CatsPsychoanalysis

September 10, 2010

A Post Freudian Cat

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One of my cats is called Freud because I like to give weighty names to my cats and because I am completely enamored of psychoanalysis.  I have travelled all over the world, but the five years I spent in analysis was the most fascinating journey of all.

I put Freud, along with Darwin, Nietzsche and a few others, in the category of great minds whose ideas have so permeated western thinking that we don’t even realize much of what we call conventional wisdom began with their ideas.  They are like those prolific songwriters we’ve barely heard of who have written our favorite songs.

Sigmund Freud was a courageous thinker and the originator of theories and methods that were just a starting point for where we are today with everyone and the gate post being in one of hundreds of therapy modalities at one time or another.  I happen to love looking at the world psychoanalytically.

That’s my gratuitous rave about psychoanalysis when what I started to write about is my cat.

Freud, the cat, lives up to his name in many ways.  The word Freude means “joy” and this bright orange tabby is one sunny, relentlessly optimistic cat.  He nearly died of a blocked urethra when he was a year old; though I was a complete wreck, Freud purred and charmed his way through five nights at the animal hospital.

Freud, the cat, actually has an analytic practice in the neighborhood.  When it’s time for him to go to work, I let him out the side door.  He trots across the yard and disappears under the raspberry bushes and through the fence.  Shortly thereafter I start hearing primal screams.   The times I have gone to investigate, I have seen Freud sitting quietly on the edge of the neighbor’s yard, calmly watching BooBoo, the cat with the eating disorder, in the throes of transference.  She hisses and spits, her back fur grows three inches; she twists herself into a parenthesis and walks sideways, never coming any closer than three feet—just about the right boundary for a consulting room.  Freud sits motionless, watching and listening with great attention and curiosity.  Once I interrupted the session but after the repressive look I got from Herr Doktor, I never tried that again.

Cats in a multiple cat household are rather good at group therapy.   When one of mine comes in with an enormous rat hanging out of his mouth, the other two are right there, full of attention and support.  Together they work through their rivalry and competition while losing the rat behind the refrigerator and finding him a week later.  When one of the cats is hurt or frightened, the others rally round with alert concern.  When one goes on a binge, eats too fast and subsequently tosses his breakfast, the others clean it up.

Cats are masters of the dream work.  Or at any rate, one can make that supposition, seeing that they sleep the better part of every 24 hours.  Freud sleeps alone at night while my other two cats, Winston and Artemis, wedge up against me in bed, pinning me in place for the duration.  In the morning, when Winston is having his post prandial gin and cigar and Artemis is outside on the hunt, Freud curls up on me, purring, and interprets his dreams from the night before.

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