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Looking into the Abyss

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When Freud first published his ideas about the human psyche, most of his insights were rejected and even ridiculed by the experts of the time. After a few years, more and more people looked deeply into these ideas and found that in the very least Freud had gotten very close to "unraveling" the human mind. One of his most influential propositions was that of the nature of memories and furthermore, memory suppression.

At nearly the same time as Freud's work into the human psyche, Marcel Proust was conceiving his own similar ideas about how memory works. Though the two men had never spoken, nor read any of each other's works, the ideas they presented supported and built upon each other (Bragg, Melvyn. "In Our Time: Proust"). Of the readings supplied by "The Humanistic Tradition: Book 6", I believe that the expert form Prout's "Swann's Way" best reflects the aspects of the human psyche as described by Freud.

Born in Paris in 1871 Proust lived a fairly normal French life until the death of his mother in 1905, after which he isolated himself from society and produced the sixteen volume "In Search of Lost Time". The first volume of this novel entitled "Swann's way" delves into the ideas of how the mind retrieves "lost" memories. In this case it is in the form of a piece of cake dipped in tea.

In the beginning of this excerpt, Proust is offered tea and cake by his mother, which he usually declines. This time, for no apparent reason, he accepts and experiences a great deal of happiness from the taste of the cake/tea. Quite taken aback by this feeling, Proust like Freud decides to try to find the reason for the feeling given to him by the taste, as he can't imagine how such extraordinary feelings could arise from such an ordinary thing.

Freud was a firm believer that there are several parts to our mind and the majority of what happens within it is unbeknownst to us. Much of his work, which developed into psychoanalysis, was aimed at finding the reasons for our current behavior/thoughts in these unconscious parts of our mind. This is where Proust suddenly finds himself as he searches for the origin of the feeling produced by the cake and tea. "What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders...It is face to face with something which does not so far which it alone can bring into the light of day" (Proust, "Swann's Way").

As he tries repeatedly to look into this "abyss" he is frustrated as he feels that the answer is so close to his conscious thought, but he cannot retrieve it. Finally it occurs to him, and he remembers from when he was young that his aunt would give him cake and tea when he



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