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21. Сознание, бессознательное и понятие вытеснения Я. Роллинс (Consciousness, Unconsciousness and the Concept of Repression. Nancy Rollins)

21. Consciousness, Unconsciousness and the Concept of Repression. Nancy Rollins

(Submitted to the Symposium on the study of the unconscious sponsored by the D. N. Uznadze Institute of Psychology, Tbilisi, Georgia, USSR, 1978)

Children's Hospital Medical Center, Boston; Harvard Medical School, USA


The experience of viewing one's own professional field in a new perspective is always challenging, and occasionally may lead to real growth in understanding. This opportunity came to me through my exposure to Soviet psychiatry and psychology. Starting in 1966, I have made personal observations in the USSR and have reviewed some of the relevant literature. I became convinced that more dialogue was desirable between American and Soviet colleagues. Several publications at home have been devoted to familiarizing English-speaking professional audiences with Soviet theory and practice (12-17). This symposium seemed to me an excellent opportunity to share my reactions to one aspect of the Russian experience with a Soviet audience, and hopefully to stimulate dialogue. On my visit to the Soviet Union in 1972, I was pleased to learn that the realm of the unconscious in mental activity had become increasingly the subject of inquiry to Soviet colleagues. My reactions to the Soviet approach to the unconscious are offered in the following sections of this presentation. After evaluating Soviet criticism of psychoanalytic concepts, I hope to show that the Freudian andJJznadze schools of thought share significant common concepts. Some positive Soviet contributions are then discussed. Finally, I offer tentatively some personal contributions stimulated by my Soviet experience.

Linguistic and Semantic Problems

Some semantic and linguistic problems must first be considered before exploring areas of substantive agreement and disagreement. The notion of "unconscious experience" appears absurd to some Soviet psychologists who ask, how can one experience that which one does not know? One Soviet position is that unconscious experience does not exist (4, p. 245). But something is registered which leaves an unconscious trace. If one accepts Sherozia's analogy of a landscape photographed on film which has not yet been developed (4, p. 261), the paradox is only at the semantic level. The unconscious seen in this way is the bearer of potential psychic activity. This concept avoids the topographical aspects of Freudian theory, making the systems cs (conscious), pes (preconscious), and ucs (unconscious) spatial regions in the "mental apparatus": if an idea is not "here" in cs, it must be "there" in pes or ucs. To avoid confusion, future use of symbols cs, pes, or ucs refers only to the Freudian concepts.

F. V. Bassin drew a distinction between unconsciously regulated adaptive behavior, designated "unconscious forms of higher nervous activity", which never enter the psychic realm, and "unconscious psychic activity", the term he reserved for that which is represented in experience: "neоsоznavaemoy form у vysshei nervnoi deyatelnosti", and "neosoznavaemoy fоrmу psiкhiкi". (1, fn, p. 167).

In view of S. L. Rubinshtein, "unconscious feeling" is possible, but this is not feeling which is not experienced: "Any psychic phenomenon can be completely outside consciousness. However, not conscious 'unconscious' experience is impossible. This certainly is not experience which we are unaware of experiencing. It is experience in which the object evoking it is not conscious". (Quoted by Sherozia, 4, p. 292).

A. N. Leontyev developed the concept of the "unpresented" ( neprezentirovannoe), to account for many of the phenomena of the unconscious: "The subjective image of reality stimulating and regulating the activity of the subject may not simultaneously be presented to him. This realm of the 'unpresented' in the psychic activity of the human being is very broad..." (quoted by Sherozia, 4, p. 295). Any psychology is useless which limits itself to conscious experience, the data of introspection.

For E.V. Shorokhova, consciousness and unconsciousness are not separate psychic systems but "qualities of reflection of the human being", applying to conditional reflexes (quoted by Sherozia, 4, 298). Shorokhova saw the need for a Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the fact that a person is frequently unaware of his inclinations or of the motives for his behavior; nor does he understand his activity as a member of society. Sherozia added that if one moves from considering unconscious experiences to considering the cause of our experiences, much of the argument with Freud would be limited, since the argument is concerned with unconscious experience, not with unconscious reasons and motivation. Sherozia says, beyond the limits of consciousness is the tremendous storehouse of the memory of the brain, as experiments with hyponosis show. He notes that there has been little Soviet study of how these traces exist and what relation they have to consciousness.

