For those who didn’t get enough last week…
So Freud was Austrian. I mean, we all knew this, because he’s ALWAYS depicted with zis re-dik-u-lous achent, ja? What I didn’t realize is that he died in 1939. When the Nazis took over Germany, Freud’s books were among those they burned, and he famously quipped, “What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.” He had four sisters who died in the camps, and he eventually escaped to London with the assistance of a Nazi who had studied his work and was a fan.
The more you know.
I do think that the change in conception of personality is very interesting, in part because of what it makes possible in terms of mental illnesses – think about it, unless you believe that personality is malleable and influenced by environment and that people can have different personalities for different situations, you cannot believe in Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder. That is not to give a judgment on whether it exists or not (I have read too much on both sides of the issue to feel comfortable making a definitive statement here), but just to point out that if you lived in a culture that had a more static view of personality, you would probably see DID in a rather different light.
It seems as though today we’ve come to some sort of truce between all these conflicting ideas – we see personality as static but also see ourselves as presenting different facets of it in different situations; we see people as driven by instincts and ruled by chemicals, but still insist on the ability of the mind/ethics to govern it all. And we are more nervous and depressed than ever (which might have more than a little to do with our old friend advertising). Whee!
I love reading history because whenever I am convinced that the world is falling apart and we’re all going to fucking die (this happens frequently; I’m a pessimist), I just remember that society has been wrestling with these issues for more than a hundred years, and we ain’t dead yet.
This comic’s call number is HC79.C63 L86 2010a.