Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bad News For Freud

It sounds like a chapter out of a textbook on positive psychology. As advice goes, it feels simple-minded. Yet, if you follow it you will reduce your stress and better deal with challenging situations.

The advice: read more good news and less bad news. Neutral news counts as good news.

Reading bad news is bad for you. The more you become conscious of what has and can go wrong the more you will see signs of pending danger. The more you see pending danger the more you will gear up your mind to avoid it. Gearing up your mind to avoid danger takes you out of the real world and into a fantasy world.

This has recently been demonstrated by a study undertaken at the Center for the Study of Human Stress in Montreal. It was reported by the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, the study found that women react more negatively to bad news than men do. Women also tend to remember bad news longer than men do.

One cannot even pretend to be surprised by these results. Since women are more physically more vulnerable than men they naturally have a vested interest in being more attuned to  pending threats.

Most interesting for me is that these findings stand in such direct contradiction to Freud’s theories. They demonstrate that Freud’s theories have nothing to do with human psychology.

When Freud first studied of young female hysterics he posited that they had become neurotic because they had a special propensity for forgetting traumas.

He continued to theorize that the forgotten events remained present in their unconscious minds and expressed themselves through symptoms.

Thus, Freud believed that he could solve these women’s problems by inducing them to recollect their repressed traumas and to integrate them into a coherent life narrative.

In later versions of his theory Freud suggested that it was more important to resurrect repressed fantasies and desires.

None of these were good news. They were all bad news.

For Freud fantasies were more truthful when they were more negative. The Oedipus complex involves incest and patricide: it doesn’t get much more negative.

Freud discovered the Oedipus complex in a play where the main character receives the worst of bad news.

So, Freud thought that people become neurotic when they forget bad news.

The truth: they become dysfunctional when they cannot forget bad news.

Freud thought that women were more apt to forget traumas.

The truth: women are more apt to remember traumas.

The verdict: Freudian psychoanalysis is more likely to produce mental defects than to cure it.

But, you knew that already, didn’t you?


Anonymous said...

I know you say that women remember trauma more, but not in this household.
I live with, what seems to be, a very depressed (maybe even clinically depressed) man.
He reads all of the bad news blogs.
He insists the world is ending around us. Once a week he is so depressed about it he gets drunk over it (or maybe this is just a reason to get drunk?)
Just an "n" of one, but in this household, we need to hack some computers and over-ride with "The Disney Channel!"

Kath said...

Having been raised by an extremely narcissist mother I see both sides.
Mom lives in a bubble refusing to see the dangers in life. Woe to the child that reminds her of reality.
It is true that one must see the positive in life or depression will set in. I just think that there are also problems resulting from people refusing to recognize the bad.

Anonymous said...

It seems like this is mixing things up, but there's an issue of balance of inner and outer "reality" that needs attention. I prefer Jung to Freud, but both are attempts for creative understanding of the unconscious that keeps us asleep in ways to protect us until a calling awakes us.

I've read "trauma" isn't from what happens to us, but how we respond to it, so if facts of an event are "unacceptable" and we feel powerless, we unconciously split our awareness between an innocent persona that stays stuck in development, and a defender persona that tries to protect us from future trauma, even when we are no longer powerless, and are not in danger. So that's why after natural disasters counselors try to encoruage children to talk about their experiences and process it consciously into a specific context that is separate from other events, so its not "forgetting" that is important but "containing".

But processing facts that are in the immediate past is easier than processing fears of an unknown future, and on-going feelings of a lack of control over dangers. Like falling deeper and deeper into credit card debt to make ends meet is an ongoing stress that CAN be forgotten (because of the crutch of credit), but forgetting may be the best defense mechanism for many people, so I accept a "coach" or a financial advisor helps people acknowledge uncomfortable facts, and evaluate more rational choices forward.

AND yet, in that discussion, as the irrational defense mechanisms arise, they may need deeper attention as well.

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