I read a primer of Freudian psychology when i was about 15 or so. It is what got me interested in the area of psychology. In particular, Freudian defenses struck me as particularly refined and accurate in their ability to describe our strange behaviours. Freud's dream analyses were also quite interesting to me because he helped me gain some perspective on the dreams i had been curious about for so long. I tried to have an open mind about what appeared to be the most far out concepts like penis envy, oedipal complexes and stuff like that. I was able to find some validity and personal meaning in those concepts even though most uninitiated readers seem to just throw those concepts away outright because they sound offensive and well, crazy.
Freud gave us a number of concepts to help us understand what is going on in the dream world. Concepts that seem to really make a lot of sense. A few notions like condensation, fusion, substitution, displacement, latent and manifest content all helped me to analyse my own dreams and get a deeper meaning out of them. But do i see those things simply because i read about them and they are supposedly there to be seen? Are they really there? Am I using my knowledge to project onto a reality something which is not real? Does my supposed knowledge make it real? Is my believing it to be true enough to make it true? Is this the ultimate placebo effect by which my belief in it is a sufficient condition to make it exist? Or, is it still nothing but an illusion no matter how much i choose to believe in it? It is not until very recently, some 20 years later that i have started to ask a fundamental and personal knowledge shattering question: did Freud's theories structure the perceptual filter through which i see my dreams? Obviously, the answer is yes. I read Freud's ideas and from that moment on, my thinking changed about what is going on in my dreams. In some sense it is pretty obvious really. I mean anything that we read and find interesting is bound to shape our perceptual filters and thus our experience. The more pressing question for me though is: Do i see things in my dreams only because Freud tells me they are so? Put another way: are there other, equally plausible explanations for what is going on? Well, yes there are. One is that gods are talking to us in our dreams. An0ther is that dreams foretell the future. A devout reader of the Koran might have inclinations to believe that his dreams are messages from a god. Native Indians had some interesting ideas about dreams which are not really any less likely than Freud's. Freud's though are analytical and any religious ideas about dreams are spiritual. One has to do more with the soul and the human narrative while Freud's has more to do with a scientific method of examining the process of dreaming.
It sounds somewhat trivial i suppose but the thought process goes like this:
1) Freud tells me that there are certain underlying principles which shape how a dream looks to the dreamer.
2) I find his theories convincing and thereafter begin to see those principles operating in my dreams.
3) I am now, 20 years later questioning whether i have been a fool, seeing things in my dreams which are not objectively real.
Basically, knowledge of the kind Freud has imparted is such that once you find it convincing, it continues to convince you by shaping everything you see in the world into a piece of that knowledge. This sounds something like religion in a sense. Religion is very convincing conventional, oral history which claims to determine some aspects of the future. Once you are convinced by any of the big religions, everything you see around you starts to fit in with the theory.
I am not saying that Freud's theories are a kind of religion but that the type of knowledge category which his ideas about dreams falls into is similar to the knowledge category which religious ideas fall into. In summary, i can't say whether the theories are true or not. Nobody can and i guess that is the main complaint that cognitive behaviourists have with psychoanalysis. Though there is a huge amount of educated support for psychoanalysis along with anecdotal evidence in the form of millions of case hundreds of thousands of case studies. Not to mention the intersubjective validation of the entire Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. Nonetheless, going with the majority has never been a good enough reason to believe something. World War II taught us that.
Though it seems i am critical of Freud's ideas and somewhat mistrusting of them, i must admit, i continue to believe in their essential value and usefulness for self understanding. I have not yet rejected anything which the master has said. This post has only been to suggest that i am for perhaps the first time ever, seriously questioning them. I am starting to wonder what has shaped the mind of the thinker and whether or not the thinker can ever really think about his own thinking without contaminating his thoughts with the ways in which he thinks.