Personal psychological liberatiosn is a state of cultural, socio-economic, and mental freedom that an individual enjoys through creatively obscuring and negating the unnecessary boundaries that society, through cultural, socio-economic, and psychological means, burdens an individual with ultimately. A personal psychological liberation mainly concerns the state of mind and heart, not the physical; therefore, one can experience psychological liberation even when physically confined in a place such as a jail/prison.
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In the movie “When Nietzsche Wept”, the two main characters, Joseph Breuer and Freidrich Nietzsche, experience psychological liberation. On the recommendation of Lou Salome, Joseph Breuer agrees to treat the philosopher Freidrich Nietzsche from his extreme migraine attacks (Spinelli 181).
However, despite the fact that both these distinguished gentlemen have achieved and contributed a lot to the professional development of their respective careers (Joseph Breuer is a psychoanalyst who has recently developed a therapeutic form of treatment by talking to the patient – “talking cure”), they suffer from personal struggles with their past and present actions.
Dr. Joseph Breuer is struggling with his attraction and obsession with one of his patients, while Nietzsche has never recovered from a supposed refusal of marriage by Lou Salome.
Therefore, both of these individuals are not yet psychologically liberated. Dr. Joseph Breuer has been constrained by societal expectations and professional edicts. Because he is married, society expects him to honor his marriage and give the institution of marriage the respect it deserves. Therefore, to pursue a love affair with Anne O, one of his patients would be socially unacceptable.
As a professional psychoanalyst, one of the most basic edicts states that, a psychoanalyst should always maintain a professional relationship with his/her patients; therefore, falling in love with a patient amounts to professional malpractice. As such, Dr. Joseph Breuer suffers emotional trauma due to the circumstance in which he finds himself. The socio-cultural boundaries surrounding him leave him in a psychological prison from which he cannot extricate himself.
On the other hand, Freidrich Nietzsche has a problem overcoming the spurned love for Lou Salome. Having proposed marriage due to the love he had for her, her rejection hurts him so devastatingly. He suffers frequent migraines that Salome suspects originated from his rejection by her.
He is also an emotional wreck and his behaviors, like his desperate attempt to prevent a horse from whipping by embracing it, border on insanity. He too is psychologically un-liberated and suffers psychological torment from past actions and events. Culturally, he is expected to marry and the fact that he proposes and his proposal is rejected leaves him devastated. Societal socio-cultural expectations make him psychologically enslaved.
Interestingly, the path to psychological liberation for both of these men occurs through talking and sharing their experiences. While Dr Breuer sets out to cure Nietzsche, he does so but in the process also cures himself by sharing his deepest feelings and emotions with Nietzsche.
The more they understand that it is all right to have feelings that contradict societal and professional expectations, the more they inch closer to psychological liberation. Finally, the sharing overwhelms Nietzsche and he breaks down and cries on Dr. Breuer, now his friend, in a powerful moment depicting psychological liberation for both of them.
Psychological freedom thus stems from an understanding of oneself through open communication with the people around an individual and understanding the exact cause of the state of psychological imprisonment – just as Joseph Breuer and Freidrich Nietzsche do in the film.
Spinelli, Ernesto. “When Nietzsche Wept.” Existential Analysis: Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis 22.1 (2011): 181-182.