Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Sigmund Freud ingeniously identified several types of human psychological 'defense mechanisms.'  Regression, where a person finds his present life situation unbearable and returns to an earlier stage of his life to escape. Sometimes to the extent that he'll behave like a care-free child. Intellectualization, involves viewing an emotionally overwhelming scenario through an abstract intellectual lens in order to avoid the distress of relating to it emotionally. Repression, where one keeps a threatening thought out of one's mind - usually unconsciously - to prevent the distress that the thought may trigger. Sublimation, where one expresses aggressive or sexual tendencies in socially acceptable ways.

There is one such mechanism, transference, which I'd like to explore and apply to skateboarding. Transference is where, for instance, one is angered by one thing yet expresses the anger toward another - usually less threatening - thing. Thus a person who was angered by his boss may transfer the anger toward his wife or children without realizing that he is not really angry at them.

In Freud's thinking, transference, as all the defense mechanisms, generally operates unconsciously. However, there are traditions which encourage the intentional arousal of a particularly intense emotion or psychological energy in order to channel it toward another, more constructive, activity. Even in the Talmud we find reference to this sort of practice. For example, in one related episode, two sages travelling together to a city discover there are two paths leading there, one with prostitutes and one with houses of Idol worship. One sage requests that they walk down the first path to arouse and then channel sexual energy, while the other requests they walk down the second path to channel power.         

Freud's notion of transference and the Talmud's notion of channeling are two polar extremes. Transference is an unconscious, uncontrolled and destructive accident, while channeling is a purposeful and constructive practice. But the channeling described above is reserved for the enlightened who have incredible self control.

But there is a third and intermediate path. We are all inevitably aroused by stimuli in our environment. If we maintain self-awareness, then, when we find ourselves aroused anyhow, we can channel the increased energy toward an activity that we are engaged in and thereby 'kill two birds with one stone':

a) Expend intense energy which might otherwise be transferred in an uncontrolled and destructive manner;

b) Energise and enhance our output in an activity.

Once, I was at the skate park trying to land a certain trick when I received an unpleasant phone call which angered me somewhat. As I hung up, I took my skateboard in hand and began to skate explosively with increased confidence and a heightened sense of awareness. I cleanly landed trick after trick and soon assailed the particular trick which seemed insurmountable only minutes earlier.
I've had a similar experience when an attractive female walked by and affected an increase in my desire levels. I intently focused my mind on landing a trick that was particularly difficult for me and was again astonished at how effective channeling is at vitalizing my skating.                               

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