Wishful dreaming: Freud and the discovery of our inner life

Sigmund Freud had many radical ideas about our inner life and how mental illness and trauma might be treated. Perhaps his most radical idea was that the patient should be listened to. This episode features a panel discussion at the Stratford Festival about the current state of Freud's legacy on self-knowledge.

Much of Freud's clinical practice is now discredited, but his basic principles still persist

Sigmund Freud started a revolution with the radical idea that we have an internal emotional life, as well as an unconscious drive that shapes us in profound ways. Although much of his work has been debunked, his influence is still felt. (Hans Casparius/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode53:59

* Originally published on November 5, 2019.

Sigmund Freud once wrote: "wherever I go, I find that a poet has been there before me."

The great cartographer of the human heart, a maker of courageous leaps in understanding of what makes us tick nevertheless seems to have known the impossibility of what it was he was trying to do — and that's create a map of the psyche that would allow us to navigate safely through the wilderness of human desire and action. 

The poets, he thought, had gotten there first, with a deeper understanding of the human heart.

Freud was trying to forge a new science, a complete system that might both give us a deeper understanding of who we are as individuals and as social beings — and also to suggest what it means to be broken, and what might be necessary for the physician of the mind to make us whole again.

Poets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind.- Sigmund Freud

Today, much of what Freud came up with has been discredited, debunked, and discarded. But his influence is still profound — his basic ideas about the richness and complexity of our inner life, are still influential, especially in the popular imagination. 

And perhaps he knew that his was a lost cause. "Poets are masters of us ordinary men, in knowledge of the mind," he wrote, "because they drink at streams which we have not yet made accessible to science." 

Psychiatrist David Goldbloom, cognitive psychologist Zindel Segal and social/cultural theorist Todd Dufresne discuss the current state of Freud's legacy about self-knowledge from the Stratford Festival.

** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.

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