Most people have a pretty fair idea today of what free association is, and this is yet another example of the popularization of Freud and of psychology in general that began in earnest in the Mid Twentieth Century. What used to be wild and avant garde “long-haired ideas”, as Foghorn Leghorn calls such things, are now part and parcel of popular culture. Rush Limbaugh calls it “psychobabble” and I used to say he called it that because he didn’t understand any of it. Then I actually looked him up recently and it turns out he flunked out of that intellectual hub of the Western Hemisphere, Southeast Missouri State University, as a freshman, and never went back to school. What’s all the hubbub, bub? Buggs Bunny – shet up shettin’ up. ****, shat, shot, kit kat break me off a piece o’ that kit kat bar! Give me a break give me a break oh shut up commercial in the head thingy ain’t gonna bump no mo’ wid no big fat woman she knock me down on da ground shake shake shake shake your booty I’m your boogie man that’s what I am I here to I can’t remember the lyrics it’s like there’s a bathroom on the right type stuff where you think the lyrics are something goofy when you’re a kid billy goat’s gruff HR Puffinstuff who’s your friend when things get rough can’t doot doot doot doot da da da da Land of the LOST Chewbacca pre chewbacca kid prototype Worf wharf dwarf Moretz called it dorf even both of them were National Merit Scholars North Carolina Hills Appalachia BEAT MICHIGAN hahahaha howls of derisive laughter Immanuel Kant was a real piss-ant who was very rarely stable Heidegger Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel or is it Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel I think there are two versions Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as sloshed as Schlegel there’s nothin’ Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya ’bout the raisin’ o’ the wrist, Socrates himself was permanently pissed John Stuart Mill of his own free will did something with half pint of shandy was particularly ill Plato they stay could stick it away half a crate o’ whiskey everyday Aristotle Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle Hobbes was fond of his dram and Rene Descartes was a drunken fart I drink therefore I am Benny Hillbillies banjo Ellie Mae pigtails or did I just imagine she had pigtails I don’t think she did too bad Hee Haw I’m a pickin’ and I’m a grinnin’ toothless fairy frequent farmer miles Jethro Tull on the freeway they say they gave me compensation that’s not what I’m chasin’ I was a rich man before yesterday now all I got is a load of barbed wire iron ore came the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Gordie why are so many Canucks named Gord or Gordie? What’s up with that? Hockey table baboon where the **** did that come from you blonde baboon lady at the story calls friends that for dickin’ around in . . .
1. Recognize The Introduction As Spiraling Into Free Association (as if you hadn’t guessed)
That form of free association might be more specifically characterized as “stream of consciousness”. There’s even at least one Freudian slip in there that’s obvious to me and that I almost edited out but then I caught myself trying to tamper. Toward the end I wrote “story” when really some lady allegedly called an acquaintance of mine a blonde baboon (he had long bleachy hair and was a big guy heavy metal fan) at a store. But alas, I wasn’t at the store that night and have only heard the tale of over-aged group adolescent behavior second hand. So there’s a certain amount of guilt in retelling a tale as if one were there, and so I guess I admitted it as a half-truth by typing “story” rather than “store”. Another typo or Freudian slip I found well after the fact was that I typed “stay” when I ostensibly intended to type “say” (near Plato). Could be something to do with Plato’s emphasis on the static Forms that stay put. Please see my article “How to Catch a Freudian Slip”, linked under “Resources”.
2. Grasp the Theory Behind Free Association
The basic idea from Freud is that if you encourage the client (back then more likely called a “patient”) to just spout whatever comes to his/her mind, eventually nuggets of important and hitherto repressed material will be bumped into along the web of associations.
3. Play Word Association Games
The generic way of playing a word association game is at a party or on a road-trip to start with a word and go ’round the circle of friends and enemies and each person says the first word that comes to mind that is usually triggered as a result of the last word spoken (however loosely it may be related). There’s also Taboo, which apparently is a word association game though I’ve never played it. Many of you have likely seen word association played on online forums in which entire threads are devoted to games, and the forums can be as diverse as Disney to USCHO.com.
4. Interpret It!
Once you’ve done some free association either with yourself or with friends, try to interpret what it all means! There are at least a couple of theories about interpretation of these sorts of things, including dreams. One would be that similar images or words often mean the same things to different people within a culture, or even across cultures. The idea that I prefer a little bit more is that each person’s images and word associations are more individualized than all that, and that ultimately the person producing associations is the best interpreter of his/her own productions but may need some spurring by others to break possible resistances.