Psychology

Freuds Parapraxis and Psychoanalysis



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In 1895 Freud experienced what could be construed as a mid life crises, he underwent deep self analysis, through discovering previous hidden feelings related to his father a revelation and led him to examine dreams and slips of the tongue, which shed light on the unconscious world' (Snowden, 2006 p44). This self analysis empowered him to conquer his inhibitions, which enhanced his emotional state. In 1901, Freud gave birth to a phenomenon he termed parapraxes', termed in English as faulty acts' or faulty functions'. These phenomenal errors which can be observed in any healthy person, free from illness, have had little or no attention. Freud however, believed these everyday phenomena were the manifestations of hidden forces at work, within the unconscious mind. Parapraxes include a wide range of very common and familiar human errors, these trivialities will be explored further and their significance to psychoanalysis will be disclosed.

Before engaging on Freud's inspection of parapraxes, one must first appraise his hypothesis of the unconscious mind. Freud divided the human mind into conscious and unconscious systems. The conscious mind contains contemporary thoughts, feelings and sensations that we are instantly aware of at any time. In contrast however, the unconscious mind is usually suppressed from our conscious mind, consisting of all suppressed desires, drives (particularly libido), and also suppressed memories suppressed due to repression; a psychical mechanism keeping these wishes out of consciousness as a style of defence against guilt or anxiety, as these wishes are usually forbidden and emanate from what Freud termed the Id'. Due to the unpleasantness of these instincts and wishes, a censorship is required to maintain repression, to protect the conscious mind, the Ego'. Freud (1923) nominated this censorship as the Superego', which was occasionally circumvented due to the desire of unconscious wishes to manifest into the conscious, indicating the failure of repression. Freud termed this the return of the repressed' (cited in Quinidoz, 2004 pg245). All parapraxes indicate failure in repression and the mechanisms involved in this circumvention will be explored further.

Parapraxes, as declared by Freud (1901) must be in the nature of a momentary and temporary disturbance' and the same function must have been performed by us more correctly before' (cited in Quinidoz, 2004 pg 45). These bungled actions' witnesses in the life of a normal, non neurotic person, are divided into three groups. The first group contain slips of the tongue', most commonly referred to as a Freudian slip' when one intends to say something but uses the opposite word instead, Slip of the pen' writing a distorted word from an intended word is a similar slip. Misreading' is another example - where one reads something different to what is visibly wrote. Lastly, and providing no phonetic difficulties are present, is mishearing' where one hears wrongly of what is said to him. Regarding slips in this group, the intention is evident and presents itself immediately before the speaker remarks, only then it is rejected.

The speaker decides not to put it into words, and after the slip of the tongue occurs; after that, that is to say, the purpose which has been forced back is being put into words against the speakers will, either by altering the expression of the intention which has been permitted, or by mingling with it, or by actually taking it place'
(Freud, 1915 p65).

Freud noted various historical examples of this; a President in the Lower House of Parliament opened a sitting using the words Gentleman, I take notice that a full quorum of members is present and herewith declare this meeting closed', clearly indicating the President wished to close the sitting before he opened it. A Professor declared during a lecture In the case of female genitals, in spite of many temptations, I beg your pardon, experiments' These examples show how the disturbing intention must have been suppressed before it manifested itself as a disturbance; the unconscious intention must be disturbed before it can become a disturber.

The second group the rejection goes further, the intention has ceased to be noticeable before the remark is made. This consists of forgetting', this is not permanent but temporary e.g. recalling a name which is on the tip of the tongue', that is known to the person and immediately recognised at once. A detailed example of this is outlined further on in the essay. Forgetting' to carry out an intention, this is usually recalled later but forgotten at a particular moment. This usually occurs when one is under obligation, forgetting this obligation represents an objection to such obligation e.g. arranging to meet someone and failing to remember the appointment, the reason for forgetting the appointment could be a direct unwillingness to meet this person. Thus failing to carry out an intention can aim at a counter-will and the content of the intention, a counter-will can be direct or indirect.

