What Freud Can Teach Us About Ideas
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What Freud Can Teach Us About Ideas

Sahil Thakkar

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian psychologist who is the founder of psychoanalysis, is probably one of the most eminent figures in the field of psychology. His groundbreaking theories about how what we think affects how we see the world around us and also how we react to it changed the face of psychology forever and brought an entirely new dimension to it.

“It sounds like a fairy-tale, but not only that; this story of what man by his science and practical inventions has achieved on this earth, where he first appeared as a weakly member of the animal kingdom, and on which each individual of his species must ever again appear as a helpless infant... is a direct fulfilment of all, or of most, of the dearest wishes in his fairy-tales. All these possessions he has acquired through culture. Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. Whatever seemed unattainable to his desires - or forbidden to him - he attributed to these gods. One may say, therefore, that these gods were the ideals of his culture. Now he has himself approached very near to realizing this ideal, he has nearly become a god himself. But only, it is true, in the way that ideals are usually realized in the general experience of humanity. Not completely; in some respects not at all, in others only by halves. Man has become a god by means of artificial limbs, so to speak, quite magnificent when equipped with all his accessory organs; but they do not grow on him and they still give him trouble at times... Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man's likeness to a god still more.”

― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Freud had some very interesting thoughts, especially about ideas. Here are three of his key discoveries about ideas and ideation:

1. Motivation

If ideas are the engine then motivation is the fuel. There is no one without the other. Freud said that motivation provides the boost needed for us to rise above everything and be able to envision unique concepts and ideas like never before.

2. Language

It sounds insignificant, but the language we use, whether with others or just ourselves, is deeply impactful on just about everything we do. Words are what can bring new things into being and destroy old things.

“Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men's actions.”

― Sigmund Freud

3. The Unconscious

Freud says that much of what we think, do, or feel is nothing but the very tip of the iceberg. So what is below? The subconscious. The subconscious is essentially the part of our mind and psyche that we aren’t aware of, but that works in the background, keeping everything running. If your body is a car, then the subconscious is what’s under the hood. Freud stressed that it was very important to communicate and develop a back-and-forth with your subconscious so that you can be sure you are aligned in every way.

Freud was a great man and his theories still echo in important places today and will continue to for the foreseeable future. He was fascinated by humans and thought that we were remarkable in what we have achieved.

“It sounds like a fairy-tale, but not only that; this story of what man by his science and practical inventions has achieved on this earth, where he first appeared as a weakly member of the animal kingdom, and on which each individual of his species must ever again appear as a helpless infant... is a direct fulfilment of all, or of most, of the dearest wishes in his fairy-tales. All these possessions he has acquired through culture. Long ago he formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. Whatever seemed unattainable to his desires - or forbidden to him - he attributed to these gods. One may say, therefore, that these gods were the ideals of his culture. Now he has himself approached very near to realizing this ideal, he has nearly become a god himself. But only, it is true, in the way that ideals are usually realized in the general experience of humanity. Not completely; in some respects not at all, in others only by halves. Man has become a god by means of artificial limbs, so to speak, quite magnificent when equipped with all his accessory organs; but they do not grow on him and they still give him trouble at times... Future ages will produce further great advances in this realm of culture, probably inconceivable now, and will increase man's likeness to a god still more.”

― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

That’s our take on Freud and his thoughts on ideas! What did you think? If you want to see more such psychological-related content, let us know in the comments below!