AN ANTHOLOGY OF THOUGHT & EMOTION... Un'antologia di pensieri & emozioni

Sunday, 30 April 2017

COME NEL RITRATTO DI DORIAN GRAY?

Zingaretti e Montalbano: se l’attore rimane imprigionato nel personaggio
Luca Zingaretti è ormai fatto della stessa sostanza di Montalbano. Mescolati e inscindibili, complementari e inseparabili, parallele sovrapposte, fusi e ormai confusi

di Renato Franco (corriere.it)

Incatenato al suo stesso personaggio, prigioniero del suo ruolo, schiavo in attesa di una liberazione che mai arriverà. Luca Zingaretti è ormai fatto della stessa sostanza di Montalbano. O viceversa. Meravigliosamente scolpito da Camilleri sulla pagina di carta, è diventato di carne e ossa senza uscirne sconfitto al confronto. Anzi esaltato da quel linguaggio letterario che raramente circola nelle vene televisive. Ora arriva un nuovo primato: e per una volta la parola record — spesso abusata in un mondo dove per farsi ascoltare bisogna alzare la voce, dilatare i sostantivi e ingrandire gli aggettivi — è quanto mai pertinente. Mai così tanto aveva fatto la fiction di Rai1: lunedì sera [13 marzo 2017] Il Commissario Montalbano è stato visto da 11 milioni 268 mila telespettatori, pari al 44,1% di share.

Il risultato di Montalbano è così eclatante che lascia quasi interdetti, praticamente la metà dei televisori accesi lunedì sera era sintonizzata su Rai1. E la spiegazione non si può nemmeno trovare nella qualità del prodotto che — pur essendo alta — non giustifica da sola un’attenzione e un’attesa così plenaria. La ricetta di Montalbano — un eroe positivo, i paesaggi da cartolina, il the end consolatorio — sembra quasi semplice ma non così facilmente replicabile, visto che nessuna fiction riesce a fare altrettanto. Luca Zingaretti ha provato a dare la sua interpretazione a un successo così plebiscitario: «Un prodotto che arriva dalla letteratura ha una marcia in più. La letteratura è un genere più alto della tv e Montalbano è un classico. Se ancora oggi andiamo a teatro a vedere Shakespeare è perché parla ai nostri cuori, ci regala emozioni». La verità è che questo commissario «trasuda di italianità, racconta chi siamo in un’epoca in cui è facile scimmiottare gli americani. I suoi sono gialli metafisici, e Sironi, da uomo di lettere, ha saputo trasporre questa metafisicità. Chiunque avrebbe snaturato Montalbano, lo avrebbe reso più veloce». L’elogio della lentezza.

Il regista Alberto Sironi c’è stato fin dall’inizio, 30 episodi fa: «Una sera Camilleri mi ha detto: “Voglio accompagnare Montalbano sull’orlo del baratro”. Queste ultime storie, così come le prossime, sono sempre più scure, più dure, più noir. La sua grande modernità nel sentire il mondo si riflette nei suoi libri e si riverbera nella fiction. All’inizio c’era chi era perplesso, chi pensava che fossero temi troppo forti. Ma in realtà sono storie più moderne, e lo dimostra che anche il pubblico più giovane è rimasto davanti al televisore». Zingaretti rischia di rimanere appeso al suo personaggio come un quadro? «Ormai Luca è un’icona, ha il problema che hanno molti attori quando interpretano un ruolo da cui poi è difficile staccarsi. Ma è un uomo colto è intelligente, fa teatro, il problema è semmai che il cinema italiano è troppo asfittico e intellettualistico, per niente epico, e non sa regalargli ruoli all’altezza. Per Il gladiatore lui sarebbe stato perfetto».

