Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious is one of Sigmund Freud's less technical work. It is quite easy to understand for the common reader and does not delve too deeply into treating mental illness. This book is a bit different from his other works. This is because its focus is primarily on how societies work and the role jokes play. In this work, Freud gives detailed accounts of what he perceives to be different techniques used in creating jokes. He postulates that joking is a form of catharsis for repressed hostilities. He also claims that we can tell a lot about a society from the types of jokes they tell. In this work, Freud expresses strong belief that the same processes that relate to the creation of dreams in the unconscious mind are also at play when making jokes. The book is easily one of Freud's most easily understood work on his brief detour on social anthropology.
Later on in the book, Freud tries to explain how exactly a person is able to derive pleasure from a joke. He suggests that the mind through a joke is able to find work around for nasty, repressed emotions. These emotions could not otherwise be expressed without some sort of punishment. For instance, aggression and general hostilities about an ethnicity in a society can be freely expressed through the joke. In addition, Freud suggests that recognition, appreciation, and the play pleasures could be other sources of pleasure in the joke. In addition, Freud points out jokes play an important part in creating cohesion in society. He notes this may be the main reason that most people tend to tell jokes in groups. He suggests that a joke is society's way of dealing with societal aggression. Consequently, it is the minds unconscious way of diffusing tension in society to ensure its own survival.
Freud's work is essentially a bridge between the earlier theories on how jokes originate. He successfully managed to link these theories and jokes and the theory of a catharsis. Before his work, nobody else had attempted to give such a detailed explanation on this relationship.
In Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905) Freud begins by amassing the broadest collection of jokes that he can, in order to determine how many different types of joke there are, their characteristics, and what exactly it is that makes them pleasurable. He discovers various verbal and conceptual techniques. He then distinguishes and investigates jokes with purpose in hostility or obscenity ('tendentious jokes'), and those without ('innocent jokes'). In looking at the mechanisms behind jokes Freud concludes that the pleasure arises from an economy in psychical expenditure, in all cases. Freud also notes the similarities of the joke- work with the dream-work and their relations with the unconscious - namely condensation, absurd representations etc., but adds that there are also significant differences. Freud ends by comparing jokes and the comic and humour. He defines and examines the nature and characteristics in the comic and humour. He concludes that whilst all three can be related to an economy in psychical expenditure, they are distinguishable with regards to the intentions behind them, psychical locations and determining conditions.
Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Moravia; from 1860 until Hitler's invasion of Austria in 1938 he lived in Vienna. He was then forced to seek asylum in London, where he died the following year. He began his career as a doctor, specialising in work on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. He was almost thirty when his interests first turned to psychology, and during ten years of clinical work in Vienna he developed the practice of what he called ""psychoanalysis"". This began simply as a method of treating neurotic patients by investigating their minds, but it quickly grew into an investigation of the workings of the mind in general, both ill or healthy. Freud demonstrated the normal development of the sexual instinct in childhood and, largely on the basis of an examination of dreams, arrived at his fundamental discovery of the unconscious forces that influence our everyday thoughts and actions. Freud's ideas have shaped not only many specialist disciplines, but have also influenced the entire intellectual climate of the last century.
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