Sigmund Freud, the Upside Down, and the Healing Power of Jesus

by Robert Feduccia

            I felt disgusted with myself when I was in my first psychology class, and we got to the section on Sigmund Freud. We learned about the Ego and the Superego and that was all good. It was our section on the Id that freaked me out. Horrible images were in my head as my professor described the Id. It seemed like this dark place where the seven deadly sins squirmed around with no intellect and no self-awareness, only impulsivity and appetite. It just wanted to consume for the sake of consuming. It was just disgusting.

            A metaphor for ourselves as humans is the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the setting for the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Hawkins is a quaint All-American town with kids on bikes, a typical high school, and sincere friendships. But then there’s the Upside Down. It’s the same place except it is another dimension, a dimension ruled by the enemy Vecna. This powerful and ominous enemy was once a gifted young boy, but his appetite for power was twisted and destructive. Without giving too much away, he was sent to dwell in the Upside Down. Here’s where it gets good.

            Vecna lives in the Upside Down, but he preys on people on the normal side of Hawkins. He finds people who have deep seated guilt, and he exploits their guilt and shame in order to take their life. When he takes their life, he creates a gateway from the Upside Down into the normal side of Hawkins in his plan to take over.

            Like most things, this analogy reveals both truth and lies. Because it reveals some truth, we can think that it is all truth. That’s the lie.

            Before watching season 4 of “Stranger Things”, I had an image that came up in my prayer time while I was preparing a talk for teens. In mind’s eye, I saw a partition in my own soul. The place where I lived was the part of myself that was present to others. Then there was the partition. It is a thin membrane and there was this creature on the other side of the membrane that was trying to push through. The creature’s outline as it pushed against the membrane was hideous and menacing. I imagined the Lord coming to tear down the membrane and when the partition didn’t exist anymore, I was surprised to see the creature was actually very small and relatively powerless. From that image, I crafted a talk for teens that I would be working with over the summer. I got an old bed sheet and different spray paints. I laid out the sheet and began to write different sins that teens struggle with and wrote the ones that they probably feel the greatest sense of shame about. Vecna’s power came from exploiting teens’ shame. This is exactly what Satan does. Most of us know that “Satan” means “accuser.” It’s often said that Satan knows our name, but he calls us by our sin. Jesus knows our sin, but he calls us by our name. To see this being played out in Scripture, please read Zechariah 3:1-4.

            Each of us has a partition between our Id, our Upside Down, and the self that we present to the world. Behind the partition lies our guilt and our shame that the Enemy wants to exploit. He is destructive, not just mischievous. He will lay hold of our shame to beat us down.

            For the talk, I held the sheet up with all of the sins spray painted on it. Behind the sheets, I cast the shadow of a monster, a monster like Vecna. It was menacing looking. But I said that the Lord comes to tear down the membrane, the partition. When I removed the sheet to reveal what was behind it, the teens saw that it was simply a four-inch-tall figurine of a monster. It was actually powerless. The great and ominous sin was just this little thing.

            The truth of “Stranger Things” is that there is an enemy who exploits the Upside Down that is within us. He preys on our guilt and shame to destroy us. The lie is told in Vecna’s power. The Upside Down that we find in ourselves is not a scary place. Vecna wants to tear down the partition in order to take over. But Jesus has already gone there. Jesus wants to be the one to tear away the partition between our external life and our Upside Down. He loves that part of us. Hear that again. He loves that part of us. He doesn’t want to shame us. He wants to love that part of us in order to heal that part of us.

            We want to amputate that part us. Jesus doesn’t. He wants to love that part. I am trying to bravely tear down the partition between my Id, my Upside Down and the self that I present to the world in order to allow the love of Christ Jesus to heal that part of me.