Se indubbiamente il personaggio inventato da Camilleri ha reso televisivamente immortale Zingaretti, è anche vero che quest’immortalità ha un suo contrappasso terreno. Zingaretti come attore può essere solo Montalbano perché in ogni altra interpretazione l’attore risulta inevitabilmente poco credibile. Troppo popolare orami, troppo riconoscibile, troppo famosa la sua testa lucida e il passo da cavallerizzo, con le sue gambe ad arco, protese verso le indagini. Se interpreta — come ha fatto — Borsellino ti pare di vedere Montalbano con i baffi. Se fa Olivetti è semplicemente Montalbano con un po’ di capelli. Se rivedi I giorni dell’abbandono (2005) il marito che lascia la moglie per una ragazza più giovane è Montalbano.

La simbiosi televisiva è nel destino di molti attori che hanno legato il loro volto a un personaggio fino a diventarne maschera. Un punto di non ritorno. Al di là del giubbotto di pelle e dei pollici alzati, Henry Winkler non può che essere Fonzie. Oltre ai baffi e alla camicia hawaiana, con o senza Ferrari, Tom Selleck è come se avesse sempre e solo interpretato Magnum P. I. La maglietta sotto la giacca di Armani rimarrà sempre appiccicata a Don Johnson, il Sonny Crockett di Miami Vice. Ellen Pompeo e Patrick Dempsey non smetteranno mai i camici bianchi di Grey’s Anatomy, così come Sarah Jessica Parker indosserà — qualunque ruolo le capiti — le Manolo Blahnik di Sex and the City. Attore e personaggio, non si distingue l’uno dall’altro, non si capisce dove finisce uno e inizia l’altro, mescolati e inscindibili, complementari e inseparabili, due parallele sovrapposte, fusi e ormai confusi. Ma in fondo il panorama — da una torre d’avorio — può non essere male.
Luca Zingaretti nell'episodio di Montalbano "Come voleva la prassi"

Saturday, 29 April 2017

RELAX WITH A CAT

Scientists and psychologists agree that interaction with a cat can have a very positive effect on the physiological and psychological well-being of humans. They tell us that people who frequently pet their cats have lower stress levels and reduced blood pressure. Having a friendly feline around can speed up recovery from a variety of health problems. Older people who adopt cats tend to be healthier in the first place. At the other end of the age spectrum, cats are frequently used as helpers in therapy with autistic children. So it is clear – cats are good for us, mentally and physically. But do we reciprocate? Do cats get any psychological benefits from hanging around with humans, or are they just in it for the regular dinners?

Actually it turns out that petting a cat is not just good for humans, it also has medical benefits for the cat. Veterinarians at the Cornell Feline Health Center tested a cat's blood pressure following petting. They attached a small pressure cuff to a cat's leg and checked the blood pressure after different lengths of petting. After being stroked for five minutes blood pressure dropped by 25 points, indicating the cat was calmer and less stressed.

In another experiment a scientist at the Honolulu Zoo measured cortisol levels in cats. Cortisol is a hormone which increases under stress. Over time, high cortisol levels weaken the immune system and make a cat (or human) more prone to illness. All the cats in this experiment were well socialized, which means that they found being stroked more relaxing than stressful. They were put into two groups. One group received the usual amount of petting and being talked to. The other group of cats was left with minimal human interaction. The results showed that cats which found that they now had much less interaction with humans became stressed, as shown by their increased cortisol level. In other words, the cats were actually missing human company, even though the food kept coming on a regular basis.

In another experiment cortisol levels were measured after a stressful procedure; in this case when a catheter had to be inserted into cat's leg. A well-socialized cat which was petted during the procedure had an almost unchanged level of cortisol. However, cats which were not socialized and cats that were not petted had higher cortisol levels. In other words this proves scientifically what most people with cats already know – petting a cat during an unpleasant experience helps calm the cat. However, they probably don't know that the petting actually helps the cat's health.

So if petting a cat relaxes both human and cat, what's the cat's favourite? Drs. Susan Soennichsen and Arnold Chamove from the University of Massey in New Zealand carried out experiments to find where cats most enjoyed being petted. (Yup – your research money at work, folks!) For most cats the answer is stroking at the side of the head between the eyes and the ears. The cats probably prefer this area because a major scent gland is located there, and it enables the cat to deposit her scent on the hand of the person stroking.

