Mod+ 235. DR. TODD DUFRESNE ON FREUD’S LOOMING SHADOW OF DECEPTION

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Hi Ian, thanks for your links. I have no particular axe to grind about Freud and no particular expertise in psychology. It seems your point is that Freud was a seminal influence: he might have been wrong, but his way of thinking was useful and helped generate later schools of thought.

    I looked up the timeline and history of psychology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_psychology#Nineteenth_century and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_psychology) because at the back of my mind was the memory that centuries before Freud, in the Islamic world (significantly influenced by Sufi thought), we have such surprisingly advanced awareness as this:

    Medieval Muslim physicians also developed practices to treat patients suffering from a variety of "diseases of the mind".[7]

    Ahmed ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (850–934) was among the first, in this tradition, to discuss disorders related to both the body and the mind, arguing that "if the nafs [psyche] gets sick, the body may also find no joy in life and may eventually develop a physical illness."[8] Al-Balkhi recognized that the body and the soul can be healthy or sick, or "balanced or imbalanced." He wrote that imbalance of the body can result in fever, headaches and other bodily illnesses, while imbalance of the soul can result in anger, anxiety, sadness and other nafs-related symptoms. He recognized two types of what we now call depression: one caused by known reasons such as loss or failure, which can be treated psychologically; and the other caused by unknown reasons possibly caused by physiological reasons, which can be treated through physical medicine.[8]...


    Avicenna, similarly, did early work in the treatment of nafs-related illnesses, and developed a system for associating changes in the pulse rate with inner feelings. Avicenna also described phenomena we now recognize as neuropsychiatric conditions, including hallucination, insomnia, mania, nightmare, melancholia, dementia, epilepsy, paralysis, stroke, vertigo and tremor.[11]

    Other medieval thinkers who discussed issues related to psychology included:

    Witelo is considered a precursor of perception psychology. His Perspectiva contains much material in psychology, outlining views that are close to modern notions on the association of ideas and on the subconscious.`

    Following up on Witelo (born c. 1230), I found this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witelo
    Witelo's Perspectiva was largely based on the work of the Persian polymath Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham; d. ca. 1041) and in turn powerfully influenced later scientists, in particular Johannes Kepler...

    Witelo's treatise also contains much material in psychology, outlining views that are close to modern notions on the association of ideas and on the subconscious.

    It could be argued that Freud was well behind the curve: in essence, he was re-introducing ideas explored much earlier, and attempting to explain them in the context of his own more materialistic theories which seem to have revolved a lot around the libido and the personal unconscious. Dufresne isn't the only one with reservations. Here's another podcast you might find interesting:

    http://media.ricochet.com/MiltCrews092713.mp3

    Here, Frederick Crews on the Milt Rosenberg show offers another critique of Freud. Crews says what Freud believed in was his own greatness and destiny: he wasn't so much an outright fraud, as someone who failed to question his own theories; he apparently went to soothsayers who confirmed he was a man of destiny. Crews says it's impossible to scientifically examine psychotherapy. Being psychoanalysed, many claim, has helped them: but benefits don't necessarily prove the theory is correct.

    Rosenberg describes the process of psychoanalysis as involving becoming familiar with a sympathetic figure (the analyst), and internalising that figure's voice, using it as a guide. I reflect that that happens in everyday life, too, when we internalise the voice of people we like and admire--could be a parent, a friend or teacher--and their interpretations of the world may influence us: all to the good if that helps us to cope better and be decent human beings, but that doesn't mean that their justificatory narratives are true.

    Crews characterises the reported effectiveness of psychotherapy as a species of placebo: it may work to help people, but not necessarily because there's any real active principle in the remedy. As for the therapist, the improvement in patients' behaviour is taken as corroboration of Freudian theory: look, it works, so it must be true.

    Crews says that the true significance of Freudianism is the shift from a moral evaluation of behaviour to one of evaluating on the basis of what makes people feel good or bad. I see that as a kind of shift in line with the rise of materialism.

    The podcast is a good complement to Alex's. I enjoyed it quite as much and recommend it to anyone with 48 minutes to spare. Incidentally, Crews refers to the following book as the definitive critique of Freud: http://www.amazon.com/Freud-Evaluated-The-Completed-Arc/dp/0262631717/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014
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  2. Alex

    Alex New

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    good point. I think one of the problems with accepting the "didn't it all work out in the end" attidutde is that it re-writes history in a way that slights others.
     
