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The Role of Unconsciousness in Psychology

The idea of unconscious plays a central role in psychology. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behavior and experience even though we might be unaware of these influences. The psychoanalytical theory came about after the break between Freud and Carl Yung. Among the ideas and studies I will be reviewing the works of Sigmund Freud (The conscious and the unconscious mind) and the comparison between psychoanalysis and analytical psychology. In this article, you will be able to understand the relationship between Freud and Yung as well as the role that unconscious plays in Psychology.

The unconscious is the part of the mind that lies outside the somewhat vague boundaries of consciousness. To Freud, the unconscious was a matter fact, a “province” of the human mind, and an undeniable part of human experience. Freud suggested that the mind was divided into three parts. The lowest being the unconscious, the middle being the preconscious, and the upper being the conscious. One area that he mainly focused on was the unconscious, because he believed that the unconscious is not a hypothesis but a fact that can be proven.( The Unconscious Mind, Pg. 6)

Usually, people are aware if only a small fraction of their mental processes at a given time. The content of conscious or unconsciousness is a product if a selective process. What is unconscious may become preconscious and soon or later conscious. Freud himself viewed the terms conscious, preconscious, and unconscious not as dynamic forces in personality, but as the “mental provinces.” They are topographic concepts indicating the depth of the mental processes. The process that we are aware of are conscious, what we are unaware of but may easily come aware of are preconscious. What we cannot become aware of with the efforts of free association, hypnosis or psychoanalytic procedures is unconscious. Even some impulses and perceptions may become preconscious or conscious for a while, then were pushed back in the unconscious.

Freud distinguish between the conscious rejection of an impulse, often called suppression, and repression proper. In suppression, the energy put at the disposal of the impulse that is seeking to convert itself into action, has been withdrawn; the impulse has lost the load of energy attached to it and has become powerless. It survives only in our mines as a mere memory.

Repression is a powerful effort that has been put forth to prevent a given mental process from entering into the conscious as a result of which the process has remained unconscious. Repression is an act by which a mental act is either prevented from entering into preconscious and forced back in unconscious. It also describes an act by which a mental system belonging to preconscious is thrown into unconscious. Repression is a concept that combines topography and dynamics.

According to Freud, the unconscious also contains what is called laws of transformation. These are the principles that govern the process of repression and sublimation. Unconscious serves the theoretical function of making the relationship between childhood experience and adult behavior intelligible. Freud stresses the necessary connection between repression and the unconscious, and that there cannot be one with the other. “The repressed is the prototype of the unconscious for us.” (Freud, 1923, p. 353)

In An Outline of Psychoanalysis, Freud explains the tenets in which psychoanalytic theory is based. He began to explain the three forces of the physical apparatus, which are the id, the ego, and the superego. The id has the quality of being unconscious and contains everything that is inherited, everything that is present at birth, and the instincts. (Freud , 1949, p. 14) The ego has the quality of being conscious and is responsible for controlling the demands of the id and of the instinct, becoming aware of stimuli, and serving as a link between the id and the external world. In addition, the ego responds to stimulation by either adaptation or flight, regulates activity, and strives to achieve pleasure and avoid unpleasure. (Freud, 1949, p. 14 -15) Finally, the superego, whose demands are managed by the id, is responsible for the limitation of satisfactions and represents the influences of others, such as parents, teachers, and role models, as well as the impact of racial, societal, and cultural traditions. ( Freud, 1949, p. 15)

Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are famous psychoanalysis with unique approaches to personality. At one point they shared many of the same theories and had a deep friendship. In fact, Jung was to be heir to Freud’s position as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association. However, Jung developed several new theories and disagreements with Freud. After years of friendship the pair parted in 1913. There were three main areas of personality which Jung disagreed with Freud on the role of sexuality, temporal forces that influence personality, and the unconscious.

The role of sexuality in personality differed greatly in Freud and Jung’s theories. Freud felt that sex was the single most important force that shaped and guided personality. His preoccupation with sex may have developed from his own personal experiences with it. As a child, Freud developed a sexual attachment to his mother. Through this experience Freud developed the Oedipus complex which is a boy’s longing for his mother and desire to replace his father in the phallic stage of development. Furthermore, Freud believed that sex was the basis of most emotional problems. He felt that a normal, healthy sex life was essential to emotional happiness. It is odd, however, that Freud based so much importance in sex when his sex life was very unsatisfactory. Freud became resentful after his wife terminated their sexual relationship due to poor birth control. Freud felt that libido was the form of psychic energy that motivates a person to seek out pleasure. He also felt that our stages of development were guided by impulses of the id; the pleasure seeking part of personality. In analyzing dreams, Freud interpreted most symbols in a sexual manner.

On the other hand, Jung was not so preoccupied with sex in his theories. Jung’s childhood and personal development may explain his feelings on sex as part of personality. Jung never developed any sort of sexual longing for his mother and was actually repulsed by her unattractiveness and mental instability. Furthermore, Jung had a healthy and satisfying sex life devoid of Freud’s disappointments and frustrations. Jung felt that libido had a broader meaning than Freud’s definition. He defined libido in two ways: as a general life energy, and as a psychic energy that fuels the personality. Unlike Freud, Jung felt that libido was not primarily a sexual energy but a more generalized psychic energy. In analyzing dreams Jung did not look for sexual symbolism, but instead looked for relationships to types of dreams and the dreamer’s archetype.

The direction of the forces that influence personality was another disagreement between Jung and Freud. Freud believed that personality was developed and set in stone by age five. In this theory we are more or less slaves to the past, what happened in childhood determines your personality for life. On the other hand, Jung believed that the future and the past are important. Personality is shaped by events that happened in the past and by what we hope to do in our future.

Freud and Jung also had different opinions about the role of the unconscious. Freud felt the unconscious was very important and defined it as a deep hidden part of personality beneath the reality of the conscious. The unconscious is the uncontrolled home to the instincts which motivate us to behave in a certain manner. Jung placed more emphasis on the unconscious than Freud and even added a new dimension to it. Therefore, in Jung’s system there is a personal and a collective unconscious. The personal unconscious contains memories which have been forgotten by us because they were inconsequential or unpleasant. The collective unconscious is deeper and less accessible than the personal unconscious. It contains inherited experiences of human and prehuman species. These experiences are universal ones which happen to most people at sometime in their lives. For example, when we are born we assume that our mothers will act in a caring and supportive way. Jung associated ideas from anthropology, history, and religion to form his theory on the collective unconscious.

There are many more differences and similarities between Freud and Jung. However, these three aspects created the most distance between the two men and eventually led to the end of their relationship. Both Jung and Freud’s theories have been important and beneficial to understanding personality.

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