Comparing the Freudian and Cognitive Unconscious An Afterthought

As the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey (1997) noted, until Freud the idea of an unconscious mind had been considered a conceptual impossibility. Today Freud's assertion that mental processes are in themselves unconscious has been redis-

covered by some neuroscientists. For example, Francis Crick and Christof Koch (2000) accept Freud's dictum that thinking is largely unconscious.

Cognitive science now recognizes that consciousness is, as Freud perceived, merely the surface of a mental iceberg in that most cognitive processes, such as procedural memory, are unconscious. It is evident that the Freudian dynamic unconscious and the newly recognized cognitive unconscious represent quite different landscapes. But, I suggest, these landscapes are not entirely incompatible. The Freudian unconscious is implicitly conflictual and dynamic because of the central position given to the fact that repression controls access to consciousness. In the next chapter I will critically examine Freud's concept of repression, which I believe to be a weak link in Freudian theory. But even if we put the concept of repression aside as an explanation, there is unquestionably an involuntary and unconscious selective process that controls access to consciousness. In the Freudian unconscious, conflict is an implicit determinant in deciding what remains unconscious. Freud also believed in a cognitive unconscious, in that he recognized potential meaning to be present in unconscious memory. But more important, Freud believed that the unconscious was that part of the mind where man's instinctual endowment made somatic demands upon the self (1940, p. 148). These somatic demands may remain unconscious or be elaborated as conscious images, fantasies, and focused desires.

This aspect of the unconscious is conspicuously absent from recent descriptions of the cognitive unconscious, such as provided by Lakoff and Johnson. They state, "Since cognitive operations are largely unconscious, the term cognitive unconscious accurately describes all unconscious mental operations concerned with conceptual systems, meaning and language" (Lakoff and Johnson 1999, p. 12). They characterize the cognitive unconscious as follows: "The cognitive unconscious is thoroughly efficacious: intentional, representational, propositional, truth characterizing, inference generating, imaginative and causal" (1999, p. 117). The unconscious emotions that dominate the Freudian unconscious are conspicuously absent in this description.

To a psychoanalyst, this is a rather bland, arid, and one-dimensional view of the unconscious mind as compared to the Freudian unconscious. The cognitive unconscious must include an emotional unconscious, encompassing not only the "somatic demands upon the mind" but also the potential expression of unconscious emotional memory and unconscious fantasy.

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