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38. Критический анализ фрейдовской теории предсознательного: осознанность, осведомленность, организация и контекст Е. Броуди (A Critical Examination of Freud's Theory of the Preconscious: Knowing, Awareness, Organization and Context. Eugene B. Brody)

38. A Critical Examination of Freud's Theory of the Preconscious: Knowing, Awareness, Organization and Context. Eugene B. Brody

Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA

This essay addresses itself to an aspect of the Freudian theory of the Unconscious, specifically the concepts of a System-Preconscious and of a mental process designated as preconscious, i.e. just before or on the borderline of consciousness. It does so because these concepts, in contrast to that of the Unconscious, imply the capacity of the mental process in question to be apprehended in consciousness.

It notes the following issues:

(1) The problem of knowing about the System-Preconscious, and of knowing the process termed preconscious, and its contents.

(2) The problem of whether or not a topographic theory of consciousness (i.e. postulating System-Conscious, Preconscious, and Unconscious) (Prepared upon invitation for the "Symposium on the Concept of the Unconscious", Academy of Sciences, Georgia, USSR, 1978. This paper was written during the author's tenure as a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, with partial support from the Commonwealth Fund) is more justified than a theory postulating a continuum of psychological organization and knowability.

(3) The problem of defining the socio-cultural context in which material designated as preconscious can be consciously apprehended by subject and observer, and the possible systematic relationship of this context to what is apprehended.

(4) The problem of defining the functions (psychological-social-biological) of a System-Preconscious or a preconscious process.

Freud's Theory of the Preconscious in Relation to Conscious and Unconscious

(No attempt will be made here to list the wide-ranging bibliographic references to Freud's theory of the Unconscious, or to examine that theory in detail except in specific relationship to the subject of the Preconscious. It is expected that these matters will be the concern of some other contributors to this Symposium)

Direct knowledge of something out of awareness is impossible. However, an unconscious mental process influencing conscious thinking, feeling and acting has been inferred so regularly and over such a long historical span that it is widely regarded as a fact. Conceptions of the Unconscious prior to Freud have been reviewed by Whyte (1960). One major view regards the unconscious mental process essentially in descriptive or topographic terms. It assumes that mental processes occur continuously and are never more than partially or transitorily in the focus of conscious attention. In this sense the Unconscious constitutes a source or reservoir from which particular ideas, images or feelings emerge spontaneously, incompletely and momentarily into consciousness in direct or disguised form. They may become central and vivid in consciousness as they are used for adapting and coping. Or they may be apprehended by a deliberate act of reflection or introspection.

Freud added the element of conflict to this topographic view. He conceived of a dynamic System-Unconscious constituted of wishes, and drives, with associated thoughts, memories and feelings which, since they have infantile roots and may stimulate anxiety, guilt or shame, are kept from conscious expression by an active defensive process. Unconscious conflict may occur as well between opposing or incompatible impulses (e.g. for passivity versus activity) and between those regarded as instinctual (part of the Id, e.g. aggressive or sexual) or social (part of the Superego, e.g. self-censoring or punitive) in origin. The Unconscious and its contents are always out of awareness and never emerge directly in undisguised form. Precise inference about them is possible only in a special context, the psychoanalytic situation, structured so as to maximize regression and transference in the patient or analysand: a tendency to think, feel and act in relation to the person of the analyst as the subject once did to persons with whom he earlier had an emotionally significant relationship, upon whom he was dependent for love or survival, and toward whom the range of positive and negative feelings was, therefore, possible/Inference about the Unconscious is also possible on the basis of dreams, psychiatric symptoms, and other maladaptive behavior or the occurrence of slips of the tongue, forgettings and other acts called symptomatic or derivative in the sense of representing a compromise between unconscious tendencies, defensive processes and the demands of reality.

The contents of the System-Unconscious are mainly but not exclusively subsumed under the structural concepts of Id and Superego, the latter including the fears and overwhelming destructive tendencies associated with the punishing, controlling parents as perceived in infancy and childhood. The mental operations of the Unconscious, designated "primary process", are the same as those attributed to the Id and Superego.They are not bounded by the rules of logic, space or time, but, as reflected in dreams, depend upon condensation, displacement and similar information processing mechanisms responsive to wishes with infantile roots. "Primary process thinking" is also plasticin thatittends to use images rather than verbal language, and to employ symbols for representational purposes.

