“Actions and consciously expressed opinions are as a rule enough for practical purposes in judging men’s characters. Actions deserve to be considered first and foremost; for many impulses which force their way through to consciousness are even then brought to nothing by the real forces of mental life before they can mature into deeds. In fact such impulses often meet with no psychical obstacles to their progress, for the very reason that the unconscious is certain that they will be stopped at some other stage. It is in any case instructive to get to know the much trampled soil from which our virtues proudly spring. Very rarely does the complexity of a human character, driven hither and thither by dynamic forces, submit to a choice between simple alternatives, as our antiquated morality would have us believe.” – Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey)

“It is only with the greatest difficulty that the beginner in the business of interpreting dreams can be persuaded that his task is not at an end when he has a complete interpretation in his hands—an interpretation which makes sense, is coherent and throws light upon every element of the dream’s content. For the same dream may perhaps have another interpretation as well, an ‘over-interpretation’, which has escaped him. It is, indeed, not easy to form any conception of the abundance of the unconscious trains of thought, all striving to find expression, which are active in our minds.” – Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey)

“Paradise itself is no more than a group fantasy of the childhood of the individual. That is why mankind were naked in Paradise and were without shame in one another’s presence; till a moment arrived when shame and anxiety awoke, expulsions followed, and sexual life and the tasks of cultural activity began. But we can regain this Paradise every night in our dreams.” – Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey)

“It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in—at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where there is a creative mind, Reason—so it seems to me—relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass.” – Friedrich Schiller (quoted by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams (trans. James Strachey))

Open wide

“The doctor’s main concern is to identify all the resistances that are prejudicial to the effectiveness of the curative force, and to eliminate them as much as possible. Doctors have undoubtedly, since the start of the profession, helped the patient and will continue to do so forever. But undoubtedly, too, the doctor’s action very often creates or reinforces an inhibiting effect on the curative force. This is exactly what the doctor must be aware of: that he is a danger to his patient.” – Georg Groddeck (as quoted by Catherine Clément in The Weary Sons of Freud (trans. Ball))

Many get stuck in the tunnel

“Religion is an attempt to master the sensory world in which we are situated by means of the wishful world which we have developed within us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. But religion cannot achieve this. Its doctrines bear the imprint of the times in which they arose, the ignorant times of the childhood of humanity. Its consolations deserve no trust. Experience teaches us that the world is no nursery. The ethical demands on which religion seeks to lay stress need, rather, to be given another basis; for they are indispensable to human society and it is dangerous to link obedience to them with religious faith. If we attempt to assign the place of religion in the evolution of mankind, it appears not as a permanent acquisition but as a counterpart to the neurosis which individual civilized men have to go through in their passage from childhood to maturity.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay)

The blind men and the elephant

“If we are to give an account of the grandiose nature of religion, we must bear in mind what it undertakes to do for human beings. It gives them information about the origin and coming into existence of the universe, it assures them of its protection and of ultimate happiness in the ups and downs of life and it directs their thoughts and actions by precepts which it lays down with its whole authority. Thus it fulfills three functions. With the first of them it satisfies the human thirst for knowledge; it does the same thing that science attempts to do with its means, and at that point enters into rivalry with it. It is to its second function that it no doubt owes the greatest part of its influence. Science can be no match for it when it soothes the fear that men feel of the dangers and vicissitudes of life, when it assures them of a happy ending and offers them comfort in unhappiness. It is true that science can teach us how to avoid certain dangers and that there are some sufferings which it can successfully combat; it would be most unjust to deny that it is a powerful helper to men; but there are many situations in which it must leave a man to his suffering and can only advise him to submit to it. In its third function, in which it issues precepts and lays down prohibitions and restrictions, religion is furthest away from science. For science is content to investigate and to establish facts, though it is true that from its application rules and advice are derived on the conduct of life. In some circumstances these are the same as those offered by religion, but, when this is so, the reasons for them are different.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay; emphasis in original)

Shields are up (blinders are on)

“Of the three powers which may dispute the basic position of science, religion alone is to be taken seriously as an enemy. Art is almost always harmless and beneficent; it does not seek to be anything but an illusion. Except for a few people who are spoken of as being ‘possessed’ by art, it makes no attempt at invading the realm of reality. Philosophy is not opposed to science, it behaves like a science and works in part by the same methods; it departs from it, however, by clinging to the illusion of being able to present a picture of the universe which is without gaps and is coherent, though one which is bound to collapse with every fresh advance in our knowledge. It goes astray in its method by over-estimating the epistemological value of our logical operations and by accepting other sources of knowledge such as intuition.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Question of a Weltanschauung” (ed. Gay)

Clocking in

“No other technique for the conduct of life attaches the individual so firmly to reality as laying emphasis on work; for his work at least gives him a secure place in a portion of reality, in the human community. The possibility it offers of displacing a large amount of libidinal components, whether narcissistic, aggressive, or even erotic, on to professional work and on to the human relations connected with it lends it a value by no means second to what it enjoys as something indispensable to the preservation and justification of existence in society. Professional activity is a source of special satisfaction if it is a freely chosen one—if, that is to say, by means of sublimation, it makes possible the use of existing inclinations, of persisting or constitutionally reinforced instinctual impulses. And yet, as a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men. They do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority of people only work under the stress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems.” – Sigmund Freud, “Civilization and Its Discontents” (ed. Gay)

