I assume that readers are familiar with the introduction to this series. There I said that I am going to suggest that the deeper self has access to the whole of human knowledge. That will follow in the third and fourth articles. In this first one I am going to suggest merely that the deeper self knows the hidden truth about the person, and that, in simple language, it is trying to help the conscious personality sort out its problems by trying to reveal this. A clear example of this process at work is the phenomenon of Freudian slips.
Sigmund Freud introduced this concept in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1), and it is now a term in common usage. In general terms, we can say that the ego is not in full possession of the truth, is prone to self-deception, possibly for ostensibly good reasons — acknowledging the truth may seem too painful. Something inside, however, wants the truth to be recognised. There is thus a hidden intelligence, what I am calling the deeper self, which somehow forces the ego to make a mistake in speech or action, revealing what it is trying to conceal.
Freud’s most powerful example, to my mind, so extraordinary that it is almost impossible to believe, tells of a woman who, seeing a man in the street, fails to remember that she had recently married him. He reports that the marriage subsequently came “to a most unhappy end” (p261). This seems to be a clear message from the deeper, hidden self, which wants the woman to recognise the terrible mistake she has made.
I have an outstanding example of a Freudian slip from my own experience. Some time ago I attended a group-therapy weekend. Some exercises were conducted in pairs, and I was involved in one of these with a man, I would estimate, in his late twenties. During a lull in the exercise, to avoid an embarrassing silence, I engaged him in conversation, and my opening gambit was “How long have you been in therapy?”. His reply was “since I was 11”. This was a strange answer — it seemed a young age to start — so I asked him, “why, what happened then?” He replied, “I was sent away to boarding school”. I was excited by this; it seemed like an obvious example of a Freudian slip — his deeper self was making him aware how his problems had started, a wonderful gift which would aid him in his therapy. However, when I started trying to point this out to him, his expression visibly changed, and he went into a state of anxiety and denial, and tried to explain that it meant nothing, was just a “slip of the tongue”. His ego-self clearly wasn’t ready to hear the message.
(1) The Penguin Freud Library, Volume 5, 1991