Freud on: Sublimation

Freud on: Sublimation

Some of what we want deep down in our primitive unconscious threatens to be pretty dark We may want to do no work, to steal, to injure others, to give way to despair Or to have sex in very taboo and damaging ways yet most of us do very little of this. In fact we often pour our energies into worthwhile projects and go out of our way to try to be good and helpful to those around us. That we’re able to do this fascinated the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who gave a special word to this ability to put our primitive, egoistic, destructive energies to good use. He called the process sublimation in German Sublimierung It was an idea that came to freud while he was reading a well-known and charming travel book, The Harz Journey, by the 19th century Poet Heinrich Heine. In it Heine mentioned meeting a legendary German surgeon called Johann Friedrich Deffenbaugh, who’d been extremely selfish and sadistic as a boy, loving to cut off the tails of stray dogs for sheer twisted pleasure. But then, as an adult, had matured into a profoundly selfless and brilliant surgeon, who’d made some pioneering discoveries in the fields of reconstructive and plastic surgery. Freud felt that this evolution, from a person who had sadistically used a knife to wound, to one who had nobly used it to mend, could not have been a mere coincidence and proposed that what was at play belong to a widespread pattern of behavior, whereby an early harmful or shocking drive gives rise to precisely its opposite, with the strength of the negative determining the power of the positive. Freud felt that this desire for compensation lays at the heart of many of the greatest achievements in the arts, politics and science. So, a great police detective might at an unconscious level, be defending themselves against certain of their own illegal wishes, and a politician committed to the plight of the poor might be sublimating an early experience of raging greed. In an essay on Leonardo da Vinci Freud presented the claim that da Vinci had been an extremely sexually active child, who had then sublimated his sexuality into scientific research and art. As Freud put it a forbidden desire for sexual pleasure, in this case for his mother, and then other boys had turned in da Vinci into a hugely honorable and powerful general urge to know The theory of sublimation is so hopeful because there’s so much about what we all want that proves impossible while there would be infinite reasons for anger and sterile nihilism, Freud notes our capacity to seek compensation and alternative fulfillments. Repeatedly in his work, Freud stressed a fact, which though it sounds absurdly obvious, we nevertheless usually fail to give enough weight to – that all of us started out as babies. In that state we wanted only immediate pleasure and satisfaction. Our drives in their initial forms, which are things that couldn’t work out for us and that had to be painfully surrendered, we believe that if we didn’t get all we wanted at once it would be a catastrophe And we would die. This kind of thinking explains the shrieking and wailing of infants in a tantrum. We thought the world revolved just around us and we couldn’t be generous to others, and yet most of us turned into healthy adults by managing to substitute our original narcissistic aims for more ethical and fruitful alternatives. Freud added soberly that we’re never quite done with sublimation. We continue to be frustrated in what we really want, most often around sex, continually we encounter people we’d love to sleep with but mustn’t and yet rather than this energy going nowhere we have an ability to use our frustration to power other things creative endeavors, scientific breakthroughs, care for the vulnerable. In Freud’s eyes disappointment is inevitable. Our longings will systematically outrun reality, but sublimation remains the one hugely helpful option for us: under it’s guidance, envy can turn into effort, wounded egoism into a capacity for gratitude and appreciation, sexual rejection into a film or a novel. As Freud saw it, psychoanalysis is the field designed to help us discover how we can use our disappointments more productively, how we can grow up to be not embittered or shut down, but paradoxically, energized by some of our greatest underlying sorrows. The good life isn’t one where we get exactly what we want, it’s one where we find fulfilling second bests and where we have the inner freedom to redirect our disappointments with maximal imagination, a life where we’ve learned, as Freud tried to show us, to sublimate well.

100 thoughts on “Freud on: Sublimation”

  1. i feel people r turned off by freud cuz all they hear is.. we want to fuck our mothers.. lol thats so dumb people dont even care for context or anything they just r stuck with the superficial bullet points

  2. How does this relate to Reaction Formation? Also, can we consider this the same Sublimation discussed by Anna?

  3. I always wondered as a student of psychology what kind of impulses do we sublimate that drives us to this specific career, for example how a surgeon transfers his impulse to hurt into a career of helping others.

