Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self” is a documentary based on the use of Freudian psychology in the Western world and how it gave rise to the profession of public relations as well as the birth of capitalism. It covers the stories of Freud’s family members and their role in solidifying his idea of the unconscious mind. Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, used his uncle’s ideas to increase the potency of advertisements. He was also an adviser to many politicians and corporate leaders. Freud’s legacy was continued by his daughter, Anna Freud, whose ideas played a role in shaping American society and behaviour.
Freud’s ideas are based on his findings that man is an irrational being, unable to balance his outer realm with the inward battle against his subconscious, in which powerful and destructive forces lie. In the blink of an eye, this irrational animal springs, and as a group, their powers are even more destructive. The examples that were used were from the aftermath of WWI and WWII, as well as the collapse of social order that occurred with the fall of the American economy during the Great Depression.
Freud was well known for being a pessimist. He was untrusting of people and questioned their motives. He saw man as a wolf that could not be tamed. This lead me to a question. Quite a while ago, I remember reading an article about Freud’s personal experiments with cocaine. He enjoyed the drug so much he wrote a song titled “Uber Coca”. He soon became addicted, and fought a 12 year battle with addiction. The prolonged usage of cocaine causes a physical change in an addict’s brain. The brain begins to kill off some of the dopamine receptors on the synapses, causing the brain to need more dopamine to trigger happy feelings, more than when released from food or sex. This may explain his pessimistic view of the individual, and the amplified feeling of the primal, sexual self - power through exaggerated confidence.
The Mind is More Complex Than the Simple Animal Who Runs on Sexual and Power Urgers
The worrying factor is that these ideas have become the accepted view of man and his psyche to psychologists, leaders, politicians, and society. The danger lies in believing that there is only one side to the coin. The mind is more complex than the simple animal who runs on sexual and power urges. Alternatives to Freud’s ideas can be found through the ideas of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, who look into the mythical and spiritual aspect of human beings. The simplification of man has lead to a great confusion, as well as a struggle. Man has been detached from an essential part of our psyche. A part that has evolved with us since the dawning of our consciousness.
Although the science of our current religious institutions run against our current understanding of the cosmos, thus rendering many of them irrelevant, we still need to look back to those moments of great inspirations and transformations.
Humanity Needs a New Mythology, Global Culture, Understanding of Needs and Wants of the Age
Humanity, more than ever, needs a new mythology; one that runs coherent with the current meta-physical, cosmological, psychological and sociological aspirations. We need a new global culture; one that takes into consideration the whole. We need an understanding that identifies with the current needs and wants of the age, not only to consume, but one that allows us to transform from the all-consuming individual into the all-giving individual. This will mark an age of intense creativity, sustainability and compassion. Adam has been born again from the ashes of the polluted, corrupted earth and arrives at paradise.
"With confidence and courage, we look towards the future." - Adam Curtis, Century of the Self