I Blame Mum: Freud, his Ideas and Textual Application

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRGGGGHH Freud. The basic response that can often be mumbled out of pain and shows how much ‘Freud’ has become a household name or even word.

WARNING: Multiple video links to this post so if you want to view them without leaving this post, right-click for the drop-down menu or Ctrl-click the link to open into a new tab. If you’re on Chrome then the videos won’t start if you have multiple tabs until you go onto said tab. If you’re on Internet Explorer, I can’t help you with that. Just suffer by pausing each video on every tab or get some sense and download Chrome.

DISCLAIMER: Sex(y) things stated so not for those who just learned about the birds and the bees unless they are a risk-taker and live life on the edge by reading Freudian Theory(!) This is a personal response to Freudian theory. This is in no way informative academically about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. I study English. For something worth your time and a bibliography… I don’t know, Google Scholar-it or something.

NOTE: You’re probably are tired of all these things unrelated to the actual content/point of the blog, I’ll stop now. I promise.

Throughout a small portion of my life, I have been spoon-fed on occasions a bit of knowledge, or very often, anti-knowledge about Sigmund Freud and psychology. It mainly consisted of in casual conversations ‘basically sex [with your mum]’. However, this wasn’t really telling me how Freud has actually contributed to psychology and how his ‘interpretation of Dreams’ changed the way people thought about, well, people.

My mum did her best trying to explain to a 13-year-old about certain ideas that I might not have totally understood and her understanding of psychology was attached to her profession as an Occupational Therapist, so the application of Freud and Psychoanalysis wasn’t as in depth in comparison to someone who had spent their entire academic life learning psychology. Also, both mum and I shared more of an interested in Lucian Freud so someone just saying ‘Freud’ often confused me. which, if you know or even looked at his art, is border-line Freud with the nudes anyway, but then again nudes in art aren’t new. In that sort of sense with my confusion, I can blame mum, I’m not going to, but I can. (Getting on tangent and back to the point) I also asked my Dad but his views of Freud were again very much the ‘you want sex with your mother’ type. I only truly understood the significance of Freud and his impact by accident, as many things are (like Kellogg’s cornflakes, or creme brulee).

Story time: In my first module of my English course, we have Peer Assisted learners (PALS) which helped with certain things we might need help with for our course. In this one, it was about note-taking and remembering important and key information. Because the module was about Homer’s The Odyssey, they showed us a video about it. This was the day I not only found out who John Green finally was, but also about the YouTube channel Crash Course. After that session, I found the channel and immediately began a nerdy Netflix adjacent binge session on Crash Course Literature videos (Dear Crash Course, more literature videos please. Sincerely, Lots of people).

Within this playlist they were certain videos that touched on what I knew on a very pre-mature and casual level which were psychoanalytic readings:

Fate, Family, and Oedipus Rex: Crash Course Literature 202

This was where Sigmund Freud cited his ideas about the infamous Oedipus complex. In fact, a lot of his influences were derived from Literature and this is the most (in)famous example of application of a text to extract out a theory. This video was useful to know as I was actually able to learn the root to this controversial analysis of the human unconscious and ‘sex with your mother’. I also learned about the parallel which was a hatred towards the father. These two things led onto Penis Envy in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’. In this video, John Green made an interesting argument about why Oedipus does not have an Oedipus complex involving awareness. I can’t tell you EVERYTHING as much as I want to, the video is your best bet (don’t gamble, kids. I’m not encouraging it) for understanding this in a concise, nonFreud-y waffly way.

Ophelia, Gertrude, and Regicide – Hamlet II: Crash Course Literature 204

This is the second part of a two-part video about Hamlet, a text I was reading for another module about 17th-century literature…basically Shakespeare. This video looked at the psychoanalytic reading of Hamlet. Interestingly, Freud (as far as we know) was the first to use this argument for a text that was already so well known and iconic in literature and Shakespearean drama. People were still asking ‘why was Hamlet so indecisive and taking so long to kill Claudius?’ (which personally, my reading of it is about morality and the politics of treason) and he made, at the time, a groundbreaking response that he was so indecisive because Claudius had fulfilled what Hamlet unconsciously wanted to do which was to kill his father in order to fulfill his repressed desires towards his mother, Gertrude. “Hang on? Wait what? Huh? What do you mean!!!?” I imagine them saying, probably. 

This reading we have of Hamlet’s relationship with Gertrude was brand baby-going-through-the-oral-personality-development-stage (Freudian thingy, makes sense later on in a video later in this post) spanking new to the literary study and is a reading we take granted for as overused and still controversial. John Green made an argument dismissing and challenging this reading in this video which I personally agree to because it wasn’t my first reading of the play. But again, watch to find out about it. Learn something today, why not (she says in hopefully a non-patronising tone)? what is interesting about Freud reading what that is completely changed the way people viewed the text. We must remember there is no fixed meaning or reading in a text, just the ones we find as readers and there will always be overlap and layering of meanings in a text. Otherwise, one reading written on-purposely into the text is, well, boring and a wee bit bland in a discussion.

