The Idea of Censorship in Freud’s Psychoanalysis

The June 2012 issue of the British Journal for the History of Science is now online. A special issue on the topic of scientific secrecy, the issue includes a piece on Sigmund Freud that may be of interest to AHP readers. In “Blacked-Out Spaces: Freud, Censorship and the Re-Territorialization of Mind,” historian of science Peter Galison discusses the idea of censorship within Freud’s work. The abstract reads,

Freud’s analogies were legion: hydraulic pipes, military recruitment, magic writing pads. These and some three hundred others took features of the mind and bound them to far-off scenes – the id only very partially resembles an uncontrollable horse, as Freud took pains to note. But there was one relation between psychic and public act that Freud did not delimit in this way: censorship, the process that checked memories and dreams on their way to the conscious. (Freud dubbed the relation between internal and external censorship a ‘parallel’ rather than a limited analogy.) At first, Freud likened this suppression to the blacking out of texts at the Russian frontier. During the First World War, he suffered, and spoke of suffering under, Viennese postal and newspaper censorship – Freud was forced to leave his envelopes unsealed, and to recode or delete content. Over and over, he registered the power of both internal and public censorship in shared form: distortion, anticipatory deletion, softenings, even revision to hide suppression. Political censorship left its mark as the conflict reshaped his view of the psyche into a society on a war footing, with homunculus-like border guards sifting messages as they made their way – or did not – across a topography of mind.

Also included within this issue is a review of Fernando Vidal‘s interesting recent history of psychology, The Science of the Soul: The Early Modern Origins of Psychology.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.