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A Freudian slip: Interview with Jeffrey Masson


In 1980 as Project Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, Dr Jeffrey Masson uncovered documents that led him to believe Freud made a mistake when he stopped believing that the source of much human misery lay in sexual abuse. His view was so controversial among his peers that he was fired from the archives and his membership of the International Psycho-Analytical Association revoked. In this video interview with Katrina Fox, the bestselling author of 29 books on human and animal psychology discusses the costs of whistleblowing, the psychological disorders of corporations and why transparency is vital to an organisation’s health.





  Key Points:


  • The term ‘ethical’ involves how we behave towards other people, other species, the people that are closer to us, the people who are further removed from us and how we behave towards the natural world around us, including plants, trees and the earth.


  • An ethical leader would be at the forefront of the knowledge around the above and knows it is their duty to disseminate this knowledge to the people working for them.


  • Ethical leaders have an obligation, if they discover something wrong, to blow the whistle or help others to do so.


  • It is important to find support when you speak out. We are herd animals; we are sociable beings and we do not thrive on our own – we need other human beings around. So when you step out, it makes it incredibly difficult because we evolve to seek other people like us and to be protected by the group. When the whole group turns against you, it is very hard. You have to be absolutely certain.


  • The animal agriculture industries do not want you to know how the hens who lay eggs are treated, or the pigs. Pigs are like dogs: They wag their tail when they see you, they are very emotional. Killing a pig is like killing a child: You hear them scream. When they kill baby pigs, the pigs are calling the adults to help them. And you just think: ‘How could anybody just bring themselves to do this act of violence on this animal who has a rich and complex emotional life, who has friendship, who loves their young, who is like us, who does not harm any other animal? It makes no sense to do that.


  • At a corporate and societal level, we need to work on our ‘shadow’ side. We need to stop and think, ‘What am I doing?’


  • Corporations such as Google and others in Silicon Valley now have a vegan cafeteria. They feel it is better. So these major corporations have caught on to the fact that it is healthier for their employees to eat vegan food. They also encourage them to bring their dogs to work because they are better workers when their dogs are there. This is the best way to get change. At Stanford university one quarter of the student body is vegetarian and that is because there is a culture of that in the area. It is much easier to create this culture when a major corporation implements it.


  • From a psychoanalytic perspective, in the corporate world there is a lot of what Freud defined as a defence mechanism at work. There is a lot of denial and along with that goes repression and that is not seeing what you do not want to see and then claiming that it is not important anyway.


  • Many in the corporate world tend to do the above because they feel that it is in their interest and the minute that they stop doing that, they realise that it is not actually in their interest and instead having a fully informed corporate workplace is the best thing because that is where you are going to get innovation. If you just want staff to do the same old thing, then it might make sense but if you want them to be thinking for themselves, you want to encourage them to be taking these steps that are on the cutting edge and that is where there is some hope.


  • A perfect corporation is one that says it wants total transparency. That means if an employee thinks their manager is doing something wrong, they need to make sure that everybody learns about it and it is discussed. That sort of corporation would survive, just as a good psychologist would expect the patient to eventually be able to recognise areas in which they are making bad decisions because they are repressing or denying or even worse, projecting. If we can turn corporations around, it would be an immense benefit to them.


Jeffrey Masson is a writer based in New Zealand. He has a PhD in Sanskrit from Harvard University and was Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto before training as a psychoanalyst between 1971 to 1979.

After being maligned by the profession because of his controversial views about Sigmund Freud, he devoted his time to studying the emotional lives of animals. His nine bestselling books on this topic include The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals and When Elephants Weep. His book Dogs Never Lie About Love has sold over one million copies worldwide.

His latest book Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil is due out March 2014.

This interview also appears in issue 4 of The Animal Effect ethical leadership magazine.

For more information on Jeffrey Masson visit his website.



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