The System-Conscious was regarded by Freud as having a primarily adaptive function. Most of the psychological functions such as remembering, perceiving and decision-making associated with conscious awareness, adaptation, and maintaining reality contact, as well as the defensive functions are subsumed in psychoanalytic theory under the structural concept of the Ego. The mental operations characteristic of consciousness, and in most instances of egofunctioning, were designated by Freud as "secondary process", i.e. rational thinking constrained by the rules of logic and the limits of time and space. However, many ego functions, such as those of defending against threatening unconscious impulses, operate outside the focus of awareness. This is also true for adaptive processes although they are primarily conscious. These were described by Hartmann (1939) in terms of the tasks of reality mastery which require the establishment and maintenance of a stable, reciprocal relationship with the environment.

Between Unconscious and Conscious (and, conceptually, between id/superego and ego and primary and secondary process) Freud postulated a third system, the Preconscious. He wrote (1900) that in dreaming the Preconscious system simultaneously discharges unconscious mental excitation (as it gratifies the repressed unconscious wish) while fulfilling the preconscious wish to sleep (since the undischarged tension would otherwise produce wakefulness). This fitted his early use of the term interchangeably with unconscious (1901) especially in relation to discussions of parapraxias and other symptomatic behaviors.

Just a few years later, however (1905, p. 161) he contrasted "the characteristics of unconscious thinking" as repressed or "alien" (for example, a wish stimulating dream formation) with "thinking that is capable of becoming conscious". This last he called "preconscious". An example was the day residue from which the form of the manifest dream was constructed through its revision by the Unconscious (By the time of The New Introductory Lectures (1933), Freud's outline of dream formation no longer involved a stage of preconscious dream wish or fantasy). Restated, preconscious contents (e.g., day residue) may be "used" by unacceptable and conflictful unconscious impulses to construct a disguise allowing them to elude the repressive barriers and emerge into conscious awareness, as a remembered dream, a waking fantasy, or even an act.

While preconscious is used in this formulation as an adjective or a quality, i.e. prior to, or capable of becoming conscious, it also has a functional significance: it is available to enhance or facilitate the expression or effectiveness either of unconscious impulses or of conscious adaptive-coping processes. The Preconscious can be considered, thus, to belong potentially to both of the other systems. This was elaborated in Freud's early theory of jokes: "A preconscious thought is given over for a moment to unconscious revision and the outcome of this is at once grasped by conscious perception" (1905, p. 166) "Humorous displacement is... impossible under the glare of conscious attention as is comic comparison; like the latter it is tied to the condition of remaining preconscious..." (1905, p. 233)- Jokes "... are formed as a compromise between the Unconscious and the Preconscious... the pleasure is formed from the difference between these two methods of viewing it" (p. 234). Freud stressed the importance of infantile roots in his theory of jokes as well as of dreams: "...the essence of the comic is a preconscious link with the infantile... enough to touch upon childish nature in general" (p. 225). For many dreams, he felt that the fantasies freshly constructed out of new day residue belong only in part to the Preconscious: since they are not easily accessible to introspection they belong to that class of fantasies which "qualitatively... belong to the system PCS, but factually to the UCS" (1915). Still by the time of this revision, the concept seemed closer to that of the System-Conscious, containing functions later attributed to the ego.

He also used preconscious in another essentially adaptive sense: "These processes which take place in the Preconscious and lack the attention-cathexis which is the prerequisite of consciousness are appropriately termed 'automatic'" (Freud, 1905, in Hartmann, 1958, p. 89). Automatization in this sense has economic or labor-saving advantages as it reduces the need for decisionmaking, or in libidinal terms, saves psychic energy or the cathexis of attention or consciousness. In evolutionary terms it represents an effective provision for solving or accomplishing regularly encountered problems or tasks, and is probably "a better guarantee of reality mastery than a new adaptation to every occasion" (Hartmann, 1958, p. 92). Conscious thinking under circumstances requiring rapid response may disrupt adaptation by requiring excessive time or interfering with the automatized process in terms of timing or degree.