Bassin compared his own definition of unconscious psychic activity with that of the psychoanalyst, Leopold Bellak. Having defined unconscious psychic activity as the processing of information and the regulation of adaptive behavior through the formation of sets, Bassin considered whether he was talking about the same thing which psychoanalysts mean by the unconscious. Bellak, in his presentation, distinguished three types of unconscious (7, pp. 1070-1072). The first, the physiological unconscious, refers to the nervous regulation of vegetative functions, with no psychic representation. These processes cannot become accessible to consciousness. The second is the configu-rational (strukturnoe) unconscious: "Unawareness of the blending of one experience into others to form agesta1t... predicated upon neuronal interaction and integration; as such, this process is not of a symbolic nature and, for the most part, is not accessible to consciousness or insight..." (7, p. 1071). The configurational unconscious, according to Bellak, included the automatization of learned activity (which would correspond to Leontyev's "unpresented"), but a great deal more as well: the processes which underlie the formation of a gestalt, the establishment of a figure-ground relationship. The third is the "dynamic" unconscious, conceived by Bellak as a continuum of poorly to clearly perceived experience (7, p. 1067). The dynamic unconscious has various relationships to consciousness: some drives, feelings, and perceptions, previously conscious, may have become unconscious; others, unconscious, may press for conscious expression (7, p. 1075). In short, the dynamic unconscious embodies the concept of repression, so controversial from the Soviet point of view. More will be said about this later. Here suffice it to note that Bassin thought set theory is concerned with both the dynamic and the configurational unconscious. Since the meaning of the external situation is important in the formation of sets (1, p. 266), set is not purely a physiological concept. He pointed out the bridge between affect and symptom, between intentional and unintentional acts, must include the configurational aspect of the unconscious as well as the dynamic aspect (1, p. 254). By inference, Bassin accepted the existence of a dynamic unconscious but rejected what he termed the idealistic error of psychoanalytic theory in being one-sided, exaggerating the importance of the dynamic unconscious to the exclusion of the neurophysiological substratum.

Finally, the controversy about whether set can be conscious or is always unconscious may be purely a matter of semantics. Bassin and others have criticized Uznadze's claim that a set cannot under any circumstances become conscious. But to say set is and must remain unconscious is not to say one cannot realize (poznavat) that one has a set. A subject can know about himself through intellectual activity. I can realize the content of a given set in myself without being able to experience it as it operates, or as a trace which can be reactivated. In English, jthe words consciousness and awareness do not distinguish between osoznanie and soznanie. If I grasp the distinction correctly, osoznanie means awareness of an experiencing subject of an object external to himself, and a split between I" and "Not-I", in the sense of Rubinshtein's definition. This could be called the awareness of experience. Soznanie, on the other hand, is consciousness as direct experience (4, pp. 303-304). This could be called the experience of awareness. To return to the example of set, its contents can be known but the nervous processes underlying its operation can never enter experience.

Soviet Criticisms of Psychoanalytic Concepts

Soviet criticisms of psychoanalytic concepts can be grouped for the purpose of this discussion into three categories, underscoring their diverse nature and the different levels which they represent. In the first category are the philosophical objections which touch on such fundamental issues as types of determinism, monism versus dualism, epistemology, the nature of self-knowledge and knowledge of that which is outside of consciousness. These objections in my opinion must be taken seriously. The second category includes a group of psychological considerations which I find not so well justified. The third category is the relationship of scientific theory to the socio-historical process. It is in this area where I believe the most serious conflicts between Soviet and western thought lie. In reviewing Soviet work, I repeatedly found myself agreeing in principle, but feeling that a given position was heuristically untenable at our present stage of knowledge and scientific development. This was particularly true of the philosophical objections.

The first of these is the Soviet insistence on complete objectivity, and the rejection of psychoanalytic concepts because they are intuitive and formulated in terms of untestable hypothesis. The rejection of intuition and reasoning by analogy are ideals striven for but attained neither in psychoanalytic theory nor in Soviet set theory nor in cybernetic theory. Uznadze, at the beginning of his long, productive career, had an intuitive understanding that vast important areas of human psychic life lay beyond the boundaries of consciousness. The strict adherence to objectivity in the Pavlovian era led to a reductionistic focus on higher nervous activity. In the Uznadze school, it resulted in an excessive emphasis on set experiments with the perceptual illusions. In both cases, there was a sacrifice. The whole human being in all of his richness and diversity was lost. The Marxist-Leninist world-view, conditioning theory, modern neurophysiology, cybernetics and set theory do not succeed any more than psychoanalysis in closing the gap between higher nervous activity and psychic functioning (as my teacher, Felix Deutsch put it, "the mysterious leap from mind to body"). Bassin admitted the neurophysiological basis for the distinction between conscious and unconscious mental activity was not yet established. The Soviet decision to postpone correlation of psychic functions with modern neurophysiological concepts in favor of the heuristic approach of focussing on abstract information theory reminds me of Freud's decision to shift attention away from nervous activity, as elaborated in the "Scientific Project" to the study of the subjective, introspective factor and the construction of a theory of the mental apparatus (10). If Freud's decision led to the error of idealism, why doesn't the study of information processing, divorced from the structures that give rise to it, lead to the same error?

