Friday, 16 May 2008

Parapraxes and compromise-formations

From A Child’s Dictionary Of Psychoanalysis

What you call a Freudian slip*, Freudians call a parapraxis*. That is, anything we do or say which points to something that we didn’t think or realise we intended. Greeting someone, for example, by saying ‘So sad to see you.’

That’s called a compromise-formation. The compromise is the unconscious’s way of smuggling unacceptable thoughts into consciousness. The secret, terrible thought is buried in an otherwise innocuous communication. It’s like it’s slipping through passport control on false papers or hidden away in a bunch of nuns.

So? So look at my blog of April 24: The student on the couch. Look at my age. See my age is wrong. I made myself two years younger than I actually am. Oh, dear, I can only assume that’s what my unconscious wishes — not just unacceptably to me but to the laws of physics, too.

* I’ve often thought Freudian Slips would be a wonderful name for a lingerie shop. Particularly in Primrose Hill, the man himself having lived there for a while.

** Horrible word, parapraxis, isn’t it. It was cobbled together, from one part classical Greek and one part classical Latin, by Freud’s English editor, James Strachey, for the 1916 edition of Introd. Lect. Psycho-anal. It translates as something like ‘analogous action’. No wonder people prefer Freudian slip. As usual, Freud’s original German is far clearer and simpler: Fehlleistungen, literally ‘faulty function’ and meaning ‘misperformance’.