Freud and Kanye West haunt the Sunday Review

An article in the New York Times Sunday Review hails an enlightening discovery about why we are so attached to our phones, or more broadly why we try to keep ourselves busy. It’s because we don’t like to be alone with our own thoughts; we’re not good at facing the bad stuff in our lives. 

One of the the central claims of this blog is that Freudian psychoanalysis is so pervasive in our Western culture that we are not even conscious of it. Sometimes it shows up it less obvious ways than in it would in, say, a Hitchcock film. But sometimes in a New York Times piece about a forthcoming article in Science, you get something like this: 

“Suppressing negative feelings only gives them more power, she said, leading to intrusive thoughts, which makes people get even busier to keep them at bay. The constant cognitive strain of evading emotions underlies a range of psychological troubles such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and panic attacks, not to mention a range of addictions.”

You don’t have to read all the Case Histories to recognize that this is a paraphrase of one of psychoanalysis’s central tenets. It is true that Psychology as a discipline has moved beyond the psychoanalytic treatment, and Neuroscience is ascendent when it comes to looking for the origins of psychological problems, but the question of just how fundamentally removed we are from the discoveries of Sigmund Freud is a question worth exploring, especially considering just how much scientific communities dismiss him. 

We might also consider that Freud regarded his discoveries as nothing fundamentally new. He once credited the discovery of the unconscious to the poets. Art does have a way of anticipating scientific discoveries, and the ideas in the Times article have also been beat to the punch by none other than rap music’s own resident neurotic, Kanye West.

New York Times:

‘“Idle mental processing encourages creativity and solutions because imagining your problem when you aren’t in it is not the same as reality,” said Jonathan Smallwood, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of York, in England. “Using your imagination means you are in fact rethinking the problem in a novel way.”’

Kanye West fr. “Power”

“I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts

Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault

My child-like creativity, purity and honesty is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts”

To my mind, Yeezy is nothing short of a prophet in his understanding of culture and society, but he might have a hard time with the treatment these researchers prescribe:

“To get rid of the emotional static, experts advise not using first-person pronouns when thinking about troubling events in your life.” 

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