Are tongue slips and speech errors meaningful

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The Freudian tongue slip

Freud was one of the first people who tried to explain tongue slips in terms of the unconscious repressed thoughts. While i disagree with Freud's views on many things , such as connecting everything to sex for example, still i do agree with him on some things including tongue slips.

According to Freud's theory all emotions and experiences get stored in the subconscious mind. In some cases however some of those experiences get repressed. Emotions could get repressed for example because expressing them might cause trouble to the person. See Channeling suppressed emotions

If for example you don't like your boss then obviously you won't be able to tell him that directly not to lose your job. This emotion will always be there and might get expressed one day by mistake through a tongue slip.

In such a case the tongue slip represented what your subconscious mind always wanted to say about your boss. If for example you said something like 'good to beat you' then this might mean , according to Freud, that you don't like your boss or that you want to beat them.

Why Freud might be right

The subconscious mind works like a separate entity that functions independently of the conscious mind. This is why you might want to do something important for your future yet find no motivation. In such a case your subconscious mind isn't really interested in the task even though your conscious mind thinks that it's important. See losing motivation midway.

This is why i said in the Super powers course that finding harmony between both the conscious and the subconscious mind can be the best thing you can do to motivate yourself.

This means that both the conscious and the subconscious mind can have different and conflicting motives. Now what if you consciously wanted to hide something but your subconscious mind wanted to reveal it?

This is why people who think that lying is bad are bad liars. By watching the body language of those people you can easily spot their lying attempt. See The body language of lying

Another popular example of the subconscious mind working against the conscious mind is when you try to push away certain thoughts only to find them coming back in a stronger form. In other words the subconscious mind can sometimes resist your conscious choices and do the opposite of what you want to do.

Tongue slips are no exception. Yes a person might make a meaningless speech error and that's a normal thing but when a certain word replaces another in such a way that the phrase points to a repressed emotion then something might be going on.

How to tell if a tongue slip was meaningful

Getting proper understanding of your unconscious motivations will help a lot in finding out whether a certain tongue slip has a meaning or not. If the tongue slip matched one of your unconscious motivations then probably it had a meaning.

Back to the case where you don't like your boss. If you mistakenly told your boss something that reflected your subconscious emotions then probably your mind just wanted to tell that thing to your boss directly.

You might wonder what's the benefit your subconscious mind is trying to reach by doing that but don't forget that the subconscious mind thinks like a child. In my previous article The subconscious mind is like a child i said that the subconscious mind doesn't really care about the consequences as much as it cares about doing what it wants.

So the next time you tell someone 'God blast you' instead of 'God bless you' then you need to find out whether you have bad hidden intentions or not.

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