Fly on the Wall—Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls, California Rolls, But Hold The Eye Rolls

Here’s Sigmund Freud For A New Year’s Inquiry!

Fly on the Wall—Spring Rolls, Egg Rolls, California Rolls, But Hold The Eye Rolls

What better time to really release ourselves, Scroogelike, from the weight of our past existential attachments, than with the advent of a new year.  After all, the phrase new year/new you, wasn’t coined for nothing.

Looking ahead can involve blinders; greatness and spontaneity do require somewhat of a short memory.  At the same time, we all carry emotional baggage everywhere we go and we may unwittingly be unpacking our inner turmoil onto even the humblest of interlocutors.  A noble task, therefore, is to unmask our past predilections that we may gaze onward and upward with clear-eyed resolve.

Starting a year with a blank slate involves a degree of erasing – try playing with a child’s chalkboard and you may find that the process of wiping out, reducing to blotto, can be as fun as the act of creation.  Pablo Picasso famously said that destruction, too, is a creative act.  While we may lack sympathy for those whose annual New Year debaucheries include an ethanol blackout, from observing hangovers we may also glean a sense of the reality of what a new year entails in terms of overcoming a false sense of reality.  The past really is over, and no one knows it better or with more irony than those who literally can’t remember a thing that happened.  In this manner, resolutions pertaining to the forthcoming carry a dubious air redolent of another date entirely: Groundhog Day.  More specifically, what’s brought to mind is the Bill Murray film of that name.  In the film Groundhog Day, a woebegotten rat race participant finds himself faced with the same repetitive miseries day after day after day – lacking egress, he resorts to all manner of tactics to make the doldrums seem worthwhile before realizing that only by truly overcoming his accumulated deficiencies can he start anew and find meaning in his existence.

To let go, then, is the first part of the ol’ get up and go.  And time is of the essence, we never quite know when our life’s’ juice, our personal get up and go, may have uh gotten up and went.  Or something.  Life pauses for neither grammar or a spell check, just read a Gen Zers Tik Tok news feed and you’ll see that the proof’s in the AI pudding.

We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously; it’s no coincidence that comedians have a field day at New Year’s.  Resolutions tend to carry some comic relief at the best of times; to begin with we all know in our heart of hearts that the us of yesteryear is essentially the same ourselves as it is in 2024.  Not only that, social media newsfeed illusions aside, society would carry on fine and no hangnails with or without our participation, let alone our proud fulfillment of one or many mindfulness resolutions.  No amount of simpering and simmering in our discontents will change the fact that it’s actions, not resolutions, that for us will forge a better future.  Astrologists need not apply their mountebankery either.  In fact, 2024 being a leap year is a great chance to recall that, as far as the stars are concerned, or aligned, or anthropomorphized, New Year’s day isn’t even the real new year’s day so much as it is a reified summary of the previous three year’s extra quarter days rolled into one.  Saved up, if you will, like that extra third of a bottle of bubbly at a bedside lest one needs a liiiitle extra oomph to get up and face the new year.  No day is what it says it is, cosmically, and at some level that may explain why “authentic” was a “word of the year” for 2023.

The path to self-deception about reality involves attachment to the fleece-lined mysticism of an absolute identity, itself a grim Gothic Line enforced in search of absolution from ambiguity, laced and twined with that old just-so fable: good intentions.  Almost no one admits to backing into their neighbor’s plum tree on purpose, and the same is true of our accounting practices in life.  We put our best foot forward foremost so we look good in the existential selfie of self-awareness.  If we’re happy and we know it we clap our hands gleefully and tell all who’ll listen what we’re happy about.  And if we’re sad we go to great pains, as humans, to explain who or what has triggered such a lamentable and dolorous condition.  We may even tell ourselves that our mental condition is permanent and inevitable, rather than a construction stemming from the netherland of our unconscious.  Yet new year’s is a season of reconsidering what is and how it gets that way.

