Freud was known to poo-poo hypnotism, which is ironic considering the trance he has placed Western civilization under for almost 100 years. Here’s an example:
We love good stories. It’s like we’re wired to tell them, to hear them, to make them up.
The earliest cave paintings seem to be stories of the hunt. We are story making machines.
And, we’ll hold onto a good story even in the face of evidence that it’s dramatically wrong, if the evidence doesn’t provide a better story.
One story we love is the Hero’s story… we love and adore the victor. We also attribute qualities to the victor that s/he may not have had.
Freud is a victor. His theories permeate society (Google “Century of the Self” +BBC and watch this provocative documentary series).
But, just because his stories won, that doesn’t mean they were the best or that he was correct.
For example: One of Freud’s contemporaries, Rudolf Meringer, mapped out a simple explanation for most verbal blunders and slips of the tongue. He identified a handful of specific errors that recur in almost every language and, just as important, noticed which ones do not occur. For example, we’ll often swap the first phonemes of words (e.g. “I bought a lottle of biquor” for “I bought a bottle of liquor”) but not the last ones (e.g. “I bought a bottor of liqttle”), and when we make swaps the new words sound like they could be real words.
In short, Meringer concluded that slips and blunders were merely processing errors. It’s difficult to produce language and, therefore, or not-perfect minds make predictable mistakes. That is, we’re quite mechanistic, but not perfect machines.
But the story that we are machines is not as compelling as Freud’s story about verbal blunders, namely, that these gaffes revealed our hidden, secret, repressed, real thoughts that, like steam from a kettle, have accidentally escaped. For Freud, a verbal gaffe is a battle between good and evil, right and wrong, inner and outer.
This is, clearly, a much more engaging story (Freud, in fact, cherry-picked specific examples from Meringer’s research to “prove” this unconscious escape theory). Meringer’s doesn’t stand a chance.
Freud’s story is so much more engaging that even when it seems blatantly obvious that Meringer’s is a simpler explanation, a more robust and testable theory, and, much more likely to be closer to the truth… we can’t drop the notion of a “Freudian Slip,” and it’s almost impossible to hear George W. Bush talk about the “erections in I lack” (instead of “elections in Iraq”) and not believe that he just inadvertently revealed his hidden agenda and that he really invaded Iraq because of some issue that could have been solved with Viagra.
More about this Freudian Trance (or is it a nightmare) soon…
(and thanks to Michael Erard and his book Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean for introducing me to Meringer… and, um, like, you know for a wonderfully entertaining read)