Sacks Vs. Freud, Different Beliefs, Different Treatments

703 words - 3 pages

Sacks vs. Freud: Different Beliefs, Different TreatmentsWhether Oliver Sacks had a desire to cure people suffering from strange mental illnesses, or whether he was simply studying the people for his own interest in the concept of illness itself is seemingly without question in, 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat'. From the Preface, when he states, 'the sick and their sickness drives me to thoughts which, perhaps, I might otherwise not have' (Sacks vii.) and throughout the collection of stories, Sacks is never so concerned with actually curing and diagnosing the person as much as he is concerned with studying them. Granted, most of these diseases at the time were virtually untreatable, but the attitude Sacks reflects is still very interesting in this respect. It is this area of his work, his study, which provides him with the greatest pleasure. Sacks attempts to develop in his studies w ...view middle of the document...

..' as well as the First Lecture in Freud's, 'Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis'.P., a music teacher, whose associates have questioned his perception, is referred by his ophthalmologist to the neurologist Oliver Sacks. Through his interviews with P, Sacks eventually realizes that P has some kind of mental dysfunction, which impairs his ability to recognize objects using sight. Only when accompanied by music can P accomplish even the most simple tasks! This 'cantatory compensation' allows P. to function undetected in his professional and personal life, much to the surprise of Sacks, who is nonetheless happy that P has found a way to compensate for his problem. Because of this, Sacks chooses not to disturb P's situation with a diagnosis, and P lives the rest of his life (presumably) in apparent normalcy. There are two things which are very important in the attitude of Sacks toward his patient that distinguish Sacks from Freud. First, the way in which Sacks responds to the fact that P has found his own method of compensation. Rather than adapt the Freudian arrogance that would say, 'the doc is always right' Sacks is happy for P. His attitude is positive, and he feels that P's unconscious ability to compensate speaks of the awesome capacity that humans have to heal the problems and rifts that appear between us and our reality due to physical accident. Second, Sacks makes the analogy between P.'s visual impairment and the current, amazingly Freudian state of cognitive neurology and psychology, which sees the brain as a computer and fails to see what is concrete and real about people. Sacks avoids this want of feeling when he withholds his diagnosis of the deficiency, a decision which Freud would never make. Instead, Sacks prescribes more music to strengthen P.'s inner music without which his life would come to a stop. These are two examples of the differences between Freud's type of study and beliefs, which are devoted toward always succeeding and being correct in assumption, and the beliefs of Sacks, which instead concentrate on the qualities of human life which are truly important for everyone.


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