My young nephew Max, has inadvertently called me dad a few times in these past couple of months. Max and his father are close, sharing a number of activities together. They get on very well and enjoy each other’s company a lot. By and large they are in a loving relationship.
Sigmund Freud bought to our attention that the unconscious mind at times communicates something important via a slip of the tongue (Freudian slip). I am not normally a fan of Freud and his theories, but contained within those theories were some real gems on exploring the psyche. A Freudian slip was among those gems.
Max is a good kid and as I alluded to before is in a happy stable relationship with his father. What would cause Max to make those repeated slips of the tongue then? What is the unconscious trying to communicate?
While the relationship with his father is a loving one, it borders on them being best friends. As such, boundaries are loose and the role between friend and father tend to get mixed up. The number one role of a parent is to help raise a child, from a child into a healthy functioning adult. A very important aspect of growing up is to be raised in an environment where good boundaries exist. The boundaries should be consistent and predictable. But with Max, the boundaries between friend and father are often mixed up.
This does in no way mean that Max is looking to replace his dad. Far from it. Its more the case that there is some confusion in Max’s mind. My bet is he calls me Dad from time to time, because his unconscious is looking for consistent boundaries that are a bit tighter than the ones between his father and himself. In a fashion, the unconscious is pointing to what Max needs (better boundaries) from parenting. The unconscious can be clever like that.
I am firmer with my brother’s kids than he is, but then I am the uncle and not the parent. Always easier to be the uncle… This would appeal to max’s need for firmer boundaries, particularly as he is growing up. I do not think it is hard to see why a kid like Max might be a little confused in this situation and hence produce some Freudian slips.
If we were to ask Max about all this, he would be completely oblivious to all of this. He is a 10 years old kid and to be frank, there is no need for a lot of concern. I am only using max in this instance because it’s a recent example to draw upon and Freudian slips are interesting phenomena to investigate.
When you make a Freudian slip, it should be viewed as an important alert or signal that something is going on at an unconscious level that wishes to express itself. It is a way of getting to know our own psyche albeit through unconventional means. Almost always a Freudian slip is attempting to tell us something we do not know. That is a very good rule to follow if you have a Freudian slip and wish to investigate its meaning.