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Freud believed that most of human anxiety resided in the unconscious mind. Thus, the royal road to understanding the self and its anxiety is through the unconscious mind. The doctoral learner needs to be aware of this notion as it is the cornerstone for Freud's development of talk theory, a technique still used in psychotherapy.

  1. Analyze the relationship between the unconscious mind and personal growth.
  2. Evaluate the modern-day use of techniques for accessing the unconscious mind.

The importance of the unconscious mind in psychoanalysis

The external information that comes from outside supports the person's already existing image of the world and himself; he lives in harmony with himself. The coincidence of the ideal conception of oneself with the real determines the spiritual well-being of a person. But here there was a discrepancy; there is an internal tension that forces to change either ideal or real representations, or not to perceive information that leads to an imbalance of ideas. At the same time, the censoring authority, capable of creating protective mechanisms, invades the process. Forming protection serves as a fence of consciousness from information that can destroy purposeful thinking built by the world's cash model. After all, the goal, which organizes thinking and behavior, is determined by the acquired values, and the incoming information can require serious corrections of these values ??and even the entire hierarchy as a whole. It is in this respect that psychological protection can be viewed as a system of personality stabilization, manifested in eliminating or minimizing the negative emotions, feelings of anxiety arising from the critical disagreement of the world picture with new information (Abel-Hirsch, 2016).

There is a notion that psychoanalysis is primarily a doctrine of the unconscious, and Freud is a scientist and doctor who first discovered the sphere of the unconscious and thereby committed the Copernican revolution in science and medicine. Such a representation, reflected primarily in ordinary consciousness, is widespread, but very far from the true state of things.

The fact that Freud's teaching about the unconscious is an important, integral part of psychoanalysis is unquestionable (Perera, 2013). But psychoanalysis is not limited only to this teaching. The fact that Freud attached special importance to the study of unconscious processes occurring in the depths of the human psyche is also no less indisputable. But he is not the pioneer of the sphere of the unconscious, as it is sometimes believed by inexperienced in the history of psychoanalysis, researchers or orthodox psychoanalysts trying to defend Freud's priority in this field (Doyen, Klein, Pichon & Cleeremans, 2012).

In some works devoted to the disclosure of ideas and concepts of psychoanalysis and published both in our country and abroad, it is convincingly shown that the palm of primacy in posing the problem of the unconscious does not belong to Freud. There are studies, the authors of which specifically considered the history of the treatment of scientists to the problems of the unconscious, illuminating it on the psychological, philosophical and natural-science material.

External information and its impact on personality

In the second half of the 19 century, the idea of ??unconscious human activity, they say, was carried in the air. As the English researcher, L. White showed, in the period from 1872 to 1880, at least six scientific publications appeared in English, French and German, the name of which was the term "unconscious." However, until 1872 there were works in the title of which this term appeared. A typical example was the voluminous work of the German philosopher Edward von Hartmann, The Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869), where it was emphasized that grief is to that person who, by exaggerating the value of the conscious-reasonable and wishing to exclusively uphold its meani19ng, forcibly suppresses the unconscious (Elzer, [Ed], & Gerlach, [Ed 2014).

Dedicated to the problematic unconscious work of Hartmann was significantly different from the works of other thinkers, in which, although they contained ideas about the unconscious, they nevertheless did not receive a detailed justification (Perera, 2013). The German philosopher not only thoroughly discussed the problems of the unconscious, recognized unconscious for undoubted value for understanding human deeds, but also tried to consider the pros and cons that it includes.

Putting forth arguments in favor of recognizing the unconscious, Hartmann noted the following advantages, which, in his opinion, to determine the value of the unconscious.

First, the unconscious forms the body and supports its life.

Secondly, as an instinct, the unconscious serves the purpose of the self-preservation of the human being as such (Doyen, Klein, Pichon & Cleeremans, 2012).

Thirdly, thanks to sexual attraction and maternal love, the unconscious not only maintains and maintains human nature but also ennobles it in the course of the history of the development of the human race.

Fourthly, as a kind of premonition, the unconscious man manages, especially when his mind is not in a position to give any useful advice.