Closely connected with the objection on grounds of ruling out intuition is the Soviet criticism that Freudian theory is teleological and anthropomorphic, and the metapsychology is only a myth. The Freudian systems, cs, pes, and ucs, they say, are personified, endowed with human characteristics, as if each were a whole person. Ucs is portrayed as an unruly savage, threatening to inundate the more socialized cs with primitive, amoral impulses of violence and sexuality. I agree in principle that science should avoid reasoning by analogy and the construction of myths. But science constructs models, one succeeding the other, hopefully each one approaching "objective reality" more accurately than the last. In this sense, a myth is not a falsehood; it is merely a working model of reality, and to say we don't need the latter is to fool ourselves. The cybernetic model of the brain as a computer is one modern myth. Why not simply acknowledge our need for myths in the form of scientific models and realize that they are "as if constructs", useful temporarily at a given point in the socio-historical development of knowledge? Reasoning by analogy is essential to scientific progress. What is dangerous is to be unaware that one is doing it.

The third philosophical criticism is concerned with the problem of determinism of psychic activity. This discussion summarizes the presentation of A.E. Sherozia who, in a study of the unconscious from a philosophical frame of reference, contrasted theories of Freud with those of some Soviet psychologists (4, pp. 130-139). He said the basic reason for the inconsistency of Freud's theories was the absence of the principle of objective determinism of psychic activity. Strictly speaking, he granted that Freud was correct in concluding that there was no causal connection between the brain as the physiological substratum and consciousness as an aspect of brain function because a cause must precede its effects in time. In this case, there is a unity of brain activity and consciousness. Freud's error, Sherozia claimed, was to construct a psychology ignoring the relationship between the fpsychic (ideal), and the physical (material) in general. Freud introduced the concepts of psychic determinism and universal determinism. Psychic activity causes psychic activity, and there is nothing left to random chance, even in the case of mistakes and slips. Sherozia asserted that a major reason for Freud's introduction of the concept of the unconscious was the need to solve the problem of psychic determinism. Actually, Freud introduced the concept of the unconscious because of his clinical observations, not because of philosophical considerations. He avoided philosophy in those early clinical years, when he was studying hysteria with Breuer.

To proceed with Sherozia's argument, the principle of universal determinism required the concept of psychic energy, the driving force behind unconscious impulses and tendencies seeking expression in motor acts and conscious emotions. Admittedly, psychic energy is a dubious concept, raising more questions than it answers. By denying the principle of objective determinism of psychic activity, the accepted Soviet position, Freud rejected the possibility of an objective cause of psychic reality, according to Sherozia. Freud was therefore drawn into the false position of eliminating the external environment as a basic determinant for the phenomena of consciousness. Furthermore, his exclusive use of the introspective method of free association led him to deny the principle of objective determinism of psychic activity as the subject of psychology.

For Freud, psychic activity represented a closed circle involving the systems ucs, pes, and cs. So psychic activity must cause psychic activity. Stated in this way, Sherozia succeeded in making Freud's position appear absurd, since it is obvious that psychic activity bears some relationship to objective reality outside the experiencing subject, and to what is going on inside the subject at a physiological level. Uznadze, in developing his set theory as a boundary concept between the psychic and the physical, rejected the principle of psychic determinism or of physical causality (18, p. 159). He accepted the principle of objective causality as a basis for understanding unconscious activity and psychology in general. But I believe that in many instances one psychic state determines the next one, and frequently a psychic state causes a physical change in the body (and vice versa). So this position does not correspond to the facts as I see them. However, when Freud made the decision to ignore the physiological substratum, he in effect constructed a psychology disembodied from the material ground. This is de facto dualism, although Freud preached monism, and dualism leads to what Soviet thinkers call the error of idealism. I find this argument impossible to refute, but I believe Freud was by no means insensitive to the danger.

If I understand the Soviet position, which tends to be unified and consistent about monism and determinism, Lenin's much-quoted statement about idealism is a key concept. He said that idealism is a distortion or overgrowth of one aspect of absolute reality. The philosophical positions of psychophysical parallelism, psychophysical dualism, and the existential assertion that the material is a product of the spiritual are all rejected. The dialectical-materialist position, as summarized in an article by G.I. Tsaregorodtsev and G-Kh. Shingarov is that psychic activity is a higher form of activity of the organism, reflecting external reality (5). The activity of the nervous system and the reflection of reality coincide. The self-regulating processes of the organism are the consequences of reflection but somatic processes do not cause psychic processes. Both are a unity, determined by the relationship of the organism and the environment, in constant interaction. In this view, the organism is a self-regulating system, reflecting the external world through both somatic and psychic processes. The psychic processes reflecting reality play the role of signals in the self-regulating system, and thereby influence the somatic functions of the organism. This philosophical position is consistent with the position advocating objective determinism which Sherozia adopted in criticizing Freud's psychic determinism. But I wonder whether it is inconsistent with my own position which briefly restated asserts that the psycheinfluences the psyche, the psyche influences the soma, and the soma influences the psyche?

