Do the Irish simply turn to their creativity rather than pick apart their own psyche?

The Irish psyche is a deep topic for a post, with the many facets of said psyche were on display all over the world, especially at St. Patrick’s Day.  

As I did a little research for this post, I came across a quotation attributed to the father of psychoanalysis himself, Sigmund Freud.

In the movie "The Departed", Matt Damon’s character claims that Freud said:

“This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” - Sigmund Freud (about the Irish)

Some claim this Freudian quotation was derived from a phrase by one of his followers. This student of Freud claimed that the Irish, when in psychic trouble, go to poetry, go to storytelling, or to escapism. He believed the Irish have no interest in picking apart their own brains.

Freud is also claimed to have stated that the Irish are a mass of contradictions and impervious to the rational thought processes that might resolve them.

And finally, another follower of Freud supposedly said the Austrian doctor categorized people as “Irish and non-Irish.”

Whether or not Freud actually said these words, we may never know.  However, it seems clear that the Irish psyche was at some point a topic of conversation for this famous psychiatrist and his students.

The real question for me is why Freudians were so intrigued by the Irish psyche.

What characteristics of the Irish people led them to these conclusions?

- What exactly did Freud mean?

- Was it said as an insult, a compliment, or neither?

My proud Irish side wants to answer by saying we are too fine-tuned to benefit from inward thinking, or perhaps we are just too complex for analysis.

But then there is my down-to-earth, practical Irish side that realizes we don’t do psycho anything very well. We hate to share our emotions, we are ridden with guilt, and believe life’s fleeting fortunes are precursors to inevitable doom and gloom.

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Let’s face it, no psychoanalyst is getting inside my Irish head – there’s barely enough room for my thoughts in here.

Irish people are stubbornly polite. Saying what we think is difficult at times, but then in complete contrast, there are times when we can’t stop talking and saying exactly what we think. We are a mass of contradictions.

Words that come to mind to describe our nature are stubborn, humble, explosive, friendly, bad-tempered, humorous, hard-assed, and artistic. See what I mean? A mass of contradictions.

And so, this got me thinking about all the factors which helped form our elusive Irish psyche over the centuries.

- Is there something about our Irishness begging to be explored?

- Is there a story of Irish psychological development crying out to be told?

- What is it about the Irish and our personality that makes us different and possibly unique?

- Why did so many Irish succeed in America?

- Do we really put the FUN in DYSFUNCTIONAL?

- Can Irish proverbs help us better understand our collective psyche?

And so, I decided why not create a section on my blog dedicated to discussing the Irish psyche.

But am I qualified to talk about this topic authoritatively? Not in the least. Psychoanalysis is definitely not my realm of expertise. My degrees are in physical health and well-being. But why let that stop me. I’m going to take on the topic of the Irish psyche in true narcissistic, Freudian fashion.

I may not hold any psychology credentials, but I have been educated in the school of life on both sides of the Atlantic, helping me to develop my own opinion of the Irish psyche. I may not be able to personally answer all of these questions, but I can moderate a good discussion, and together who knows what insights and stories we may discover.

So, stay tuned for more interesting posts on the Irish psyche.

Slán agus beannacht, (Goodbye and blessings) - Irish American Mom

* Originally published in 2017. Updated in July 2023.