  3. Larry

    Larry Member

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    You seem to want to see things in black and white –good/bad. Lance Armstrong bad!Freud bad! end of story!
    I think you overly demonizing Freud to a degree. Like Ian said in previous posts, Freud put the unconscious on the map and his triune model (id ego superego) of the psyche has some merit although it’s far too limited and reductionist. Never the less Freud made the world aware that our motivations are not as conscious and righteous as we might like to think and there is often a conflict of interest going on between our sexual and aggressive drives and how we think we ought to feel and behave. Freud was not afraid to look at the savagery and the hypocrisy in ourselves and our institution’s and made us question our own motivations for what we think and do and not just attribute them to the devil. I think that was and continues to be a cultural advance. The other thing is; you are comparing a time in history with the present and projecting our current level of enlightened standards onto another era. For all we know, it may be Freud’s influence that’s pushing you/us to expose the corruption and hypocrisy that’s arouses so much indignation.
     
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  4. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Of that I have my doubts. As I've noted, early Islamic philosophers/physicians were well aware of the different aspects of the self, though of course they didn't use the terminology of id, ego, and superego. Freud's id is simply the basic, "animal" or instinctual aspect of our nature; and his ego, the mental image we have of ourselves (nafs-i-ammara), which can be refined through various stages to the spiritually perfected self (an-nafs aṣ-ṣāfīyyah).

    I see Freud's superego as most akin the second stage in the 7-stage Sufi scheme, the accusatory self (an-nafs al-luwwāmah). It's still close to the ego, really; it contains instilled or conditioned images of authority (parents, religion, society at large, etc.) who wag fingers at us, which makes us feel guilty and restricts our behaviour even when no one is looking. His "unconscious" seems to me to largely contain aspects of the repressed guilt of having sexual desires. There may well be something like that going on at times, but I think there's a lot more happening in the accusatory self, including the first glimmers of a morality based not on conditioning, but a dimly perceived and hard to express awareness of a spiritual telos.

    Even the image of the id as the horse pulling the driver of the ego in the carriage is ancient, but it referred to the lowermost psychological stage (the ego or nafs-i-ammara) as the horse being driven by the highest, perfected stage of the self. This is how things should be, but in practice, we let the horse pull the driver wherever it wants to go. Freud could be viewed as having compressed a rich and complex scheme into an over-simplified and restricted one, which is probably inevitable if you don't allow for the existence of the spiritual and aren't prepared to recognise the latter's primacy.

    So: Freud may have adopted a fairly limited scheme, applied more modern terminology, and developed a somewhat materialistic, possibly pseudoscientific, theory of how it works. To my mind, it's a much more impoverished scheme than had pre-existed it by centuries, if not millennia. Impoverished, really, because there was no room in it for the spirit. I think Jung's ideas were much deeper and more refined precisely because he recognised the importance of the spiritual and the collective unconscious, in which there reside images or symbols (in the imaginal realm if one likes) representing the most profound of human aims and potential understandings, ones that we all share regardless of personal or societal conditioning.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2014
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  5. Jules

    Jules New

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    I think you nail an essential point that Freud began something. You come out of the dark ages of Victorian sexual repression and then there was Freud and suddenly women had a sex drive - the pendulum swung and sex was everything. But we have moved on from that. We can still look back and see how Freud began a process of changing the focus. Western philosophy was strung on a framework where the Church told us how to think and act and acted as moral authority. Along came Freud who talked about primal drives and motivations as being fundamental rather than "ungodly". The ideas may have been screwy but he changed the conversation. Sadly multitudes of people who were victims of abuse and suppression within their own families and culture were pathologised (see I watch Mad Men - poor Betty :)).

    The psychoanalytic profession of those decades records an extremely long list of suicides. I remember reading a biography of Jung and being staggered by the list. Jung is tarred by the same brush as Freud in this. The culture was completely cut-throat. But why is Freud demonised and Jung eulogised? Jung also ran fast and loose with the truth and made it up as he went. His professional and personal life shows a pattern of poor behaviour and arrogance. But Jung left us with archetypes and the collective unconscious and an depiction of the nature of personality as a psychic structure. He also explained how people have more than one personality. So, we forget Jung's many failures in other ways. If anyone is interested in a very good biography of Jung which is almost as much about Freud try this:

    Main Title:Jung : a biography
    Author:Wehr, Gerhard
    Imprint:Boston : Shambala, 1987.
    ISBN:0877733694
    Dewey Class:150.195092
    150.195092
    Language:English
    Subject:Jung, C. G. (Carl Gustav), 1875-1961
    Psychoanalysts -- Switzerland -- Biography

    BRN:139339


    When I was at uni studying psychology, psychoanalysis was seen as a bit of a joke. It interests me that its still fashionable in Toronto. But during my day behaviourism (aka Skinner) ruled and we were just our behaviour controlled by our environment. Now (at least in my country) clinical psychology rules and we are just our thoughts which need fixing. It's hard to find the -ism which heals our spirit. I find there is more to be said about the qualities of the individual therapist rather than the model. Most good therapists can draw from an eclectic list of techniques.

