Northern California Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology




Freud arranged the sequence of blows to our inherent megalomania thusly: the discovery of heliocentrism (we're not at the center of the universe), of evolution (we're not the images of an omnipotent deity), and most wounding of all, the discovery of unconscious mental processes (we're clueless about what happens in our minds). Despite the grandiose solipsism evinced by our everyday attitudes, a good number of us mortals intellectually grasp the implications of heliocentrism and evolution. The most wounding blow is an uppercut many continue to dodge.

Whereas Freud felt our internal motivations to deny the existence of the unconscious were sufficient to ensure its marginalization, cultural factors will also impede or facilitate its reception. In this vein, consider Google's effect on our collective mentality. Google would seem to strengthen a mindset opposite to what is needed to recognize the workings of the unconscious.

For starters, Google's mission is to make all information accessible and openly visible. That kind of ethos is anathema to an analytic process, since what often matters most is so precious it must be kept hidden not only from others but also from ourselves. Consider also that when it comes to discovering unconscious material, a main point of entry is through the exercise of free association. To understand how Google encourages an opposite mindset here, imagine that the web is like the unconscious and that Google is like its ego. The associative process employed in browsing the web is anything but free. The attitude needed for free association is precisely one of not intentionally searching for anything, but rather becoming wholly passive to whatever presents itself to the mind. Finally, Google reduces toleration for ambiguity and lowers the capacity for frustration. We expect to find what we search for and to get results in seconds - again, the opposite attributes needed for an extended foray into the deepest workings of our soul.

Yet by strengthening the contrary mental qualities needed for engaging the unconscious, I would argue that paradoxically Google creates the perfect setup for a more shocking recognition of the unconscious's domain. Google primes us for an inner adventure by steadying the ego's illusory trajectory towards the zenith of total information awareness: we shall find exactly what we thought we were looking for, yet we'll be less connected to a sense of what might be motivating us. In this way, our patients might struggle more to delve into an analytic process. Yet once they succeed in getting a sense for the limits of our rational minds, the sheer starkness of the contrast (along with the relief of recognition) provides a special kind of wedge we therapists might not have been able to create before now.

Matthew Morrissey, MFT
Impulse Editor-In-Chief