Be childlike

As we grow up, let us try not to lose the inherent intelligence bestowed on us by nature

“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult”
Sigmund Freud

My interpretation of the quote

Kids playingAustrian neurologist and psychologist, Sigmund Freud is best remembered as the father of psychoanalysis. Although, several theories he propounded are considered controversial by many, his impact on psychotherapy cannot be overemphasised.

In the above quote, Freud says that children are far more intelligent than adults. He says they are radiant because they are fearless. Their minds are gallant because they allow their imagination to run riot. They are vivid and boundary-less in their mental pursuits because they have not yet learnt about the “limitations”, which are a construct of the adult mind. This is evident from his use of the word “feeble” when describing the intelligence of an average adult. Freud is obviously quite unimpressed by the mind of the average adult, which is mostly fraught with constraints – real or imaginary. Most adults do not allow their minds to expand to new horizons because venturing into unfamiliar territory is a scary proposition. Weakness, then, is the hallmark of the average adult mind, according to Freud. Contrast this with a child, whose mind is not yet aware of the meaning of “limitation” and therefore simply explores all possibilities. It does not matter to the child whether it is in the realm of possibilities; he or she simply embarks upon new, exciting mental journeys.

Freud’s use of the word “average” for adults also implies that he believes that there are some adults who are not average. These have retained their childlike courage and therefore manage to also retain their radiant intelligence. Freud’s belief that children are more intellectually radiant is reflected in that all-time favourite quip from Albert Einstein who strongly believed that “imagination is more powerful than knowledge”. Freud seems to be telling us to be as daring as a child in our intellectual pursuits – and this will lead us to discover a sparkle that’s been missing in our lives.

Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri has spent the last two decades learning, teaching and writing about wellbeing and mindful living. He has contributed over 1500 articles for several newspapers and magazines including The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Statesman, Mid-Day, Bombay Times, Femina, and more. He is a counseling therapist and the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed best-selling book on self-transformation. An award-winning editor, Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".



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