In his last writings (1938) following Breuer, Freud defined preconscious not only as what is "capable of becoming conscious", but "easily and under conditions which frequently arise". This contrasts with unconscious processes for which "... such a transformation is difficult, can only come about with considerable expenditure of energy or may never occur" (1932, p. 96). He was less certain, however, about the systemic qualities of this intermediate zone.

His last systemic formulation (1938), rephrased by Kris (1950) emphasizing energic elements, placed the Preconscious clearly in relation to the Conscious rather than the Unconscious system. Unconscious processes, following Kris' rephrasing, were conceived as using mobile or free psychic energy, discharged as primary process while preconscious processes using bound energy discharged it as secondary process. The energetic theory was preferred by Kris as it permitted hypotheses of transition: a preconscious process, for example, from which (bound) ego energy is withdrawn, becomes subject to investment with (mobile) id energy and can, therefore, be drawn into the primary process. The reverse, i.e. a movement of unconscious material into the Preconscious, occurs when unconscious (id) derivatives are invested with (bound) ego energy, and thus become part of the preconscious mental process "at a considerable distance from the original impulse" (Kris, 1950, p. 306).

Conscious Experience and the Problem of Knowing

Insofar as the concept of Preconscious refers to a quality of awareness it is a way of designating material not usually in the focus of attention, but emerging spontaneously in certain forms under certain conditions in certain contexts; it is accessible to unaided introspection (i.e. without a guide or interlocutor or interpreter, as in the case of psychoanalysis). In this sense the problem of the Preconscious becomes in part one of knowledge: wha is Conscious is known. What is Unconscious is not known (although inferred) and not directly knowabie. But what is Preconscious, while not now known, is in principle knowable. The questions naturally follow: knowabie to whom under what conditions? What are the conditions of knowledge of which the knowing subject is in principle capable? It is possible in following these questions to become entrapped in epistemologicai circularity, i.e. demanding knowledge of the cognitive faculty before knowledge of what is known to that faculty (Habermas, 1968). There is no choice, therefore, but to begin empirically with the data of consciousness.

Preconscious also implies, by virtue of its inherent quality of a distance from consciousness, a quantitative concept. That is, an idea or a feeling may be more or less distant from consciousness, and in that sense more or less conscious. Freudian theory solves this problem by invoking another quantitative idea. It states that distance means accessibility to conscious awareness, and that accessibility is inversely proportional to the strength or intensity of repressive defenses activated inconsequence of the unacceptability of the preconscious material. This places preconscious in the same category as unconscious. But unconscious or out-of-awareness phenomena are not subjectively experienced. The only experience which is reportable by the subject (in contrast to that which may be inferred by an observer) is conscious. It varies in constancy, intensity and order - organization and coherence. Experience which is inconstant, not organized (or organized according to an unfamiliar principle, and not clearly related in a logical manner to all of one's other experience is difficult to label, classify, interpret and even apprehend. It cannot be used as the basis for constructing a generally intelligible assertion. It is, nonetheless, conscious. This is the type of conscious material which provides an empirical basis for the idea that there are varying levels or planes of consciousness and that some experience can legitimately be defined as preconscious (For purposes of the present discussion the phenomena of hypnosis and/or multiple personality are not regarded as relevant to the question of the Preconscious. The content of a hypnotic suggestion, however, may be regarded as preconscious if it eventually becomes known to the subject, i. e. if the usual posthypnotic amnesia disappears. If it influences behavior without becoming known then it is not preconscious. but unconscious, i.e. permanently out of awareness and known only by its derivatives of consequences).