But remember – as if you could ever forget – that every cat is an individual, and stroking heaven for one cat might be an impermissible invasion of privacy for another. Also cats like routine, so many cats prefer to be stroked or petted at a particular time of the day or in a particular place. For example a cat might prefer that you do your stroking behind the ears while the cat is sitting on her favourite rug. Cats are masters at training their people, so let the cat teach you what she likes most and you both will get the maximum health benefit from your friendship.

Well, then, I think I'm gonna grab my cat Sylvester and do a session...
____________________

Source: http://www.knowyourcat.info/info/humancontact.htm

Friday, 28 April 2017

THE WISDOM OF SYLVESTER THE CAT


In the course of his fruitful years, my cat Sylvester has collected a number of sapiential quotes, mottos, and apothegms — and wishes for me to post them here. Enjoy...

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."
~Albert Einstein


Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.

Look busy: Jesus's coming!

"There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable."
~Mark Twain


"I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live my life as if there isn't and die to find out there is."
~Albert Camus


"I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."
~Oscar Wilde


Quitters never win, and winners never quit, but those who never quit AND never win are idiots.

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"
~ Rabbi Hillel


"If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing."
~Kingsley Amis


The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions:
1. When you're ready for them.
2. When you're not ready for them.


"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
~Albert Einstein


"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy." 
~Nora Ephron

"Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done."
~Andy Rooney

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work ... I want to achieve it through not dying."
~Woody Allen

"Everyone who got to where they are had to begin where they were."
~Richard Paul Evans

Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else!

"Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better."
~The Pink Panther, on behalf of Couéism

"As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can't remember the other two."
~Sir Norman Wisdom

"Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life."
~Daniel Francois Esprit Auber

"If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done."
~Ludwig Wittgenstein

From Groucho Marx:
  1. "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
  2. "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception.
  3. "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
  4. "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I'll never know.
  5. "If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong.
  6. "He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. He really is an idiot.
  7. "Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.
  8. “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.
  9. "Whatever it is, I don't like it."
"When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car."
~Bob Monkhouse
"The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage."
~ Mark Russell

"First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me."
~Steve Martin


"My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far I’ve finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already."
~Dave Barry


"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
~Mile Kington

"The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets."
~Al McGuire

"I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness."
~Emo Philips


"Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."
~Billy Sunday



"A bargain is something you don’t need at a price you can’t resist."
~Franklin Jones


"If at first you don’t succeed . . . so much for skydiving."
~Henny Youngman


"Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night."
~Dave Barry

"If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments."
~Flip Wilson


"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch."
~Jack Nicholson

"God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends."
~Ethel Mumford

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
~Oscar Wilde

"Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, but not in one ahead."
~Bill McGlashen

"I intend to live forever. So far, so good." 
~Steven Wright

"A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip."
~Caskie Stinnet

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

"By the time a man realizes that his father was right, he has a son who thinks he’s wrong." 
~Charles Wadsworth

"We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."
~Robert Wilensky


Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

A good few from Woody Allen:
  1. "It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
  2. “I don't know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” 
  3. “The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it.” 
  4. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” 
  5. “My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” 
  6. “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.” 
  7. “I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens.” 
  8. “I don't know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” 
  9. “In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!” 
  10. “Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.” 
  11. “The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it.” 
  12. “To you, I'm an atheist. To God, I'm the loyal opposition.” 
  13. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” 
  14. “Is sex dirty? Only when it's being done right.” 
  15. “God is silent. Now if only man would shut up.” 
  16. “Men learn to love the woman they are attracted to. Women learn to become attracted to the man they fall in love with.” 
  17. “My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” 
  18. “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.” 
  19. “Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.” 
  20. “I'm not anti-social. I'm just not social.” 
  21. “I just can't listen to any more Wagner, you know...I'm starting to get the urge to conquer Poland.” 
  22. “Sex is the most fun you can have without laughing.” 
  23. “I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.” 
  24. “It's a match made in heaven...by a retarded angel.” 
  25. “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible are like, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you're miserable, because that's very lucky, to be miserable.” 
  26. “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” 
  27. “I took a test in Existentialism. I left all the answers blank and got 100.” 
  28. “If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.” 
  29. “If it turns out that there is a God...the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.” 
  30. “I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government.” 
  31. “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” 
  32. “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.” 
  33. “If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up.” 
  34. “Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.”
  35. “There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more.” 
“Adults...struggle desperately with fiction, demanding constantly that it conform to the rules of everyday life. Adults foolishly demand to know how Superman can possibly fly, or how Batman can possibly run a multibillion-dollar business empire during the day and fight crime at night, when the answer is obvious even to the smallest child: because it's not real.”
~Grant Morrison

