When words tumble out of your mouth that you didn’t intend, have you actually meant them in some deep down repressed part of yourself? Are they the expression of semi-conscious or repressed desires, or simply a slip of the tongue? We give these unintended words and phrases the name Freudian slip, expressing that somewhere deep down, we do mean what we didn’t mean to say. Sigmund Freud did describe this phenomenon, calling it Fehlleistung in German and parapraxis in English.
The words translate respectively as faulty action and other action, and Freud’s explanation for the now named Freudian slip is that these verbal slips often signified underlying intention, even if the slips were very small. For the analyst, such slips were excellent news since they might give the analyst a direction in which to take the therapy or indicate something on the patient’s mind that needed discussion. Unlike today where a Freudian slip may be seen as often sexually motivated or conveying double entendre, Freud didn’t necessarily ascribe sexual motivation to these things. Instead they were simply a window that might reflect deeper meaning or a way of getting to the feelings behind the words.
Sometime the Freudian slip is interpreted incorrectly as expression of our unconscious desires. This is hard to understand if you take Freudian analysis seriously, since the ego could not so readily access the unconscious mind. Instead these slips ought to be understood as expression of repressed desires, that aren’t so deeply imbedded in unconscious thought processes. They may be semi-conscious but aren’t fully realized by the person who makes a Freudian slip.
On the other hand, Freud’s theory is an unproven one. What we say might be due to what language we’ve learned, simple errors in speaking or grammatical processing, exhaustion, overuse of alcohol, or a variety of other things. Moreover, if interpretation of the slip falls to another person, his or her interpretation of language may be wholly different than the speaker’s is. If someone is always interpreting other people’s language as somehow sexually based, it may be possible that the slip lies with the interpreter and not the speaker.
In the modern sense, the term Freudian slip is not much overanalyzed. If we accidentally say something wrong and are aware of it, we may quickly add “Freudian slip” to poke fun at our own language errors. In this sense, we may be joking about our intent or be serious. Much depends upon the circumstances in which such slips occur.