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Laffal, J. (1967). Language, Consciousness, and Experience. Psychoanal Q., 36:61-66.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:61-66

Language, Consciousness, and Experience

Julius Laffal, Ph.D.


Freud's ideas of language as an energy discharge mechanism and of the role of language in consciousness provide the link within the individual that connects language and experience. Language in early life serves as an energy discharge mechanism; in psychological disturbances this function increases in importance at the expense of communication. Language serves to give conscious precision to otherwise vague and unconscious psychological states. What becomes conscious is what can be named, and naming is the basis of social communication. Cultures select experiences by providing words for some but not for others; individuals further select the cultural experience of

which they will be conscious. If we can establish experiential predilections of groups and individuals by examining their language, we may go on to explore causal factors in their choices.

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