“Socrates should have written comics.”
~Mark Waid


“Abstract art is a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.”
~Al Capp


"Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans."
~John Lennon

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
~Anais Nin

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
~Leonardo da Vinci

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."
~Confucius


"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?"
~Milton Berle


I dream of a better tomorrow, where chickens can cross the road and not be questioned about their motives.

"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
~Isaac Asimov


When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

"It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"
~Ronald Reagan

Some from P.G. Wodehouse:
  1. The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.
  2. It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them. 
  3. There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.
  4. I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed I suppose.
  5. Unseen in the background, Fate was quietly slipping lead into the boxing-glove.
  6. And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.
  7. Few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks.
  8. It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
  9. There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.
  10. Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal or fattening.
  11. I always advise people never to give advice.
  12. If there is one thing I dislike, it is the man who tries to air his grievances when I wish to air mine.
Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.

War doesn't determine who's right. War determines who's left.

The real trouble with reality is that there's no background music.

If you think things can't get worse it's probably only because you lack sufficient imagination.

A train station is where the train stops. A bus station is where the bus stops. On my desk, I have a work station...

You can't be late until you show up.

Knowledge is realizing that the street is one-way, wisdom is looking both directions anyway.

Parents spend the first part of our lives teaching us to walk and talk, and the rest of it telling us to sit down and shut up.

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.


Books have knowledge, knowledge is power, power corrupts, corruption is a crime, and crime doesn't pay..so if you keep reading, you'll go broke.


Advice for the day: If you have a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: Take two, and KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN.

Optimism: Waiting for a ship to come in when you haven't sent one out.

As Long As There Are Tests, There Will Be Prayer In Public Schools.

Never interrupt your opponent while he's making a mistake.

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

If you don't pray in my school, I won't think in your church.

You know your god is man-made when he hates all the same people you do.

Love is like pi - natural, irrational, and very important.

Life, n.: A whim of several billion cells to be you for a while.

Evolutionists have proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without any proof.

It isn't homework unless it's due tomorrow.

You never learn anything by doing it right.

Friendships last when each friend thinks he has a slight superiority over the other.

It may look like I'm doing nothing, but I'm actively waiting for my problems to go away.

I come from a small town whose population never changed. Each time a woman got pregnant, someone left town.

Anyone who uses the phrase "easy as taking candy from a baby" has never tried taking candy from a baby.

It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction.

Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.

A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

Last night I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky and I thought to myself, where the heck is the ceiling.

Anything you say will be held against you. ... "tits"


A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.


In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move.

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.

"War is God's way of teaching Americans about geography."
~Ambrose Bierce

I could've eaten Alphabits and crapped out a better essay!!

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It's just that yours is stupid.

Few women admit their age. Few men act theirs.

When people talk to God, it's called prayer. When God talks back, it's called schizophrenia.


The only reason people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.


Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things.

Murderer? Well, that's a harsh word. I prefer to think of myself as a Mortality Technician.

Corduroy pillows: They're making headlines!

I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college.

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.

If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk.

Worst excuse for not turning in homework: I couldn't find anyone to copy it from.

After twelve years of therapy my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, "No hablo ingles."

Go into a store's fitting room and announce loudly "there's no toilet paper in here!"

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll have another drink.

I sat down beside her, said hello, offered to buy her a drink... and then natural selection reared its ugly head.

Every rule has an exception. Especially this one.
Ciao!