To turn now to the Soviet criticisms of psychoanalytic concepts of the unconscious at the psychological level, the Soviet concept of monism requires a unity of the organism and the environment. This unity insists on an emphasis on the social determinants of consciousness, character formation and behavior. Freud's stress on the biological instincts of sex, self-preservation and death is unacceptable in the Soviet view. Soviet psychologists complain that Freud eliminated social environmental determinants. This criticism overlooks the segment of psychoanalytic theory concerned with formation of the integrative, synthetic, and defensive functions of the ego, the part of the mental apparatus which mediates between the internal demands of the organism and the external world. Also ignored is the vast psychoanalytic literature on the effect of early social relationships, especially the mother-child relationship, on the development of these ego functions. Furthermore, psychoanalytic theory states that the superego is to some degree an internalization in the character structure of social values, especially as they are transmitted through the parents. Soviet critics in other contexts complain psychoanalytic theorists overemphasize the role of social factors.

A criticism which in my view is more defensible is that Freud failed to recognize a qualitative difference betwreen conscious and unconscious psychic activity; the same idea or mental process could at one moment be conscious and the next moment be unconscious. Uznadze, in comparing his concept of the unconscious with Freud's idea of repression, noted that Freud's Goncept was negative and had "introduced nothing new which is not found in the phenomena of the conscious mind" (18, p. 214). For Uznadze, "a set cannot be an individual act in a subject's consciousness, but only a modus of his state as a whole" (18, p. 214).

A third criticism at the psychological level is what Soviet critics call Freud's hegemony of the unconscious, i.e., the assertion that conscious thought and behavior are determined to a large degree by forces outside of awareness. But Soviet ideas too lead to a belief in the hegemony of the unconscious, as I hope to demonstrate when we consider some common ground shared by the psychoanalytic school and the Uznadze school.

The Soviet rejection of the idea of repression is understandable in the pursuit of the ideal of avoiding anthropomorphic statements. To say with Freud that a thought is repugnant to the conscious mind and therefore is censored and relegated to the realm of the dynamic unconscious personifies the systems cs and ucs and the censor and reifies, endowing them with spatial characteristics. But I have found Soviet theories inadequate in explaining what Freudian psychology calls the return of the repressed into consciousness, or in a more general sense developing a comprehensive theory of defense, e.g. how the mind copes with threatening thoughts and feelings. Clinical data of symptom formation, cathartic release of emotion with restoration to consciousness of forgotten memories and the change in symptomatology when emotional insight is achieved in a therapeutic exchange are clinical facts with therapeutic significance in working with people. An adequate theory of defense is essential.

For a similar reason, I find Soviet treatment of symbolization inadequate. While accepting the notion that a symbol is a primitive, concrete mode of picture thinking, which I also believe, Bassin rejected the idea that a symbol could have a latent meaning, probably because to admit this would imply some concept of repression. But to think in images means precisely to take one thing to mean another at a more concrete level. Bassin, in a discussion of two Soviet dream theories, used an example of a man about to separate from his wife standing with her at a fork in the road (1, p. 329). Bassin took this image to symbolize separation. I would add that it may also symbolize decision-making, and commitment to a course of action.

Soviet dreams theories, while recognizing what Freud called the day residue (Uznadze's unrealized intentions), reject the essential part played in dreaming by the dynamic connections of recent conflicts with their manifestations in the various layers of past experience. This seems to me a serious omission because a current conflict gains much of its pathogenetic potency from the reactivation of earlier similar conflicts, reaching back into adolescence, childhood and even infancy.

The last category of Soviet criticisms is concerned with objections which have to do with scientific theory in relation to the socio-historical process (3, p. 95).

Bassin, in a dialogue with several West European psychoanalysts dealt with this issue by asserting scientific theory can be studied on its merit (validity), and as a part of a socio-historical process (1, pp. 401-405). Both types, he said, are justified. He continued psychoanalysis serves reactionary interests by diverting attention away from real social harms and the class struggle, focussing instead on individual human suffering. Furthermore, Bassin claimed that psychoanalytic psychology is associated with a destructive philosophy and sociology of its own. He claimed the evaluation of a theory from the point of view of its role (progressive or reactionary) which it plays at various stages of cultural development in the historical process is essential. This type of analysis, he said, is needed to understand a theory as an organizer of social consciousness (1, p. 441). True enough as long as the distinction is kept very clearly in mind between analysis of scientific validity and evaluation of a theory in its socio-historical context.

I agree in principle that a theory always should be evaluated at the level of its validity and in some instances at the level of its socio-historical function. But it is never justified to reject a theory, observations or scientific data simply because one sees in them a threat. Science has made too many gains from studying phenomena which interfere with our usual way of viewing things to allow ourselves to reject that which is threatening.

