Whatever we are doing, whenever we are engaged in conversation, there is an ongoing dialogue taking place within us. We may not be consciously aware of it, but it manifests itself in a benevolent form when it enables us to talk to others in a way that we respect and like them and in a negative way when it is displayed through speech and body language as irritability, inappropriate annoyance with others and indecision with its close relation, procrastination.
In “Hamlet” Shakespeare presents us with a soliloquy which illustrates this point. “To be or not to be, that is the question”. To make a decision whether to live or die causes problems when is is based on a choice between two powerfully negative feelings: not being able to come to terms with everyday life and being afraid about what would happen after death. This is an extreme example, but many of us are often confused when making decisions because we can see more than one point of view. There is nothing wrong with confusion – it shows that we are able to remain open-minded. We can console ourselves that much harm in the world is done by people who think they are right. However, we cannot live interesting and exciting lives if we do not have the courage to keep taking risks and facing challenges. That means that we must be prepared to fight for what we think is good for us and our children. Do-nothings always end up as slaves and blame other people for their misfortunes. Too easy a life is a dangerous life. We need to experience both negative and positive factors to grow up properly with the ability to look after ourselves.
Constant self-analysis may or may not be useful. Wittgenstein showed us that “thinking” is very difficult to define. No-one knows how we manage to do it. We can make imaginary scenarios about the future but until we are involved in a new situation we cannot be certain how we will react to it. One of the main purposes of psychotherapy is to help us to find the hidden elements in ourselves. We are all blind to certain aspects of ourselves for understandable reasons, mainly because of our wish to be seen in a certain way by others. Whatever facets of ourselves that we dislike, and we all have them because we are human with complex natures, we tend to repress them to the point that we are not consciously aware of them. One of Freud’s most important discoveries is that it is impossible for us to prevent evidence of our repressions from breaking through into our talk with others. We all know about the reality of the “Freudian slip”.
Freud was not right in everything he said, as is true of all great discoverers, but the speed with which his method flourished throughout the western world could be seen as an overwhelming sign of the need for such a discipline. Nevertheless, more than a century away from his beginnings, there are many more facts to be unearthed about the mysteries of the human brain.