Slipping with Freud: Parapraxis

In psychoanalysis, parapraxis – other called a Freudian slip in quotidian lingo – is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that occurs due to the interference of an unconscious subdued wish or internal train of thought.

In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life Freud suggest parapraxis is, “the phenomena can be traced back to incompletely suppressed psychical material, which, although pushed away by consciousness has nevertheless not been robbed of all capacity for expressing itself” (Freud [1901] 1989, p. 344).

In contrast to the widely popular ‘slip of tongue’, Freud described five different forms of parapraxes or slips in his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.

  1. Versprechen (a slip of the tongue): “a person who intends to say something may use another word instead, or he may do the same thing in writing, or may or may not notice what he has done”
  2. Verlesen (a misreading): “person may read something, whether in print or manuscript, different from what is actually before his eyes”
  3. Verhoren (a mishearing): “he may hear wrongly something that has been said to him”
  4. Vergessen (a forgetting): “not, however, a permanent forgetting but only a temporary one … a person may be unable to get hold of a name which he nevertheless knows and which he recognizes at once …”
  5. Verlegen (a mislaying): “when a person has put something somewhere and cannot find it again or, in the precisely analogous case of losing [Verlieren]”

(see more: Freud, S. ([1917] 1977 p. 50-53)

reud suggests although the cases of parapraxis are, “almost all of an unimportant kind, most of them are very transitory”, and thus “attract little attention”, “everyone is liable” to them , Freud, S. ([1917] 1977, p. 50) and they “can be traced back to incompletely suppressed psychical material” (Freud [1901] 1989, p. 344).



Freud, S. ([1901] 1989). The psychopathology of everyday life. WW Norton & Company.
Freud, S. ([1917] 1977). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. WW Norton & Company.

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