Cover of the German edition
|Original title||Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens|
|Translator||A. A. Brill (first version)|
Psychopathology of Everyday Life (German: Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens) is a 1901 work by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Based on Freud's researches into slips and parapraxes from 1897 onwards, it became perhaps the best-known of all Freud's writings.
The Psychopathology was originally published in the Monograph for Psychiatry and Neurology in 1901, before appearing in book form in 1904. It would receive twelve foreign translations during Freud's lifetime, as well as numerous new German editions, with fresh material being added in almost every one. James Strachey objected that "Almost the whole of the basic explanations and theories were already present in the earliest edition...the wealth of new examples interrupts and even confuses the mainstream of the underlying argument". However, in such a popular and theory-light text, the sheer wealth of examples helped make Freud's point for him in an accessible way. A new English-language translation by Anthea Bell was published in 2003.
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Studying the various deviations from the stereotypes of everyday behavior, strange defects and malfunctions, as well as seemingly random errors, the author concludes that they indicate the underlying pathology of the psyche, the symptoms of psychoneurosis.
Freud writes in his introduction:
Freud believed that various deviations from the stereotypes of everyday conduct - seemingly unintended reservation, forgetting words, random movements and actions - are a manifestation of unconscious thoughts and impulses. Explaining "wrong actions" with the help of psychoanalysis, just as the interpretation of dreams, can be effectively used for diagnosis and therapy.
Considering the numerous cases of such deviations, he concludes that the boundary between the normal and abnormal human psyche is unstable and that we are all a bit neurotic. Such symptoms are able to disrupt eating, sexual relations, regular work, and communication with others.
In the last chapter of his book, Freud deals with the problem of psychic determinism, for which he makes a case. He argues that "If one investigates, let us say, this seeming voluntary formation, for example, of a number of many digits uttered in unrestrained mirth, it always proves to be so strictly determined that the determination seems impossible". He then discusses a famous case of a name "arbitrarily chosen", the Dora's one. Analysing the motivation of his choice, it occurred to him that the nurse of his sister's children was named Dora. Then a slight recent event soon flashed into his mind which brought the looked-for determination. On his sister's dining-room he noticed a letter with the address "Miss Rosa W.". Flabbergasted, he was informed that the real name of Dora was in fact Rose, and that she had agreed to have her name changed in order to get the job, because Rosa would also refer to his sister".
Freud's conclusion is that:
Sometimes called the Mistake Book (to go with the Dream Book and the Joke Book),The Psychopathology of Everyday Life became one of the scientific classics of the 20th century. Freud realised he was becoming a celebrity when he found his cabin-steward reading the Mistake Book on his 1909 visit to the States. The Rat Man came to Freud for analysis as a result of reading the Psychopathology of Everyday Life. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan considered The Psychopathology of Everyday Life one of the three key texts for an understanding of the unconscious, alongside The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), and Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905). Through its stress on what Freud called "switch words" and "verbal bridges",The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is considered important for psychopathology.
Strachey's English translation is criticized by the psychologist Louis Breger, who writes that Strachey translates the word for slips or mistakes as "parapraxis" when the English "blunder" or "faulty action" would have been more appropriate, and uses the Latinisms "id" and "ego" where "it" and "I" would have better captured Freud's language. The philosopher Michel Onfray argues that The Psychopathology of Everyday Life is not scientific. Jacques Bénesteau writes that Freud added lies in each edition. The philosopher Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and the psychologist Sonu Shamdasani write that Freud's coupling of an analysis of his dreams and childhood memories had a precedent in Belgian psychologist Joseph Delboeuf's Sleep and Dreams, one of the major themes of which is the capacity of dreams to recall forgotten memories.