After I had watched all the videos on the playlist, well, I kept re-watching them and actually bought Slaughterhouse 5 because of the two part videos about the book, it made me that interested. I felt this void most people might experience after binge-watching all the seasons of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix and have to wait for new content for a few months. So I decided to watch more playlists from this channel. I started watching Crash Course Psychology. My mum studied psychology, my dad studied psychology, my mum’s friends studied psychology, two of my best friends studied psychology at A-Level and one is studying psychology at University, I went to a wedding where both the bride, groom and even their guests studied psychology. Basically, somehow, psychology is the 23 enigma of my life. Watching this playlist was just unavoidable based on experience and I was genuinely interested in learning some psychology, I just love learning (*voice whispers* nerd).

There are two videos that mainly discuss Freud and his work:

Getting Help – Psychotherapy: Crash Course Psychology #35

[Speaking about Freud begins 1.13 mins into the video after the subtitle sequence]

With this video, I learned not necessary his ideas about what the unconscious might, but how the unconscious can be a source of therapy. Freud was the big daddy-o of psychoanalysis and talking through experiences to reveal the root of a problem, like how the unconscious might actually reveal some unknown reasons to problems a person might be having that they needed therapy for. I didn’t know until watching his video his contribution to therapy and how ‘armchair psychology’ and in-jokes with my parents, ‘and how did that make you feel?’ have become so commonplace in our lives and onscreen (film, television etc.). He is, technically, a household name and I didn’t know it.

Rorschach & Freudians: Crash Course Psychology #21

[Speaking about Freud begins 2.47 mins into the video after introducing the ideas of personality and characteristics]

This video introduced the ideas of the unconscious, repression, regression, interpreting dreams to reveal unconscious truths, the ID, Ego and Superego and other things that can construct our personality which is again, controversial. This video showed me how Freud is not just about the Oedipus complex, castration and penis envy (although if there was a place to start with Freud…), all things basically about genitals and sex. Freud was also about revealing the construction and development of our personality based on unknown or repressed sexual…things (I don’t know how else to describe it). This is difficult to accept fully (personally) if we then argue a baby sucking on a dummy is the unknown desire for oral sex but what then makes Freud interesting is how he was able to split opinions so greatly that there still divided opinions about his thoughts on the unconscious.

Isn’t the unconscious scary? I don’t mean it will make you jump out of your skin (well…), but the thought that there is portion of our brain that can’t be analysed truly under a microscope and even ourselves don’t have access to because we are unaware of the things we might be repressing. One of the most terrifying things is the unknown: what we don’t know. That can be said about a lot of things but in this case, it is about how something might be a cause of something because of something in our unconscious that we don’t have direct access to that can only be accessed through psychoanalytic therapy and the interpretation of our dreams. Even that is scary because we feel we might rely on answers not only from our past but from a stream on unconscious, (supposed) unrelated thoughts that we might forget after waking up. The things that might unlock our unconscious and the answers we might want are repressed through the act of just forgetting. And we don’t even know it. That’s terrifying; a bold statement (haha, puns galore), but terrifying.

The ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ became useful to me in my most recent module about Critical Theory, where we study, analyse and apply theories such as ‘The Intentional Fallacy’, ‘The Death of the Author’, Structuralism, Marxism and most recently, Psychoanalysis, hence the whole point of this blog post. We learned about (even thought I already have a brisk understanding of these beforehand from these videos) the Oedipus complex, castration and penis envy (interesting feminist argument to be made here but that can be for another time). We also learned about Displacement; how a symbol or item or whatever in a dream can have a large significance in unlocking the unconscious and the meaning of that dream, but is displaced by being a very small component of that dream. If you have the time I do recommend reading ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ for…the interpretations of dreams, and not just for the repetitive things you have already heard about Freud i.e . sexy-time with mums.

During a break from one of the seminars we had specifically about Freudian theory and the application of it on two short stories, I asked if I could play devil’s advocate: ‘I am NOT pro-incest, but what was the root of this social idea that incest is wrong?’ We discussed the gene pool and having a diverse range of genes in a family rather than a limited, in-bred amount that can risk mutations. However, it is interesting to think about in terms of the unconscious, as in the things we don’t think about rather than Freud’s unconscious, and how in society and the majority of thought, incest is wrong. But, there is nothing stopping us from having a crush on our cousin (moment to cringe and shiver) or second cousin or third cousin twice removed, there is nothing really stopping us from having desires to be fulfilled with them except this unspoken rule we don’t really think about. We don’t think about incest and when we do it is with often an aura of creepy and discomfort. It is not commonplace in our everyday thoughts: we might fancy someone and we happen to fancy that particular person because they are not part of a branch in your family tree no matter how far away that branch is from you gene-wise.

