Essay, Research Paper: Freud


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In several of his books, including Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis and
On Dreams, Freud combines the topics of forgetting a proper name and dream
analysis, formulating a thesis that helps to clarify his theories on both. He
describes in psychoanalytic terms the mechanisms behind forgetting of a proper
name and how they relate to the methods used in dream analysis. By looking at
the two topics from a joint perspective, we can gain a greater understanding of
them and how they relate to other areas of psychoanalysis. The tendency toward
forgetting of a proper name is an important theme in Freud’s work. He
explained the way in which forgetting something like a name was actually a
substitute for forgetting something that, unconsciously, an individual does not
wish to remember. He described the unconscious force that prompted this
forgetfulness as a “counter-will”, or an unconscious desire parallel to an
individual’s conscious desire. According to Freud, there is a connection
between what one consciously forgets and what one unconsciously wants to forget.
When a person has some unpleasant thought or issue that they wish to banish from
their mind, the will to forget may “miss its target”, and the wish to forget
may manifest itself in some other way. In this case the individual may forget
something seemingly unconnected to the thought they wish to banish, such as a
proper name. Freud gives some relevant examples of this phenomenon in
Introductory Lectures: “For instance, if we have temporarily forgotten a name,
we are annoyed about it, do all we can to remember it and cannot leave the
business alone. Why in such cases do we so extremely seldom succeed in directing
our attention, as we are after all anxious to do, to the word which (as we say)
is ‘on the tip of our tongue’ and which we recognize at once when we are
told it? Or again: there are cases in which the parapraxes multiply, form
chains, and replace one another…” (ILp 35-36) It is in this line that
understanding the preconscious becomes important. “Preconscious” describes a
division of the mind that falls in between repression (unconscious) and
recognition (conscious). Freud described thoughts in the preconscious as having
crossed the threshold from the unconscious mind, but not yet having caught the
eye of consciousness (IL p366). The preconscious is an important element in the
dynamic between an individual’s conscious intention and their counter-will,
because it falls somewhere in the middle and may be the most manifested part of
the phenomenon. For instance, when a proper name is forgotten, this is a
function of repression. The individual unconsciously wants to forget one thing,
but the counter-will resists by forgetting another. It is when a name is “on
the tip of the tongue” but still unclear that countless other irrelevant names
will come to mind; these irrelevant names are the inhabitants of the
preconscious. The case detailed in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, in
which Freud discusses his own experience with the forgetting of a proper name,
is a good example of a clear analysis of the mechanism Freud saw behind this
phenomenon. He explains the situation, and will later go on to fully analyze its
significance: “ The name that I tried without success to recall in the example
I chose for analysis in 1898 was that of the artist who painted the magnificent
frescoes of the ‘Four Last Things’ in Orvieto Cathedral. Instead of the name
I was looking for – Signorelli – the names of two other painters –
Botticelli and Boltrafio – thrust themselves at me, though they were
immediately and decisively rejected by my judgment as incorrect. When I learn
the correct name from someone else, I recognized it at once and without
hesitation (PEL p2). When he tries to remember the forgotten name, and later
remembers it and brings it back to his consciousness, he plunges into a maze of
explanations of how and why the particular substitutions occurred. This is where
I find Freud to be stretching the limits of reasonable deduction; it is my
opinion that the chart he included in Psychopathology of Everyday Life is
unconvincing at best. The chart, however, manages to lead him from the
substituted name to the source of the repressed material. Whether the chart and
its analysis was superfluous to this discovery or not is something of which I am
not convinced. The way he uses the first few letters of his mixed up words to
relate them to each other and tie everything together seemed too orderly and
simplified to be the product of something as willful as the unconscious mind,
but it did seem to work in validating his points on the issue. Comparing and
contrasting the phenomenon of forgetting proper names and all that it entails
with the practice of dream-analysis is challenging and adds another dimension to
our understanding of both. Though study of both is focused on a part of the mind
other than the conscious thoughts, there is a distinction between the roles
played by the unconscious and the preconscious in these phenomena. In dream
analysis, the dream-thoughts are recognized as unconscious material, waiting in
the unconscious mind to be revealed to the dreamer in sleep. Much of this
material could not be recognized by the individual in any form other than a
dream, either because it is repressed or it has not yet reached the conscious
level of recognition. In forgetting of a proper name, however, the answer seems
to be “on the tip of the tongue”, or just out of reach of the conscious
mind. In this case both the material that is forgotten and the material that the
memory substitutes is found in the preconscious mind, the state in between
conscious and unconscious thought. The significant tie between these two realms
of thought can be found in hypnosis. In a hypnotic state induced by suggestion,
and individual is made able to access both preconscious and unconscious
thoughts, and to express them while not asleep. This is a valuable tool both for
the psychoanalyst and for the patient; in a hypnotic state the patient has
access to unconscious material that otherwise would be difficult to uncover and
interpret. Understanding of the areas of forgetting a proper name and the dream
work is essential to understanding much of Freud’s work, and comparing and
contrasting the two can help us gain an extra dimension of insight into both.
The tremendous impact of Freud’s work, both culturally and clinically, is
inescapable in American society. It is for this reason that it is so relevant
for us to study it today.
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