3. The Unconscious (1915)

Having established that repression works by preventing an idea from becoming conscious, rather than destroying it altogether, Freud proceeds to investigate the 'unconscious' where these ideas, and many other affects are held. However he faces an inevitable problem - how can one learn about the unconscious? He proposes that through psychoanalysis we can study the translation of things from the unconscious into the conscious. Firstly though he addresses more pressing issues.

1. Justification for the Concept of the Unconscious

The fact that it is so hard to study the unconscious has provoked controversy, in the scientific world, questioning its very existence. Freud proceeds to argue that the assumption of the unconscious is necessary and legitimate and that he has various proofs of its existence.

It is necessary because the data of consciousness has many gaps in it - both in healthy and sick people certain psychical facts can only be explained by presupposing other acts, beyond consciousness - for example parapraxes and dreams, and the sudden arrival of an idea into one's head etc. Furthermore, Freud argues that when we consider all of our latent memories (which he argues cannot be mere residues of somatic processes, but are indeed residues of psychical processes), it seems incomprehensible to deny the existence of the unconscious.

Freud then turns his attention to what we know for certain about the nature of these debatable states - no physiological or chemical process can give us any notion of their nature - on the other hand he argues that it is certain that they do have abundant points of contact with conscious mental processes - before psychoanalysis, post-hypnotic suggestion had tangibly demonstrated the existence of the unconscious.

Secondly, Freud's argument that the assumption of the unconscious is legitimate, is supported by the fact that in the same way that we infer consciousness in other people, through analogy from their observable utterances and actions, so we should apply this process of inference to ourselves, which would lead us to the assumption of another second consciousness (responsible for the acts and manifestations in oneself that cannot be linked with the rest of one's mental life). Critics here argue, that an unconscious consciousness is just as unlikely and assuming as the idea of the 'unconscious'. Furthermore, we have a second consciousness, why not a third and a fourth etc.? Thirdly, some of the latent processes identified seem alien to us and therefore are not likely to be from an alternative consciousness, but rather suggest the existence of psychical acts that lack consciousness.

Having justified the 'unconscious' Freud relates it to other ideas such as animism, which caused us to see copies of own consciousness all around us, so whilst we must be careful not to attribute properties of the conscious too readily to the unconscious, the inference of one from the other seems legitimate.

2. Various Meanings of 'The Unconscious' - The Topographical Point of View

Freud outlines his ideas of the unconscious. He proposes that the unconscious comprises both acts which are merely latent, temporarily unconscious, but which differ in no respects from conscious ones, and processes such as repressed ones, which if conscious would be bound to stand out in the crudest contrast to the rest of the conscious processes. From findings of psychoanalysis, he then proposes that a psychical act goes through two phases with a 'censorship' between the two. In the first phase the act is unconscious, and if it is rejected by censorship it is 'repressed' and remains in the unconscious system (Ucs.). If however, it passes the censorship 'test' it enters the conscious system (Cs.) where it is not yet conscious but is capable of becoming conscious - Freud calls this capacity for becoming conscious the 'preconscious' (Pcs.). Having established this 'topographical' view, Freud then tries to apply to the question of whether, when an act is transposed from the Ucs. to the Cs. Does this transposition involve a fresh record of the idea in question, the unconscious registration co- existing alongside - or rather does the transposition involve a change in state of the idea? Freud proposes that this second more functional hypothesis is more probable, however since this topographical view, for the present has nothing to do with anatomy, we have no insight into the localisation of these processes as the first hypothesis requires.

3. Unconscious Feelings

  By PanEris using Melati.

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