Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Appeal of Psychoanalysis

Originally posted on November 16, 2015

I’ve wondered why Freud became so popular. It was not that he was charming. He could be pleasant but also somewhat opinionated. For one thing, he wrote fairly clearly, compared to his peers. The riddle of why any personage, artist, showman, etc., becomes “popular” is not easily answered. However here are some other factors.

Freud built an infrastructure of followers who then spread out and spread his "gospel."  Jung and Adler did not cultivate that infrastructure, although their version—at least Adler’s—was more appealing, in my view. But the originator of an idea gets more attention than the one who follows up on the exploration.

Another factor may have been that the madness of WWI sought some intellectual rationalization and Freud’s dark theories of the untamed unconscious offered a response to the doctrine that mere positivity and cheerfulness could triumph.

There is the elusive value of an idea whose time has come, the whole idea of timing. For example, America was still under idea that Europe was a center of intellectual progress. There was in the first third of the 20th century an aura of the wise European who knew more than crass Americans. That allure carried over from the great predominance of discovery and invention during the late 19th century. Yes, of course we had our inventors, but they seemed so common  and accessible.

Freud did appeal in a way to a culture that still looked to Europe—especially the intellectual-literary establishment also were the source of what was written. There were few scandal sheets. It seems that they were ready for a perspective that offered by Freudian psychology—or their interpretation of it.

Reflections on history are intriguing. Others have other interpretations. The above is more my interest—how do we imagine how the mind works?

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