The Freud(ian) Boost

I’d like to tell you about the nicest thing that has happened to me for months. I actually felt true joy (which doesn’t happen that often, so I feel like celebrating it).

I’ve started reading “The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves” by Siri Hustvedt.

Now, I stopped reading her novels after The Enchantment of Lily Dahl because it didn’t agree with me. Don’t remember why, it was years ago. Now I’ve bought her last three novels, and I’ll read them on the train on my way to work in the morning.

The last year I’ve begun to obsess more and more over neurology, which I just find immennsly interesting. Ok, so I don’t actually understand it a 100 percent, but a good 80 percent I think we can say, and I’m actually contemplating buying a rubber brain (!).

I’m reading “The Master and his Emissary” by Iain McGilchrist, who I think must be one of my favorite intellectuals.

I’m not sure what it is, but I think it is wanting to understanding creativity (understanding what it is, why humans have the urge to create art, why so many artists are crazy, my own impulse to create, my own anguishes and depressions connected to my need to create etc etc) that made me want to learn more in the first place. I suppose the brain has become quite a sexy subject matter in the last years, so I know I’m not very original.

Anyway, back to “The Shaking Woman”. Siri speaks a lot about Freud. She talks a lot about how he is no longer taken seriously because psychoanalysis isn’t considered a valid method of treatment anymore (except from in certain cercles), and how people are badmouthing him without ever having read, nor understood, his theories. She goes on to explain how Freud was a scientist before he “started sounding like a fiction writer”, and that people know very little about his groundbreaking contribution to early neurology.

Well, she could as well be talking about me. Psychoanalysis interested me about as much as marxist literary theory when I was studying comparative literature, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. All this set aside, this passage caught my attention. After explaining how Freud studied medicine, but also philosophy and zoology (even did research on “the gonadic structure of eels”!!9,) that he settled on neurology after three years of medcal school, and spent six years studying nerve cells in the physiological labaratory of Ernst Wilhelm von Brüche.

“He concentrated on the visible material of the nervous system. The first book Freud published was On Aphasia: A Critical Study. Aphasia – the word derived from the Greek for “speechless” – refers to language problems in patients who have brain damage.”

There I had to stop. My heart suddenly felt swollen, and my head started spinning. I worked on that article when I was in university. One of my professors, the one who understood me and what I wanted to doo, gave me this article. I no longer remember what I was supposed to write about (I’m sure it was quite complicated, the way I liked it), but that is not the point.

The point is that I remember that time so clearly now that I’m reading this book. I remember the curiosity, the passion, the hours in the reading halls, the excitement when the teachers spoke about something you almost understood, but not quite. I remember the love for writing, and the love for reading. I remember the intellectual awakening. I remember everything. I love that part of my life, and I love that memory. I love feeling like I did something important, like I had something important to teach, and to tell others. I remember how proud I was when I finished my degree, and the teachers loved my thesis.

It was like beeing sucked back into that period of my time. It was inspiring. I want more.

Maybe my brain hasn’t dried up like an old raisin. Maybe my thoughts are not all dust disappearing with the wind. I wont go back to study, I can’t afford it, but I want that feeling, that enthusiasm, to be more present in my life. I’m tired of being sad. Tired of being tired. Tired of thinking things won’t ever change.

I needed that boost. Soon I’ll quit my horrible job. I’ll need all the strength I can get. I wont be paralyzed by fear again.

Thanks for reminding me of my past me, Siri. I kind of like her, and I know she’s in here somewhere.

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