Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Psychoanalyst, Thinker, Extraordinary

Sigmund Freud– books– ideas– concepts– Google Doodle –psychoanalysis

Freud was born 160 years ago and Google honored him with a ‘Google doodle’ today.

Sigmund Freud was one of the most influential minds of the twentieth century. In fact, he marked an important development in the history of ideas.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Freud’s work has wide-ranging implications and influence. It cannot be discussed in a short post. In his later work, he did develop a critique of religion and culture.

He redefined human sexuality with a number of ideas. Oedipus Complex was one such concept. His work on The Interpretations of Dreams is pivotal. It has helped heal patients with neurosis.

I had heard of Freud when I entered BA. But my subjects didn’t include psychology. I studied English Literature. In Masters, in 1992, teachers spoke about Freud in the classroom and we heard of Oedipus Complex. But no one really explained his theories in an English Literature course. Not in 1992 or 1993. So, I borrowed The Interpretation of Dreams from the university library and read it myself. It is a difficult book and for an untrained young student over two decades ago, more difficult to comprehend. However, the book did leave its imprints on me. Over the years, I read Freud in bits and pieces. In MA, I was also aware of Carl Gustave Jung’s concept of the ‘collective unconscious’.

Carl Gustave Jung
Carl Gustave Jung

A friend of mine, Debangshu Kerr, and I did discuss this while discussing James Joyce’s use of the leitmotif. We also spoke about it, when we discussed the works of Northrop Frye.

Freud was always there for literature students. And, then, this semester, I got an opportunity to teach a couple of essays by Freud to undergraduate students. These were smaller essays on the structure of the unconscious.

Sigmund Freud signature
Sigmund Freud signature

Here, Freud laid out the id, the ego and the superego. He also spoke about the preconscious, the subconscious and the unconscious. And he did explain how repressed memories become part of our unconscious.

When we read and discuss Freud, it is natural that it would be directly linked up with an earlier essay I wrote on Edvard Munch, TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf and the need for empathy. In fact, the issue about Coleridge and his dissipating energies could also be looked at.

You can watch this short introductory film on Freud’s work. A longer analytical documentary on Freud is here: Sigmund Freud– The Father of Psychoanalysis.

His ideas have influenced literature, art, and various other fields of study. His ideas were revolutionary.

In his work, The Future of an Illusion, he wrote:

It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be.

In the Three Lectures on the Theory of Sexuality, he says:

A person who feels pleasure in producing pain in someone else in a sexual relationship is also capable of enjoying as pleasure any pain which he may himself derive from sexual relations. A sadist is always at the same time a masochist.

My tribute to the great thinker. :):):) I’ll write about Freud in greater detail later.

Uttarakhand–Abandoning Environments, Creating Unsustainable Livelihoods

It pains me a lot to read about the disasters that have plagued Uttarakhand, the Kedarnath disaster and now, these forest fires that have ranged far too long. As children, we grew up hearing about Chandi Prasad Bhatt, the Founder of the Chipko Movement and his colleague, Sunderlal Bahuguna. Listen to Ramachandra Guha talk about one of the great Indians, Chandi Prasad Bhatt.

“People must understand the environment and keep it in mind while planning development.”–Chandi Prasad Bhatt

Chandi Prasad Bhatt
Chandi Prasad Bhatt

Listen to an interaction with Shri Chandi Prasad Bhatt on ‘Himalaya Environment and Development: Experiences of the ‘Chipko’ Movement’ at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.

You could watch another discussion with this great environmentalist at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library YouTube channel.

Ramachandra Guha has done his bit to spread awareness about this great Gandhian, who worked at the grassroots and was never seen at any high profile event ever. Chandi Prasad Bhatt always believed in doing his work and didn’t believe in publicizing it. He was born on June 23, 1934. As a child, he learned to take off his shoes as he walked through the bugiyal, the alpine pastures. It was forbidden to spit in the pasture, or to urinate or pollute it in any way. Also, the people were forbidden from even plucking sacred flowers in the week of Nandasthmi.

Another important environmentalist that Ramachandra Guha has talked about is Shekhar Pathak. Dr. Shekhar Pathak is an important historian of the Himalayas and of the Uttarakhand region. He is the Founder of People’s Association for Himalaya Area Research (PAHAR), which he founded in 1983. Listen to him at the Mussourie Writers’ Festival. I find this very useful.

Shekhar Pathak
Shekhar Pathak

Ramachandra Guha’s pieces on both these environmentalists are fine pieces of biographical writing.

Shekhar Pathak has also taken a 1100 kilometre trek every decade across the Himalayas to document the changes in the region. This is the Askot-Aarakot Abhiyan, a trip from Askot to Aarakot, where a few friends get together and travel this distance without anything with themselves. They try to map the entire terrain in various ways. You can watch a short presentation of this unique trek here. And there is a long, detailed presentation of the Askot-Aarakot trek at the India International Centre, New Delhi.

I think the voices of the great Chandi Prasad Bhatt, and the historian and ‘encyclopedia man of the Himalayas’ Shekhar Pathak (as Ramachandra Guha calls him) should be heard more carefully. I’m sure it would help the local governments deal with the issues plaguing this beautiful, heavenly state much better.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) on Leadership

I had always heard of William Shakespeare, who hasn’t? His death anniversary, 23 April, was two days ago. In MA, we studied King Lear and I had read Othello earlier. You can watch a short dramatization of King Lear.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

There would be a number of posts on Shakespeare. This is a short post that will point to his great and in-depth study of the human character.

I had the occasion to teach Macbeth for a couple of years. You can watch this wonderful and finely produced BBC production. I’m sure you would enjoy it as much as I did.

Macbeth is a fine example of how unbridled greed and ambition can dehumanize a person completely. Empathy, as a human emotion, doesn’t exist in the play. In Act II, Scene II, of the play, after Macbeth has killed King Duncan, he is shaken and nervous. The reply that Lady Macbeth gives her husband is classic:

Who was it that thus cried? Why, worthy thane,
You do unbend your noble strength, to think
So brainsickly of things. Go get some water,
And wash this filthy witness from your hand.
Why did you bring these daggers from the place?
They must lie there: go carry them; and smear
The sleepy grooms with blood.

She is not just cold-blooded but ambition has made her so.

Look at what another human trait can do. In Othello, human jealousy is such a dominant idea that it leads to murder. And then, the downfall. Othello is not the king but he is a nobleman and holds a leadership position. So, interestingly, while Shakespeare is focussing on jealousy as well as insecurity as an important human frailty, he is making another pertinent point. He is clearly stating that leaders or those in leadership positions should not be jealous or insecure.

Shakespeare also imparts leadership skills to those who read him. Hamlet is a fine example of how an indecisive leader can lead to ruin. He reminds us that a leader must always take decisions, even if hard ones. The lines from this play are again too famous, like an aphorism:

To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

In fact, if we look at King Lear, the frailty is credulity, blind belief in his two daughters that brings him down very badly. However, what is even more instructive about King Lear is that it is also a leadership lesson: leaders should not trust blindly their kin and the ones lower than them.

This was my short tribute to William Shakespeare. I’ll come back to him later in future posts.