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88. О функционировании и динамике неосознаваемой активности центральной нервной системы: краткое изложение. А. Каценштейн (88. On Functioning and Dynamics of Unconscious Central Nervous Processes: Abstract of Paper. A. Katzenstein)

Central Institute for the Study of Cardio-vascular Regulation, Berlin, GDR

1. The adaptive behavior of man to his environment is mediated by the Central Nervous System. The most developed function of the CNS is consciousness or conscious existence. It emerged phylogenetically as complex subjective reflection of the man-environment relationship on the basis of cooperative work and the interrelated development of language. By offering the possibility to model various behavior modalities in thought and to anticipate eventual consequences, consciousness improves the capacity for decision making and heightens the adaptive potentialities of the organism.

2. Consciousness is among other factors also characterized by differing degrees of awareness of vigilance and by the temporal and thematic limitation of the actual field of conscious experience (attention and concentration). Thus, we are able only to be conscious of a limited number of interrelationships for a limited time. The focussing of the field of consciousness is dependent to a large extent upon emotional processes. Thus, difficulties of need-fulfillment and corresponding negative emotions may well turn the full light of highest consciousness upon the need in question.

3. The emotional processes, however, which to such an extent direct the field of consciousness, equal to other neurovegetative processes, frequently are not consciously perceived (provided that they do not surpass medium intensity). They thereby become a model for unconscious processes, which frequently decisively influence human behavior.

4. Insight into this problem area was mainly obtained by four groups of researchers who not only proceeded in separate directions but generally seemed to have little knowledge of each other.

a) Medical doctors, primarily Freud and the different schools of Psychoanalysis, determined on the bases of their clinical observations that many behavior patterns, especially pathopsychological ones, conveyed the idea that they resulted from motives of which the patient was not conscious. (Let us forget for a moment the speculative postulates of the various psychoanalytical schools).

b) Psychologists working experimentally were able to obtain important findings regarding the development of conscious perception, of memory loss, and unconscious (subliminal) perception. In numerous experiments (Dembo, Barker. Postman and Bruner and others) also the role of emotional involvement was clearly shown.

c) Neuro-electrobiological research enlarged the knowledge of brain structures and their functions with regard to consciousness and also was able to obtain indications for a clear differentiation of distinct states of vigilance or conscious attention.

d) Already much earlier, Marx and Engels had postulated that "the social existence determines the consciousness of a human being".

While the research (a-c) was mainly concerned with patients in clinics or subjects in psychological laboratories, i. e. with persons taken out of their customary social environments or artificially isolated, the statement of Marx and Engels (d) represents the outcome of sociological research, i. e. investigation of human behavior within its social context.

5. At present it is necessary in order to enlarge our knowledge of the human psyche and to develop psychotherapeutic efficiency to integrate the various partial findings from these different research groups. The following statements (6-12) represent an attempt to achieve this goal.

6. The temporal and thematic restriction of the highest form of behavior patterning by conscious comprehension of environmental relationships and relevant facts emphasizes the necessity to selectively direct the field of consciousness.

7. It has been clearly shown that the direction or focussing of the field of consciousness is frequently dependent on influences, which are not consciously perceived. Thus, an extreme emotion may not only change the conscious control of behavior (which may cause the courts to declare a person temporarily not responsible for his actions), it may also cause well developed adaptive behavior patterns to disintegrate, thus producing a regression to earlier less effective behavior.

8. It has been shown that perfect psychomotor coordination (upright walk, bicycle riding, car driving etc), no longer needing conscious attention, proceeds, so to speak, automatically, thereby creating the possibility to direct the field of consciousness to new important tasks. Similarly, other unconscious regulatory processes are capable to free the highest nervous activity to turn to other problems.

9. Next to emotional involvement the so-called "attitudinal set", "Einstellung" or permanent behavior disposition is such a predominantly unconscious central-nervous arrangement which plays an essential role in patterning human behavior. Such "attitudinal sets" show up in characteristic behavior patterns provided certain key demand properties are present in a situation. N. Ach as well as the psychological school of Tbilisi (Uznadze, Beritashvili and their disciples) thoroughly investigated these attitudinal sets.

Also the unconscious behavior determinants which Freud had observed and which he assumed to be manifestations of Oedipus complex, castration complex, penis-envy and so on, essentially are similar attitudinal sets or "Ein-stellungen". Freud, however, thought these attitudinal sets to be the expression of a biogenetic disposition, i. e. determined by inborn human drives whose dire effects can barely be prevented by societal tabus and sanctions. Thus, the Freudian conception juxtaposes the attitudinal sets, which it considers biologically determined (human nature) with social norms tending to- suppress them. Uznadze and his followers however advance a sociodynamic conception of "attitudinal sets".

10. A socio-analysis of the psychoanalytic conceptions about the unconscious behavior tendencies (or attitudinal sets) which Freud is believed to have discovered in his patients reveals in these "complexes" (be it Oedipus, castration or penis-envy) the contradictions of the middle class capitalist society of Vienna of the early 20th century with its increasing competition and the related problem of the "conflict of the generations" and the emancipation of women.

Even before the development of the socialist social system got well under way, anthropologists (like Malinowski, Benedict and others) were able to point to various ethnic groups, where the psychoanalytic "complexes" simply did not exist. Thus, these unconscious behavior determinants were not a universal human characteristic. These findings of course did cast serious doubts upon the biological nature (which Freud had assumed) of these drives.

11. Research (for instance of the sociology of knowledge; school of Pastore, Ichheiser and others) was never able to show that it is typical of protagonists of the status quo of capitalist society to attempt to suppress the dynamic meaning of social contradictions and developmental tendencies also by not accepting the fact that these environmental influences find their reflection in the psyche of man. Not being able to deny the contradictions in the psychological makeup, they prefer to regard them as expression of biogenetic disposition clashing with social suppression, thus replacing the real dynamics of social contradictions by a pseudodynamics of biological drives.

12. A realistic approach to the dynamics of unconscious processes (be they emotions or attitudinal sets) must primarily take into account the interrelationships between the person and his environment.

a) Man as zooti politicon (social being) has to observe the behavioral norms and expectations of his social environment and to consider the contradictions and developmental tendencies. Even though progress of the social sciences created the possibility to solve this task increasingly on a conscious level, the individual is at present not yet capable to make all his decisions consciously and in full knowledge of all necessary facts. Important behavioral acts are still to be determined - last not least - in order to disengage the field of consciousness for other tasks - by unconscious attidudinal sets.

b) Thus essential aspects of interpersonal relations are frequently experienced in early childhood. These experiences condition the adaptive behavior of the growing child, even though the child later lacks any conscious knowledge thereof. Sometimes it shows up in behavior patterns which are so characteristic of the person that those who are close to him are practically able to predict his behavior, while he himself is completely unaware of this pattern.

c) Such unconsciously integrated experiences may become points of crystallization around which a whole attitude to life (Lebenshaltung) may grow. Whether these early experiences reflected the social contradictions and their real developing relations and whether the child had been able to process this information adequately, will be decisive. Adequate early impressions will foster unconscious attitudes which make for optimal relations between the person and his environment and thus free conscious reflection for the solution of more important problems.

Inadequate experiences and impressions in childhood may generate maladaptive attitudes, which predispose to conflicts and interpersonal tensions and may lead to further faulty development, illness and failure.

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