SIMPLY FREUD

Freud’s lexicon has become embedded within the vocabulary of western society. Words he introduced through his theories are now used by everyday people, such as anal (personality), libido, denial, repression, cathartic, Freudian slip, and neurotic.

Freud believed that when we explain our own behaviour to ourselves or others (conscious mental activity) we rarely give a true account of our motivation. This is not because we are deliberately lying. Whilst human beings are great deceivers of others, they are even more adept at self-deception. Our rationalizations of our conduct are therefore disguising the real reasons.

Freud’s life work was dominated by his attempts to find ways of penetrating this often subtle and elaborate camouflage that obscures the hidden structure and processes of personality.

Freud was the founding father of psychoanalysis, a method for treating mental illness and also a theory which explains human behavior.

Psychoanalysis is often known as the talking cure. Typically Freud would encourage his patients to talk freely (on his famous couch) regarding their symptoms, and to describe exactly what was on their mind.

The Case of Anna O

The case of Anna O (real name Bertha Pappenheim) marked a turning point in the career of a young Viennese neuropathologist by the name of Sigmund Freud. It even went on to influence the future direction of psychology as a whole.

Anna O. suffered from hysteria, a condition in which the patient exhibits physical symptoms (e.g. paralysis, convulsions, hallucinations, loss of speech) without an apparent physical cause. Her doctor Josef Breuer succeeded in treating Anna by helping her to recall forgotten memories of traumatic events.

During discussions with her it became apparent that she had developed a fear of drinking, when a dog she hated drank from her glass. Her other symptoms originated when caring for her sick father. She would not express her anxiety for her his illness but did express it later, during psychoanalysis. As soon as she had the opportunity to make these unconscious thoughts conscious her paralysis disappeared.

Breuer discussed the case with his friend Freud. Out of these discussions came the germ of an idea that Freud was to pursue for the rest of his life. In Studies in Hysteria (1895) Freud proposed that physical symptoms are often the surface manifestations of deeply repressed conflicts. However, Freud was not just advancing an explanation of a particular illness. Implicitly he was proposing a revolutionary new theory of the human psyche itself.

This theory emerged “bit by bit” as a result of Freud’s clinical investigations and it led him to propose that there were at least three levels of the mind.

The Unconscious Mind

Freud (1900, 1905) developed a topographical model of the mind, whereby he described the features of the mind’s structure and function. Freud used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the three levels of the mind.

On the surface is consciousness, which consists of those thoughts that are the focus of our attention now, and this is seen as the tip of the iceberg. The preconscious consists of all which can be retrieved from memory.

The third and most significant region is the unconscious. Here lie the processes that are the real cause of most behaviour. Like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.

The unconscious mind acts as a repository, a ‘cauldron’ of primitive wishes and impulse kept at bay and mediated by the preconscious area.For example, Freud (1915) found that some events and desires were often too frightening or painful for his patients to acknowledge, and believed such information was locked away in the unconscious mind. This can happen through the process of repression.

Sigmund Freud emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind, and a primary assumption of Freudian theory is that the unconscious mind governs behavior to a greater degree than people suspect. Indeed, the goal of psychoanalysis is to make the unconscious conscious.

The Psyche

Freud (1923) later developed a more structural model of the mind comprising the entities id, ego and superego (what Freud called “the psychic apparatus”). These are not physical areas within the brain, but rather hypothetical conceptualizations of important mental functions.

Freud assumed the id operated at an unconscious level according to the pleasure principle (gratification from satisfying basic instincts). The id comprises two kinds of biological instincts (or drives) which Freud called Eros and Thanatos.

Eros, or life instinct, helps the individual to survive; it directs life-sustaining activities such as respiration, eating and sex (Freud, 1925). The energy created by the life instincts is known as libido.

In contrast, Thanatos or death instinct, is viewed as a set of destructive forces present in all human beings (Freud, 1920). When this energy is directed outward onto others, it is expressed as aggression and violence. Freud believed that Eros is stronger than Thanatos, thus enabling people to survive rather than self-destruct.

