The Tip of the Freudian Iceberg

I am not a Freudian scholar. Although I visited his house in London with my study abroad class, I did so warning them that I was better able to explain how psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience than how Freud’s theories actually work; I might also have let slip that most of what I know about Freud comes from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

However, between preparing a brief history of psychology lesson for my new Intro Psych class, and hunting for pictures to represent each psychology class for a department bulletin board, I have spent some time with the lasting legacy of Freud’s work. No, not the classic sofa or the photographic double-entendre; I’m talking about the third-most-famous image, the iceberg of consciousness.

The Freudian Iceberg.

The Freudian Iceberg.

Freud was one of the first to focus on the unconscious mind, and to point out that there was very little mind that would be available to Wilhelm Wundt‘s introspective techniques – or, say, mindful awareness – because the vast majority of our minds were humming along far beneath the surface.

Even just that basic iceberg is (pun alert) just the tip of the iceberg, because the more thorough Freudian scholars demand a more detailed picture:

This iceberg goes the full Freudian.

This iceberg goes the full Freudian.

I am not quite versed enough to consider all of the implications of some aspects of the mind traversing levels of consciousness while others remain completely hidden. But I do find myself wondering what Freud would think of 21st century takes on consciousness. Would he feel vindicated by evidence that our unconscious minds make better decisions (sometimes)? Would he validate those who see connections between Freud and Buddhism, and join those who make mindfulness a part of psychoanalysis? Or would he still insist that we focus on psychosexual development as the primary source of our unconscious motivations?

It’s almost enough for me to wish for that phonebooth time machine and a thorough conversation with one of the most famous psychologists of all time. On the other hand, part of me wonders just what he would insist was going on in the deep iceberg of my id, and whether I would smack him for it. Freud’s legacy is multi-faceted like that.


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