Your Hidden Unconscious Mind
While some doubt its existence for others the unconscious mind is considered to be a cornerstone of the psychoanalytic process. Within the unconscious mind is the processes believed to occur automatically in the mind. By definition the use of the term unconscious suspends introspection about them, while including related behaviors, thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation.
Much of the current empirical research into the unconscious mind, or automatic thoughts strongly suggests that theorists such as Freud, Schelling, and Coleridge were on the mark in their inclusion of this phenomenon into the analytic lexicon.
With the names of more modern era thinkers attached to its ideology it would be easy to overlook the importance of the idea of the unconscious mind on the views of the world held by much of humankind. For some cultures it has served as a way of explaining ancient ideas of temptation, divine inspiration, and the predominant role of the gods in affecting motives, actions. evil, bad dreams, or other catastrophes of life.
Dating back to between 2500 and 600 BC the experience of the unconscious mind can be found in Hindu texts. Whatever name is attached to it, the idea of unspoken thought as an integral part of the functions of the mind continues to be important in the psychoanalytical world.
In the 21st century any definition of the unconscious mind must rely on language, and in particular the metaphor to be valid. There are so many words and phrases used interchangeably with the unconscious mind that one can easily lose track of what it is being must discussed. Among these words and phrases are:
- The subconscious
- The Id
Of equal importance is to distinguish between unconscious process (psychoanalytic stimuli) and the unconscious mind (the reaction to that stimuli). Recent studies seem to support that while unconscious processes occur as though they were in a vacuum the human reaction to them is measurable and real. How is this explained? Let’s look at these three approaches.
Freud and the Unconscious Mind (Psychoanalysis)
Among the giants of psychoanalytic theory is Sigmund Freud. In his work Freud modeled the mind in a hierarchical manner. At the top is the Ego. Just below its surface lie two additional aspects of the mind the Id (one’s instincts) and the Super Ego. It is in the latter two realms that negative events are converted into unconscious thought with both symbolic and actual significance.
“For Freud, the unconscious was a repository for socially unacceptable ideas, wishes or desires, traumatic memories, and painful emotions put out of mind by the mechanism of psychological repression. However, the contents did not necessarily have to be solely negative. In the psychoanalytic view, the unconscious is a force that can only be recognized by its effects — it expresses itself in the symptom.”
It is from this psychoanalytical model that Freud argued that these thoughts were not accessible using introspection, but required a more sophisticated and lengthy intervention – psychoanalysis.
Jung and the Collective Unconsciousness
Building further on Freud’s concept, Carl Jung introduced two distinct sources of the unconscious. His first, personal unconsciousness did not differ much from Freud’s views in that individually we all encounter evens that are removed from our individual conscious memory and placed into our unconscious.
Where Jung took a different approach was in an area he named the collective unconscious. It is here that he postulated that humans were the repositories for what he called Archetypes; Innate, universal and hereditary messages about how we experience our world. It is in the Archetypes that collectively we become groups and cultures.
Jung put no limit on the number of Archetypes available. Included are areas like:
- The Self
- The Shadow
- Gender roles
Lacan’s Linguistic Unconscious
A major departure in psychoanalytical theory occurred with the works of Jacques Lacan. His psychoanalytic theory contends that the unconscious is structured like a language. As such, he introduced to many the idea that in the more modern, i.e., modern psychology, world the reliance on a strong traditional cognitive psychological component was over-emphasized. The structure of the unconscious is more linguistic than thought based.
Lucan seemed to be arguing that if we do not possess any symbols, words, or phrases to represent thought, there can be no thought.
This leaves us questioning some of the most basic tenants of psychoanalytic theory. As is often the case with many far reaching issues, it seems that the discussions, research, and practices of psychoanalysis is circular. While Freud and Jung along with their disciples continue in their approaches and practices the later introduction of Lucan’s Linguistic Unconsciousness has only increased the knowledge base of this area of psychology.
In today’s 21st century one of the keys to moving forward seems to be adaptability, or to coin an old phrase “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Our “baby” today is the unconscious mind. And while on the surface the differences between the theories of Freud, Jung, and Lucan may seem herculean, they are not. They validate one another and even more importantly each one allows for increased interaction with the professional and the client during a therapy session.
In light of the advancements being continually made in psychoanalysis theory it is important that we do not lose sight of just how closely linked are the “pure” subconscious mind theories of Freud, the Archetypes of Jung, and Lucan’s linguistics to one another.
With the modern thinking and forward-looking research capabilities available to today’s professionals there should be no reason for not advancing and improving the ability to assist people in achieving the highest level of functioning which they are capable.