Remembrances Of Things Freud

Michael S. Roth defends the Austrian’s relevance 75 years after his death:

Freud recognized that we are animals that respond to our biology through memory and story-telling. Psychoanalysis became a vehicle for telling those histories in ways that acknowledged our conflicting desires. Psychoanalysis isn’t a methodology to discover one’s true history; it is a collaboration that allows one to refashion a past with which one can live. The need to do so, and the impossibility of ever doing so definitively, has ensured the continued presence of Freud in our culture.

Seventy-five years after Freud’s death, we might well ask how we live with the intensity of these stories; how do we manage their meanings? Well, we now have culturally approved pharmaceuticals. The intensity and ambivalence of our desires have given rise to massive attempts to control them, and those controls have sometimes fueled these very desires. We may find that our medications create the desire for the feeling of intensity that they were supposed to protect us from.

Jon Kelly points out that “the gap between the pub Freud and what Freud actually wrote is often quite large”:

Although much of his body of thought – not least around “infantile sexuality” – was seen as dangerously radical during his lifetime, the more challenging aspects of his work were rarely dwelt on by the mass media. “From a historical perspective, he’s part of a general movement where people start to look more into themselves,” says Marianski. “There was a broad cultural shift in our culture – how you conceptualise the self?”

But there is much in Freud’s writing that makes the continued prominence of his terms appear incongruous. In particular, his theories of repression belong very much to a pre-sexual revolution world. “Now that young people seem to be at liberty to do whatever they want and talk about whatever they want, it’s very interesting that Freud would still be very interesting to them,” says James.