The most immediate data of consciousness are those stemming from introspection. Most people are at least dimly aware of an inner flow of mental activity, below the level of ordinary awareness, to which, despite its only intermittent recognition, they attribute a quality of constancy This is a fluid stream of images, symbols, ideas, memories, affective states, bodily sensations and impulses to act; some, in the form of reverie, pass without volition, usually momentarily, into consciousness; others are purposefully brought into focus. However, bringing this inner flow into focus, retrieving a reverie into conscious awareness, is unexpectedly difficult. This is reflected in the admonition, "snap out of it" directed to people who are daydreaming. They then feel themselves "jerked back" to reality. In the process of being "snapped" or "jerked" into reality contact, significant content is lost. The loss appears to occur in the very act of attending to and apprehending the peripheral flow or reverie. This attention apprehension, abstracting a cross-section of the stream of thought from the periphery of awareness and focusing it in the center of awareness, involves a shift from primary process to secondary process, or more accurately, the imposition of the latter upon the former. This abrupt shift in styles of information-processing may account for the sense of discontinuity with its associated partial amnesia accompanying the attempt to "fix" a part of fluid reverie into a more static and organized thought for reflection or communication. The immediate memory of the focused and apprehended flow can be further modified for coherence and logic, and translated into public language for transmission to someone else. During such modification and translation, more of the original experience is lost, suggesting again that it is not fully contained within the limits of logical, verbal expression.

These phenomena are well known to philosophers and psychologists who have discussed them in terms of levels or planes of consciousness, awareness or apprehension of reality. Leibniz referred to a "surf of indiscernible and confused small perceptions". Schutz (1962), however, regards these as only experienced while they occur, without leaving any trace in memory, perceived but not apperceived. In contrast to subjectively meaningful experience they belong to the category of "essentially actual experiences (which) cannot be grasped by a reflective attitude". He used the term " wide - awаkeness " to denote that plane ot consciousness with "an attitude of full attention to life and its requirements... (this is) ...the performing and... working self...". This is opposed to passive attention illustrated by Leibniz' "indiscernible surf", experienced as actual but not meaningful.

William James (1890) appeared to emphasize variability and change, noting the significance of "selective attention" (p.402) in the maintenance of awareness and a sense of reality. To call a thing real, he believed, means only that it stands in a certain relation to ourselves: "Each world whilst it is attended to is real after its own fashion; only the reality lapses with the attention. ... One principal object comes into the focus of consciousness, others are temporarily suppressed" (p. 405).

Schutz (1962) designated the Jamesian worlds as "finite provinces of meaning", each with its own cognitive style in respect to which experiences within each world are inter-consistent. These "provinces" are integrated ways of perceiving and apprehending, self-contained complexes, which, however, may be mutually exclusive at a given moment. Since all facts are selected from a universal context by the activities of a person's mind, they are always interpreted facts, either within or without their particular setting. Their "relevance" for a person or a particular moment is a function of this selective and interpretive activity.

Henri Bergson (1901) proposed that conscious life includes an indefinite number of different "planes", ranging from that of action at one extreme to that of dream at the other. The plane of action, with its interest in meeting reality and its requirements, has the highest "tension of consciousness", that of dream the lowest: different degrees of consciousness-tension are functions of varying "interest in life". Interest in or attention to life, Bergson's basic regulative principle of consciousness, articulates the continuously flowing stream of thought and defines - as Schutz (1962) put it - the realm of our world which is relevant to us.

These observations have been selected because they indicate how nonpsychoanalytic thinkers have referred to two aspects of the concept of Preconscious, using conscious experience as a reference point. As a mental quality it is described as having a "low tension of consciousness", being passive rather than "wide-awake", and disinterested in the life of the moment. As a system it has the capacity to grasp or relinquish reality contact, shift from one "finite province of meaning" to another and select and interpret facts so as to make them relevant.

Conscious, Preconscious and Levels of Organization in the Psychoanalytic Context

The concept of the Preconscious, in contrast to that of simple planes of consciousness, arose initially from observations made in the context of the psychoanalytic situation- Major interest focused on presumed movement from Unconscious to Preconscious to Conscious reflected in the recall of forgotten material, or the reconstruction of events or experience regarded as having been always unconscious. (These last are considered in this essay to represent inferences.) Historical interpretations by the analyst are thought to stimulate recognition which then leads to recall: "The preconscious process... has effortless access to consciousness" (Kris, 1950, p. 308). "What can be mobilized in recognition must have been preconscious" (Kris, 1950, p. 309). The content and timing of interpretations influence the patient's experience of new ideas and feelings as assimilable. Freud seemed to view their place in a psychical continuity (Freud, 1916-17; Shope, 1973) as essential to their being experienced as meaningful.

