June 6, 2005

Exemplary Stillness


I recently read Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, which was excellent but undoubtedly the most challenging book I have ever read as far as keeping your worldview straight while you read and analysing what you read. When I came to the chapter on Freud, I noticed that he defeats his entire analysis by the example he chose to illustrate it.

Here is Freud's main point, as discussed by Sophie and Alberto in Sophie's World--

"Freud claimed that our everyday life was filled with unconscious mechanisms like these. We forget a particular person's name, we fumble with our clothes while we talk, or we shift what appear to be random objects around in the room. We also stumble over words and make various slips of the tongue or pen that can seem completely innocent. Freud's point was that these slips are neither as accidental or as innocent as we think. These bungled actions can in fact reveal the most innocent secrets."

"From now on I'll watch all my words very carefully."

"Even if you do, you won't be able to escape from your unconscious impulses. The art is precisely not to expend too much effort on burying unpleasant things in the unconscious... It is actually quite healthy to leave the door ajar between the conscious and the unconscious."

"If you lock the door can get mentally sick, right?"

"Yes. A neurotic is just such a person, who uses too much energy trying to keep the 'unpleasant' out of his consciousness. Frequently there is a particular experience which the person is desperately trying to repress."

The problem with this is readily apparent in the illustration Freud uses to explain his ideas--

"Suppose that here in this hall and in this audience, whose exemplary stillness and attention I cannot sufficiently commend, there is an individual who is creating a disturbance, and by his ill-bred laughing, talking, by scraping his feet, distracts my attention from my task. I explain that I cannot go on with my lecture under these conditions, and thereupon several strong men among you get up and, after a short struggle, eject the disturber of the peace from the hall. He is now repressed, and I can continue my lecture. But in order that the disturbance may not be repeated, in case the man who has just been thrown out attempts to force his way back into the room, the gentlemen who have excecuted my suggestion take their chairs to the door and establish themselves there as a resistance, to keep up the repression. Now, if you transfer both locations to the psyche, calling this consciousness, and the outside the unconscious, you have a tolerably good illustration of the process of repression."

Did you notice the phrase 'this audience, whose exemplary stillness and attention I cannot sufficiently commend'? Obviously, the state of the audience being quiet is to be desired and praised, and disturbances, such as the unruly man, to be got rid of. It is only practical. The lecture will not be at all comprehensible or enjoyable if he remains.

But wait-- the audience and the man and the outside of the hall are all symbols for the conscious, thoughts, and the unconscious, right? And Freud believed that we are not to repress 'unpleasant' thoughts and delegate them to the unconscious. This does not work-- if the attendants of the lecture had allowed the man to continue his disturbance, the lecture would have been completely unenjoyable. No one could have paid attention over such racket. Just so, a mind in which 'unpleasant' thoughts are allowed to run wild will lead to a miserable life, I believe.

Now I am not advocating shutting up everything that you don't want to deal with in the unconscious, as Freud termed it. Rather, the Christian should rid himself of unwanted thoughts through prayer and communion with the Lord. That is the only way to attain true peace and joy, or an exemplary stillness in the concert hall. :-)

1 comment:

Thermodude said...

I'm sorry but I don't feel like reading that whole thing.