Freud was uncomfortably and viscerally right.

In “Civilization and Its Discontents” Sigmund Freud, a well known figure in the world of psychology and psychoanalysis, attempts to analyze the reasons behind the widespread unhappiness of mankind.

He identifies the main three sources of unhappiness in our powerlessness in front of nature, the frailty of our bodies, and the presence of inadequate laws to govern interpersonal relationships. I am of the idea that these are very broad areas, but that somehow all our struggles can be tracked back to one of these three domains. Freud seems to believe that us humans are stubborn and hopeless enough to keep trying to overcome nature’s power and the effects of time on our bodies even though we are aware of how little of an influence we have on either.

I can not help it but agree with his ideas because we have innumerable tangible proofs of these futile efforts. We take vitamins in the morning, we do yoga, we lift heavy weights, we do cardio, we count the calories we eat, we use all sort of oils and lotions, all to try to make the influence of times show less on our bodies and hopefully conduct a healthy enough lifestyle that will allow us to be less feeble. Similarly, we have been trying to make nature our servant, but it has not being going well. We built nuclear weapons, found a way to gain energy from wind, water, and fire, we feed ourselves off of nature’s abundance. Yet, we are constantly proven powerless in front of events like the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, or Katrina in New Orleans, or the frost wave that affected the whole country without power last year.

To ease the condition of misery that we often feel like we are stuck in, we decided to build civilizations, which Freud holds responsible for the perpetuation of the feeling of misery and general unhappiness. In fact, Freud suggests that a return to a primitive state and subsequent removal from civilization is what we would require to be happy again. He is not the first scholar to suggest such thing, and to blame modernization and the development of sciences and technology for this constant sadness of mankind. I think of Wordsworth and his “recollection in tranquility”, and I think about all the painters in the 19th century that chose to move to the countryside to find focus and peace again like Van Gogh, Monet, and Pissarro.

I therefore am drawn to agree with Freud about the roots of our unhappiness, because I can see his predictions become alive in me. I see myself struggle in society because of the inadequate laws and restrictions, as I also feel myself battle with my body to make it reach an ideal shape that will be praised by society and hopefully lead me to an illness-free future.

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