It is suggested that another major determinant of the experience of an interpretation and its consequences as assimilable and meaningful is the state of the transference process. Psychoanalysis involves a collaborative process in which patient and analyst together select and interpret items from a universe of possibilities, so that, following Schutz, they become "relevant" for both. But they are not equal collaborators. As indicated above transference behavior is regressive: stimulated in part by the deprivational nature of the psychoanalytic process - the patient does not receive the love he wishes from the analyst - it represents a re-emergence of behavior characteristic of an earlier period of life, and involves, as well, an altered state of consciousness. Material usually considered unconscious or preconscious emerges into consciousness, as an aspect of the transference process. This may be described as direct or disguised or derivative in nature. (The designation of behavior as derivative is here regarded as inference.) But, it seems more parsimonious to interpret the manifestations of transference in terms of a relative dominance of primary as contrasted with secondary process thinking. This may be taken as a definition of "regression"; rather than the "emergence" of material hidden at the borderline of consciousness, there occurs a transformation in the nature of conscious data-processing itself.

In his concepts of secondary process, characterizing rational, conscious behavior and of primary process characterizing the unconscious and determining irrational behavior, Freud offered a clue to this way of conceiving of the Preconscious. His hypothesized progression from a less logical and more imagic-symbolic to a more logical, more verbal mental process lends itself to restatement in terms of levels of organization. In these terms preconscious material or that at the periphery of awareness is less differentiated, less complexly ordered, less cognitive and less specifically designated by ordinary language. It is less related to the reality context and its demands of the moment. It is, therefore, likely to reflect the individual's idiosyncratic past personal history. It is apt to be more broadly inclusive in its categories, employ symbolic designations, utilize visual imagery, and be more reflective of affective and somatic states. As it is apprehended for con. scious scrutiny and transmission, through a shift from primary to secondary process activity, a process of reclassification and ordering occurs, with more precise linguistic labelling, greater differentiation of concepts, and more effective discrimination. Regression, in these terms, is a dedifferentiation of complex ways of perceiving and acting upon the world, a reduction in specificity and precision of designation and meaning- Psychological reorganization" in contrast, involves the labelling and ordering of experience so that it can be apprehended and subject to reflection. It also brings the person into closer touch with immediate reality. In this sense the difference between conscious and preconscious is restated as one between greater and lesser levels of psychological organization and differentiation involving greater and lesser capacity to appreciate and deal with reality. A major requirement of psychoanalytic reality is that of communicating with the analyst. Every thought, fantasy and dream is, theoretically, a transference phenomenon, produced for the purpose of communication to the analyst. But the act of communication requires its apprehension and statement in the iocus of awareness. A function of the increased organization accompanying the transformation of material from preconscious to conscious is increased capacity to be communicated. As the subjective information-carrying capacit of relatively unbounded preconscious meterial decreases with the imposition of boundaries and order, it more adequately fits the socio-cultural rules for objective communication. It is less informationally rich, but more capable of ordinary social transmission, in this instance to the analyst.

As preconscious (less organized) material becomes labelled, more highly organized and examined, subjective reaction to the new awareness varies with content and meaning, itself determined by current context as well as by past personal history and psychic continuity. This is also true for shifts in transference which are concomitant with shifts in regression (organization). Normally suspended doubt about the immutability of the everyday world may be temporarily reinstated. Feelings of depersonalization, uncanniness, and uncertainty, or simple negation and disbelief can appear as formerly stable views begin to seem fragile. Amusement, relief and a sense of detachment may accompany the awareness of a fantasy experienced as not being one's own - for which one is not responsible. Feelings of relief may also accompany successful solution of a problem in consequence of reorganizations proceeding at the preconscious level. Emergent interpreted material filling a gap in self-knowledge, bolstering irrationally shattered self-esteem, or illuminating a hitherto obscure interpersonal issue may be accompanied by a sense of elation, a feeling of mastery, a shock of recognition, or a (perhaps temporary) transformation of world view. On the other hand, anxiety, disgust, guilt or shame may be temporary accompaniments of new awareness of destructive or sexual impulses. In the psychoanalytic context the relationship with the analyst, and his progressive interpretive work lead to resolution of the adverse reactions which reflect continuation of conflict, and continuing resistance to incorporation of the involved wishes or impulses into organized awareness.

