Freudian Slips

Freud believed that many everyday slips of the tongue or pen, misreading, incorrect hearing, misplacing objects, and temporarily forgetting names or intentions are not chance accidents but reveal a person's unconscious intentions. In writing of these faulty acts, Freud (1901/1960) used the German FehUeistung, or "faulty function," but James Strachey, one of Freud's translators, invented the term parapraxes to refer to what many people now simply call "Freudian slips."

Parapraxes or unconscious slips are so common that we usually pay little attention to them and deny that they have any underlying significance. Freud, however, msisted that these faulty acts have meaning; they reveal the unconscious intention of the person: "They are not chance events but serious mental acts; they have a sense; they arise from the concurrent actions—or perhaps rather, the mutually opposing action—of two different intentions" (Freud, 1917/1963, p. 44). One opposing action emanates from the unconscious; the other, from the preconscious. Unconscious slips, therefore, are similar to dreams in that they are a product of both the unconscious and the preconscious, with the unconscious intention being dominant and interfering with and replacing the preconscious one.

The fact that most people strongly deny any meaning behind their parapraxes was seen by Freud as evidence that the slip, indeed, had relevance to unconscious images that must remain hidden from consciousness. A young man once walked into a convenience store, became immediately attracted to the young female clerk, and asked for a "sex-pack of beer." When the clerk accused him of improper behavior, the young man vehemently protested his innocence. Examples such as this can be extended ahnost indefinitely. Freud provided many in his book, Psychopathologv of Everyday Life (1901/1960), and many of them involved his own faulty acts. One day after worrying about monetary matters, Freud strolled the tobacco store that he visited every day. On this particular day, he picked up his usual supply of cigars and left the store without paying for them. Freud attributed his neglect to earlier thoughts about budgetary issues. In all Freudian slips, the intentions of the unconscious supplant the weaker intentions of the preconscious, thereby revealing a person's true purpose.

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