Indeed, the thoughts that elicit these epithets are, Freud insists, ‘of particular value in discovering the forgotten material’.
All the moral and aesthetic criteria we use have to be set aside, as though what we pride ourselves on – our judgments of the appropriate and the pertinent, our aesthetic standards, our selection of the Good – were mere cover-stories.
I am talking to myself but who exactly is doing the talking, the strangely silent talking we call thinking; and who, perhaps more perplexingly, is the listener when we are talking to ourselves? Tietjens may not be the father of his son, but is he the father of his own thoughts?
Something that belongs to you, something as intimate as your own thoughts, could be illegitimate: could come from someone or somewhere else. Freud didn’t merely draw our attention to such moments, however, or redescribe the provenance of our more nomadic thoughts.
All you have to do, Freud proposes, is suggest to the patient that he speak as freely as possible and then attend to the difficulties he, like everyone else, will get into in the telling of himself.
It is when we are thrown by our thoughts, when, however fleetingly, we have lost the plot – when, in short, we can bear to lose our reputation for sanity – that we begin to get some news.It is a matter, as Freud says, of reading off the surfaces, of abrogating our conventional criteria.The disagreeable (Ford’s word, too), the nonsensical, the trivial and the irrelevant are all to be included.Tietjens didn’t know for certain that he was the father of his child, and he didn’t know for certain what to do about this horrible thought.So he carried on talking about the thing he was supposed to be talking about.The people Freud saw were suffering, in his view, not only from the insistent, inherited forms of anguish that everyone is liable to, but also from their forms of classification, and the confinement of their narrow-mindedness.