Cannon’s cats and Freud’s dream metaphor insight carry the keys to much human thought (and action)

Sigmund Freud in 1899, reported that the dream metaphor often provides the key to understanding the psychological origin of emotional distress (‘neurosis’), and Walter Cannon in 1915 elucidated the body’s response to emotional stress in cats, called the ‘fight or flight response’. Both topics have been frozen for more than 100 years – human stress is still viewed mostly through the lens of Cannon’s cats, and Freud’s dream metaphor failed to stimulate further insights into human cognitions. My extended exploration of human thought and behavior through deep and more recent history provides strong evidence to sustain the idea that human cognitions work through metaphorical representations in the waking state too, directed at diminishing the intensity of life’s existential challenges. This has a profound influence on the widespread affinity to beliefs with utopian content, religious as well as political, seemingly independent of ethnic or cultural influences. In addition, these same mechanisms strongly influence the interplay between affect and rationality in all aspects of our daily lives. A detailed analysis will be presented as a book.

Project leader(s):
  • Raphael Melmed (Hadassah-University Hospital, Jerusalem)

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