Common Ground: Freud and Uznadze

It is significant that the theories of Freud and Uznadze share some common ground. As Bassin said, areas of agreement between two different philosophical systems may prove to be very significant (1, p. 455). These common areas are underplayed in Soviet writing because of the set to maintain' a position in opposition to Freud and perhaps also because eclecticism is theoretically unacceptable. They are also neglected in the United States because so little is known of Uznadze. However, Sherozia did point out a few common concerns (4, pp. 155-156). Both Freud and Uznadze opposed traditional psychology which focussed on detailed and lifeless descriptions of conscious psychic functions such as sensation, perception, cognition, volition, and emotion. They both recognized the need to study processes which lay beyond the boundaries of consciousness and, as we have seen, accepted the principle that these] unconscious processes determined the direction and content of psychic activity. Both men shared a monistic ideal, although we have seen how Freud fell short of that in practice and fell into the errors of idealism and d e facto dualism. Both men set out to construct a comprehensive system of scientific psychology.

There are other similarities besides those mentioned by Sherozia which I have observed. Both men saw the unconscious as phylogenetically and on-togenetically primitive, acting as a precursor of consciousness. Both considered rational thought to be confined to the higher planes of consciousness and to higher maturational levels. A comparison might be drawn between Uznadze's objectification and Freud's secondary process thinking. Both believed conscious rational thought liberated man from the tyranny of automatic, unconscious regulation.

Although Soviet theorists are reluctant to admit it, Uznadze shared Freud's belief in the hegemony of the unconscious. The notion of an individual as a passive victim, pushed around by his unconscious strivings strikes at the very heart of values important in socialist societies which stress the importance of the conscious regulation of individual behavior and of society as a whole. Uznadze observed that the process of objectivization could sometimes lead to false conclusions. He maintained that man has [no true idea of the true sources of his motivation; they remain hidden. "Throughout life and in particular during childhood, when the basis of a person's outlook is established, a series of sets is built up on the training and education he has received, and these sets accompany him, sometimes throughout life, sometimes for a shorter period. Usually, he is not aware of these sets, although this does not stop them from being active forces in controlling his activity in a given direction. He cannot check or abolish these sets of which he is not aware, especially his class sets, so he is forced to control the act of his thought under the decisive influence of these sets" (18, p. 243). This passage clearly shows that Uznadze shares with Freud the assertion of the hegemony of the unconscious!

"The voice of consciousness is weak", said Freud, and for Uznadze, consciousness is an intermittently operating system, in contrast to the continuous operation of powerful unconscious sets. Uznadze believed through objectivization, a maladaptive response could be corrected, and new or different sets could be brought into play. Freud believed by making the unconscious conscious, secondary thought processes could be brought to bear, and then a rational decision could be made. Each man in his own way believed the hope of mankind lay in strengthening conscious thought and in raising it to the highest possible plane. Freud advocated psychoanalytic therapy; perhaps Uznadze would have emphasized education as the way to elevate consciousness.

Neither does there seem to be basic disagreement over regarding certain phenomena of everyday life as manifestations of the unconscious, including automatic acts, slips, errors, and dreaming. The dream theories of both Freud and Uznadze recognize psychological meaning in dreams. They agree that unrealized intentions from the recent past operate during sleep. Dream activity for both preserves sleep by permitting the expression of the unrealized intentions which would otherwise awaken the dreamer. Both recognize the role of primitive thought modes and the role of symbolization in dreaming. In psychopathology, there is common recognition of the importance of dissociative phenomena and of enduring personality distortions. I find it especially encouraging to note these areas of a meeting of the minds precisely because the theories of Freud and Uznadze evolved in ideologically polarized societies.

Positive Soviet Contributions

As Soviet theorists have themselves noted, a mature science makes positive contributions to conceptualization and does not merely do battle with existing theory. I wish many Soviet ideas were more widely known in the United States. An important one is Bassin's definition of unconscious psychic activity as the processing of information and the regulation of biological reactions in the service of adaptation. Both Bassin and Bzhalava introduced the notion of a hierarchical arrangement of sets, unconscious regulating mechanisms operating at several different levels of nervous functioning. For Bzhalava, these were body posture at the motor level, homeostasis at the biological level, dynamic stereotypes at the physiological level, sensory sets at the perceptual level, and the set operating at the level of objectivization (2, p. 182). It seems to me without question that such mechanisms operate. Was Uznadze wrong to insist that set is a total modification of the personality? I think not, because even though these mechanisms operate at several different levels of integration of the nervous system, they still modify several different psychic functions at once, and a complex integrating mechanism at a higher level can supercede one at a lower level. The hierarchical mechanisms of Bassin and Bzhalava might be taken together to comprise the structural unconscious, acting synergistically with consciousness.

The emphasis which Bassin, Uznadze and other Soviet psychologists place on synergistic relationships between conscious and unconscious processes impresses me as particularly useful in Western thought which has been accustomed to stress rather antagonistic relationships, especially in psychopathology.

