Freud at Work_Part 2
Interestingly Freud suggested that we are not rational beings but are driven by emotions whose genesis is unconscious. Brilliant thought this. I once heard ShahRukh Khan say `I am an entertainer and I want to die while lights are on my face, camera rolling and I am entertaining people’. Not his death wish but this statement is about his emotional drive and passion for his work. I recently heard one of India’s leading businessman talk about making key business decisions based on his gut. I have also read in the biographies of some sports and business people that they made important decisions based on intuition, which is nothing but an impulse, an emotional nudge. Such is the power of emotional drive. Emotions are also avenues for the release of tension. Hence many times we feel light when we talk about something that’s weighing on our minds.
Today’s fast paced world has driven many of us away from these emotional, intuitive resources of our mind and has directed us towards rationality, making us lop-sided in our decision making process and in our skills and capabilities.
According to Freud, intellect is a tool available to ego that could solve problems. Use of intellect depends entirely on the strength and capacity of ego. When irrational, instinctual urges dominate, if the original drives are suppressed, it becomes the task of the ego, using intellect, to devise safe and sufficient ways of satisfaction. So the intellect is used by ego to control id and manage super-ego.
Freud’s psychoanalysis attempts to delve into the unknown, unconscious realms of human mind. According to him the objective of it was to unleash the cathacted energy, release all the suppressed material in the unconscious that results in the abnormal behavior, to develop the ego. Psychoanalysis essentially deals with persons with abnormal behavior, maladjustment and does not necessarily explain the normal human behavior, motivations. In dealing with patients, psychoanalyst takes no moral, personal locations. He presents as little as possible of his own experiences and personality. Patients transfer their attitudes, feelings, ideas to the analyst. It is through this transference that the analyst brings the material out from the unconscious. To help patients establish connection between his unconscious and behavior, analyst interprets what’s being said by the patient. This process is called alter-ego. We use alter-ego at times in T-groups to a great effect.
I find the concept of defense mechanism quite meaningful. In one of the recent programs I conducted, I came across a participant who would show total indifference when someone in the lab broke down or expressed intense emotions. She would pretend as if she has not heard anything, play with her mobile, read/ send messages, play with her hair, look outside the window as if she is not in the room etc. Possibly doing all this to drive herself away from the intense emotions and this pattern would continue when the intensity of feeling of loss, rejection, `why me’ would be very high. She would feel free to engage with the group when the intensity of feeling of love, liking was high. This behavior looks like repression in which a person tries to force a potentially anxiety seeking thought, idea, event, words etc away from the consciousness.
Freud rightly points out that although repressed, all the repressed material doesn’t go away but remains active and need continuous force and energy to put it away and as a result the energy gets cathected.
Denial is another defense mechanism. I have seen people use it to block some of the intense emotions aroused by death of a close one or a big loss. Reaction formation and projection are two other defense mechanisms. While reaction formation has a more complex pathology, projection is fairly simple to understand. In reaction formation one tends to show opposite emotion to what is experienced in reality. One treats his subject of dislike with a lot of love and care in order to mask the original feeling. And in projection one protects himself by attributing those troublesome processes to others.
Personally I also found a link between defense mechanisms and some of the `games people play’ such as NIGYSOB (now I got you son of a bitch) or See What You Made Me Do etc. According to me as per Freudian theory these games satisfy some personal needs of the people playing them. I have come to believe that for every human action, whether we classify it as positive or negative, there is some pay off. `Games’ is a great way to achieve that pay-off by protecting something in us or even at times by destroying ourselves. Such games could also be our defense mechanism of sort.
Here are some of the concepts from Freudian philosophy that helped me in my work:
¨ There’s no random behavior and all human behavior is related to something or the other.
Everything that we do is related to everything else that we do or don’t do. This is how patterns are formed. Many things stack up to create one reality/ identity. I once coached a Head of Maintenance Department of a large appliances company who experienced tremendous tension because he always felt `oppressed’, had a lot of aspirations but could get nowhere according to him. In his life story I discovered he was eldest son, always made sacrifices for his younger siblings, sacrificed his own education, hobbies & other interests, had to start earning early, took up a job in maintenance department in spite of having a degree in production, married late, played a second fiddle mostly and allowed people to walk all over him. An obvious pattern that! He yearned for Production Head position but could never ask for it, let alone believing that he deserves it.
So many times have I seen this phenomenon of these unconscious connections to our behaviors that I have come around to believe that a very large part of our behavior is a reaction to something or the other. All I find is reaction to something we hold, who we are or what we have been through – conditions and conditioning.
So many people around me, in the age group of 35-45 have suddenly taken to marathon running. What would that be connected to, any guesses?
¨ Our current relationships are a reflection of our relationship with our parents when we were growing up
I haven’t come across anything more profound than this. Almost all part of industrial work is about inter-personal effectiveness irrespective of one’s level in the hierarchy. Consider this. There is a very senior professional I met recently. He would get along well with only lady bosses. Moment he has a male boss, he would have strained relations at workplace. Deeper exploration reveals that he had an excellent rapport with his mother and a very strained relation with his father. I have seen a common urge among trainers to woo their audiences. They have to get them to like them. They would go all out to please his trainees almost at times relinquishing their personal power. I found that very strange because at Elementz we maintain distance from our participants as a matter of discipline. On deeper exploration with at least a dozen of them, I found that they had a strained relationship with one of their parents. Now, there is no way they could win their parent’s attention or please them, so they diverted this energy towards their workplace where they go all out to please their audiences. Interesting, isn’t it? I have seen so many executives angry at their bosses indicating that they are actually angry with one of their parents (or both). Well, if we recognize this fact there is a lot of life energy to be released here.
¨ All human activity is aimed at gratification and pain reduction
I often wonder what came first, Freudian thought or NLP? In my work and at other places where I need to understand human behavior, I often find myself asking `what’s the pay off?’ What is the pay off for that person to behave in that manner? I have often found even in case of some extreme behaviors that the person is seeking pleasure or is trying to run away from pain. Often their ways are questionable but the intent is same. NLP uses this concept for influencing others. Influencers have often managed to make an impact when they either impressed how their ideas would change your life or how if they don’t buy their ideas they would be in trouble.
¨ Concept of Cathexis
A lot has already been said about Cathexis in this article but our core philosophy at Elementz is based on this understanding. We believe that each human being is a bundle of potential but because of conditions and conditioning, a lot of that potential gets blocked and diverts itself into non-productive behavior. If we are able to understand this, identify those blockages and unblock then we create an environment for the person to embrace his true potential.
All scholars have found critics and people who demean them, reject their thought. Freud was no exception. However, if we only focus on what makes sense to us and use for our personal and professional growth, would we not benefit from their work?