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Freud, S. (1883). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Martha Bernays, August 29, 1883. Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939, 50-52.

Freud, S. (1883). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Martha Bernays, August 29, 1883. Letters of Sigmund Freud 1873-1939, 50-52

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Martha Bernays, August 29, 1883 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

Vienna, Wednesday evening
August 29, 1883

My beloved Martha

Your charming, intelligent letter and your excellent description of the Wandsbek Fair gave me great pleasure and suited my continuous improvement-if there weren't still some catarrh I could say my well-being. You think almost like Wagner in Faust during that beautiful walk and I ought to answer with gentle indulgence in the manner of Dr. Faust: Here I am Man-dare man to be! But no, beloved, you are quite right, it is neither pleasant nor edifying to watch the masses amusing themselves; we at least don't have much taste for it any more and our anticipated or already enjoyed pleasures, an hour's chat nestling close to one's love, the reading of a book that lays before us in tangible clarity what we think and feel, the knowledge of having achieved something during the day, the relief of having solved a problem-all these gratifications are so different that it would be affectation to pretend that one really enjoys the kind of spectacle you describe.

But now please forgive me if I quote myself; I remember something that occurred to me while watching a performance of Carmen: the mob gives vent to its appetites, and we deprive ourselves. We deprive ourselves in order to maintain our integrity, we economize in our health, our capacity for enjoyment, our emotions; we save ourselves for something, not knowing for what. And this habit of constant suppression of natural instincts gives us the quality of refinement. We also feel more deeply and so dare not demand much of ourselves. Why don't we get drunk? Because the discomfort and disgrace of the after-effects gives us more “unpleasure” than the pleasure we derived from getting drunk. Why don't we fall in love with a different person every month? Because at each separation a part of our heart would be torn away. Why don't we make a friend of everyone? Because the loss of him or any misfortune befalling him would affect us deeply. Thus we strive more toward avoiding pain than seeking pleasure.

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