The one-eyed psychoanalyst

“In the land of the blind,” it’s said, “the one-eyed man is king.”  Psychoanalysts have a long history of trying to convince people that they are blind and they need a one-eyed king to see into the depths of their unconscious.  They probe patients for clues into the depraved condition of their upbringing.  They interpreted dreams to be the cries of the inner child.  They charge continuing sums for their one eye: their third eye.

This extravagance led to a reactionary movement in the 1970s during which much of the public slid from one extreme view to another: from the belief that normal behavior needed to be and could be cured to the belief that truly abnormal, damaging behavior was just a window into or reflection of the depravity of our society. Those with debilitating conditions were hailed as absurdist prophets.

If I can implore the reader to change anything about how they discuss the mind, it would be to be cautious when talking about probing the unconscious.  To do this is to participate in a fantastical realm of speculation that became cruel historic theater. The unconscious mind as conceived by Freud certainly does not exist. What is going on under the surface of our acknowledged experiences is at best still obscure. Likely it is different than most yet imagine.

Debating the possibilities of what lies just beneath what we think we perceive is a healthy pursuit. We should question ourselves and our baked-in reactions. Psychoanalysis on the other hand was a drawn out of brainstorming sessions, taken way too seriously, and then applied as fact with the liberal brush of a toddler in their first can of paint.

I am compelled to write this because of the suffering of many who are searching for answers. I know of some who think they must have suffered some long forgotten sexual trauma, per their analyst’s suspicions. Many will harbor ill-gotten blame of incompetent caregivers.

What we know, or should know by now, is that there is no normal. There is a wide range of variation, some of which has been called abnormal. The term “normal” when applied to the human experience is like the the term normal applied to the weather. What day is it? What hour of the day is it? It is better to talk about the weather conditions than what is normal weather.

So be careful when applying basic science of the mind or sophisticated speculation about what makes a human human. Our understanding is still in its infancy. Don’t take it too seriously.

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