The third group Mislaying' or loosing' is where the temporary character is absent i.e. when an article is placed somewhere and later it can't be found, differing from other forgetting, this normally annoys or surprises instead of finding it understandable. Such instances of behaviour, Freud believed are due to a secret intention of the loser; a secret repulsive feeling aimed towards the giver of the article which is correlated with the object itself, or an insignificant appraisal of the articles importance. An illustration of this behaviour comes with a man marrying, what he believed to be an apathetic woman. He identified her good qualities but they resided together without any compassionate emotions. A present of a book was provided by the wife to the husband, which she thought would interest him. Thanking her, he put the book aside with a promise to read it. Vein attempts were made soon after to locate the book, but failed. Months later the mans mother fell ill, the wife left their home to nurse her back to health, providing an opportunity to display her caring side, to which she excelled. Filled with enthusiasm and gratitude to the witnessed act, the husband returned home one evening and found the book, which to at that point he couldn't locate, clearly emphasising that parapraxis have a function/definition. Arrays of impulses are expressed in losing an article, as the article is a symbolic narration of a suppressed conviction; often an article given to us by a person we are in dispute with is misplaced, as it reminds us of them and provokes unpleasant emotions. Breaking, destroying or dropping articles associated with that person can be associated with same.

The psychoanalytic theory originating from Freud is the analysis of internal and primarily unconscious psychological forces' (Passer & Smith, 2001 p 9). He proposed all humans have powerful innate aggressive and sexual drives, and throughout the course of childhood these desires are punished, resulting in fear and becoming anxious when we are aware of their presence, leading us to develop defence mechanisms; psychological techniques aiding us to cope with anxiety. Repression being the primary defence; it protects us by possessing unacceptable impulses, emotions and memories in the unconscious depths of the mind. In order to reveal repressed thoughts, emotions and memories, and decipher the latent meaning of parapraxis, a common psychoanalytic method free association' is practiced. Similar to detective work, it involves a person using a piecemeal approach, as though parapraxis were a rebus, and associating to each component until deduction after deduction the unconscious message is revealed, effectively addressing the emotional expression too.

A comprehensive study of Freud's personal experience of forgetting the artists name Signorelli', painter of the frescos Four Last Things' , during the course of a conversation, while visiting Italy, explored this phenomena. While trying to recall this name, two other painters Botticelli' and Boltraffio' came to mind. Realizing neither were the correct name, he was able to revert back to what he did remember, and free associating' about what led him to these two names. He discovered the reason behind his repression, Botticelli reminded him of Bosnia and Boltraffio brought to mind a town called Trafoi, both geographical sites were closely linked to traumatic memories involving sexuality and death, which were also the major themes in Signorelli's' paintings. Freud recognised that he was able to partly forget these traumatic memories, but not completely as they re-appeared under the disguise of the incorrect names, indicating a compromise had been formed to circumvent the censor.

The substitute names no longer strike me as so entirely unjustified as they did before the matter was elucidated; by a sort of compromise they remind me just as much as I want to forget as of what I wanted to remember, and they show me that my intention to forget something was neither a complete success nor a complete failure' (Freud, 1901 p4).

These are all parallel examples of conscious actions/inactions allowing the unconscious force to erupt through the disclosure of the unconscious motive. Parapraxes are not due to mental determinism but due to intentionality; that is without reflection an automatic function. They are two intentions acting in opposition, and can be associated with an unconscious wish. Jokes are mischievous ways of letting slips circumvent the censor and are mainly associated with sexuality, acting out urges in a playful way. It could be argued that somatic factors such as absent-mindedness, fatigue or excitement can interfere with the attention, but they serve to favour and facilitate the mechanisms of parapraxes.

The relevance of parapraxis to psychoanalytic theory has been outlined. Through the personal and clinical observations of Freud, it appears that parapraxis are not just passive occurrences, and are far from meaningless as they are an indication of unconscious forces at work in the human mind, which appear to have the potential to manifest in everyday life until the unconscious wish is granted. The technique of unravelling these blunders through psychoanalysis, has led to the discovery of the repressed thoughts, emotions and memories which effectively can be explored and addressed in this therapeutic environment, thus freeing the person from inner obstructions and in correlation reaching a healthier emotional state.

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