Fifth, being an integral element of any inspiration, it promotes the realization of the process of cognition and favors the revelation to which people sometimes come.

Sixthly, the unconscious is a stimulus for artistic creativity and gives a person pleasure in contemplating the beautiful.

Along with the undoubted advantages, Hartmann drew attention to those obvious drawbacks, which, in his opinion, are characteristic of the unconscious (Perera, 2013). First of all, guided by the unconscious, a person always wanders in the dark, not knowing where it will lead him. Also, being under the influence of the unconscious, a person almost always depends on the case, because he does not know in advance whether inspiration will come to him or not. In fact, there are no reliable criteria for identifying inspiration, because only by the results of human activity can one judge their true value (Elzer, [Ed], & Gerlach, [Ed 2014).

Freud's contribution to the understanding of the unconscious mind

To this, we should add that, unlike consciousness, the unconscious appears to be something unknown, vague, and alien. Consciousness is a faithful servant, while the unconscious includes something terrible, demonic. Conscious work can be proud; the unconscious activity can be perceived as a kind of divine gift (Samuels, 1983). The unconscious is always pre-prepared, while the consciousness can be changed depending on the acquired knowledge and social conditions of life. Unconscious activity leads to uncompromising ready-made results, the results of conscious activity can continue to work, improve, and improve in their skills and abilities. Finally, man's unconscious activity depends entirely on his affections, passions, and interests, while conscious activity is carried out by his will and mind and, consequently, this activity can be oriented in the direction necessary for him (Feist, Feist, & Roberts, 2015).

A dream is a kind of substitution, where (as in substitution) there is a reorientation - the transfer of the inaccessible action to another plan - from the real into the world of dreams. Actions that have a substitutive character unfold in the plot of the dream and are constructed in the process of human contact with their past. Explain the specifics of this type of protection; we start with some examples. Thus, in individuals who do not lead a regular sexual life, sexual dreams are registered 2-3 times more often than in family ones. Unmarried women often experience dreams of marriage or conjugal life in dreams. Persons with an orientation to social success realize in dreams the attainment of the desired position. Long-suffering people see the subjects of recovery. The acute state of hunger causes dreams related to eating.

The most clearly reorientation is found in the dreams of children. Let us turn to examples from the collection of Freud. A three-year-old girl rode in the afternoon, she liked it very much, but it seemed insufficient (Elzer, [Ed], & Gerlach, [Ed 2014). At night she dreamed and in the morning announced that she had been swimming all night on a boat on the lake. A boy of two years gave his beloved uncle a basket of cherries (Sarnoff, 1962). The cherries were delicious; he managed to eat only a little, which he regretted. In the morning he woke up with a joyful message: "Herman (i.e., he) ate all the cherries!

Freud refers to the work of dreams as the transformation of concepts and states (which are invisible by nature) into visual images. The purpose of this translation of concepts and emotions into images is the encoding of the true meaning of motives and the transformation of hidden desires into an innocent content of explicit content. Analyzing dreams, Freud divided them into three groups. To the first, he related dreams, where repressed desires appear unmasked. Such dreams are typical for children (a basket with cherries). The second group includes those where repressed wishes are found in the plot of a dream, but in a disguised form. The third group combines dreams with insufficient camouflage when a deficit of disguise is revealed in feelings of fear that can persist even after awakening (Waldmann, 2000).

The history of the treatment of scientists on the unconscious mind

An example of the manifestation in the plot of a dream in the insufficiently masked form of the unfulfilled desire of life - bright and colorful - is described in MM Kotsiubinsky's "Dream." "Something cloudy settled on my heart. It began at home, and ended here, in colorless city boredom, like a long rusty chain ... In the morning ... he listened to the dreams' wives, prosaic and boring, like reality, hastily drunk tea at a table covered with bread crumbs, with traces of wet glasses and utensils, left there from dinner, and hurried to the service, accompanied by an unkempt wife in an old robe and so day after day (Yu, 2011). And then one day he saw a dream about a distant, almost exotically beautiful country, where he met a woman sensitive to beauty, without words understanding his longing for the beautiful (Feist, Feist, & Roberts, 2015).

