This month’s PsychoSlut column is about Volume III of the Standard Edition: Early Psycho-Analytic Publications, which means it’s about the moment when Freud has, on the one hand, started to figure out repression, but, on the other hand, still subscribes to the “seduction theory” of hysteria. Moving away from *real* childhood seduction to a focus on fantasy is the key to Freud’s theory:
What psychoanalysis can help with is the way we end up making meaning of our lives — the various reasons why sometimes we believe our own stories, even when they’re not true, and even when that belief seems to make us miserable. Why might we enjoy believing the worst about someone else, or even about ourselves? That the “worst” is occasionally, or even frequently, true doesn’t tell us anything about the role of that truth in our mental lives. In the second instance, psychoanalysis works backwards — it’s about the ways in which our minds work over memories, preserving and transforming them. It’s not good at solving problems in real time. (There’s a hilarious moment, discussed in Mark Edmundson’s The Death of Sigmund Freud, when someone asks Freud how being an analyst influenced his parenting. His answer, in effect, was that he parents as a parent, not as an analyst.) In an analysis, you’re never dealing with an actual event, but only the story that a person tells about it. That story has a meaning for the person — a meaning that’s related to, but not reducible to, whatever really happened.