Freud was not a psychiatrist; he was a neurologist who left the practice of medicine to study the inner workings of the mind, the ways societies operate, and the interplay between the two. He was more of a psychologist/sociologist/philosopher. He lived in Victorian times when, unlike today, sex was repressed and women were devalued; this largely explains why some of his ideas appear weird or offensive to many now. But if we look past these flaws, there are some worthwhile concepts.
Freud viewed psychoanalysis as within psychology rather than medicine, and urged that it not be medicalized. He believed that anybody with the right aptitude could be trained to do analysis, but that medical training would detract by limiting one’s capacity for free insight. He showed disdain for psychiatrists: “In medical school a doctor receives training which is more or less the opposite of what he would need as a preparation for psychoanalysis. . . . It gives them a false and detrimental attitude.”1 So Freud saw their untruthfulness and harmfulness, and was the first anti-psychiatrist.
Only in the U.S. did psychiatrists greedily monopolize analysis against Freud’s wishes, and create obscure terms like “superego” or “id” that only they use. The psychiatrists who publicly pathologized presidential candidate Goldwater in 1964 were such power-hungry, political-minded people. True Freudians wouldn’t have done so since they believe we all have conflicts; Freud substantiated this when logically explaining dreams,2 jokes,3 and errors4 that are now known as Freudian slips.
It is often said that his theories were debunked. This is due to the claim that emotional/behavioral troubles have been proven to be genetic or biological brain diseases (as modern psychiatry illogically prophesizes), rather than reactions to unconscious/conscious issues and events which can originate in childhood, as he rationally deduced. But this never occurred, so his ideas were never really refuted.
Let’s compare the two approaches: Freudian therapists don’t apply ostracizing or stigmatizing labels since we all have struggles. They let clients set their own goals and do the active work in therapy since insights will only be meaningful and productive if clients themselves develop them. They listen, understand, and connect deeply, patiently, and respectfully. Their clients think about why they act as they do, explore and express the issues that arise from living in society, and learn to address them in ways of their choosing. They use their brains to increase self-reliance and control over their lives.
But modern psychiatrists rush to impersonally/judgmentally/authoritatively label clients as ill and abnormal. They urge clients to push issues below the surface rather than uncover and address them, to deny their free will since it’s ‘genetic,’ and to passively follow orders. Their one-size-fits-all drugs shut clients up, deactivate their brains, and create eternally-dependent and helpless zombies for their assembly lines. So they’re exact opposites in all ways: ‘Anti-Freud’ is ‘Pro-medical model.’ Freudian psychiatrists in the ’50s-60s fought against biological psychiatry, so they were the next anti-psychiatrists. The first DSM (1952, when Freud reigned) wasn’t about categorizing symptoms into scientific-sounding diseases, but about exploring possible causative societal/psychological issues.
In later years Freud’s goal was less to ‘treat mental illness’ and more to improve society by raising self-awareness and decreasing societal repressiveness (which he did), due to thinking this was the main cause of discontent.5 If he were alive now, he’d probably say that it’s emotional rather than sexual repression that’s the problem, and blame it on psychiatry’s “medicalization of everyday life” as Szasz said.6 He’d blame our disability, suicide, shooting, drug use and overdose crises on the medical model’s poisoning of our culture and scold: “I warned you!”
Here’s how he’d analyze our ill society:
The medical model causes people to repress normal/unpleasant/unacceptable feelings such as sadness over loss, worry about the future or anger at others, to avoid being called “mentally ill” if they show these feelings (‘having’ depression, anxiety, or bipolar; or borderline personality if they express all three).
Many who are self-aware are fooled into thinking something’s wrong with them (a brain illness), and lured into fruitlessly trying to medicalize away their issues/feelings. Some go to psychiatrists to suppress them via drugs; others try alternative medicalization by blaming toxins, drug effects, diet, etc. So ‘normal’ now is emotional repression and self-unawareness; this stifles the mastering of life’s challenges. Due to medicalization, the percentage of people’s thoughts/struggles/feelings that are unconscious (or sedated away) is higher than ever before. This has had disastrous results.
Of course some of Freud’s many ideas are invalid or no longer apply, but even Szasz accepted his main ideas of the unconscious and how repressed issues and feelings may lead to actions or problems without our knowing.7 So an antidote for the medical model’s infestation of our culture would be to reintroduce some of Freud’s theories (not by therapy, but by education) to the public. After all, wouldn’t the medical model’s opposite be the best means of counteracting it? Combining this education with ongoing disproof of psychiatry’s lies will be the best way to end its reign. It won’t be hard, since Freud’s ideas are already inside us; we just need to bring them back to the surface.
Freud is still valued in many European nations. This may be why their people are less vulnerable to legal/illegal drug dealers and hence why they’re not dying from overdoses. So people of MIA: Why not let Freud join our team? He’s on our side, he’s got good ideas, and he started our cause!
- 1. Freud, S. The Question of Lay Analysis. Brentano (NY) 1926, pp. 62,63. ↩
- 2. Freud, S. The Interpretation of Dreams. Brill (London, NY) 1900. ↩
- Freud, S. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. Norton (New York) 1905. ↩
- Freud, S. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Norton (New York) 1901. ↩
- Freud, S. Civilization and Its Discontents. 1930. ↩
- Szasz, T. The Medicalization of Everyday Life. Syracuse University Press, 2007. ↩
- Wyatt, R. Thomas Szasz Interview, Psychotherapy.net Dec 2000. ↩
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.