Access to the Preconscious in Non-Psychoanalytic Contexts: Public and Private

Psychoanalysis provides a quasi-experimental, semi-private context for the investigation of regression as it is revealed in transfsrence behavior which, rooted in earlier, often developmental experience, does not reflect the social reality of the actual analytic relationship and is not adaptive. Most cultures provide institutionalized opportunities for public regression in contexts defined as therapeutic, either for the iudividual or his society. Many of these with strong religious overtones, as for example Umbanda and Candomble in Brazil (Brody, 1973), induce altered states of consciousness through drumming, clapping, dancing and the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Ordinarily preconscious fantasies or mental states are acted out or expressed verbally within these contexts, or they may be experienced in hallucinatory form and later examined by the subject and translated into words for communication to others. In Umbanda, for example, they are communicated to the leader of the session, the "guide" who, by virtue of having "incorporated" a particular spirit, may offer the subject a therapeutically relevant response.

Other institutionalized contexts for regression and communication of ordinarily out-of-awareness material are social, e.g. in the United States the cocktail party, "happy hour" at the end of a working day before eating and other organized evening activities begin. Here, as in the therapeutic-religious contexts is cultural acceptance of nonrational behavior which would otherwise be regarded as inappropriate and be maladaptive in consequence.

In these public contexts some playful or intimate communicative behavior ordinarily reserved for private contexts is tolerated and even valued. A significant private context in which adults may temporarily abandon their highly organized behavior patterns and rational thinking is the bedroom. Sexual interaction, especially between partners who have known each other intimately for a prolonged period, may include much sharing of information which would ordinarily be regarded as preconscious; communication in this instance may be nonverbal, affective and in any case does not require the highly organized cognitive codes of the usual public transactions. Clinically, it is widely observed that obsessional characters who are unable to relinquish their hold on reality remain at the conscious, secondary-process level, and suffer from some degree of orgastic impairment- For these persons the presence of a securely trustworthy and familiar sexual partner, and scmetimes of a symbolically significant context, is important to permit the abandonment of organized, logical, "wide-awake" self-observing thought processes. If these prerequisites are not met many such persons, as well as others whose specific anxiety requires continued vigilance, employ some of the culturally approved aids to regression (e.g. alcohol) described above.

There is a third set of experiences illustrating movement between the preconscious and conscious. These are occasions in ordinary life characterized by the unexpected appearance of a new insight, the emergence of a new perception, or a change in a long-held opinion as it is no longer seen in isolation but as part of a newly organized whole. Schutz (1962, p. 231) referred to such experiences in daily waking life as breaking through the limits of one or another "finite province of meaning", understood as separate worlds each with its own cognitive style. While the individual can exist in only one of these worlds at a time, the experiences within each are "interconsistent".

"Shock" experiences which include this shift in the "accent of reality" (Schutz, 1962, p. 231) may be facilitated by contexts institutionalized for play or "make-believe". Examples are the playgoer's inner transformation or transition into the world of the theater as the curtain rises; the almost total change in attitude which may occur as one stands before a painting. Schutz also included, in a manner reminiscent of Freud, the momentary acceptance of the world of jest in listening to a joke. This "shock" he attributed to a radical modification in the tension of consciousness founded in a different "attention a la vie" (p. 232).

Each of these instances appears to be characterized by three features. First is the deliberate assumption by the subject of a state of readiness or receptivity involving the conscious suspension of his self-monitoring activities so as to give free rein to his fantasies and associations. Second is the presence of a social context facilitating this process: the theater, the art museum, the social setting with friends. Third is a shift in the focus of attention. Attention has been removed from the ordinary distracting events of daily life and focused on ordinarily unnoticed phenomena (in effect a different attention a la vie has been accomplished). These are all features of the psychoanalytic situation as well with its protection from usually encountered stimuli, the particular attentional set assumed upon entering it, and the instructions to avoid any censorship of one's thought processes and to permit associations to proceed as freely as possible, one to the other. Just as the patient on the analytic couch may be described as in an altered state of consciousness, so might each of the illustrative experiences listed above be described in Freudian terms as one of temporary topographic regression. The subject relinquishes his hold on reality permitting the transitory and partial substitution of primary for secondary process, of the preconscious stream of experience for the conscious. The predominance of primary process, however, is brief and most intense during the moment of transition. The altered consciousness present in all of these states suggests an oscillation between primary and secondary process, preconscious and conscious, and that primary process thinking is not confined to the repressed Unconscious, but may characterize preconscious processes as well.

