These lectures were delivered by Freud during World War I. Never before, in the course of 30 years of lecturing at the University of Vienna, had he deliberately set down, with a view to publication, the full range of his theories and observations. This series, therefore, represents a stock-taking of psychoanalysis as it stood after the secession of Adler and Jung.
Book is divided into three sections - omissions, dreams and their interpretation (hardest but without doubt the most important part of the book) and finally neurosis and general overview of [psychoanalysis] practice.
What I like about Freud's writing is that he does not go around "beating the bush" but goes straight to the point. This book is just an overview of foundation of psychoanalysis, its main fields of interests and short overview of problems encountered during the practice (of which practice itself is [and especially in those days was] the greatest issue itself).
During the course of the twenty-eight extremely accessible essays, we discover that he came by the idea that there could be unconscious desires from the practice of hypnosis, in which wish suggestions are rooted in the brain and some time after the patient has awakened actuates upon those suggestions without knowing why.
The book is divided into three sections pertaining to parapraxes, dreams and a general theory of the neuroses. Although mutually related, we find that Freud's discourse throughout follows a similar pattern: hypotheses, research and discovery, and one may wonder whether the research inspired the hypotheses, or if the presuppositions needed to begin questioning and researching led to his very particular and revolutionary brand of ideas.
This is the best place to start if you have never read Freud. He explains the "freudian slip" and other concepts which have become part of our cultural heritage.
Though Psychoanalysis was developed as a means to treat neurosis, he explains that there is no single distinction between a neurotic patient and a healthy individual, it is a matter of continuous gradation between the two. The dreams and waking behaviour of each can be analysed therefore using the same method, and reveal the contents of the unconscious. Freud reasons that as the unconscious is the part of the mind not available to direct examination, the only way to study its contents is through the analysis of behaviour and thoughts for which we cannot provide a conscious motive. In the case of normal people these indicators of the contents of the unconscious include our dreams, and seemingly accidental occurrances such as forgetting certain things, slips of the tongue, and a few other things which are collectively known as parapraxes. In neurotic patients, these behaviours can also be analysed in the same way, in addition to the neurotic symptoms such as compulsions, irrational fears, anxieties etcetera for which they are being treated.
The symptoms, he explains, are caused by experiences or thoughts buried in the unconscious, which push through to the conscious and cause behaviours, thoughts, and compulsions, over which the patient has no control. By bringing these unconscious motives to light, into the consciousness, they lose their power and the symptoms dissipate. A large part of Psychoanalytic theory concerns the libido, and the nature of sexuality, which Freud reasons to be involved in virtually all of the neuroses. Jung, in his books, contends that the contents of the unconscious that cause neuroses extend beyond the sexual, and in this his theory of the Archetypes of the Unconscious is important, but after reading Freud I believe that the two theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
However these things are to be understood, it is clear that Freud was the most important contributor to the understanding of the mind in the last century, whether or not he was wrong about details. For this reason these lectures are essential reading for anyone who would pretend to an education. I was initially sceptical about Freud, from what I had heard about his theories secondhand, but it is not rational to dismiss him without a reading of his works. Rational Freud certainly is, and like all big thinkers, his ideas are not without controversy.
4 stars- well earned!
Physician, heal thyself.