What is a soul? Is there a way to describe it in tangible terms? Can we say it has black hair and clear eyes, or maybe that one is kind and another one determined? All of these questions have been coming upon our minds since the beginning of time. However, it would be bold to say a final answer has been already found.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, which is what we can consider as the study of the soul, that lies in our psyche. Through mechanisms such as free association and the interpretation of dreams, he tried to make people become conscious of their unconscious. Sounds a bit complicated to me, so let’s start from the basics.
Angel, Devil and Everything in Between
According to his theory, our psyche, which I consider being the holder of our soul, is like an iceberg of which only the tip is visible. Imagine being in a cartoon and having a little devil on a shoulder and an angel on the other. The devil, who represents basic impulses and irrationality is called Id. He is the one that controls passion and strong emotions, he makes us act following our instincts. If he was alone on our shoulder, we would probably all be out of control, but thankfully the Superego also does its part. The cute angel looking at us disappointed when we make a decision impulsively without thinking of the consequences, he is our rational side that makes us stop before doing something we might regret. In short, if the Superego is not doing its job, we would happily jump off a cliff.
Although, as the oldest of stories have taught us, angel and devil will always be opponents, fighting non-stop. This is why we are in need of a mediator, the Ego. He is the one who pulls the strings and finds a compromise between the two. The Ego is the only part of our soul that lays above water, while the rest of the iceberg we are not able to see, as it’s hidden in our unconscious. We know the angel and devil are with us, we just don’t really know how to reach them. What are we supposed to do? Call them? Maybe if they were on WhatsApp it would be easier to keep them under control, like by sending a text saying ‘guys, please, stop it with the mood swings, go take a nap’. However, if it was that easy our soul wouldn’t be so fascinating anymore.
Who Takes Care of Our Soul?
Freud, nevertheless, made up this theory only a couple of centuries ago so: What did people believe before then? And what do some still believe now? Because, let’s be real, not everybody agrees with Mr Freud. There is still one giant part of our history called Religion. Religion has always been in charge of understanding souls. The whole angel and devil story comes from somewhere after all. Years ago, it was the only answer people had to everything they couldn’t explain. The priest was the person most went to, so they could understand what was going on inside them. He is the one in contact with God or Allah or whomever you believe is up there.
Science started showing proof of what religion could only make us believe.
Most people had faith. But times change, technology advances and humans find out more and more every day. Science started showing proof of what religion could only make us believe. People started to doubt, to ask more questions and expect answers. With changes approaching faster every day, religion is slowly being left behind. Although, a big issue follows: now that many people don’t completely believe in God and don’t go to priests, what happens to our souls? Who is taking care of them? Because we can’t do it on our own. We need to hear answers from someone that, we know, for one reason or another, has them.
We are not Crazy, We Just Need to be Understood
Psychoanalysis has now become the new Religion. When this new science was first introduced it was commonly believed to be only for crazy people. If someone had hysteria or some other ‘craziness’ then, they had to go to the therapist while everyone else was considered ‘healthy’ and, therefore, did not need to go to therapy to be ‘cured’. But does psychoanalysis really cure people? Or does it simply take care of their souls?
Nowadays, many people go to the therapist every week, but not because they feel like something needs to be fixed. Rather, I believe that the need for understanding is the main reason people seek therapy; we hope a therapist can give us answers to what happens inside of us: Why do we feel sad, jealous, extremely happy? How do we face problems? Where do we find the strength to do what is right?
G for God or… Google?
However, progress never stops, change is upon us and it’s so fast that it is becoming harder every year to keep up with it. In recent years, social media has entered our lives and the world as we knew it has radically shifted our beliefs again. Now we simply google every question we have; so, in a way, Google is our new God, that something we believe has all of the answers. But is Google able to teach us how to connect with our souls or is it simply not enough?
Cover: Jean-Christophe Andrè