Motivations of Freud which made him highly creative innovator

Gardner, Extraordinary Minds, 79

I see Freud as energized by three motivations: pleasure in classifying, lust for problem solving, passion for system building.  In the manner of a good naturalist, Freud loved to take in as much data as he could and then try to organize them systematically.  Initially, following Charcot, he performed such classifications over and over again with the neuroses; later in life, he applied a similar organizing scheme to the full range of the human personality configurations.

Second, Freud loved to identify puzzles and then solve them.  Whether in his personal life or his professional work, nothing pleased him more than to identify some kind of paradox and to ponder it.  As a youth, he applied Talmudic reasoning to questions like the rationale for suicide and the place of women in the modern world; as the first psychoanalyst, he puzzled about whether sexual abuse had to happen in the flesh or only to be imagined and whether women exhibit a psychosexual quandary that mirrored the little boy’s Oedipal complex.

After Freud had classified phenomena and puzzled out solutions, he wanted to synthesize the results of his work: this is where he became a system builder–one who creates a new theory and a new mode of treatment.  Freud’s legacy lies significantly in the complex system of explanation that he developed.

More so than many other investigators, Freud craved communication of his findings to a broader public.  He was a brilliant communicator both orally and in writing; the success of psychoanalysis as as much a tribute to his communicating genius as to the power (or the validity) of the ideas.  It is instructive that initially Freud tried to express his new ideas in a highly technical and scientific form; we see this working out a special “new symbol system” in the turgid prose and difficult-to-decipher diagrams of the Project and The Interpretation of Dreams.  Eventually, Freud came to realize that his ideas could equally well–and far more convincingly–be conveyed in everyday, nontechnical language.  Both his oral (often impromptu) and written lectures are models of explanatory clarity.


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