HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 23, 2007, Herald Journal

Freudian slips are part of life


I embarrassed myself last week. In church, at the beginning of the service, our contemporary music choir performed an anthem that went on and on and on.

The congregation was supposed to join in on one verse. I thought that was the end, but it wasn’t. The choir continued singing after that. It was a beautiful anthem, only very long. Normally, I wouldn’t complain, but I was standing in high-heeled shoes, and the song lasted approximately 12 minutes.

Before the congregation could sit down, we read a Psalm responsively, rotating between the pastor, men, women, and the congregation as a whole.

After the last verse of the Psalm printed in the bulletin, it said (be seated) in a completely different typeface. I read aloud the last verse of the Psalm, and then I also read aloud “be seated,” the only person in the entire congregation to say “be seated” aloud.

My face turned every shade and hue of red. I’m sure my subconscious mind was thinking how much I wanted to sit down, and the words blurted out of my mouth.

I hope the rustling and rumbling noises the congregation made as people sat down, drowned out my words.

The technical term for making a verbal mistake that reveals an unconscious belief, thought or emotion is parapraxis. Most of us call them Freudian slips, because Sigmund Freud wrote about them in his 1901 book, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.”

I was surprised at how many different types of Freudian slips there are. The one I made that Sunday was a thought that turned into an action, reading aloud.

Another type is when the person substitutes one word for another, such as the woman on her way to the drugstore to buy a laxative, tells her friend, “If you will wait a few movements, I’ll be back,” instead of saying moments.

There also are Freudian slips based on people’s names, speaking in a foreign language, and blending words together.

We all make Freudian slips. They are so common, William Shakespeare wrote one into his play, “The Merchant of Venice.” In the play, Portia is talking to Bassanio. She loves him, but she can’t tell him that. Portia slips and tells him “One half of me is yours, the other half, yours.” instead of saying half is yours and half is mine.

We can’t always control our unconscious. Sometimes, it will just assert itself.

I guess in the future, I will wear flat shoes to church.