We immediately have this unknown shield that family members are the turn-off because it is, inherently in society based on historical and cultural agreement, just wrong. So the image of a mother making out with her son (in Freudian terms no longer castrated by law and his father) that is on trial just oozes icky and we can’t help but look away because it is also wrong to look in case we might show some sort of interest in what we are watching. Even if it is just because we are passively watching the program, with that scene I immediately felt I was invading some sort of space I didn’t want to be in and observe in case people might think by a lack of response to this meant that I wasn’t not pro-incest. Always the mother.

Speaking of mothers and castration:

I’m not done just yet because my most  recent discovery from my Easter holiday break was a new video by the channel (amazing video essays) Wisecrack. This video is probably the dessert (apart from naturally being at the end due to chronology’s sake) of this entire menu of Freud because it’s application was unexpected yet interesting.

The Philosophy of Dark Souls – Wisecrack Edition

Believe it or not but even though I don’t play video games, I want to. Don’t ask. Anyway, I knew this game existed because one of my flatmates told me about it and he, in depth, was trying to break down the premise of Dark Souls and it’s narrative. He did the best he could from, what I’ve heard, it’s confusing elements and frustrating gameplay of practically dying the whole time (they didn’t make the game to be easy, I imagine!).

If you watched this video, you could say ‘YOU DIED’ from the content of this video and how you feel about it, positively or negatively. Get it? No?No? Too soon? Moving on then…

It took certain things we might imagine Freud analysing this game for but making it seem probable for being it’s underlining meaning since the video argues the complicated and confusing narrative in Dark Souls is a distraction. But you need to watch the video to find out more. This video has become quite controversial in terms of its content, subject matter and let’s face it, Freud. As one person eloquently commented:

what i got from this video – Freud has issues.

dune3001

“Well, it is fascinating to learn about his issues,” I cite my friend, LostInThyLabrynth (casual plug for my Pretty Little Liars addict). And she is not wrong, he is quite fascinating with his ‘issues’ but something people might need to remember is when it comes to applying his interpretation of dreams, it is a theory in the sense of a critical theory and just one of many reads you can apply. The ‘philosophy’ of Dark Souls expressed in this video is give and take: you don’t have to accept that through visual design there is meaning and in particular, Freudian meaning but it does make you look at the whole point of the game in terms of life, death, identity and desire (this also means want) in a different way.

Because the video has got quite a lot of dislikes (3,793, viewed 13/04/16), not enough to override the likes (10,838 with 236,713 views since 05/04/16, viewed 13/04/16) but enough to show how people still have a split opinion about Freud and how people might be a bit distressed about a few things. Urgh enough with the Freud goddamit, I imagine some people thinking, again. The channel had to later comment:

Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback. OK, this video clearly is not us at our best.

We rushed to get this out before the U.S. release of Dark Souls III — and in doing that, we messed up. This doesn’t meet the standard we’ve set for ourselves and that you’ve come to expect of us.

It means a lot that so many of you have provided smart, insightful responses and input. We may try this one again. Thanks for the support , y’all.

Wisecrack

Even though this didn’t directly comment on the points they made using Freudian theory, it is clear that based on some comments, it gave the impression that they’re rushing of the video to be in time with the release of Dark Souls III. This meant that the quality of content was slightly compromised and some points might have not totally been thought through such as mistakenly saying that ovaries lead from the vagina to the womb as stated by ‘QuikVidGuy’ (makes sense if you watch the video, I hope you have, I did put it right above this for your viewing pleasure). Although someone did comment a funny response to that which can summarise the way you might accept, reject or negotiate the thoughts expressed in this video:

Not with that attitude.

Fendran

Based on that I can agree; you can take (with a pinch of salt if you like that sort of seasoning) the video or leave it. It’s up to you how you decide to respond to this video. Sigmund Freud’s interpretations of our desires and the unconscious are interesting at times, can be frustrating, can be repetitive and can be very take-it or leave-it and that’s good because don’t have to accept it as the cold hard truth like when you die a frustrating amount of times in this game.

But it is important to say that Freudian application is repetitive, because doesn’t that say how much of an influence Freud has made in terms of the way people think and how people like the Wisecrack team respond to certain (media) texts?

If you think I wasted your time with all the Freud stuff and then adding Dark Souls into a controversial mix, I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help with that, blame my mum or something.

So, how did this post make you feel?

A moment of silence and appreciation for how long it took for me to get the first sentence, or rather two words, fit onto a full, single line. A while, it took a while. It took strategy, oddly enough.

Feature Image URL: http://sleepora.com/sleepblog/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/02/sleepora-iceberg-unconscious-mind.jpg

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