Freud's Views on Forgetting a Proper Name and Dream Analysis
In several of his books, including Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis and On Dreams, Freud combines the topics of forgetting a proper name and dream analysis, formulating a thesis that helps to clarify his theories on both. He describes in psychoanalytic terms the mechanisms behind forgetting of a proper name and how they relate to the methods used in dream analysis. By looking at the two topics from a joint perspective, we can gain a greater understanding of them and how they relate to other areas of psychoanalysis.
The tendency toward forgetting of a proper name is an important theme in Freud's work. He explained the way in which forgetting something like a name was actually a substitute for forgetting something that, unconsciously, an individual does not wish to remember. He described the unconscious force that prompted this forgetfulness as a "counter-will", or an unconscious desire parallel to an individual's conscious desire. According to Freud, there is a connection between what one consciously forgets and what one unconsciously wants to forget. When a person has some unpleasant thought or issue that they wish to banish from their mind, the will to forget may "miss its target", and the wish to forget may manifest itself in some other way. In this case the individual may forget something seemingly unconnected to the thought they wish to banish, such as a proper name. Freud gives some relevant examples of this phenomenon in Introductory Lectures:
"For instance, if we have temporarily forgotten a name, we are annoyed about it, do all we can to remember it and cannot leave the business alone. Why in such cases do we so extremely seldom succeed in directing our attention, as we are after all anxious to do, to the word which (as we say) is 'on the tip of our tongue' and which we recognize at once when we are told it? Or again: there are cases in which the parapraxes multiply, form chains, and replace one another…" (ILp 35-36)
It is in this line that understanding the preconscious becomes important. "Preconscious" describes a division of the mind that falls in between repression (unconscious) and recognition (conscious). Freud described thoughts in the preconscious as having crossed the threshold from the unconscious mind, but not yet having caught the eye of consciousness (IL p366). The preconscious is an important element in the dynamic between an individual's conscious intention and their counter-will, because it falls somewhere in the middle and may be the most manifested part of the phenomenon. For instance, when a proper name is forgotten, this is a function of repression. The individual unconsciously wants to forget one thing, but the counter-will resists by forgetting another. It is when a name is "on the tip of the tongue" but still unclear that countless other irrelevant names will come to mind; these irrelevant names are the...