Frude and his discontents

It’s Sigmund Freud’s birthday. He’ll get a mention in Happiness as one of the skeptics who doubt our capacity for genuine subjective well-being, we discontented partial products of civilization. But he doesn’t doubt our universal hunger for happiness. “What do [people] demand of life and wish to achieve in it? The answer to this can hardly be in doubt. They strive for happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so.” The trouble is, our heritable nature teems with unexpressed and socially unapproved uncivilized desires whose satisfaction, hence our happiness, cannot be sanctioned.

Maybe. But as he also notes, we have it in ourselves to reconstruct those desires. We can find tremendous satisfaction in our work, for instance. 

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. Civilization and its Discontents

He wasn’t speaking for himself, apparently. He took great satisfaction in his work. Many of us do. True, we’ve conditioned ourselves to an aversion to the word and some of its socially constructed connotations. But that’s just a bad habit.

We need to habituate ourselves to a different attitude, and perhaps a different language. “Work” may be an un-redeemable four-letter-word. Why not just call what we do for fun and satisfaction living? The problem, of course, is that too many people don’t derive fun and satisfaction from what they do for money.


Barney Fife was wrong. “Frude” did not quite have it all figured  out.

6 am/5:50, 47/74

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One Response to “Frude and his discontents”

  1. Janine McLaughlin Says:

    I may be in the minority but I was happy at work, and satisfied. Rarely did I wake up and bemoan “oh I have to go to work!” I feel sorry for those people who go to work hating their job. Look how much of our lives we invest in our work. Maybe we don’t have the right attitude or mindset about work. Maybe we should look at it as our contribution to helping others live a happier life!

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