May 6 was Sigmund Freud’s birthday (born in 1856). It has been more or less 100 years since Freud wrote many of his groundbreaking books and papers on the human mind — exploring and theorizing about dreams, culture, childhood development, sexuality and mental health. And while some of his theories have been discredited, many major ideas have been borne out and are still relevant today, according to Discover Magazine. They are a roadmap to our minds and are still useful and accepted — in one way or another — by all educated people, who grapple with the issues of self-knowledge and human motives.
Freud tells a story that few of us want to hear: We do not know ourselves. We do not really know what motivates us or why we do what we do.
Our conscious thoughts are just the tip of our mental iceberg.
In commemoration of Mental Health Awareness month this May, the following list, compiled with help from the American Psychoanalytic Association, are 12 examples of the gifts Freud left to us.
1) The Unconcious. Nothing Comes “Out of the Blue”: Freud discovered that there are no accidents and no coincidences. Even “random-seeming” feelings, ideas, impulses, wishes, events and actions carry important, often unconscious, meanings. Anyone who has ever made a “Freudian Slip” that has left them embarrassed or baffled will attest to the importance of the unconscious meanings of the things we do and say. That time you “accidentally” left your keys at your lover’s apartment may have been an accident; but more likely, at least unconsciously, you wanted to go back for more. From dreams, to Freudian slips, to free association — delving into one’s unconscious as a means of unlocking often hidden or denied fantasies, traumas or motivations is still crucial to gaining the whole truth about human behavior.
2) Sexuality is Everyone’s Weakness-and Strength: Sex is a prime motivator and common denominator for all of us. It is not a message many want to hear. So high is our disgust for these elementary Darwinian principles — that led to human triumph over all other living things — that we spent much of our time denying the dark side of our lives. Even the most prudent, puritanical-appearing individuals struggle greatly against their sexual appetites and expression. One need only look to the many scandals that have rocked the Vatican, fundamentalist churches, politicians and celebrities alike. Freud observed this prurient struggle in men and women early on in Victorian Vienna and extrapolated easily from there.