    One thing Freud and Jung may have contributed to is a better conceptualisation of childhood as a time of emotional vulnerability. However; both had big egos and a need to be right resulting in the ultimate demise of their relationship. The impact of them both on our culture and on psychology in general is immense.
     
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  6. Larry

    Larry Member

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    As far as my statement - Freud putting the unconscious on the map - I'm referring to modern western culture. Freud came out of the Victorian era caught between enlightened science and dogmatic religion. In this context he was revolutionary in that regard. Jung was no saint either but I agree his foray into the depth of the psyche was far more open and nuanced and given to much less crude instinctual reductionism as was Freud’s. BTW I'm a big time Jungian and there have been books written accusing him of similar indictments although when you sift through it all I think Jung had level of integrity although he certainly was no saint. I wonder if we will get around to Jung on the forum one of these days
    For that I would recomend Dr. Robert Moore as a guest
     
  7. Jules

    Jules New

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    Interesting comments. If you ever had the time I would be interested in your opinion of the book I referenced. Its written by an academic and is thoroughly referenced but this isn't an area I'm steeped in.

    Jules
     
  8. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Okay; I can go along with this, but hopefully setting Freud in a larger historical context brings a different and useful perspective. There's something about Jung's character that backs up what you say here:

    http://jungiancenter.org/essay/jung-man-part-iv

    ...Ego was behind at least some of Jung’s outrageous behavior. He showed “callous disregard”[54] for patients who had set up appointments with him often a full year ahead and had traveled from foreign countries to see him, when he would abruptly change his schedule and go off on a trip. At Psychology Club meetings, if he didn’t like a speaker or what the speaker was saying, he would talk loudly to Toni Wolff, harrumph and guffaw, to the discomfiture of the speaker and the chagrin of the audience.[55] At professional conferences he was known for his coarse humor.[56] When he attended the Tercentenary celebration at Harvard in 1936, where he was awarded an honorary degree, he flaunted social propriety by flirting outrageously with Christiana Morgan,[57] by dominating the dinner conversation with a lengthy disquisition on Hitler,[58] and by taking taxis all around Boston, which he then kept waiting outside while he took tea in friends’ homes. He then sent the huge taxi bill to his hosts.[59] During this same visit to America Jung snubbed his old teacher Pierre Janet, was rude to his host and hostess, G. Stanley and Elizabeth Cobb, and miffed the Tercentenary Committee by abandoning the schedule they had set up for him to go visit friends.[60] Not surprisingly, this was the last trip he made to America. Oxford University also awarded Jung an honorary degree and there too his behavior seemed disrespectful. Michael Fordham felt he was “unable to resist being a gamin” when he showed “humorous disrespect for ceremony.” This left some Oxonians feeling his behavior was an insult to the university.[61]

    Jung did not ascribe to accepted social conventions.[62] Not only was he rude, as the above behaviors illustrate, he could be outrageous, e.g. bringing his mistress into his home and having her interact and share meals with his wife and children. He would show up at Psychology Club functions with Emma on one arm, Toni (his mistress) on the other. He called Toni his “other wife”—all this in bourgeois, strait-laced Calvinist Switzerland![63]

    Long after Jung died his children could still remember his rudeness, his bad table manners, and the tension in the house caused by the peculiar triangular relationship he had with Toni and their mother.[64] They also noted how, when they played games with their father, he was not a good loser: he was not above cheating to win.[65] When Jung would get the children involved in dangerous games, his mother-in-law would stand up to him and get him to stop. This then led to his retreating to a bedroom to sulk.[66]

    He seemed to enjoy shocking people who were not aware of his trickster side.[67] He found it hard to suffer fools gladly and he hated stupidity.[68] If he found a visitor unpalatable, he was not above throwing the person out.[69] Karl Abraham felt Jung had a “disagreeable character,”[70] and even those on whom he depended, like Ruth Bailey (his caretaker after Emma’s death) and Aniela Jaffé (his last secretary), were not immune to his grumbling and complaining about their errors.[71] His student James Kirsch was accurate in concluding that Jung “had his contradictions.”[72] In Jung’s own words (in a letter he wrote to Freud), there was “something strange about my personality that makes me repellent to many people…”
    [73]
     
  9. bishop

    bishop Member

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    Hey Alex. Interesting interview. I don't know much about Freud and I don't normally think of the implications his work may have had (good or bad), so I enjoyed this episode.

