The Unconscious Mind


Facing Unconscious Mind

The unconscious mind is the part of the mind which gives rise to a collection of mental phenomena that is manifested within the mind without the individual even being aware that it is occurring. Some examples of this include:

  • Unconscious feelings
  • Automatic, or unconscious skills that we perform out of habit.
  • Thoughts or perceptions that go unnoticed.
  • Hidden phobias and other desires.

The unconscious mind is the main source of the automatic thoughts and night dreams which come to us without any apparent cause. Some of these could even be a repository of memories that we may have long since forgotten; for example a trauma that was experienced during early childhood.  An example of an automatic thought would be a person pondering a solution to a problem, yet fails to do so until one day he wakes up with a fresh idea on his mind that unlocks said problem.

There are actually other terms for the unconscious mind that most people may be more familiar with:

  • Implicit memory
  • Awakening
  • Subconscious
  • Hypnosis, hypnogogia, or simply a trance.
  • The most common is known as subliminal messages.

There are some activities that we do unconsciously that are not part of the unconscious mind. Some examples of these are sleep walking, dreaming (which may manifest what is in our unconscious mind), or just being in a coma.  The study of the limits of consciousness is still in its infant stages of scientific discovery so there is yet much to be learned.

History of Contemporary Psychology

The beginning of contemporary scientific psychology begin as a work of Paracelsus in 1567 and was later explored by the likes of William Shakespeare in many of his plays, despite the fact that it was not revealed as such.  The western view of the mind continued to develop under Sigmund Freud and was foreshadowed by philosophers Neitzche, Spinoza, Libnitz, and Schopehauer.  The latter was influenced by the Vedic worldview which came from ancient Hindu texts that dated 600 BC all the way back to 2500 BC.

The entire process of human thought and interpersonal influence lies in either attempting to articulate something that is buried within the unconscious mind or just actively denying it, while the status of the unconscious mind is viewed as more of a social construction that merely exists only because people behave as if it exists.  People themselves have a tendency to be highly creative and purposeful, but yet are nevertheless a social product.

In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, he considered the unconscious to be a force of will that was influenced by the human drive which operated well below the level of the conscious mind. To sum it up, we do what we do but do not always know why we do it.  According to Freud, the unconscious mind acts as more of a storehouse for psychic actions, needs, and other desires that are instinctual.

According to Freudian theory, even though some memories and thoughts are now past tense, they still continually direct our thoughts and feelings in the present from the realm of the unconscious. Freud is best known for his theory on the division of the mind into three categories:

  • The conscious mind is known as the Ego
  • The Id is our basic instincts
  • The Superego is the unconscious part of our mind that drives everything we do.

Freud went on to further propose a hierarchy of consciousness that divided the mind into the conscious, preconscious, and the unconscious. It was his belief that any psychic event was actually a hidden message from the unconscious and was taking place “below the surface of the unconscious mind.”  According to Freud, the lower mind was more of a repository for our ideas, wishes, and desires that were not accepted socially as well as those memories that were so traumatic and painful that were psychologically repressed during our early years. Some of the psychoanalyst tools that originated with Freud are random associations, dream analysis, and verbal slips which are more commonly known as Freudian slips today.