Monday, February 20, 2012

Psychological Sherlock

As a Psychology major, I can never get away from Freud. While everyone knows him for his emphasis on sex, some of his more feasible theories are often overlooked. Perhaps the most important one is the role of the unconscious. In his mind (and the minds of some practicing psychologists today) there are no accidents. Everything we do is driven by some buried want or need. In that respect, ever choice we make, no matter how seemingly insignificant—the color of our shirt, the way we part our hair—is directed by our unconscious.

Freud thought that by spending hours listening and contemplating people’s monologues, he could reveal some of these unconscious motivations to his clients. In class, we tried noticing the little details about people and speculating on their possible motivations. Why was the girl in front of me wearing a sweatshirt and ponytail, while the girl behind me was in a dress and heals? Why had some people brought umbrellas ‘just in case’ and others hadn’t? What does this say about them?

Of course, without being able to get into someone’s head, we can never really know if any of this is true, but it’s great practice for creative thinking and could give you some good material for fiction stories. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store and the woman in front of you is rude, or the guy at the checkout counter is taking forever to scan your items, try to get inside their heads. Think about what brought them there, at that moment, in those clothes, to do those things. It can be fun and (hopefully) more productive than yelling.

Have you ever stopped to think about what drives you? Is there one big thing you’re looking for (attention? wealth? love? fame?) or something you’re working too hard to avoid (commitment? failure?)? How much about ourselves do you think can be attributed to unconscious desires?

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