“Under the pressure of our inner repressions, we undertake inside a whole life of fantasy that, in achieving our desires, compensates the insufficiencies of our real existence.”
(Since I read the book in French, I had to translate this quote to English myself. I picked it out because it perfectly sums up the mechanism behind the the impulses of the Id, the ego that plays the role of the mediator between the unconscious and the conscious and finally the superego that is formed by our environment.)
Before being written in a book format, the content of this book was actually a conference that Freud had made and what I love about conferences is that they’re always somewhat more accessible to the average reader, concise and great summaries. So if you want an in depth read, this is not what you are looking for. Before reading this book, I was familiar with Freud’s psychoanalysis since we discussed it in my book club once and I have also been reading “The interpretation of dreams” that is so challenging that I’m only halfway through (And I started it nearly a year ago if not more.) I decided to pick this one up just before my last philosophy test to get some additional material I could use in my dissertation and I was very pleased with it.
It is divided in 5 sections that each offer a different lesson on psychoanalysis. First off, you will approach psychoanalysis from the point of view of another philosopher, Breuer, whose work influenced Freud. It is through the explanation of the hysteria of one of his patients that you will start to understand how analysts can access the core of the sickness simply by listening to the patients’ memories and feelings. It is through these evocative images that the book has a very friendly and anecdotal tone. Freud also explains for example how psychoanalysis can cure patients through other metaphorical images that ensure that you will never forget the mechanism. The second chapter explores rapidly the notion of resistance and repression while the third chapter focuses on dreams which he calls “The royal road to knowledge of the unconscious”. The 4th chapter focuses on erotism and how symptoms are related to sexuality while explaining his famous “Oedipe Complex” that every person should have an idea of. Finally, his 5th lesson explains the relationship between the analyst and the patient and the method used during therapy which is free association.
As you might see, this is the perfect book to read in order to be introduced to all aspects the theories of Freud but it is solely an introduction and will only be sufficient to have a well rounded view of Freud’s ideas. Being already fairly well acquainted with psychoanalysis myself, I cannot say that I learned anything new but I really benefitted from the metaphors I mentioned earlier because they let you visualize certain phenomena and understand a somewhat theoretical theory more pragmatically.
Recommendation: (Books to read after this short lecture)
– “Introduction to Psychoanalysis”- Freud (Trust me, it has nothing to do with an intro!)
– “The interpretation of dreams”- Freud (Challenging and needs a lot of analytical skills)
– “The writer’s responsibility” – Jean-Paul Sartre ( A short conference unrelated to psychoanalysis but a great read as an initiation to Sartre).