Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/373

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FREUD'S THEORIES OF THE UNCONSCIOUS

behind the scenes. Most things that we think we do from conscious motives, most of the thoughts that come into our minds, are but the surrogates and the symbols for the processes that go on beneath the threshold. Ideas are so censored before they get admission to consciousness that we have often little notion of their real nature, and can only wonder that the apparently meaningless idea should haunt us so.

If these conclusions are substantiated, we seem to have a new light shed on the old question of the unconscious. It becomes for us the most real part of ourselves; the expression of our deepest tendencies. It is a realm far larger and far deeper than consciousness; it holds secrets that we thought lost forever. The psychologist would explain the unconscious from the nature of consciousness; Freud, on the other hand, explains consciousness from the nature and function of the unconscious.

The assertion that much of our thinking is symbolic in its nature, due to the fact that it serves as a sort of safety-valve for the escape of our repressed complexes, is of course a problem which can never be solved by appeal to consciousness alone. And it is so with most of the other positions which Freud has taken; we are following pathways where introspection is no guide. Thus he would have us shift the emphasis in psychology from a study of consciousness over to a study of the unconscious. Consciousness, for him, is but the surface; it is in the depths below consciousnes that true reality is found.

We may then sum up the contribution which Freud has made to the psychology of the unconscious as follows: he has supposed that the unconscious consists of two streams of tendencies, or energy, one stream striving to revive all the time experiences which would be repugnant to us, and which we have outgrown, and the other striving to check the revival of such tendencies. As a result of this conflict, we have introduced into our thoughts and acts, especially in conditions when barriers are somewhat down (as in dreams, lapses, neuroses, reveries), a vast deal of the symbolic and the indirect methods of presentation.

Now is such activity as we have been considering mental in its nature—are the unconscious associations and connections of which we have been speaking really associations and thoughts that go on underneath the surface? Or are we dealing with a very complex degree of nervous activity, and with that alone? Freud nowhere states his own position definitely, though it is perhaps too easy to accuse him of leanings toward the mental interpretation. What he has done is rather to open up new lines of approach to the problem, to give us a consistent and closely reasoned interpretation of observed facts. Psychologists are beginning to recognize that, right or wrong, he must be reckoned with. He has given a stimulus to work along this line that may go a long way toward the ultimate solution of some of our baffling psychological problems.