I have always been interested in Freudian Slips because I think it’s such a fascinating phenomenon.
I know people tend to discredit Freud, but I think some of his findings were pretty interesting (the Freudian Slip, of course, being one of them). I imagine all of us have had this happen before or we have heard about them on the news. For example, saying “I’m mad you’re here!” instead of saying “I’m glad you’re here!” Is something like this just an innocent mistake, or does it unearth your unconscious mind? Does it actually reveal your true feelings for another person, ulterior motives, or other repressed memories?
First of all, where did Freudian Slips come from?
Well, as we know, Freudian Slips are named after the father of Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Freud based his research on a young man who had previously had a pregnancy scare with his girlfriend. Upon reciting The Aeneid, the young man completely mispronounced the Latin word for “blood.” According to Freud, this happened because the word “blood” was associated with the pregnancy scare the young man had desperately tried to repress, and was therefore mispronounced entirely (Cherry, Kendra). Freud wrote further about these Freudian Slips in his 1901 book entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. He said:
“Almost invariably I discover a disturbing influence from something outside of the intended speech. The disturbing element is a single unconscious thought, which comes to light through the special blunder” (Freud, Sigmund).
So, are we buying this at all?
Has this theory ever been tested in a laboratory setting? In fact, it has. A Harvard psychologist decided to test this Freud’s theory. Psychologist Daniel Wegner asked participants to engage in a stream of verbalization for at least five minutes. Basically, the participants could babble about almost anything they pleased. However, Wegner asked them not to think about a white bear in the process. If the participant happened to think about the white bear, they were supposed to ring a bell. He found that the participants rang the bell about once per minute (Cherry, Kendra).
What does this tell us about the theory?
Wegner came to the conclusion that even though the participants were told not to think about the white bear, there were parts of their minds that were responsible for a mental “check-in.” This “check-in” made sure that the part of the mind responsible for repressing the thought of the white bear was indeed working, ironically bringing the thought back up again in the process (Cherry, Kendra). The more we think about something, Wegner concluded, the more likely we are to verbalize it in some fashion, which can result in a Freudian Slip.
It has also been suggested that Freudian Slips are also much more likely to happen under stress, and are truly just mistakes, not a gateway into our unconscious mind (Goleman, Daniel). Even though Freudian Slips have often been discredited, they are incredibly interesting to read about. So, maybe saying something like “I’m mad you’re here!” is really just a simple slip-of-the-tongue. You probably shouldn’t sweat it!
Cherry, Kendra. “What’s Really Happening When You Have a Freudian Slip.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 27 Sept. 2019. www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-freudian-slip-2795851.
Freud, Sigmund. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: (1901). Hogarth Press, 1995.
Goleman, Daniel. “DO ‘FREUDIAN SLIPS’ BETRAY A DARKER, HIDDEN MEANING?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 1984. www.nytimes.com/1984/11/27/science/do-freudian-slips-betray-a-darker-hidden-meaning.html.