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Notes Psychology

Chapter 6: The Problem of Freud’s Character (The Denial of Death)

Freud was an atheist but when it came to the nature of man, he was as religious as the theologian Kierkegaard. He thought that man’s creatureliness was his fundamental nature. Jung recalled an encounter with Freud where the latter told him, “My dear Jung, promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. That is the most essential thing f all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark.”

When Jung objected to this on the basis that it was not a scientific way of thinking, Freud snapped back urgently, warning him that the alternative was the rise of the occult. And the occult was anything that lied about man’s basic nature, that tried to make out of man a lofty, spiritual creator (a being essentially different from all other animals).

But Freud was wrong about this dogma, just as Jung and Adler knew from the beginning. Man has no innate instincts of aggression and sexuality. Freud was right about man’s creatureliness, man’s body was a “curse of fate” and culture was the result of repression, but not because man was sexual, but also because man wanted to avoid death.

It is not sexuality that is the primary repression, it is consciousness of death.

Psychoanalysis showed us that the child meets the terror of life and aloneness by first asserting omnipotence an then using cultural morality as the vehicle of morality. When the child becomes an adult, this confident, delegated immortality becomes the major defence against danger.

One of the reasons it is so easy to march men off to war is because each man, deep down, feels sorry for the man next him who will die. Each protects their fantasy until the shock that he is bleeding. If you are one of the few people who admits the anxiety of death, then it is logical for you question the fantasy of immortality – and that is what happened to Freud. The problem of death troubled Freud his entire life – there was never a day that passed that did not remind Freud of his mortality.

Within his own family, Freud asserted an godly image of himself, his children were overwhelmed with his authority and presence. His students, Jung and Adler, were forbidden from overtaking him and challenging him- it was necessary for Freud to feel superior to anyone around him intellectually.

He tried to create his own immortality by being loved by many anonymous people through his teachings and that is the Enlightenment definition of immortality, to live in the esteem of men who have yet to live.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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