Displacement is the replacement in the dream of a desire or object that is not overlooked by censorship, to others associated with the masked, less disturbing and therefore overlooked. The images that appear in the dream create through, associations and allusion to the absent inaccessible desires. So, in the first time after the death of the mother, there is often a conflict between the passionate desire to see the mother, even in a dream and traumatic ideas about her death. This conflict is resolved with the help of bias, and in the dream does not appear the very image of the mother, but many of her favorite things or anything else associated with it by association (Figlio, 2017).

Masking in dreams are associated with the use of special symbols. Fromm distinguishes three types of such symbols: conditional, random and universal. The conditional is mediated socially. They arose as a result of an agreement, and they are characterized by a lack of a deep connection between the symbol itself and what it means. Random characters are subjectively related to any situation only for this person. Universal - is characterized by the deep objective closeness of the symbol with the objects and phenomena that it designates, and in this sense, they are common to all people (Figure 12).

In psychoanalysis, there are three types of anxiety: realistic, neurotic and moral. The first is caused by real dangers (for example, from the enemy, predatory animals), the second is the danger that the ego can not cope with the impulses of id (for example, with sexual or aggressive desires), the third is the threat of ego punishment from the side of super-ego (for example, When it seeks to commit immoral acts actively or express immoral thoughts). Protective mechanisms protect a person from excessive anxiety (?echowski, 2017).

The advantages and drawbacks of the unconscious mind

Let us consider the basic defensive mechanisms of the ego, identified by Freud:

  1. a) Repression (or "motivated forgetting") - is manifested in the removal from the consciousness of thoughts and feelings that cause suffering (Glucksman, 2016). As a result of displacement, a person does not realize his conflicts causing anxiety, and also does not remember the unpleasant details of the psycho-traumatic events that have occurred (Van Voorhis et al., 2014).

Repressed memories, thoughts, and impulses retain their energy potential in the unconscious, and a constant waste of psychic energy is required to prevent their breakthrough into consciousness. However, the repressed material breaks into intellectual activity in the form of dreams, reservations, notes, unexpected forgetting of any information, etc. These breakthroughs Freud called "the psychopathology of everyday life." Repressed can also contribute to the emergence of various diseases (e.g., peptic ulcer, impotence or frigidity);

  1. b) Projection - is manifested in the fact that the individual ascribes his unacceptable thoughts, feelings, and behavior toward other people or the environment. As a result of the projection, a person blames himself for his shortcomings or misses on someone or something. One of the forms of manifestation of the projection is the phenomenon of the "scapegoat" in a particular social community (for example, Jews, "black" emigrants);  
  2. c) Substitution - manifests itself in the redirection of an instinctive impulse (for example, aggressive or sexual) from a more threatening or forbidden object to an object that is less threatening or forbidden (Pavlovic & Pavlovic, 2012). For example, not being able to express his indignation to the boss, a person unconsciously resents the behavior of relatives (Hebbrecht, 2013). In some cases, the substitution is directed by the person against himself: hostile impulses addressed to others are redirected to themselves, which causes a feeling of depression or condemnation of oneself;
  3. d) Rationalization - is manifested in the fact that a person provides inner psychological comfort, self-respect, self-respect through concealment from realizing the true motives of his actions, thoughts, and feelings. Rationalization is carried out through false arguments. For example, a person traveling on a bus without a ticket will convince himself that it is foolish to buy such expensive travel tickets at low wages. At the same time, the wage size in comparison with the wages of other passengers can be quite high;
  4. e) Regression - is manifested in the fact that a person in difficult situations for him returned to the modes of behavior characteristic of earlier periods of his development and contributed to achieving the goals desired in the past (Lorentzen, 1996). For example, adults who have penetrated into someone else's apartment and are caught in the act of crime can childishly ask them to let go and promise that they will not do it anymore;  
  5. g) Sublimation - is manifested in the fact that a person expresses socially unacceptable or unrealizable instinctual desires in the forms of behavior that are more acceptable to society and him or are possible in the current situation (Johansson, 2007). For example, a woman with strong unconscious sadistic inclinations can become a surgeon; a man who has great libidinal energy can become an artist depicting naked women on his canvases. According to Freud, sublimation contributed to great achievements in science, art and social life;
  6. h) Negation - manifests itself in the fact that psycho-traumatic information for a person is not allowed into consciousness. So, the mother does not admit the thought that her son was killed in the war, although witnesses to the death say this; the patient does not believe in early death from a chronic illness, despite the diagnoses of the doctors.  
  7. i) intellectualization is manifested in the fact that instead of directly experiencing a vital event for him, the person calmly discusses and discusses what happened (for example, the cancer patient speaks calmly about the degree of probability of survival as if it were not about himself, but about another person) (Launer, 2014).
  8. j) Identification is manifested in the fact that a person identifies himself with a stronger person (hero), in particular, imitating an aggressive or friendly behavior, depending on the feelings of fear or love associated with that person (hero) (for example, children unconsciously identify themselves with a more successful cartoon character and copy his behavior in the game).