The ego develops from the id during infancy. The ego's goal is to satisfy the demands of the id in a safe a socially acceptable way. In contrast to the id the ego follows the reality principle as it operates in both the conscious and unconscious mind.

The superego develops during early childhood (when the child identifies with the same sex parent) and is responsible for ensuring moral standards are followed. The superego operates on the morality principle and motivates us to behave in a socially responsible and acceptable manner.

The basic dilemma of all human existence is that each element of the psychic apparatus makes demands upon us that are incompatible with the other two. Inner conflict is inevitable.

For example, the superego can make a person feel guilty if rules are not followed. When there is conflict between the goals of the id and superego, the ego must act as a referee and mediate this conflict. The ego can deploy various defense mechanisms (Freud, 1894, 1896) to prevent it from becoming overwhelmed by anxiety.

Psychosexual Stages

In the highly repressive “Victorian” society in which Freud lived and worked women, in particular, were forced to repress their sexual needs. In many cases the result was some form of neurotic illness.

Freud sought to understand the nature and variety of these illnesses by retracing the sexual history of his patients. This was not primarily an investigation of sexual experiences as such. Far more important were the patient’s wishes and desires, their experience of love, hate, shame, guilt and fear – and how they handled these powerful emotions.

It was this that led to the most controversial part of Freud’s work – his theory of psychosexual development and of the Oedipus complex.

Freud believed that children are born with a libido – a sexual (pleasure) urge. There are a number of stages of childhood, during which the child seeks pleasure from a different ‘object’.
To be psychologically healthy, we must successfully complete each stage. Mental abnormality can occur if a stage is not completed successfully and the person becomes ‘fixated’ in a particular stage. This particular theory shows how adult personality is determined by childhood experiences.

Dream Analysis

Freud (1900) considered dreams to be the royal road to the unconscious as it is in dreams that the ego's defenses are lowered so that some of the repressed material comes through to awareness, albeit in distorted form. Dreams perform important functions for the unconscious mind and serve as valuable clues to how the unconscious mind operates.

On 24 July 1895, Freud had his own dream that was to form the basis of his theory. He had been worried about a patient, Irma, who was not doing as well in treatment as he had hoped. Freud in fact blamed himself for this, and was feeling guilty.
Freud dreamed that he met Irma at a party and examined her.  He then saw a chemical formula for a drug that another doctor had given Irma flash before his eyes and realized that her condition was caused by a dirty syringe used by the other doctor. Freud's guilt was thus relieved.
Freud interpreted this dream as wish-fulfillment. He had wished that Irma's poor condition was not his fault and the dream had fulfilled this wish by informing him that another doctor was at fault. Based on this dream, Freud (1900) went on to propose that a major function of dreams was the fulfillment of wishes.

Freud distinguished between the manifest content of a dream (what the dreamer remembers) and the latent content, the symbolic meaning of the dream (i.e. the underlying wish). The manifest content is often based on the events of the day.

The process whereby the underlying wish is translated into the manifest content is called dream-work. The purpose of dream work is to transform the forbidden wish into a non-threatening form, thus reducing anxiety and allowing us to continuing sleeping. Dream work involves the process of condensation, displacement, and secondary elaboration.

The process of condensation is the joining of two or more ideas/images into one. For example, a dream about a man may be a dream about both one's father and one's lover. A dream about a house might be the condensation of worries about security as well as worries about one's appearance to the rest of the world.

Displacement takes place when we transform the person or object we are really concerned about to someone else. For example, one of Freud’s patients was extremely resentful of his sister-in-law and used to refer to her as a dog, dreamed of strangling a small white dog. Freud interpreted this as representing his wish to kill his sister-in-law.  If the patient would have really dreamed of killing his sister-in-law, he would have felt guilty. The unconscious mind transformed her into a dog to protect him.

Secondary elaboration occurs when the unconscious mind strings together wish-fulfilling images in a logical order of events, further obscuring the latent content.  According to Freud this is why the manifest content of dreams can be in the form of believable events.

In Freud’s later work on dreams he explored the possibility of universal symbols in dreams. Some of these were sexual in nature, including poles, guns and swords representing the penis and horse riding and dancing representing sexual intercourse.

