What is a failed act, Freudian slip or parapraxis?

When the words that are said do not correspond to the intention of who says themor even contrary, one speaks of failed act either freudian slip.

The famous German psychologist Sigmund Freud described this phenomenon and called it Fehlleistungwhich, literally translated into Spanish, means failed act.

The terms parapraxis either lapse they are also used to refer to the same phenomenon: what the person expresses is different or contrary to his true intention.

According to Freud, unsuccessful acts can be due to a semi-conscious expression, Repressed desires or just a dialectical slip.

Definition and interpretation

Freud adopted the term Fehlleistung either failed act very early in the development of the theoretical framework on which he would base his methodology of psychoanalysis.

The first time that Freud refers to a failed act was on August 26, 1898 in a letter addressed to the Polish psychologist, physician and philosopher Wilhelm Fliess. Although the profound development of the concept would be carried out years later in his work Psychopathology of everyday lifepublished in 1901.

For Freud these lapses often revealed the underlying intention of the subjecteven in very small slips and in people with good mental health.

In psychoanalysis, these slips can be an excellent tool to give clues about the direction in which to take the therapy or to indicate something that is in the patient's mind that needs to be brought out, analyzed or talked about.

The Freudian slip is often associated with an underlying motivation of a sexual nature or with double meaningbut Freud did not necessarily attribute this motivation but rather described it as a window to deeper meanings or feelings behind the words.

In short, for Freud the freudian slip or failed act is the outcrop of the unconscious that makes the individual say or do something they did not want.

Many times, the Freudian slip is interpreted as the expression of our unconscious desires. This interpretation may be difficult to understand in the context of Freudian analysis since the ego could not access the unconscious so easily.

Freud understood these lapses as expression of suppressed desireswhich do not have to be so deeply rooted in the unconscious thought process.

It must be remembered that Freud's theory has not been tested or verified. Although it may be accepted by be based primarily on unfalsifiable hypothesescannot be considered verified.

In fact, the Freudian slip can be due to many other causes that do not attend to repressed desires. For example, lack of language learning, simple errors in speaking or grammatical processing, tiredness or even having consumed alcohol, are all causes that can explain a failed act.

Also it may happen that the slip is in the receiver of the message. For example, if someone is continually scanning other people's words for sexual connotations, he is likely to find Freudian slips in others; in reality the slip is in the interpreter and not in the speaker.

Failed acts are not usually taken very seriously in everyday life. When we say something that we did not mean or that is not according to our intention, some funny comment or joke about it is quickly added, although it depends on the situation in which they occur.

Types of failed acts

The Freudian slip can be classified into four types of parapraxis or slip:

  1. verbal slips (slip of the tongue)
  2. Graphic lapses (slip of the penare errors when writing or expressing themselves graphically)
  3. reading lapses
  4. Lapses with no apparent explanation: acts such as forgetting the name of a family member or a close friend, not remembering where an object has been placed, etc. In some contexts these lapses can be analyzed as part of the individual's psychology; oblivion would be related to not want what has been forgotten or run away of what is avoided by forgetting.
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