To the idea of the effectiveness of the unconscious, Freud came before the basic ideas of psychoanalysis were formulated. The experiments carried out by the French physician J. Bernheim made him think about the fact that even what is not conscious can be active and effective. Thus, Bernheim introduced a person into a hypnotic state and suggested to him that, after a time, he must necessarily perform the action about which he is told. After exiting the hypnotic state, the person did not remember anything about what was being instilled in him, but at a certain time, he made the appropriate action. At the same time, he did not understand at all why and why he was doing something. As soon as he was asked why he, for example, opens the umbrella, how immediately the person found various explanations, although they did not correspond to reality and did not justify its effect. If, according to Freud, the unconscious psychic itself is active, how then should we treat the traditional notions of consciousness as a specific sign of a human being? And what, then, is the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious? Freud could not ignore these questions and tried to answer them in his way.

When a person has internal difficulties, he is looking for a way out of the situation - he is trying to organize activities aimed at the real change of the experienced situation. If this fails, one of the types of protection turns on, replaces what the dream symbols desire, and thereby, to some extent, alleviates the burden of mental overload.

There are other protective mechanisms of the ego (for example, isolation, conversion, etc.), on which we will not dwell. The protection mechanisms described above are used by the psyche to protect against internal and external threats. All people to some extent use protective mechanisms, even though the latter in varying degrees distort the reflection of objective and subjective reality, lead us away from meeting real needs. Thus, psychoanalysis is one of the most influential directions in psychology, which has made a huge contribution to the knowledge of the unconscious mechanisms of human behavior. At the same time, orthodox psychoanalysis exaggerates the role of biological factors in the formation and development of the human psyche.


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Doyen, S., Klein, O., Pichon, C. L., & Cleeremans, A. (2012). Behavioral priming: It's all in mind, but whose mind? PLoS ONE, 7(1).

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Feist, J., Feist, G., & Roberts, T. (2015). Freud: Psychoanalysis. In Psychoanalysis (pp. 54-103) [Custom publication for Grand Canyon University]. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Available from

Figlio, K. (2017). The Mentality of Conviction: Feeling Certain and the Search for Truth. In The Feeling of Certainty (pp. 11–30).

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Pavlovic, R. Y., & Pavlovic, A. M. (2012). Dostoevsky and psychoanalysis: The Eternal Husband (1870) by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881). British Journal of Psychiatry, 200(03), 181.

Perera, S. B. (2013). Circling, Dreaming, Aging. Psychological Perspectives, 56(2), 137–148.

Samuels, A. (1983). The theory of archetypes in Jungian and post-Jungian analytical psychology. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10(4), 429–444. Retrieved from

Sarnoff, I. (1962). The mechanisms of ego defense: III. Rationalization, compartmentalization, projection, displacement, sublimation, reaction formation, regression, and transference. Personality dynamics and development (pp. 228–277).

Van Voorhis, P., Salisbury, E. J., Van Voorhis, P., & Salisbury, E. J. (2014). Chapter 3 – Psychoanalytic Therapy. In Correctional Counseling and Rehabilitation (pp. 47–66).

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?echowski, C. (2017). Theory of drives and emotions – from Sigmund Freud to Jaak Panksepp. Psychiatria Polska, 51(6), 1181–1189. 12740/PP/61781

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