The most original Soviet contribution in my opinion is to postulate systems of conscious and unconscious psychic activity as qualitatively different rather than as a continuum of level of awareness. While this is most representative of Uznadze's thought, it is a point of view shared by many Soviet psychologists and it should be taken seriously in Western psychology and psychiatry.

Concerning synergism between two qualitatively different systems, consciousness and unconscious psychic activity, Sherozia's second volume was unavailable to me until after this paper was first written (Kprobleme soznaniya i bessoznatelnogo psikhischeskogo, opyt interpretatsii i izlozheniy a obshchei teorii (A Contribution to the Problem of the Conscious and the Unconscious, An Attempt at an Interpretation and Exposition of a General Theory), Tbilisi, 1973). I believe his most significant contribution in this later work was to apply the systems approach to the study of man. Within the open human system, he postulated the binomial system of relationships: consciousness and unconscious psychic activity, both regulated by set, a connecting principle between subsystems and a modus of the personality as a whole. There seems to me a fundamental difference between Bassin's definition of unconscious psychic activity as set and Sherozia's tripartite system: consciousness, unconscious psychic activity and set. For Sherozia, set functions unconsciously to direct the focus of consciousness but this is only part of the unconscious which also includes traces of wishes, strivings, imagination, thoughts and ideas. Any of these can be reactivated by the selection process of set when need and situation combine to require their representation in consciousness. In many ways, this formulation approaches what would be acceptable to a "psychodynamically oriented" theorist, at least it is acceptable to me- While providing for a reservoir of memory traces it still allows for a qualitative difference between the systems unconscious and conscious, with set as a key transitional dynamism which must operate to activate consciousness. I believe there is still a hegemony of the unconscious, although I realize Sherozia would probably disagree.

Another important contribution of Soviet psychology is the development of a positive theory of consciousness. Bassin's discussion of this issue stands out as especially significant (1). He pointed out that when the computer model of the human psyche was adopted, we were no longer in the position of having to justify the existence of unconscious psychic activity. Quite the reverse. We now had to justify retaining a concept of consciousness. Bassin demonstrated convincingly that consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon. It serves a specialized, regulating function, vastly increasing man's adaptive potential when more automatic unconscious regulating mechanisms fail, and responses become maladaptive. Consciousness also gives man a decided evolutionary advantage, and therefore has survival value. Since much behavior is regulated unconsciously, conscious mental processes are conceived as intermittent, operating at several different planes. With all of this I fully agree. Uznadze, Rubinshtein and Leontyev all defined at least two planes: the first at the impulsive level (to use Uznadze's terms), and the second at the level of objectivization, introducing the separation of the experiencing subject from the object of his awareness, even when the latter might be some aspect of himself.

Bassin also observed that the level of arousal on a sleep-wakefulness continuum is not identical with a "consciousness-unconsciousness" continuum. If the conscious and unconscious systems are qualitatively different, such a continuum does not exist. But undoubtedly, a certain level of arousal is an essential condition to bring into play the system conscious. And at a relatively low level of arousal, dream consciousness exists which appears qualitatively distinct from waking consciousness.

Finally, the Soviet experimental approach to the unconscious is fruitful, especially experiments using hypnosis, subliminal stimuli, and the work on primary unfixated set, but they do not rule out the use of verbal association to symptoms and dreams, artistic productions, and free play in children as paths to the unconscious which are clinically significant.

Postscript on Dialectics

There are aspects of the unconscious I recognize as important in my clinical experience which do not fit very well with the unconscious conceived as set. One group of these has to do with the body image and associated fantasies and feelings about body function. These are particularly important in people of all ages with physical illnesses, in psychosomatic disturbances, and in adolescence, a time of rapid body change. Soviet psychiatry recognizes in the syndromes, dysmorphophobia and anorexia nervosa how important the body image is in the adolescent (13, pp. 95-100; 182-184). However, I would add that the body image may still be important in the patient who is unaware of being troubled in this area and therefore does not talk about it. Another group of phenomena may be essentially of a different order since more than one person is involved. Selective inattention can be observed in a conversation between two people. In small groups meeting over a period of time, the hidden agenda may be far more important than the manifest content. These few examples suggest that unconscious phenomena exist at the intrapsychic, interpersonal, and group levels. If this is granted, we must expand the definition of unconscious psychic activity to include phenomena at several different stages of the complexity of the organization of matter.

Dialectical thought, the heritage of Hegel, Marx and Engels, has contributed little to American conceptualizations but is basic to the Soviet world view (8, 9, 11). I asked myself, are there aspects of dialectical materialism which would amplify conceptualization of the unconscious? The following is a philosophical discussion, with no attempt to deal with sociopolitical implications. The much-quoted law of the change from quantity to quality Engels attributed to Hegel's idea of a "nodal line of measurements - in which a quantitative change suddenly produces at certain points a qualitative difference" (8, p. 144). This law was shown in the writings of Marx and Engels to apply in general to a variety of phenomena at several different levels of organization of matter. If this law applies to the levels of organization of matter represented in man, at each nodal point, we can expect a new set of laws to come into play which are not applicable at a lower level. At these critical points, the new whole created is greater than the sum of its parts. It is my contention that there are frequent failures to assess the relevant levels correctly, or even a total lack of awareness of this question of levels. Each level is represented by both the stimuli or influences operating on man and the phenomenological characteristics of man. Each level can also be taken as a system in dynamic equilibrium. Events at one level can reverberate in systems at adjacent levels.

