are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence,
posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling.
All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or
[from an email with
>So are you saying
that Freudian ideas are fake?
It's a little more
complicated than that. They're metaphors, and they only become problematic
when they are applied too rigidly and/or their adherents lose track of
the fact that they *are* metaphors. For example, the idea of the Id, Ego,
and Super-Ego are useful when talking about certain problems, just as an
"anal retentive" label is a good descriptor of a particular personality
type. But do these things exist? Probably not. You might find decent parallels
between, say, the amygdala and the Id under certain conditions and the
prefrontal cortex and the Super-Ego, but the relationship between the brain
regions don't follow the patterns Freud described between this imaginary
trinity in everyone's heads. You can't point to Freud's concepts anatomically,
you can't address them surgically, you can't measure their activity with
an EEG or fMRI, so do they exist? I know brain function has been addressed
experimentally, so I'm more inclined to go with that. However, metaphors
are useful, I won't deny that. Just don't get carried away with invented
concepts when you're talking about *real* people.
>Freud - is he the
guy who thinks every problem comes from your parents and/or sex?
Yes, and there's
certainly some validity to some of his ideas. However, they have a flawed
basis. For one thing, a lot of the early patients he examined were young
women who were emotionally troubled. When he spoke with them, they frequently
related stories of sexual abuse by relatives and friends of the family.
In spite of criticisms to the contrary, Freud was a decent guy, so he honestly
thought that nothing like that could possibly e going on. As a result,
he assumed they were making it all up in order to cover up other, more
deep-seated problems. Or course, today we know the reality is that these
girls had a legitimate history, so Freud not only set psychology back in
basing things on false assumptions, but also the acknowledgment of the
reality of sexual abuse.
There are a lot
more examples of fuzzy logic such as the cooperation game. Let's say Person
A gives Person B $100. Person B has to offer you a certain amount of money
from what you know is $100. If you accept, you each get to keep your respective
portions of the $100. However, if you refuse, then neither of you will
get anything. Most people will reject offers that they perceive as "too
low." Say Person B offers you $1. That means (s)he pockets $99. Most participants
in the game reject the offer. Guess what? They're out $1 no matter how
much Person B doesn't get. The *logical* thing would be to accept every
offer. Of course, there's a "greater good" that humans (and other primates,
incidentally) seem to have built in, which is that they are "punishing"
Person B for not exhibiting cooperative behavior.
I guess a better
example would be how people will try across town for $10 off of a $20 item,
but won't do the same for $50 off of a $500 item. In one case they save
$10; in the other they save $50. In the real world, money only works in
absolute terms, but in our minds, money is a relative thing. Stupid humans.
One of the professors
in my department was notoriously anti-social with other professors and
students. When he was teaching, he was constantly joking and being silly,
but he was almost rude when he was around others. Since his lab was right
across the hall from mine and my office, he used to pass there fairly often,
so if I saw him I always tried to be polite and say hello.
Well, that didn't
get much of a response, but I felt more uncomfortable pretending I didn't
see him, so I went in the opposite direction. Every time I saw him, I gave
him a big wave and a loud hello. He couldn't help but acknowledge this
overly friendly (read: obnoxious) display, so he was forced to give me
a hello. After a couple weeks of this, he started just acknowledging me
even before I could say anything, perhaps as a preemptive move.
Finally, I figured
the battle was won, so I backed off on the effort. After all, it took a
lot of energy and I often had to break away from who I was talking to at
the time (although my labmates were in on the joke). Unfortunately, without
the constant prodding from this elaborate presentation, he quickly slipped
back into his old ways. I guess I won't be able to publish on this experiment.
are usually described by their "symptoms." However, a disease is based
in its cause more than its manifestations. How a root cause (whatever it
may be) expresses itself is going to vary from one person to the next based
on life experiences and the immediacy (availability) of activities that
allow engagement in those traits.
Here's a funny story,
but I will start with a funny experiment. A child psychologist noticed
that babies sometimes grew anxious when their respective mothers left the
room under certain circumstances, but not others. To investigate this more
closely babies sat in a highchair in the kitchen. The mother would leave
the room through different doors for varying amounts of time. The most
interesting, if not altogether surprising, finding was that babies noticed
which doors were appropriate for how long an exit. For example, the pantry
should require only a 30 minute visit, tops. When mommy disappeared into
the pantry and didn't return for more than a reasonable amount of time,
I tried a similar
experiment on my dogs. One of them, Minnie, happened to be in the living
room the other night. We have this closet in the middle of the house that
connects to the bedroom on one side and the living room on the other. The
funny thing is that we never go into the closet from the living room; we
just block the doorway from the inside with all the clothes hanging in
front of it. I was getting clothes out of the closet from the bedroom side
and heard C playing with Minnie. The experiment popped into my mind. I
came out the other side of the closet into the living room and Minnie started
barking like mad. It was like aliens had landed. She would not stop barking
for almost 5 minutes even though I was talking to her the whole time. It's
still so easy to freak her out. Beetle couldn't care less.
I used to deal with
a narcisist on almost a daily basis. At first I used to just listen to
her rants and attention-getting devices. Eventually though I just started
to walk out of the room on when she exhibited any behavior that was intended
to get me to provide reinforcement for her (e.g., get me worked up, make
me comment on something she said, compliment her, etc.). She's still a
narcisist, but all her manipulations are defused, so she has to act like
a normal, reasonable person around me.
This is what Freud
was trying to do: hypothesizing about brain regions/semi-autonomous entities
that directed thoughts, behaviors, and other mental processes.