Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/366

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

working; for it is a peculiarity of such split-off complexes that they may cause all sorts of conscious disturbances, though the patient himself has forgotten all about the event which started the disturbances, or sees no connection between it and the disturbances which it has set up. Here, for instance, is a young German girl (the classic case of Anna 0. reported by Breuer and Freud), well educated, knowing some English, yet not using it as fluently as German. At a certain period in her life she suddenly becomes unable to speak or read her mother-tongue, and is obliged to use English altogether. Finally, in a hypnoidal state, she remembers that, once while she was watching by the bedside of her father, she was frightened by a sudden hallucination. Terrified, she tried to pray, but all that came into her mind were the words of an old English nursery rhyme. The shock, and her manner of reaction to it, caused her to forget her German, and to retain only the English, which had come to her aid at this critical period. There was no connection in her mind between the shock and the disturbances which it had left behind, yet the association, though not a conscious one, had been set up somewhere, somehow.

But all this is abnormal. We do not have to go so far afield to see instances of the same mysterious workings. Who of us has not had the experience of giving up a knotty point in despair for the time, to come back to it and find that our ideas had somehow fallen into place, had apparently worked themselves over without our help. Or how often a name that we have tried unsuccessfully to recall pops into our mind in the midst of some other train of thought. In such cases we have not been dealing with conscious activities as we know them. What has been the process? What has been going on?

It is such considerations as these that have led to the building up of theories of unconscious action, which fill out the gaps in our conscious life. By unconscious action we understand action which goes on without our being aware of it, and yet which seems intelligent, adapted to a purpose. In short, it is activity which it is hard to differentiate from conscious action, except in its lack of this very property of awareness. Most psychologists to-day admit that activities which are more or less like conscious activities go on under the threshold of consciousness; but the orthodox psychological explanation is that they are mere physiological activities, complex changes in the neurones, and that there is nothing mental about them. The brain itself is so complex, they say, that there is no need of supposing that we really think and feel unconsciously, all that occurs is a change in physiological arrangement. The mental and the conscious are co-extensive terms. On the other hand, those who have dealt most with the abnormal phenomena, and are less at home in the field of pure psychology, see in such con" Bcious activities something mental as well. The phenomena are so