How do you really learn the ins and outs of your subject matter? Nothing makes you know material better than teaching it. That’s why Freud’s Introductory Lectures makes such an interesting read. They are his lectures presented on psycho-analysis (Freud’s original spelling), which would have been fascinating anyway. But Freud keeps in his writing a key aspect of this lecture, literally interrupting the flow of his explanation with key questions that others may be thinking (and may have actually asked him in objection or skepticism). Discover how this book is more than a transcript but captures an introduction of the subject matter in a way that is helpful for your writing.
1. Intrigue your audience. Freud found an interesting way to delve into the subject of psycho-analysis. He started with some the most common and perhaps most interesting mysteries of human behavior and experience: parapraxes and dreams. Parapraxes literally are “faulty acts,” including the infamous Freudian slip or slip of the tongue. Freud presented these common mistakes and dreams, offering a fascinating theory for why they happen. Freud used these common mistakes as a doorway into the subject matter and built on this theory to construct a methodology for the treatment of neurotic disorders. So from the most simple, everyday experiences that are intriguing to people, he grabbed attention of listeners and readers alike and did not let go.
Likewise writers can grab their audience with this level of interest. Writers are often told to hook the writer with an interesting story, put them at ease with a joke, or involve them conversationally to win them over. Freud intrigues the reader with examples of slips of the tongue, which is a mystery that can leave even the person uttering the comment scratching his head as to why he said those very words. I wanted to know Freud’s answer as I read. Leave your readers wanting more and turning the page for the next nugget!
Along the way, listeners had to apply Freud’s theories to their human experience. Everyone has slips of the tongue. Everyone has dreams. Readers cannot help but start thinking, do Freud’s theories fit my reality? Why did I have that slip of the tongue? What does that dream mean? Freud’s theory became the subject matter of conversation about the topic, whether people agreed with him or not.
2. Identify possible objections. Freud had already experienced criticism for psycho-analysis as his treatment model. Perhaps this criticism put him on guard. Perhaps he had carefully debated all of these objections previously. In any case, with each point of his discourse Freud dealt with objections that people might be thinking among his audience. With humor at times, Freud took on possible critiques and made a stronger argument as a result.
In years of answering critical letters of the publishing products I work with, I have learned that sometimes people just want to be heard, understood, and validated as having a noteworthy argument, even if the discussion ends with both sides agreeing to disagree. Freud truly had a talent for noting objections in a way that validated questions and arguments just before he dismantled the argument.
For all of these reasons, I would argue Freud thought through his theories and their implications to a greater degree than most writers spend thinking about their topic. Every writer can learn from this type of clear thinking, noting grey areas or possible objections, and addressing them head on. Perhaps the possibility of being asked a question or being faced with an objection is the reason why every teacher learns his subject matter better. Anticipating objections and questions may actually cause you as a writer to think more clearly and succinctly in how you present your material and make your argument.
3. Provide examples to illustrate truths. Freud was the master of the case study. Freud’s case studies illustrated both his methods and the successful use of those methods in curing neurotic behavior. Freud’s case studies made his theory and treatment come alive. On a smaller level, Freud gave memorable examples of parapraxes and dreams that beautifully illustrated the heart of each type of slip and its connection to his model of interpretation.
There is a reason why most cultures told stories to pass down their history and beliefs from generation to generation. They are powerful tools in teaching and bringing alive truths that would otherwise be missed. Even in the most theoretical paper, your argument will be strengthened with examples. Illustrations give a concrete example of the theoretical.
4. Examine your deepest thoughts and dreams. Most people do not realize that Freud’s first patient was himself! He psycho-analyzed himself to discover the reasons for his behavior and actions. There is some validation in theories that powerfully help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, especially those areas of life that trouble you, where you can’t explain your own behavior. Freud specialized in those areas of life. Literally, he delved into the world of dreams to help free people from the obstacles that held them enslaved.
Some of the best writers explore their own issues, thoughts, hopes, dreams, difficulties, and successes to infuse their writing with emotion and reality. Don’t be afraid to go places in your writing that others consider taboo. Sometimes taking on one’s greatest fears and areas of frustration turn out to be the most freeing experiences.
5. Be willing to apply concepts to other areas of life and learning. Freud did not stop at the development of psycho-analysis and the examination of the human psyche. He used his methodology to explore group psychology, cultural anthropology, the development of art and religion, and the birth of the consciousness of the human species. Freud was a master at using his theory to other studies and areas of life.
Likewise never limit your thoughts and writing to one field of study. In today’s race to specialize in a specific field, we sometimes overlook areas that overlap and connections that naturally occur outside of our area of study. Similarly, don’t limit your writing and expertise. Life is a journey much like writing is a journey. Enjoy each step along the way!