Turning now to the problems of consciousness and unconsciousness, at the epochal level, the demands of life in advanced, highly industrialized societies require even more of men as individuals and collectively to achieve a high level of consciousness, morally and cognitively. If blind forces of reproduction and unregulated industrial production continue their present course, many believe the human species is doomed to extinction. As Engels said, "Only conscious organization of social production, in which production and distribution are carried out in a planned way can lift mankind above the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspect, in the same way that production in general has done this for men in their aspect as species. Historical evolution makes such an organization daily more indispensable, but also with every day more possible. From it will dawn a new epoch in history, in which mankind itself, and with mankind all branches of its activity, and especially natural science, will experience an advance that will put everything preceding it into the deepest shade" (9, pp. 19-20). Indeed, let us hope so; consciousness or perish! No wonder the unconscious is feared, and not only because of infantile sexuality. It was the blind, macrosocial forces which Uznadze perceived operating outside man's awareness and conscious intention which evidently started him on the investigation of the unconscious.

The unconscious also exists at the microsocial level- Group process operates outside awareness in a sense similar to the silent working of set or an intrapsychic defense. Therapists who work with therapeutic groups of patients or troubled families can be intellectually aware of th e group process which the group is unaware, in the same sense that an individual can know of the existence in himself of an attitudinal set. Furthermore, it is no secret that small groups resort to devices similar to repression and avoidance to deal with content and issues which are painful or threatening. My clinical experience requires full recognition of this repression-like phenomenon, although it is unclear to me now how to integrate it fully with the overall framework I am proposing.

At the intrapsychic level, there were convincing reasons from Soviet contributions to see the system, conscious, as qualitatively distinct from the system unconscious, and to place more emphasis on a synergistic relationship between the two than has been the custom in psychoanlaytic thought. But what happens to the "dynamic unconscious", defined by Bellak as the repressed material pressing toward consciousness, with antagonistic relationships between the systems, cs and tics? If cs and ties are taken as qualitatively different systems, obeying different laws, then there is no continuum between the two. Minimal states of awareness and pes must be included in system cs. Bassin and other Soviet colleagues would have us reject the concept of repression. This for me is impossible, as it is too useful in clinical practice. What may be possible is an alternative definition of repression and the "unconscious" processes to which it refers. I propose to include these phenomena in a redefined system conscious, and to regard them as aberrations in the structure of consciousness in the general category of dissociated states of awareness (This formulation was made before Sherozia's Volume II was available to me. wherein he accepted the phenomena of repression, referring to them not as a part of unconscious psychic activity but as phenomena of "anti-consciousness" (Soznanie-oboroten)). Repression then refers to the process whereby material is encapsulated, or pushed to the periphery of awareness, not "down under" into the unconscious. Since repression refers to that which is threatening, it is relative to cultural mores. Therefore, it refers not only to infantile sexuality but to aggression, racism, and perhaps equally important, to new scientific findings and concepts (There may still be some substantive disagreement between my colleagues and mysel as to the relative importance of these phenomena of "anti-consciousness". I still believe that this whole area of conflict, "repression", and defense is of prime importance, not only for understanding psychiatric disorders, but for understanding the "psychopathology of everyday life", i. е., for a science of man. When conflict exists, antagonistic, mutually exclusive relationships are brought into play which from a dialectical point of view might be conceptualized as the dynamic interplay of polar opposites as in Hegel's "negation of the negation". However, according to my redefinition, the conflict would be conceptualized as occurring within the system of consciousness). Many psychoanalysts consider topographic considerations outmoded, superceded by the structural approach. But I share with Soviet colleagues the belief in the crucial importance of consciousness as an intermittently operating, highly complex, multiplaned adaptive mechanism which is brought into play when problems are to be solved which cannot be dealt with automatically and unconsciously. I also accept Uznadze's notion that there are other states of consciousness besides the usual waking ones, including dream consciousness, various stages of primitive consciousness in early childhood, hypnotic trances, meditative states, drug-induced alterations of consciousness, etc The study of these and others will become increasingly important in the future.

At the psychophysiological level, both Soviet and American psychology have recognized the fundamental importance of set. While Americans such as F. H. Allport have elaborated set into a perceptual theory, Uznadze elaborated it into a theory of the unconscious which became an acceptable alternative to psychoanalytic formulations (6, 18). Perhaps there would be agreement on both sides that a general adaptive theory of the regulation of behavior, both conscious and unconscious is what is required. I have found the theory of set as an unconscious regulating factor of behavior and the focus of consciousness necessary but not sufficient to encompass the totality of the phenomena encountered in normal and pathological behavior, just as I have found some concept of defense necessary but not sufficient.

