Book Reviews

Psychopathology of everyday life by Sigmund Freud

ISBN: 978-3-596-10438-3
Publisher: Psychologie Fischer
Pages: 355

The Psychopathology of everyday life may well be Sigmund Freud's most accessible work. Psychopathology follows in the steps of its one year older relative, The Interpretation of Dreams . The book is built around lots of small anecdotes of apparently innocent and insignificant everyday events like the forgetting of names, misspellings and slips of the tongue. I write "apparently" because Freud's psychology was based on the idea that these innocent slips represented "unwelcome, repressed, psychic material, which, though pushed away from consciousness, is nevertheless not robbed of all capacity to express itself".

With the obvious advantage of 100 years of scientific progress, it's easy to tell that Freud was completely wrong in the details. What's surprising is that he got the big picture right; unconscious (or automatic as they're called today) process do control much of our emotions and acts. Some modern findings in neuroscience even go as far as suggesting that our will and conscious I are nothing more than illusions - an illusion that must be the ultimate deception.

From a scientific point of view, Psychopathology of everyday life is simply bad work. Its conclusions are based on anecdotal evidence and the supposedly latent unconscious wishes are analyzed and inferred through interviews or introspection. But in our time no one would read Freud for insights into scientific methodology. Rather, Psychopathology of everyday life is worth reading for the glimpses it provides into Freud's creative genius. I find it genuinely fascinating to follow Freud's thought-process and his association chains. In that respect, the book has great autobiographical value. Further, Freud was a brilliant writer and he's worth reading for his literate qualities alone (a small disclaimer though: I read the book in Freud's native German language).

Reviewed October 2010