I have decided I love Freud. He’s such a colourful part of our cultural conscience - Freudian slips, unconscious desires, the analyst’s couch…
I’ve been reflecting on how, during my student days, I distanced myself from him - as if he was an embarrassing parent I wanted to hide from my friends.
I studied psychology, as a science. In my memory the introduction to every subject area would start with a lecturer outlining the history of thinking in the area. This inevitably included a précis of Freud’s contribution that went something like:
This is what Freud and his followers would have said on this subject. Of course, we all know that he was unspeakably unscientific and is now discredited. So while his thoughts were important at the time, we don’t need to worry ourselves with them now.”
I learned to consider Freud’s work as redundant. Yet a after a decade in qual research, I find I use Freud’s models of the mind (the conscious/subconscious/unconscious and the id/ego/superego) all the time. Like any great models, they’re simply useful frames for thinking - helping me understand and explain beautifully complex and contradictory mindsets and behaviours. I’ll post more about these models another day. First, I want to record a recent moment of epiphany.
Today I realised that not only is Freud’s thinking useful to me, but that we are kindred. We both speak to small numbers of people, cogitate on what we have learned, then make pronouncements about the human condition - or more often in my case, pronouncements on what I believe people really mean when they say they prefer x over y.
It may sound stupid, but it’s only just clicked that Sigmund was a qualitative researcher – no wonder I was embarrassed by him in my more scientific days!