Pity the hedgehog. The freezing temperatures of winter compel them to cozy up to others of its kind, but the prickly spines covering their bodies prevent them from sustaining the easy, ongoing intimacy they so crave.
It’s a hell of a metaphor for human relationships, compliments of 19th-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It certainly spoke to Sigmund Freud, who devoted his life trying to figure out why so many of us resort to petty behaviors, spurning those we love, and sabotaging ourselves at every turn.
Popular representations would have us believe that the father of psychoanalysis was a detached sort of know-it-all, emotionally superior to the basket cases sniveling on his couch. Not so. As he noted in 1897:
I have been through some kind of neurotic experience, curious states… twilight thoughts, veiled doubts… The chief patient I am preoccupied with is myself… my little hysteria… the analysis is more difficult than any other. Something from the deepest depths of my own neurosis sets itself against any advance in understanding neuroses…
We feel ya’, doc, and so does The School of Life, the London-based organization for developing emotional intelligence, co-founded by philosophical essayist, Alain de Botton:
… consulting a psychotherapist should be as accessible and as normal as developing your career, getting help for a physical problem, or going to the gym to get healthy. Just as we take care of our bodies and physical health, a vital element of self-care is devoting focused time and energy to exploring and understanding our thoughts and feelings.
The school puts your money where its mouth is by retaining a roster of licensed psychotherapists who can be booked for in-person or Skype sessions.
It’s not for everyone. There are those who are determined to pursue the path to contentment and self-knowledge solo, impervious to Freud’s belief that “No one who disdains the key will ever be able to unlock the door.”
The therapy-averse can still learn something from the video above. Narrator de Botton charms his way through an easily digested overview of Freud’s personal and professional life, and the resulting tenets of psychoanalysis.
And filmmaker Mad Adam ensures that this brief trip through the infant phases—oral, anal, phallic—will be a jolly one, replete with droll, mostly vintage images.
Release more monsters of the id with the School of Life’s psychotherapy playlist.
20,000 Letters, Manuscripts & Artifacts From Sigmund Freud Get Digitized and Made Available Online
Download Sigmund Freud’s Great Works as Free eBooks & Free Audio Books: A Digital Celebration on His 160th Birthday
What is Love? BBC Philosophy Animations Feature Sartre, Freud, Aristophanes, Dawkins & More
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.
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