Proposing amendments to the laws of God

“Since it is an awkward task to separate what God Himself has demanded from what can be traced to the authority of an all-powerful parliament or a high judiciary, it would be an undoubted advantage if we were to leave God out altogether and honestly admit the purely human origin of all the regulations and precepts of civilization. Along with their pretended sanctity, these commandments and laws would lose their rigidity and unchangeableness as well. People could understand that they are made, not so much to rule them as, on the contrary, to serve their interests; and they would adopt a more friendly attitude to them, and instead of aiming at their abolition, would aim only at their improvement. This would be an important advance along the road which leads to becoming reconciled to the burden of civilization.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

So wide, you can’t get around it

“Where questions of religion are concerned, people are guilty of every possible sort of dishonesty and intellectual misdemeanour. Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all the world as deists, as believers in God, notwithstanding that their God is now nothing more than an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrines. Critics persist in describing as ‘deeply religious’ anyone who admits to a sense of man’s insignificance or impotence in the face of the universe, although what constitutes the essence of the religious attitude is not this feeling but only the next step after it, the reaction to it which seeks a remedy for it. The man who goes no further, but humbly acquiesces in the small part which human beings play in the great world—such a man is, on the contrary, irreligious in the truest sense of the word.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

Ricochet rabbits

“The less a man knows about the past and the present the more insecure must prove to be his judgement of the future. And there is the further difficulty that precisely in a judgement of this kind the subjective expectations of the individual play a part which it is difficult to assess; and these turn out to be dependent on purely personal factors in his own experience, on the greater or lesser optimism of his attitude to life, as it has been dictated for him by his temperament or by his success or failure. Finally, the curious fact makes itself felt that in general people experience their present naïvely, as it were, without being able to form an estimate of its contents; they have first to put themselves at a distance from it—the present, that is to say, must have become the past—before it can yield points of vantage from which to judge the future.” – Sigmund Freud, “The Future of an Illusion” (ed. Gay)

You’ll learn lessons you’ll never forget

“Side by side with the exigencies of life, love is the great educator; and it is by the love of those nearest him that the incomplete human being is induced to respect the decrees of necessity and to spare himself the punishment that follows any infringement of them.” – Sigmund Freud, “Some Character Types” (ed. Gay)

What gods are good for

“A progressive renunciation of constitutional instincts, whose activation might afford the ego primary pleasure, appears to be one of the foundations of the development of human civilization.  Some part of this instinctual repression is effected by its religions, in that they require the individual to sacrifice his instinctual pleasure to the Deity.  ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.’  In the development of the ancient religions one seems to discern that many things which mankind had renounced as ‘iniquities’ had been surrendered to the Deity and were still permitted in his name, so that the handing over to him of bad and socially harmful instincts was the means by which man freed himself from their domination.” – Sigmund Freud, “Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices” (ed.  Gay)

How words and times change

“Sexual love is undoubtedly one of the chief things in life, and the union of mental and bodily satisfaction in the enjoyment of love is one of its culminating peaks.  Apart from a few queer fanatics, all the world knows this and conducts its life accordingly; science alone is too delicate to admit it.” – Sigmund Freud, “Observations on Transference-Love” (ed. Gay)

Learn your lessons, precious snowflake

“Education can be described without more ado as an incitement to the conquest of the pleasure principle, and to its replacement by the reality principle; it seeks, that is, to lend its help to the developmental process which affects the ego.  To this end it makes use of an offer of love as a reward from the educators; and it therefore fails if a spoilt child thinks that it possesses that love in any case and cannot lose it whatever happens.” — Sigmund Freud, “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (ed. Gay)

What’s your pleasure, sailor?

“The extraordinarily wide dissemination of the perversions forces us to suppose that the disposition to perversion is itself of no great rarity but must form a part of what passes as the normal constitution.” — Sigmund Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality” (ed. Gay)

And we worry about the NSA

“When I set myself the task of bringing to light what human beings keep hidden within them, not by the compelling power of hypnosis, but by observing what they say and what they show, I thought the task was a harder one than it really is. He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger-tips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.” – Sigmund Freud, “Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (‘Dora’)” (ed. Gay)

In a wifely way

“My wife had opened a bottle of liqueur, on which the word ‘Ananas’ appeared and which was a gift from our friend Otto: for he has a habit of making presents on every possible occasion.  It has to be hoped, I thought to myself, that some day he would find a wife to cure him of the habit.  This liqueur gave off such a strong smell of fusel oil that I refused to touch it.  My wife suggested our giving the bottle to the servants, but I—with even greater prudence—vetoed the suggestion, adding in a philanthropic spirit that there was no need for them to be poisoned either.” – Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (emphasis in original; ed. Gay)