Even though some of Freud’s theories have been disproven, I still believe in the power of the unconscious, that part of our minds that we can’t access, but that nevertheless drives us.
This past week, without realizing what I was doing, I scheduled myself to listen in on a stunning conversation between two women and also a transcendent concert by two sisters. I sat in quiet awe as Angie Thomas talked with Robin Young about The Hate U Give, Thomas’s YA book about an African-American girl named Star that has taken readers by storm. I was inspired by the voices of a dozen middle and high school students who stood in line to ask Thomas about why she wrote her book, how she went about writing it, and to tell her how much her words meant to each of them.
Thomas said to the hundreds in the crowd, in response to questions about how to navigate a world so often fraught with bias and ignorance, what matters is that you speak out, speak up. A few nights later, I stood stock still as I listened to the Swedish band First Aid Kit led by sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg. The Soderberg sisters said to their thousands, as they sang their new song about sexual assault, “You are the Problem Here,” I am a human being, that is how you relate to me.
And at home, for reasons unknown to me, I found myself reading Naomi Alderman’s new novel, The Power. Alderman’s book imagines a global crisis brought about when women realize a power within them — a literal power — to harness electricity, sparking change and also destruction. The voices in the novel are arresting, especially that of Mother Eve, a girl who literally hears a female voice in her own head that spurs her to harness her newfound Power for better and for worse.
If Freud were here, he would undoubtedly identify the power of my own unconscious to drive me toward these cultural experiences and artifacts just as I am thinking about current events and the challenges of raising children today. The power I want to make sure they have — my children as well as everyone else’s — is the power of their own voice, the power to be heard and understood.