Who Discovered The Unconscious?

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Who Discovered The Unconscious?

Though definitions vary, the Unconscious can be understood to be the area of the psyche that contains thoughts, feelings and memories, which we have repressed for one reason or another. In doing so these repressed thoughts can manifest themselves through dreams, or through psychotic or neurotic behaviour.

As to who discovered the unconscious? Perhaps the real question is: who identified the unconscious? For surely humans have always been aware of the unconscious in some form or another, though they didn't always identify it as such. So who first brought an understanding of the workings of the unconscious mind to our attention?

The typical response to this question is, Freud. It was Freud, who forced us to realize that the unconscious plays a considerable role in shaping the behaviour of the individual. What Freud actually did was recognise that the unconscious plays a larger role then was first believed.

He rediscovered it. Freud described the unconscious as "a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations." ( page 498 NEW INTRODUCTORY LECTURES ON PSYCHOANALYSIS (1933): The Dissection of the Psychical Personality, page numbers from The Essentials of Psychoanalysis [Freud, A. 1986]) He pointed out that almost all; of our brain activity takes place without our own awareness. Freud, though not in fact the "discoverer" of the unconscious, was the first person to embark on a scientific investigation of it. Freud applied his theories to cases of the mentally ill, and found that by understanding what was wrong with them; he could begin to set about helping them. He also realized that the idea of unconscious thoughts, ideas, motivations and instincts could be found in everyone, not just those suffering from mental illness. Schater explained it by saying, "In Freud's vision, unconscious memories are dynamic entities embroiled in a...