The following is an excerpt from Freud: Great Thinkers on Modern Life, a new series published by The School of Life. In this particular chapter, author Bret Kahr uses Freud’s writings to make a case for the value and effective methods of forgetting the past.
As a psychotherapist, I spend a great deal of my working life helping patients to think about their childhood and its impact. Many people suffer from parental bereavements, painful punishments, crushing humiliations and other adverse experiences, and may, also, have enjoyed tender affection from mother or father, or the joys of happy play with siblings and friends. Some of us revisit childhood in our mind, celebrating the healthy peaks, crying about the debilitating troughs. But other people tend to place a repressive blanket over childhood, pretending that toxic events never happened. I find that such people often suffer from great anger, resentment and rage in adult life, still nursing early wounds which have never healed. Freud has helped us to recognize the importance of childhood and of its excavation.
Freud reveled in the Latin aphorism Saxa loquuntur, “the stones speak” (“The Aetiology of Hysteria,” 1986), a phrase that he may well have noticed while walking through the Sigismundtor or Sigmund’s door, an eighteenth-century tunnel in Salzburg which, as it happens, bears his forename. By relishing the archaeological excavation of the mind, and my resurrecting repressed memories, Freud taught us a vital life lesson, namely, that we cannot, and must not, forget the past. It impacts upon us whether we with it to or not; and thus we have an obligation to explore our childhood in the hope of putting our ghosts in the nursery to rest.