The Unconscious

Freudian thought also suggests that after what amounts to a protracted conflict or struggle between the conscious life on one hand and the unconscious life on the other hand, the unconscious then encompasses both resistance and repression and in turn encompasses the conscious life as a whole, which then renders the conscious life the “appendage” of the unconscious life. And as a result of the outcome of this protracted conflict and struggle, the libido – which constitutes one of the two major dimensions of the unconscious – is transformed by the ‘ego ideal’ of the conscious level. After transforming the libido, the ego ideal becomes the vehicle and facilitator for the fulfillment of the libido’s primary aims and objectives. In short, the ego ideal serves the basic aims and objectives of the libido once the libido is transformed by the ego ideal.

Aside from the libido, there is also the ‘death instinct’ which one must note constitutes one out of the two major dimensions or components of the unconscious. In a sense, either the libido or the death instinct wins out on the conscious level and in conscious life and in our collective conscious reality. Freud ultimately argued that “only very little is contained in consciousness, so most of what we call conscious knowledge must, in any case, exist for prolonged periods in a state of latency – that is, of psychic unconsciousness.” 

Freud even considered the unconscious to be “another, second consciousness within us, married to the one we already know.” In a sense, the unconscious is “a consciousness unknown to its own bearer” and in turn amounts essentially to “an unconscious consciousness.” There are essentially “an unlimited series of states of consciousness, all unknown both to ourselves and to each other.” Arguably, the basic aim for the individual is “not to mistake our perceptions of consciousness for the unconscious psychic processes that are their object.” Moreover, it is the inner life of the unconscious which is “less unknowable than the outside world” to borrow from Freud. 

Initially, the conflict or struggle between the conscious on one hand and the unconscious on the other hand has much to do with the “arrogance” of the conscious, to borrow from Freud. He wrote: 

“The arrogance of consciousness (in rejecting dreams with such contempt, for instance) is one of the most powerful of the devices with which we are provided as a universal protection against the incursion of unconscious complexes. That is why it is so hard to convince people of the reality of the unconscious and to teach them to recognize something new which is in contradiction to their conscious knowledge.”

Conscious knowledge, as in the case of Nazi Germany for instance, can dismiss the concept of an unconscious outright and wholesale. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia can override any sort of reception or openness to such a concept or idea, and the political and social implications of such intransigence and ignorance are grave, as demonstrated by Freud’s own life. And given that the present can serve as an analogy for the past, such denial, ignorance, and intransigence towards novel yet scientific ideas in the present moment, and in turn the political and social consequences and implications of such denial, ignorance, and intransigence, are not unprecedented. 

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