  4. Semitic cultures are very harsh and judgemental about social perversions, Jews in trying to transcend cultural limitation get rid of or question everything without having any foundations or fences sometimes hence I give you FREUD

    anyways this should explain Arab culture and social etiquette

  5. The meaning of sublimation used in this video is to express a desire or feeling by changing it into a form that is socially acceptable. Not the transitioning of solid to gas. 🙂

  6. Every time one of your videos finishes I expect that epic music that plays at the end of Ted-Ed videos

    Maybe I associate the two together because I learn something from both

  7. Amazin video as always. Could you please consider making the next one about G. Deleuze & F. Guattari? I think it would be perfect for this topic.
    Love your work.

  8. I almost sure Freud isnt the first one who said our bad passion can be turn to good things. So why Freud get all the credit??

  9. I'm not very good at this. My libido just seems to distract me from doing productive work, not contribute to it.

  10. I don't see how doing no "work" is dark or whatever, in fact the way society neurotically pushes along is even worse. We're not here to be a Hollywood star or a 9-5 grinder. We are here simply to exist. Everything else is desire – the root to all our suffering. Stop desire, even the desire to stop desiring, you win.

  11. As someone who studied psychology as an elective subject in college i ask you to do a video on CARL JUNG please . He cant be ignored. His theories on the human psyche,symbolism and the archetypes are as important as theories of FREUD.

  12. And if we do not sublimate, what happens? We can't live a good life? Where do we draw the line between a life of pleasure/vice, and one of sublimation? It seems as though it would be nearly impossible to draw such a line, and even harder to say that one had a good life or not. For example, lets say x) sublimates his drives to put effort into banking, becomes a successful banker has a family etc. Y) is a hedonist, artist, sex, drugs, dies at 55 but had many affairs, travelled, etc… x) sublimated y) did not. Who had the better life, is not an easy question!

  13. Sublimation- The transformation of an impulse into something socially constructive,
    a sign of maturity (indeed, of civilization),
    when displacement "serves a higher cultural or socially useful purpose, as in the creation of art or inventions".

  14. So is this why me trying to date and being single for years instead (bummer) have improve my life and my work and my mind in amazing ways, tough still feeling I just wanted to date? xD

  15. Love the videos, please do one on William james as I feel his philosophical ideas lay the groundwork for psychology and free will

  16. In psychology, sublimation is a mature type of defense mechanism where socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are unconsciously transformed into socially acceptable actions or behavior, possibly resulting in a long-term conversion of the initial impulse.

  17. I can relate so much. I used to take pleasure in hurting people as a child. I craved for revenge.
    I'm an MD today and been enjoying various humanitarian projects. And i want to spend the rest of my life like this.

  18. 3:48 If anybody else knows who the mustachioed guy is, you know as well as I do that he is not somebody you'd love to sleep with.

  19. Yesss, I believe that if I can get/achive my darkest desires or whatever I would just end up feeling guilty, but when I canalize that, turn them into effort and do/create something good, I may end up feeling so much better than my desires could have ever made me feel. Anyway, learning this have left me thinking about those poor animals🙁🙁🙁

  20. Freud's "Sublimation" is adopted from that of Nietzsche. That was not explored here. Otherwise a good summary given the 5 minute limitation.

  21. I think there is a type of sublimation that can have negative results when used to resist things that are actually good, eg Workaholics and fitness addicts as the don't face up to the things they need to

  22. So theres troy, athletic, good looking and a dominant male. however he has quite an attitude, he struggles with his grades because he spends his time having too much fun with girls, and he often finds himself struggling to get a long term life partner, its like the girls only give him short term gratification: sex
    he instead finds peace in getting others to do what he wants and has an obsession for money and power given that those are there for life.

  23. Freud's ideas doesn't have any market value! Because he had stated the rationalisation as a defence mechanism and he is refusing the rationalisation.
    On the other hand; all the financial systems and world economy is based upon rationalisation.
    If you look at the any book of finance or economy, it starts by addressing the notion of rationality.
    If you want to make money choose Rene Descartes instead of Sigmund Freud.

    Freud wrong!
    Descartes right!

  24. I wish there were videos like yours but in German. I literally have to watch your videos and translate them in order to learn the stuff properly as I am a student in Germany and my teacher cant really explain the topic as good as your YouTube videos. Thanks a lot !

  25. Excuse me sir but i wonder about the link between what you sublimate against vs its substitutions. I mean its not very clear to me why did leonardo chose to focus his frustration from sexual denial into science. Whats the link? Like the link is clear with that guy who cut tails and became a surgeon. With Leonardo its not that clear to me

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