“I swear, My Tongue Slipped!!”: Decoding the Concept of Freudian Slips

“I swear, My Tongue Slipped!!”: Decoding the Concept of Freudian Slips


Has this ever happened to you, that you wanted to say something else and ended up saying another thing altogether? If yes, then you have experienced Freudian slips. Freudian slips are verbal errors that we make while speaking because of a slip of the tongue. This term was given by Sigmund Freud, who stressed that these slips are the way to our unconscious desires, fears, and motivations. This phenomenon has not only intrigued researchers and laymen alike but let us dive into a deep understanding of Freudian slips and how they work.

Understanding Freudian Slips

The concept of Freudian slips, named after the renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, means intentional errors in speech or behaviour that help in understanding the unconscious feelings of an individual. According to Freud, these slips happen when a person tries to suppress or repress his/her thoughts or emotions. These suppressed feelings surface in the conscious minds passing the filters of our minds.

Read More: Father of Psychoanalysis: A Deep Dive into the Life of Sigmund Freud

A Glimpse into History

The revolutionary work in psychoanalysis that Sigmund Freud conducted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is where the idea of Freudian slips originated. Freud researched thoroughly about the unconscious mind, he stated that simple verbal or behavioural errors can reveal important information about a person’s underlying emotions, fears, and desires.

In 1901, Freud released his groundbreaking study, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,” which explores the implications of these seemingly little errors. He analyzed common stories of people and his clinical observations to come out with this phenomenal idea of slips.

Read More: Sigmund Freud’s 5 Most Important Contributions to Psychology

Types of Slips

Sigmund Freud Categorized slips into various types, which are as follows:-

  • Verbal slips: which include mispronunciations, word substitutions, and unexpected interpretations, are arguably the most prevalent kind of Freudian slips. Saying “I love you” to a friend rather than “I like you,” for instance, could convey more intense romantic feelings.
  • Action Slips: Also referred to as lapses in action, these are unintentional behavioural errors that include things like losing things, forgetting appointments, or acting out of habit. An example of this would be placing the milk in the cabinet by mistake rather than the refrigerator; this could be a sign of deeper obsessions or diversions.
  • Dream Slips: Freud suggested that slips of the tongue or actions could also mirror the latent content of dreams, offering clues to unresolved conflicts or desires lurking in the unconscious mind. Analyzing these slips in the context of dream analysis can provide further insights into the individual’s psyche.

Causes of Freudian Slips

Several factors contribute to the occurrence of Freudian slips, including:

  • Unconscious Conflicts: Freud posited that slips of the tongue often arise from conflicts between conscious intentions and unconscious desires or fears. When the unconscious mind seeks expression, it may circumvent conscious censorship through slips of speech or action.
  • Emotionally charged situations: Strong emotions, including fear, rage, or excitement, might make it harder to think clearly and make Freudian slips more likely. Intuitively, repressed thoughts may come to the surface due to weakened barriers between the conscious and unconscious mind caused by elevated emotional states.
  • Associations in the Brain: Semantic networks in the mind establish advanced connections between words and actions. The brain may unintentionally trigger associated ideas or memories when choosing words or carrying out tasks, resulting in errors that represent unconscious linkages.

Impact of Freudian Slips on Human Behaviour

Freudian slips can be helpful for an individual’s behaviour and interpersonal relationships by revealing hidden thoughts and emotions in the following ways:-

These slips help an individual understand his/her deepest and darkest secrets, which are hidden in the unconscious mind and influence their behaviour. By assessing their slips. People can gain greater insight into their unconscious processes which will help them further in their growth. These slips also help in enhancing communication between individuals. When we say something by mistake and then understand it, we can communicate our real feelings.

Read More: Let’s Know About the Psychosexual Stages of Development: Sigmund Freud

Examples of Freudian Slips
  • During a job interview: It mostly happens that when we are looking for a job, we apply to various companies, while giving interviews, we often address the company we are giving an interview for currently with the name of another company, and that we gave an interview a few days back, this reflects the anxiety and eagerness of an individual to get a job.
  • During the wedding: As we saw in the series “ FRIENDS” while exchanging vows, Ross mistakenly takes Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s, it is a kind of Freudian slip. These kinds of slips often signify unresolved feelings from the past relationship.
  • Parental Slip: At times, it happens that we say words, we don’t mean. While disciplining their child for misconduct, a parent unintentionally uses a swear word which shows tension between the parent-child relationship.
  • During Therapy: It is often seen that during therapy, clients refer to their therapists as mom and dad by mistake. This signifies unresolved childhood trauma and distress.
Looking At the Explanations

Freudian slips are the interplay of conscious and unconscious forces within the mind. Slips often happen when unconscious urges pass through the gates of the conscious world and show in behaviour and speech. According to Freud, these slips are a gate of a world that we humans often hide from the public. A reservoir of all our deepest fears, our desires, our darkest fears. these slips act as the symbolic representation of all of the unconscious material of the human mind.

In conclusion, these slips provide a fascinating explanation of the human unconscious mind. We can learn a great deal about different psychological processes and how they unfold. We can also understand human behaviour by interpreting these subtle cues consisting of concealed feelings and desires. Ongoing research says that it can help a lot in understanding oneself.

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References +
  • MSEd, K. C. (2023, February 27). What’s Really Happening When You Have a Freudian Slip. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-freudian-slip-2795851
  • What’s the Deal with Freudian Slips? (2020, August 28). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/freudian-slip

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