Why neurotics like funny cat videos

Psychoanalysis divides psyches in three major groups: psychotics, perverts, and neurotics. Since the vast majority of us are neurotics, here are some funny cat videos for you to enjoy:

What makes these cat videos funny and adorable? The first thing to notice is that these are mostly videos of feline failures. We see cats failing at being proper cats. A typical video might be of a cat preparing to jump on some high platform, and then completely failing the jump, not even coming close. If we imagine a video of a cat actually making the jump, it wouldn’t be funny or enjoyable at all.

So is there some kind of schadenfreude involved in looking at cats fail? Do we think “ha, stupid cat”? On the contrary, seeing the cat fail makes us love and adore it. If we saw the cat actually getting hurt from failing a jump we would be horrified.

We find cats who fail at being cats so adorable because we identify with them, because we are humans who fail at being humans. What constitutes your subjectivity is a failure to be what you are supposed to be. When cats fail, we humanize them: the cat is no longer a mere animal driven by instinct, it receives a character through its particular way of failing to be a proper cat.

Our failure to be what we are supposed to be is not only the source of our subjectivity and freedom, but also the source of our suffering and shame. We often feel not good enough because of it, like we are not living up to our “true potential”. We all want to project an image to the outside world of being what we are supposed to be, and then get horribly embarrassed when we inevitably slip up and betray our true nature.

Our failure to be what we are supposed to be is also the source of unconscious satisfaction. How so? Because the impossibility of being what you are supposed to be sets up an impossibly fantasy of maybe some day, through hard work, actually becoming what you are supposed to be. You imagine this will bring you happiness, fulfillment, and a feeling of being at peace with yourself and the world. This fantasy sets up a powerful desire, and, as anyone who’s ever been in love knows, it is the desire that generates satisfaction, not the attainment of the desired object.

But desiring to be what we could never be produces an unhappy neurotic subject who is constantly frustrated. Whenever we come close to becoming whatever we think it is that we should be, we unconsciously sabotage ourselves so that the fantasy remains alive. Because whenever we do reach some goal that we set out for ourselves, we discover that, instead of the promised happiness and fulfillment, it brings a feeling of emptiness and an identity crisis that comes with the destruction of desire and subjectivity.

How do we escape this trap? Maybe we enjoy these funny cat videos because they point to a possible solution: if you look again closely, you will find that even though these cats fail at their jumps, they are never embarrassed about it. They just brush it off and keep walking like nothing happened. The cat isn’t trying to be what it is supposed to be, it just is, and that’s enormously freeing to watch. Of course, the cat is cheating here because it is simply oblivious to what it’s supposed to be. But even though us neurotics cannot hope to be oblivious like cats are, what we can do is identify with, take pride in, our particular failures to be what we are supposed to be.



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