With social networking and reality television, self–help columns and daytime talk shows, there’s an infinite array of platforms to both expose our deepest thoughts and examine the thoughts of others. In this age of non–stop communication, one’s privacy is subject to unrelenting examination, intrusion, and attack from the media, the government, friends, family, and complete strangers.
So what are we trying to hide? And what are we trying to find out about others? Practicing psychoanalyst and professor of literature Josh Cohen tackles those questions in his study of privacy and personality, the “most vulnerable and indestructible region of your self.” Using Sigmund Freud’s theories on identity and the ego as a foundation, Cohen weaves through time and place to study an extensive variety of people who unearthed and revealed the rawest form of their selves. From Adam and Eve to the ballerinas in the hit 2010 film Black Swan, from Hester Prynne to British celebrity Katie Price, Cohen finds Freud’s ideas in both fiction and reality alike.
Yet even with all the times that we’ve exposed the inner workings of our psyches, Cohen is sure to emphasize that some part of every individual will always remain hidden. Like Freud once wrote, “The ego is not master in its own house.” In a culture that floods our lives with light, how is it that we remain so helplessly in the dark?