I, reluctant Freudian
Freud, reluctantly postmodern
It is part of my post-modern identity to distinguish the kind of therapy that I do from that of more traditional forms, especially psychoanalysis. However, if I am really honest with myself, Freud’s vocabulary is so imbedded in the language of psychology that I might often be using it without even realizing. But, what would make the insights of a single man have such a revolutionary and lasting impact on how we treat and understand ourselves? Reading The Writer’s Voice, by Al Alvarez, – he comments on how writers don’t just hold a mirror up to reality by creating an imitation of life, “they create a moment of life itself”. Alvarez also likens the process of psychoanalysis to that of imaginative writing – “Freud, with his interest in archaeology, labored to dig up the past and re-create it, almost as a work of art.” He goes on to describe psychoanalysis as a “dual storytelling”, the patient telling their story and the analyst retelling it back to them in a different language. He suggests that what sets Freud apart from other, more modern, analysts is that he had a distinct appreciation for the art of writing, making him a pleasure to read. Hence, this eloquence in storytelling, in the form of case histories, is “one of the many reasons why he remains a powerful figure.” I would like to take this analogy of comparing imaginative writing and psychology a bit further: Through creating moments in life itself (through writing) Freud was not so much reflecting on the reality of our minds but, rather, producing a reality of mind (or at the very least, an eloquent version of it). Perhaps, as psychologists, we don’t only investigate client’s/patient’s realities but we help them produce these realities. If you come to me with the idea of ‘depression’, we don’t only investigate it, we do something with it.
So it is possible that Freud saw his patients, just like a postmodern therapist might, as storytellers. However, he endeavored to retell their stories through the lens of science, in very convincing, eloquent and ironically(?) imaginative ways.
Not all writing can be ‘therapy’ and not all therapy makes for good writing, but perhaps the creative process of writing should be fully appreciated as inherently related to the act of psychology!