    I do have a couple questions though about some of Dr. Dufresne's perspectives, and I'm curious what you or others think.
    Is Dr. Dufresne making a larger point about something here, or is he personally labeling a group or people "liberal elites"? I've often found that term to be a pejorative used in conservative circles, so it's kind of funny that he follows that up with:
    I would never accuse him of any such thing of course, but if I may be so bold he does seem to espouse a bit of the stereotype of which he's being critical by using this terminology. Unless of course I'm misunderstanding what he's saying here, which is totally possible!

    Do people chuckle when a train enters a tunnel in a movie?

    I guess I don't understand Freud enough to take an educated position on his broad perspective here, but there is such a thing as sexual innuendo or metaphor that exists independently of Freud, right? I guess I'm not understanding the inside baseball world he's describing here. Could anyone elaborate on it?

    I would like to know some specific references to movies/major literary works that aren't intellectually available to those without a Freudian indoctrination.

    This is extremely interesting to me because I'm an industry guy. I wonder why he feels it's that bad. Alex, do you have any links to his film/photography work?

    Thanks.
     
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  10. Jules

    Jules New

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    I don't think you have to be a Freud scholar (I'm not). To Freud everything came down to sex. He did an analysis of a dream of Jung in which Jung was travelling down a mountain on a log (I hope my memory is serving me) -disaster ensued. I think it ran into people. Freud thought the log a metaphor for Jung's phallus with the obvious implications. So the representation of the sex act metaphorically always seems to be an echo of Freud.
     
  11. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    You're putting it a little harshly, Michael ;), but I basically agree with what you're saying. BTW, I read all of Freud's works a long time ago - at least the 15-or-so volume series in the Penguin Library. Definitely a man of his times, sharp intellect, but not a genius, was my impression. Personally, I found his writings and his approach extremely limited in a number of ways, and reading Jung is a completely different ballgame (a Modern, as opposed to a Victorian).

    My point to Alex was today's "psychoanalysis", for the most part, bears little resemblance to Freud's ideas. Depending on the journal, you can read article after article and not get a single reference to him or his ideas. To go from "Freud was a deception" (or even "most of what Freud wrote was complete bunk") to (contemporary) "psychoanalysis" (or psychodynamic therapy) should be ditched is so short-sighted it's not even funny.
     
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  12. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Interesting. I wonder how many hugely influential people in all sorts of fields have been less than completely truthful and fair. I'd bet that would to go with the "ego" of these people, and the positions of authority and prestige they acquire.
     
  13. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    We're straying away pretty far from spirituality & science here, and just talking about psychology, but the research bears you out Jules. The popularized notion for a few decades now is that "cognitive therapy" is the most effective form of therapy for a number of "disorders" (and that's the notion that the general public and many doctors, who often are the ones who refer patients, still have), but that's because it can be manualized/standardized and therefore evaluated unlike a lot of other therapies. The cutting-edge research on what makes therapy effective (which insurance companies are extremely interested in), for a number of years now, says that therapist variables are a much stronger predictor of success than therapy model or specific technique variables. I don't have the references for this on me, but this would be easy to confirm if people are interested and just look it up.
     
  14. Jules

    Jules New

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    Yes, you also have to understand the culture and times. He was a Swiss Edwardian male. I know when my countryman Earnest Rutherford went to Cambridge University he found the power structure suffocating and he was ring fenced as a 'colonial' and had to fight twice as hard to get where he did. So the academic world was not a friendly place and there are many funerals to account for that. If you look at the "story" of the evolution of the concept E=MC2, the women who contributed to the evolution of science have largely been cut out of the picture...as with the story of the discovery of DNA. I'm not sure the academic life has changed so much. If you leave your paper on the photocopier, as likely or not you will find it printed in some journal under someone else's name next week.
     
  15. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    This one. Hitch meant it to be. :)

     
  16. bishop

    bishop Member

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    I wonder how much of our understanding of sexual metaphor is attributable to Freud?
     
  17. bishop

    bishop Member

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    Good one! :D
     
  18. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    That wouldn't surprise me, Ian. From my layman's point of view, the character of the therapist should be very important. If the therapist is compassionate and sympathetic, but not a complete pushover, that could be a great help for patients. In a sense, most of us at one time or another probably go through periods of mental stress even if we don't end up being clinically diagnosed. Having the right friend or family member around that we respect and who cares for our well-being can help re-stabilise us, and of course not having such people in our lives might be what induces the stress in the first place. The idea of psychoanalysis that can go on for years for people with with lots of free time and money has always struck me as a bit self-indulgent.
     
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  19. Jules

    Jules New

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    Well...there was plenty of it in Shakespeare if you read it so he didn't invent the wheel. It just got more firmly embedded in our cultural lexicon with Freud maybe :D.
     
  20. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    It's probably got something to do with this recurrent trope in Freud (probably the main one): there's a hidden (unconscious) meaning behind everything (dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue, symptoms, psychopathology, etc.), and it's sex.
     

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