Adaptive Functions of the Preconscious Process

The Preconscious has been here described as a stream of loosely organized thought and imagery. It is at the periphery of awareness, although its properties are determined more by what Freud termed the primary (characteristic of the Unconscious) than the secondary process. It is, thus, an aspect of consciousness, although one which has some aspects of the Freudian Unconscious and is not easily apprehended.

Freud defined Preconscious as a system as well as a mental quality because it appeared to perform certain functions necessary for psychological survival and adaptation. Among these he postulated facilitating the movement of material from the Unconscious to the Conscious and vice versa. It is not possible, of course, to conceive of this function if a continuum from a non-organized, non-logical, non-cognitive process to an organized, logical, cognitive one is substituted for that of Unconscious to Conscious. It is more congruent to regard the Preconscious, itself, as the point at which initial translation (or transduction) of neurophysiological needs and impulses (and the physical organizations involved in stored memories) into verbal-symbolic-imagic language occurs. This language is the precursor of more complexly organized, easily apprehended and communicable thoughts and verbal representations of feelings and bodily states. The Preconscious is here, therefore, regarded as the original source of the ideational-symbolic "contents" of the Freudian Unconscious. This is not meant to imply that unconscious or out-of-awareness processes influencing behavior do not exist. But it does imply that they do not, as Freud suggested, exist in an organized, symbolic linguistic form capable of direct or disguised penetration into consciousness. These processes, then, will be labelled here as "unstated" rather than unconscious to indicate that they are not regarded topographically as part of a continuum with consciousness as the opposite pole. They are bodily tendencies, tensions and expectations developed in consequence of the interaction of biological givens with developmental and adult experience. These tendencies have been reinforced or aversively influenced, and may have been given symbolic significance through repeated life experience without having been transformed into verbal or imagic language. In this definition they are highly significant determinants of behavior, but while they may in fact be reflected incommunicable ideas or images (as, for example, the dreams of a person suffering from an as yet undiagnosed organic disease) they do not fit the Freudian criteria of "contents" of a dynamic Unconscious. Nor do the physical organizations involved in memory storage for these criteria.

With these considerations in mind one of Freud's hypotheses about Preconscious functions may be restated: It facilitates or permits those compromises of unstated needs and impulses with the contents of consciousness (including reality awareness) which are necessary for their transformation into loosely organized thoughts, symbols and images, i.e. their emergence into peripheral conscious awareness. This translation or expression of the non-verbal substratum of behavior into linguistic form, however primitive, is essential for the later apprehension into full awareness of more complex and highly organized language designating subjective experience. The process is further facilitated, according to this formulation, by the function of the Preconscious as a repository of memories and partly formed thoughts and im ages, potentially useful as construction units for the transformation of the nonstated into language. Freud suggested an analogous function for the emergence of unconscious contents into consciousness, as via dreams: "...a remote allusion...a piece of symbolism or an analogy...portions of such indirect representation are already present in the dream's preconscious thoughts..." (1905, p. 171).

The Preconscious may also have a role in artistic or scientific creation. It was suggested above that temporarily suspending attention to immediate reality permits the contents of the preconscious stream, characterized by the primary process mode, to influence conscious thought, for example in the theater or art museum, as well as some healing contexts. This may also be involved in the unexpected occurrence of "inspiration", new thoughts or images in contexts favoring diversion from daily concerns and, in their place, wandering attention or fantasy formation. These suggestions represent a minor modification of Kris' idea (1939), building upon Freud's theory of jokes, that the ego may use the primary process and not be overwhelmed by it. He postulated (1950) that ego regression occurs during many types of creative processes, as well as under conditions of weakened reality contact, as in sleep or intoxication. This he termed, "regression in the service of the ego". It may be, however, that the suspension of conscious attention suggested here is qualitatively different from the regressions of sleep or intoxication involving physiological inhibition and temporary impairment of cerebral function. An example of apparent capacity for regression in consequence of cerebral impairment is provided by studies of lobotomy. Schizophrenic patients responded anxiously and literally to the aggressive and sexual themes of comic cartoons. Three months after surgery, in contrast, they understood the messages of the cartoons and laughed at them. (Brody and Redlich, 1953) This suggests reduced anxiety associated with the sexual-aggressive impulses presumably activated by the sight of the cartoons and, in consequence, facilitated suspension of conscious vigilance permitting momentary preconscious processing or elaboration of the conscious material. Other data, however, such as increased anxiety-free conscious fantasies of oral gratification, and a markedly diminished difference between the content of waking fantasies and sleeping dreams (Brody, 1958) suggest that the cartoon behavior did not reflect momentary regression in the service of the ego, but rather a persisting state which, while more subjectively comfortable for the patient than that prior to surgery, was, in the long run, maladaptive.