Enter here that pariah of messianic figures, Sigmund Freud.  His life’s work involved countless hours listening to the tidings, good and bad and neurotic, of the citizens of well-heeled Vienna.  Just a stone’s throw away, across the river Danube a few centuries earlier, invading hordes had laid siege to the city, only to be saved by the Polish prince Sobieski and his patron soldiers.  But that was all ancient history, forgotten except for the occasional self-congratulatory clap on the back.  The Vienna of Freud during the early 20th Century was a more placid, but no less disconsolate, place.  People were, as the grunge band Nirvana once sang, “overbored and self assured, oh no I know a dirty word.” Stressed, crotchety and a bit bitchy, you might say.  But Freud sought not to leave things at that, he wanted to help his clients.  Laying aside the adage that the path to hell is paved with good intentions, he began by creating a new language to understand the timeless mysteries of the human mind and, more importantly, the unconscious realm of murky motivations unknown even to the carrier of that mysterious torch of self-consciousness: ourselves.  Sadness and neurosis and discontent were Freud’s stock in trade – not of his choosing, but of the necessity of what he encountered in the plaintive countenances of many whose bustled bottoms grazed his therapist’s couch.  Supine in spirit yet brimming with mysteries, in his patient’s minds eyes Freud’s key findings unfurled.  Out of the depths of their despair typologies were had.

The present-day therapist Dr.  Galit Atlas summarized one such struggle, the challenge of sorting out the truth behind what a person is truly despondent about.  Often we say one thing, but our mind means another, Freud found.  For instance, at New Year’s we might feel a sense of loss, of longing for a past or a person whose existence lies beyond the vale of physical awareness but is all too real in our hearts and minds.  This mourned lost Other may even be our self as we imagine him or her, a loss of identity where the rubber of reality meets the road of ideals.

“Freud developed his thinking to differentiate between mourning and melancholia.  He described that in mourning the world feels poor and empty, while in melancholia the person herself feels poor and empty.  She loses interest in the outside world, she loses the capacity to love, and her self-esteem is diminished.”

Depressing stuff, but if we’re to overcome the urge to tie our New Year’s discontent to the mere winter blues, and prescribe ourselves merely some sublingual Vitamin D, we’d (to Freud, anyway) miss a key component of our sadness and how it gets that way.  If we feel we’ve lost something as a new year commences, maybe we aren’t allowing ourselves to simply let the bygone year slip over the horizon of our personal history.

“That melancholia, according to Freud, is an unconscious process in which, instead of detaching and withdrawing the emotional investment from the lost person, the melancholic preserves and keeps that person alive inside them through identification with the dead” (Atlas, 74).  The baby of 2024 has been born but, for that to happen, the withered old year 2023 must be allowed to fade into the mists of obscurity, bathwater of otherwise–else our new self, brimming as it is with the passions of newfound hopes and potentials, can never truly be born.

To overcome being glum at the prospect of just another year we must truly lay to rest the past – not only those who we sadly said goodbye to but also to the last version of ourselves who, through the sheer social osmosis of proximity, we’d invariably become quite attached to – failings and foibles and all.  So, in 2024, let’s remember that it’s not only how we resolve to grow and learn but also how we keep our eyes on the future, even the years to come, that will keep our spirits up and our melancholia at bay.  To choose to let go can be the best resolution of all.  Easier said than done, but isn’t that resolutions in a nutshell – talk minus action until tomorrow?

I wish all the best to everyone at Voice Magazine and to you, dear reader.  May abundance and fulfillment be your heartfelt companion throughout as much of the year to come as possible!

Atlas, G.  (2022).  Emotional Inheritance.  New York: Little, Brown Spark Books.
Encylcopaedea Brittanica.  (2023).  ‘Siege of Vienna 1683’.  Retrieved from
Nirvana.  (1991).  ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.  Retrieved from
Zuehlke, M.  (2017).  ‘Battle of the Gothic Line’.  The Canadian Encylcopedia.  Retrieved from