The problem with ideology is that it acts as a lens through which everything is viewed.
The problem with Freud was that he viewed everything through a very particular lens. I have a feeling that any evidence garnered from a time travelling trip to this town would just be found to be evidence for whatever he wanted it to be.
Freud’s biases were fairly noxious (at least through my lens) in quite a few ways, and because he was an incredibly clever man who did make some huge leaps in terms of psychology (the unconscious mind, and the drives beneath the surface). Unfortunately, he failed to see the weakness in his pseudoscience.
A pseudoscience is something that is unprovable (the correct term is probably ‘not science’, one of the biggest and most important defining points of a scientific claim is that it is falsifiable – anything that is untestable is pretty much useless). By definition, the unconscious mind is unknowable (and may not exist at all). According to Freud (and lots of other people afterwards) the unconscious mind would reveal itself through dreams, tics, obsessions and hysteria. In fact, the key was, it was revealed in madness. Abnormal behaviour would be seen as masked expressions of unconscious desire. You dealt with issues by trying to talk through to the cause as best as you could. Eventually dealing with the unconscious desire.
But expressions of the unconscious were always distorted and concealed. The idea of the dreamwork, the layers of symbolism, puns and misdirection that constitute the distortion of unconscious desires into the perceived meaning of dreams, is Freud’s greatest gift to literature (one of the few fields where he is studied as anything other than a crank).
For me the best bit of it is this notion that our dreams our one thing, this expression of forbidden latent desires, pure wishfulfillment, but then, as we wake up, and our conscious minds starts to interact with the memories of the dream, the whole thing gets distorted and mis-shaped to conceal it from us.
That just looks pretty to me.
Anyway, the key is that Freud had this base layer of theory, and used the unprovability and concealment at its heart to project his own ideas on to it.
Starting from an impressively fascinating new way of looking at the world, he just projected his own biases, bigotry and obsessions onto the minds of the world.
So he ruled that women were hysterical, homosexuality was an illness, and that everybody fancied their mother.
My guess has always been that Freud’s mum was a hotty.
So for quite a long time, the blinkered views of a repressed Victorian Vienna masculinity dominated the psychological scene. We still have a lot of hangovers from that.
If Freud came to Brighton, he’d stay blinkered. When you’ve got that good at projecting a world view (weltanschauung) you don’t let the a city full of people you would consider mad get in your way.
Freud’s a douche.
Illustration by Lucy.