Monday, May 04, 2009

Fathoming Freud 5


I’m not so sure where Freud stood on certainty, but one thing is sure most leaders, especially those of the authoritarian or autocratic variety, are extremely certain that the are right.  Hitler, of course, was never in doubt – he was the prophet as well as the leader par excellence of the Third Reich: and to appropriate, or even misappropriate, a sentence from Éamonn de Valera, one of the founding fathers of the Irish State, all he had to do was look into his heart and he knew what the German people wanted and needed.  Hitler, like all autocratic leaders, knew the truth and proclaimed it with absolute conviction.

What is certain in life?  To be matter of fact  - or cynical as some might say and still others realistic – the only certainty is that we are all going to die.  Of course, we can be reasonably certain that the sun will rise and set tomorrow, that day will follow day, that the seasons will follow one another etc.  However, as to what team will win the local Derby, or what team will win the World Cup or what horse will win the Grand National there is absolutely no certainty, rather only probability, and probability is a mere measure of chance of which much of our world and daily actions are made up of.  The great modern philosopher and psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin informs us that the clients who come to therapy, certain of what ails them, more often than not are the ones who make least progress.  To be too certain about one’s own psyche or psychological make-up would seem, then, to be a distinct disadvantage to recovery.  He declares that the client who is often most confused and upset, and readily admits to this confusion and upset, is the one who will make the most recovery.  This is appealing to me and is quite reasonable, I believe.  Firstly, it lies in harmony with the great Socratic principle of initially proclaiming one’s ignorance in the matter at hand and, then, proceeding by a series of good hard questions to getting at deeper truth.  In other words, it is reasonable to assume that truth unfolds gradually as one struggles to find it.  Secondly, this method appears to me to be way more scientific than proclaiming that one is possessed of the truth or that it has been miraculously revealed to one.

Unfortunately, our man Freud was not the humblest of men.  While he counselled that we all question figures of authority and take them down from their pedestals as it were, he proceeded to set himself up as an authority, and, indeed, he ruled his Psychoanalytical Movement with a rigid and autocratic hand.  This is where one has to admit that the complexity and the enigma Freud really was.

After his break with Jung around 1912/1913 Freud became more and more aware that the only person capable of filling his shoes as leader of The Psychoanalytical Movement was his own daughter and analyst Anna Freud (1895-1982).  The following paragraph shows her great importance to Freud, and also his obsession with the almost apocalyptic importance of his theory and practice of psychoanalysis:

Freud’s love for Anna was by now beyond description.  She was his Cordelia and, as often, his Antigone as well.  Anna was the great comfort of his old age and also his hope for the future.  What Freud wanted was not to live on and on… What he wanted was to depart life convinced that the movement he founded would live on through time.  Freud was obsessed with the continuity of his work and lately he had come to see that Anna might be the one who could do the most to achieve it. [The Death of Sigmund Freud, 60]

I suppose what separates our man Freud from the likes of fanatical and evil leaders like Hitler is that Freud was very much conscious of his desire to be a leader and had integrated all the evils of being such into his psyche unlike these others who projected all their evil desires out onto the world at large in orgies of violence, evil and war.

In his book Totem and Taboo, Freud discussed the rise or origin of religion as being based on the revolt of sons against the father whom they believe to command supernatural powers within his very being.  This revolt, he argues, ended in their murdering their father and eating him in a frenzy of cannibalism.  Later, they are filled with regret and with remorse and they now begin to worship him, and thereby religion is founded.  Edmundson argues that much of this book could be seen as describing his own urge to achieve authority amongst his followers. [ibid., 63]

Above I have uploaded a picture of Freud with one of his chows. I cannot find which chow it is.

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