visual aspect of dreams, since I think it is indisputable that Western society has gotten more and more visual and relies far less upon the printed word.  (Also, English is a largely ungendered language compared to French, Spanish and German, which means many of Freud's connections don't really work...)  I also wondered if more and more, patients would just go ahead and dream directly about their sexual hang-ups, since we've been told so often that sex is at the root of most mental activity anyway.  I think this is somewhat likely.

At any rate, I finally had a chance to launch into D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel, which sort of launched this whole detour into Freud in the first place.  What is interesting and yet disappointing is that it basically starts off with Freud passing along a long dream recounted by a patient in poem form.  However, it is deeply pornographic.  I think that sort of misses the point that Freud's patients would never have thought so directly about sex -- it would have all been displaced into dreams of trains or horses falling down or what have you.  If you start off by dreaming about wild sex and indeed rape, where do you go from there?  I'm really not sure, though I guess I'll find out this week.

I'll eventually come back around to reading more Freud, but I've read enough for the time being.

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