A final, but by no means exhaustive, function postulated for the Preconscious is the maintenance of subjective continuity in different contexts. Preconscious processes seem particularly suited to this role. "The intuitive sense of a persisting experiencing self constitutes a treacherous basis for an ordering of experience, because the direct awareness ot the human individual does not justify the attribution to the self either of permanence, or of unchanging identity, or of continuous awareness" (Whyte, 1960, p. 28). Certain communities, for example the Hopi, put cognitive emphasis not on separable traces representing isolable entities, but on the actual process of personal experiencing. As Whorf (1954) has suggested, their languages are molded to represent "the transformation of the subject in the course of his experienced activities and of his participation in the processes of his world" (Whyte, 1960). Shifts in the sense of a subjectively experienced self may be reinforced by the fact that human beings characteristically live in a series of temporal and interpersonal scenes, frames or contexts. This is dramatized in the present era of rapid transportation which permits immersion in different sociocultural and personal settings in widely dispersed geographical regions within a few hours. Under such circumstances people not considered ill occasionally experience mild and transient feelings of unreality or depersonalization. Occasional problems in orientation are expressed in slips of the tongue, misidentifications or other parapraxic behavior. Travellers may occasionally joke to the effect that they feel themselves to be subjectively transitory, or that they hardly know who they are, or that one setting or place tends to merge without clearcut boundary passage into another. But as a rule they "know" that the "I" who is, for example, here in the tropics with one set of people, problems and relationships today, is the same "I" who was surrounded by snow and fully involved with another set of people and relationships yesterday.

At the sociocu ltural level the sense of subjective continuity is heightened by the constancy of educational, occupational, sex, age and other social roles which determine similar behavior patterns, conscious experience and mirroring and complementary responses from others regardless of context. The impact of his own role functioning, though, is not experienced by a person at a continuously conscious level. Nor does a person in a new situation engage in constant conscious comparison of his current experience with memories of the past. Such comparison would impair the capacity for full subjective immersion in the new context and preclude spontaneity and resilience in the face of current contextual demands. It seems reasonable to assume that the mental processes with their uni quely characteristic form and content, enduring for a particular individual in a variety of scenes, contexts and relationships, are broadly connotative, symbolic and tied to infantile and affective experience, i.e. primary process in nature. It seems, furthermore, plausible that these should be the very processes involved in bridging the conscious and unstated aspects of the particular person's mental life. They exist at the interface of nonlanguage needs, impulses, and feelings on the one hand with, on the other, the highly organized conscious activities necessary for adapting and coping with everyday life.


The Freudian concept of the Preconscious has been examined in relation to other concepts of levels or planes of conscious awareness. It is viewed as unknown, but in principle knowable in contrast to the Unconscious which is not directly knowable, but can only be inferred. The Preconscious is known especially in contexts facilitating the suspension of conscious vigilance. This suspension is conceived as regression, in the sense that symbolic, imagic, freely flowing thought processes, not bounded by logic, time or space (Freud's primary process) are substituted for more precise, complexly organized, verbally represented, logically bounded processes (Freud's secondary process). This level of awareness, i.e. this type of information-processing, which is variably accessible to consciousness, has adaptive functions. These include automatic responding to complex rapidly presented stimuli, transforming non-stated bodily tensions into primitive linguistic form, relating intimately when non-cognitive communication is required, creative behavior, and maintaining a sense of personal identity through shifts in time and context.


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