However, Freud was cautious about symbols and stated that general symbols are more personal rather than universal. A person cannot interpret what the manifest content of a dream symbolized without knowing about the person’s circumstances.

'Dream dictionaries', which are still popular now, were a source of irritation to Freud. In an amusing example of the limitations of universal symbols, one of Freud's patients, after dreaming about holding a wriggling fish, said to him 'that's a Freudian symbol - it must be a penis!'

Freud explored further and it turned out that the woman's mother, who was a passionate astrologer and a Pisces, was on the patient's mind because she disapproved of her daughter being in analysis. It seems more plausible, as Freud suggested, that the fish represented the patient's mother rather than a penis!


Freud's Followers

Freud attracted many followers, who formed a famous group in 1902 called the "Psychological Wednesday Society". The group met every Wednesday in Freud's waiting room.

As the organization grew, Freud established an inner circle of devoted followers, the so-called "Committee" (including Sàndor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs (standing) Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, and Ernest Jones).

At the beginning of 1908 the committee had 22 members and renamed themselves the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.
Psychoanalysts committee in 1922 (left to right): Otto Rank, Sigmund FreudKarl Abraham, Max EitingonSándor FerencziErnest JonesHanns Sachs

Critical Evaluation

Freud's theory is good at explaining but not at predicting behavior (which is one of the goals of science). For this reason Freud's theory is unfalsifiable - it can neither be proved true or refuted. For example, the unconscious mind is difficult to test and measure objectively. Overall, Freud's theory is highly unscientific.

Despite the scepticism of the unconscious mind, cognitive psychology has identified unconscious processes, such as procedural memory (Tulving, 1972), automatic processing (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999; Stroop, 1935), and social psychology have shown the importance of implicit processing (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Such empirical findings have demonstrated the role of unconscious processes in human behaviour.

However, most of the evidence for Freud's theories is taken from an unrepresentative sample. He mostly studied himself, his patients and only one child (e.g. Little Hans). The main problem here is that the case studies are based on studying one person in detail, and with reference to Freud the individuals in question are most often middle aged women from Vienna (i.e. his patients). This makes generalizations to the wider population (e.g. the whole world) difficult. However, Freud thought this unimportant, believing in only a qualitative difference between people.

Freud may also have shown research bias in his interpretations - he may have only paid attention to information which supported his theories, and ignored information and other explanations that did not fit them.

However, Fisher & Greenberg (1996) argue that Freud’s theory should be evaluated in terms of specific hypotheses rather than as a whole. They concluded that there is evidence to support Freud’s concepts of oral and anal personalities and some aspects of his ideas on depression and paranoia. They found little evidence of the Oedipal conflict and no support for Freud’s views on women’s sexuality and how their development differs from men'.

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References

Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of beingAmerican psychologist, 54(7), 462.
Breuer, J., & Freud, S. (1895). Studies on hysteria. Standard Edition 2: London.
Fisher, S., & Greenberg, R. P. (1996). Freud scientifically reappraised: Testing the theories and therapy. John Wiley & Sons.
Freud, S. (1894). The neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 41-61.
Freud, S. (1896). Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 157-185.
Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. S.E., 4-5.
Freud, S. (1915). The unconscious. SE, 14: 159-204.
Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. SE, 18: 1-64.
Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66.
Freud, S. (1925). Negation. Standard edition, 19, 235-239.
Freud, S. (1961). The resistances to psycho-analysis. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIX (1923-1925): The Ego and the Id and other works (pp. 211-224).
Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological review, 102(1), 4.
Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of experimental psychology, 18(6), 643.
Tulving, E. (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. In E. Tulving & W. Donaldson (Eds.), Organization of Memory, (pp. 381–403). New York: Academic Press.

Source: McLeod, S. A., Sigmund Freud (2013)
  • See also my bilingual (English/Italian) Freudian blog: 

Sigismondo Freddo (alias SIGMUND FREUD) 


"A wonderful discovery, psychoanalysis.  Makes quite simple people feel they're complex." 
~S.N. Behrman