Finally in this attempt to apply dialectical analysis to the problem of consciousness and unconsciousness, it should be noted that there is a dynamic interaction or reverberation between the systems at several different levels, and that there are crucial nodal points of communication between the systems, where the qualitative leap occurs. At each nodal point, important transitional concepts appear which represent the interface between two adjacent systems.

Two obvious ones are role and set. Role is the transition between society and the individual. Some aspects of role relate directly to the macroso-cial sphere, and others to the microsocial sphere. The other face of role looks inward and merges with the defensive structure of the individual personality. Set, as a silent regulator of the focus and content of consciousness, has a psychic component. It is striking that these two key concepts, operating at two different levels, share common features. They both operate unconsciously to regulate, preserve or restore the dynamic equilibrium of the systems in which they participate.

In summary, I have attempted to give my own reactions to Soviet criticism of psychoanalytic concepts, to explore common ground between Freud and Uznadze, and to give credit for positive Soviet contributions to conceptualizing consciousness and unconscious psychic activity. I have presented briefly a conceptual framework of my own in which the definition of unconsciousness is expanded and the definition of consciousness is altered to-accomodate the phenomena we in the West are accustomed to calling manifestations of repression. The usefulness of applying the [dialectical principle of the law of quantitative change leads me to conclude that more attention to basic philosophic considerations is needed in American psychiatric and psychological theory. However, the suggestion that dialectical analysis be attempted is not made in the spirit of confinement to a particular ideology or political orientation but rather to add a previously neglected dimension to the study of these problems.


Sources in Russian

1. Bassin, F. V., Problema bessoznatelnogo (The Problem of the Unconscious). Moscow: Izdatelstvo Meditsina, (1968).

2. Bzhalava, I. Т., Ustanovka i mekhanizmy mozga (Set and the Machinery of the Brain), Tbilisi: Izdatelstvo "Metsinereba", (1971).

3. Kommunist ("Communist"), 94-106, (January 1972).

4. Sherozia, A. E., К probleme soznaniya i bessoznatelnogo psikhicheskogo (The Problem of Consciousness and Unconscious Psychic Activity). Tbilisi, vol. I, (1S69),. vol. II. (1973).

5. Tsaregorodtsev, G. I., and Shingarov, G. KH. "Nekotorye filosofskie aspekty psikhosomaticheskoi problemy" (Some Philosophical Aspects of the Psychosomatic Problem), eds., G. V. Morozov, M.S. Lebedinskh. and G. I. Tsaregorodtsev, Rol psikhicheskogo faktora v proiskhozhdenii. techenii i lechenii somaticheskikh boleznei (Role of the Psychic Factor in the Occurrence, Course, and Treatment of Somatic Illnesses). Moscow: Ministerstvo zdravcokhraneniya, USSR, 56-75, (1972).

Sources in English

6. Allport. F. H., Theories of Perception and the Concept of Structure, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., (1955).

7. Bellak, L., "The Unconscious", Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 76: 1066-1097. (1959).

8. Engels, F.. Herr Duhring's Revolution in Science: Anti-Diihring, Marxist Library, Vol. XVIII, ed., С. Р. Dutt, trans., Emile Burns, New York: International Publishers, no date.

9. Engels, F., Dialectics of Nature, ed. and trans., J. B. S. Flaldane. F. R. S. New York: International Publishers, (1940).

10. Freud, S., "Project for a Scientific Psychology", in: The Origins of Psychoanalysis. New York: Basic Books. Inc., 346-445, (1954).

11. Hegel, G. W. F.. Preface to the Phenomenology, in: W. KAUFMAN, Hegel: Reinterpretation, Text, and Commentary. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.. 363-459, (1965).

12. Rollins, N., "Is Soviet psychiatric training relevant in America?" American Journal of Psychiatry, 128: 622-627, (1971).

13. Rollins, N.. Child Psychiatry in the Soviet Union: Preliminary Observations, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, (1972).

14. Rollins, N., "The new Soviet approach to the Unconscious". American Journal of Psychiatry, 131:3. 301-304, (1974).

15. Rollins, N., "Soviet and American youth in a changing world". Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 8: 149-153. (1974).

16. Rollins, N.. "Psychotherapy with children and adolescents in the Soviet Union", Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 14: 523-541, (1975).

17. Rollins, N., "A Soviet study of consciousness and unconsciousness, F. V. Bassin: Problema bessoznatelnogo", Journal of Individual Psychology, (1975).

18. Uznadze, D. N., The Psychology of Set, ed., Joseph Wortis, trans., Basil Haigh. New York: International Behavioral Science Series, New York Consultants' Bureau, (1966).

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