Psychoanalysis originated with Sigmund Freud, a neurologist who used the simple tool of conversation in an attempt to resolve mental health issues in his clients. Freud believed that the personality is made up of multiple structures, and many cases of neurosis arise from conflict between conscious thought and subconscious desire. Hugely respected in the field of therapy and part of popular culture, Freud's work is often referenced, even making a covert appearance in the latest episode of Rick and Morty.
Before I begin to psychoanalyze the shit out of "Rest and Ricklaxation," I'd like to say I'm not sure whether writer Tom Kauffman deliberately referenced Freud in an attempt to psychoanalyze the show's leading characters. As Freud was heavy on the hidden depths of psyche, I'd like to think even if it wasn't intentional, it came from a place of subconscious happenstance. Either way, the same principles apply to both, leading to a number of interesting revelations.
'We Need A Vacation'
After a particularly terrifying, Star Wars-esque adventure, Rick and Morty are in need of a vacation. So they visit an alien spa, where they're offered a curious treatment in the form of a machine that removes toxins from the brain of its clients, making them feel completely cleansed of negativity. As they enter, the treatment appears to go wrong — they're thrust into a slime-covered, hellish world in what appears to be an error. However, these are toxins in human form, splintered from the body, and this world is inside of the machine.
By looking at the personality traits of Toxic Rick and Toxic Morty, the link to Freud begins. Freud's model of the psyche defines personality as three distinct, but interlinked, segments: The id, the ego and the superego. The id is mostly subconscious, and roughly describes the impulsive and irrational "animal instinct" that fuels the quest to gratify aggressive and sexual desires. The ego is a more refined aspect of the mind that attempts to mediate the id's desires, while still aiming to gratify them responsibly. The superego is in direct contrast to the id; it's rooted in social conditioning with the motivation to act in a socially acceptable manner.
Applying this to Rick and Morty, it's clear that the "toxin machine" actually separates the id, the ego and superego. Within the machine, the toxic version of the protagonists are extreme versions of both, for the very reason that they are no longer controlled by the intellectual, rational aspect of mind. Toxic Rick's hubris is out of control. He's more arrogant, rude and narcissistic than ever before. Interestingly, this reveals the part of Rick's mind that indulges in the belief that, due to his intelligence, he is superior to all other beings. He tells Morty:
"You can die when I say so, I control you, I control the universe. Why am I bragging about that, I have nothing to prove? I'm surrounded by inferior pieces of shit."
Morty is practically the polar opposite of Rick. His id is driven by the animal instinct of fear, manifesting as insecurity and doubt. It's exactly this contrast that highlights the importance of synergy between all three parts. Without his impulse to dominate, Rick becomes docile, and lacks the edge that often saves his life and the lives of others. Without fear and doubt holding him back, Morty becomes narcissistic, cavalier, out of touch. His need for attention and adulation isn't regulated by what is socially acceptable, transforming him into a "tiny American Psycho" with a penchant for organic goods.
Such contrast between the Toxic and non-Toxic forms of themselves highlights the necessity for balance. To live a life neither completely dull or impulsively destructive, each of us needs the individual parts to function or take control when appropriate. But too much of any of the three aspects is dangerous, as Rick acknowledges when he confronts his toxic self: "If I ever gave you the wheel we'd be dead in five minutes." The intellect forms a crucial part in restraining his id from running out of control, but equally, his id is necessary to give him urgency in life or death situations.
This is also highlighted on a larger scale within the episode. After Toxic Rick enacts his plan to cover the Earth in toxic energy, the id takes control and the world falls apart (imagine a world run by leaders who struggle to control their id and lack rational thought, heh). A children's birthday party turns into a murderous blood bath as the youngsters beat each other to death (arguably the darkest scene of #RickandMorty), dieters switch from salad to fast food, a church service turns into a debauched, free-for-all orgy after the confession the concept of God was created for money.
As humorous as the orgy scene was, it makes an significant point that shouldn't be overlooked. For many, the superego, that which is regulated by society, is defined by the moral standards of the church. Throughout the ages these moral standards haven't been in the best interest of individual spiritual growth but instead control and power. The point Rick and Morty appears to make here is that once these churchgoers are freed from the shackles of their misguided belief, their moral structure falls apart and their id takes control. No wonder Freud referred to the id as chaotic.
Freedom Of Choice And Freud's Theory
None of us live in a world where toxin-separation machines are conceivable. But "Rest and Ricklaxation" uses the realm of fiction to add another element to Freud's theory of personality via the alien machine — autonomy. Rick discovers that, to distinguish between "good" and "bad" toxins, the machine frees the person of the qualities they themselves view as inherently bad. As Rick explains: "I had all my problems removed: My entitlement, my narcissism, my crippling loneliness, my irrational attachments."
This opens us up to a number of revelations, both heartwarming and tragic. Firstly, Rick sees Morty as the "irrational attachment." In simple terms: He loves him dearly, and his animalistic, paternal drive makes him vulnerable. However, Rick suffers from an inner conflict between his emotion and his intellect, as he also sees that bond as a weakness, something holding him back. It's safe to say, as a nihilist, Rick's attitude toward feeling is beyond cynical; after all, he once defined romantic love as "a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed."
Why does Rick reject emotions? Why is he lonely? He doesn't want to be human — he wants to be God. He tells his toxic self "I hate having you in me," in an upfront rejection of everything that makes him an immortal member of the human race. For Rick, he'd rather be pure logic, pure intellect. His advanced intelligence is his achilles heel, the cause of his loneliness. As a cure, Rick wants his intellect in "driving seat'" at all times, in a paltry attempt to minimize the risk of suffering.
This isn't breaking news, either. In an earlier episode, "Pickle Rick," Dr. Wong identifies that Rick alternates "between viewing your mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse." The smartest man in the universe may be able to control most things, defeat most enemies, create the unimaginable and outsmart any other being, but he also struggles with his biggest asset — understanding his own mind.
What about Morty? After he escapes without his toxic self, he goes into hiding. When he receives a call from Jessica, he knows that Rick is pulling the strings in an attempt to locate him, but he doesn't hang up, he allows the call to be traced. Why? Because deep within, Morty has the wisdom to realize something that Rick doesn't; that to be human, and to be whole, he needs to embrace all aspects of his character, good and bad.
Did you enjoy "Rest and Ricklaxation"? How do you interpret the separation of toxic and non-toxic Rick and Morty?