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The unconscious mind can be used to explain human behaviour and personalityю Freud coined the term psychoanalysis and published his theory in 1896 which focused on the treatment of neurotic disorder by bringing unconscious conflicts into the conscious awareness. Unconscious determinism states that our unconscious is not a passive receiver of life events but actually a dynamic entity that can influence our consciousness. Knight (1946) observed that often our actions may indicate an operation of free will however upon analysis these decisions are based on unconscious determinism, factors outside of our conscious awareness exerting influence. As the unconscious acts as a locus of control, psychotherapy’s aim is to resolve the unconscious conflicts the patient is experiencing by making them conscious in order to move on in life.
Freud highlighted the importance of childhood experiences in the shaping of adult personalities, if a child is shamed for being naturally curious this can resonate in the unconscious mind, these conflictions can result in unhealthy adult relationships. In psychoanalysis there was a shift, it was recognised that childhood was significant, but it didn’t determine an adult’s personality but merely influenced it. In psychoanalysis they recognise that it doesn’t have to be a specific traumatic event to influence a child but if a child doesn’t engage with the negative emotions they feel and allow them to fester in the unconscious mind then they will feel conflicted and imbalanced. Symington (1986) notes that therapy attempts to understand manifest behaviours but in terms of the individual’s inner conflicts, therapy aims to restore the imbalance back to its equilibrium.
The unconscious can be seen as timeless, unlike the conscious mind it doesn’t register time and identifies all life events that impact someone to be relevant. In psychotherapy they will not simply focus on the patients present life but on their life as a whole, even the things that did not happen or have been forgotten, this links back to how childhood is seen as important as often the patient will be dealing with things that happened previously that were repressed and forgotten but are still exerting influence in their conscious life. Defence mechanisms are unconscious psychological mechanisms used in order to survive and protect, they too lack a sense of time and can become a hinderance by stopping people from fulfilling their lives. Ryckman (2003) identified repression as the ego’s attempt to stop the id’s impulses reaching conscious level, this would be carried out unknowingly and psychotherapy’s aim is not to remove defence mechanisms but moderate them. By channelling the unconscious and working together to stop the patient from using them when the threat is no longer apparent, the inner conflict and equilibrium will be restored.
Freud (1899) described dreams as the ‘royal road’ to the unconscious mind, it is thought that our deepest desires are weak when we are conscious and awake.
Whilst sleeping our repressed desires manifest themselves in symbols. During psychotherapy the therapist will help the patient to explore their dreams, the desires are not merely displayed but concealed in complex codes and structures. The unconscious is often described as symbolic, Ryckman (2003) explained that Freud’s explanations of dreams were almost always sexual in nature, this is where Jung disagreed, Jung viewed dreaming processes as purposeful with its goal to be synthesizing experiences into images in a meaningful and ingenious way, assisting with individual development. Jung (1978) believed that the personal unconscious was the top layer of a much deeper collective unconscious, it is here that the archetypes – cognitive categories and predispositions – are stored. Jung argued that archetypes are not equated with symbols but manifested symbols, the interpretation of dreams was less prevalent in Jung’s theories however, dreams work to integrate our conscious and unconscious lives through the process of individuation.
The unconscious often tries to interrupt logic and reveal itself; it can do this through parapraxis. Repressed material can find its way through unintended actions as well as slips of the tongue and pen. Psychotherapy focuses on the fact we do not make mistakes, there is intended meaning behind all actions, actions that we carry out but also those we do not. These mistakes are how the unconscious mind becomes known to us and therefore acts as a basis for therapy. The unconscious mind can be characterised by the Thrill of Repetition, the unconscious wants to resolve situations but is stuck in conscious life, this results in people repeating the same actions whilst hoping for a different outcome. This can be extremely toxic especially in situations of abuse whereby the person is unable to make the link between a previous trauma and their current situation, this is often because the patient’s ego is not strong enough to acknowledge childhood trauma and their own destructive seeking behaviour. Psychotherapy establishes the ‘unknown thought’. The therapist is able to shed light on something the patient has always known but has never thought, no new information is proposed but upon reflection the patient is able to make clear distinctions between past events and current situations.
The concept of the unconscious mind to me is the most interesting, I feel as though I have spent an embarrassing amount of time reading book extracts and watching videos in an attempt to fully grasp the concept and I’m not sure I even have. I first learnt about Freud at GCSE level, his complexes seemed so foreign and borderline absurd, but I enjoy the fact he has returned, and I am at a level where I can spend my own time looking into his theories. The psyche tripartite theory resonated with me; I feel able to apply it to my own thoughts and urges whilst noticing how I internally restore balance between the three. Whilst watching ‘Fight Club’, a book written by Chuck Phalaniuk and directed by David Fincher I believed it could be interpreted as a representation of the id, ego and superego. If you haven’t had the chance to watch it; it’s based around an insomniac office-worker who is displeased with his material life, this all changes when his flat explodes which acts as a catalyst for the change in his lifestyle, he forms an underground fight club with Tyler, a devil-may-care salesman.
Throughout the film Tyler and the narrator are depicted as two separate people however, they are two separate personas of the same person, it appears Tyler has dissociative identity disorder as screenplay Tyler is merely in his head. The psyche tripartite would be; the office-worker narrator representing the ego, Tyler representing his id and Marla embodying his superego. I identified the superego as Marla as the narrator attended terminal illness support groups and used them as a means of catharsis, by weeping with the patients he felt a release that enabled him to sleep at night, this was challenged by the presence of Marla, who herself was also not ill. Marla acts as a superego and therefore on the morality principle as she introduces feelings of guilt by reminding him, he is not ill, he remains deeply unhappy whilst suppressing his id.
The narrators lack of id is evident through his mundane law-abiding lifestyle, with a high sense of superego he is unable to satisfy his id, the narrator forms the alternate persona of Tyler who connects with his id without any sense of ego or superego. Tyler is free from restrictions and lacks moral standard, acting as his own judge by not following what is socially acceptable, he takes no consideration of others or society unlike the narrator. Tyler’s purpose in the film is to lure the narrator, to show the ego that listening to your id can result in happiness, in an exchange between the two Tyler explains when you lose everything that’s when you’re truly free to do anything. I interpreted this as if you lost your reality and moral principle then you are free to fulfil your instinct principle and therefore cravings. In reality, by not possessing a sense of ego a person would be uncontrollable like Tyler, this imbalance poses a threat to society, someone who has no sense of shame or consequence would commit felonies, in the film this can be seen when the narrator loses his sense of ego by transforming the fight club into ‘Project Mayhem’.
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