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Joined: November 20, 2012
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Both Freud (Austrian) and Jung (Swiss) wrote in German, and Jung's theory is derived from Freudian theory, before their ideoligical split. However, on the unconscious and its terminology, the men were in agreement (although the Preconscious is not something that appears in Jungian theory, however I don't think there's any real conflict there). If I have this correct, I think in German it goes:
Unconscious - das Unbewusste
Preconscious - das Vorbewusste
'Subconscious' - das Unterbewusste

A quick wikipedia grab:
"The erroneous, pseudo-Freudan use of subconscious and "subconsciousness" has its precise equivalent in German, where the words inappropriately employed are das Unterbewusste and das Unterbewusstsein".

nhoJ April 30, 2014, 8:17am

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Sorry, but I have a copy of Freud's 'The Unconscious' two feet away from me that states this isn't the case (Freud catagorically calls for a rejection of the term in it - check it if you want verification), although it is a common mistake made by those who've not actually read Freud. I think the journalist who compiled Man And His Symbols made the same mistake in earlier editions - although in the edition I have here, if the mistake was included, it's since been removed.

nhoJ April 30, 2014, 7:14am

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Whoah, whoah, hold up there, rs. For now, I'll ignore your hubris, but saying 'get over Freud and Jung' is like saying 'get over Einstein, time isn't a real thing'.

Freud may be unpopular today, but Jung certainly isn't, and while many parts of Freudian theory may be scoffed at today (such as infantile sexuality and the like), many other parts have survived scientific rigour and form the backbone of neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology in general (for instance, the difference between Primary and Secondary Process thinking which qualitatively allow us to differentiate between conscious and unconscious). Jung on the other hand is still very popular and there's little that researchers nowadays feel he got wrong, but rather, it's spooky how much he seems to have got right.

For instance, some of the most exciting neuroscientific research I've seen was on dreamers, and how they were surprised to find that our visual cortex isn't really running when we dream (which is weird, 'cos we can see, right?), but rather the associative visual cortical areas were running, meaning we really do dream in symbolism. To which the neuroscientist said '...if Freud and Jung could see these results, they'd be tickled pink'.

Yes, this debate has been going on for centuries - albeit with differing terminology - but the term 'unconscious mind' predates 'subconscious mind', and it was only when hypnotherapists Charcot and Janet introduced the term 'subconscious mind' in the late 19th century that a spanner was thrown in the works, and we're having this conversation today. Freud, Jung, and others at the time were in the generation that followed, and thoroughly disproved the faulty concept. Unfortunately it's the misperceptions of self-help and other 'folk psychology' -as it was known at the time in German- that persist that continue the idea, along with other misperceptions such as 'we only use 10% of our brains', or that people can either be 'left or right hemisphered'.

Psychology operates through a body of established literature, which we further build upon through further research. Freud and Jung's work is already established literature, and we do not ignore it. Some parts of Freud may have been disproven over the last century, but other parts have been strengthened, particularly the differentiation between conscious and unconscious material. Our established body of literature is what matters to us, not the whims and fashions of the general public, and unreferenced, unresearched self-help and other folk or 'pop' psychology does not make up this literature. Although I'd dare say that a century on, perhaps it's time for a review of said research on this subject, as even university lecturers nowadays are making large mistakes over even basic material as they haven't even read the material they claim to be teaching! ;) There are other parts of more modern research that could be used in argument against 'subconscious', but by and large, it hasn't been seen as necessary, because the arguments established in the body of psychology literature have thus far been sufficient.

Anyway, as to what you refer to as 'subconscious', this doesn't fit any theoretical framework, not even that of Charcot and Janet who coined the term. The material you gave in example is "pre-conscious" to use unfashionable Freudian language, and in more everyday terminology simply fits under differing forms of memory. You also differentiate between unconscious and so-called 'subconscious' material, and if you look at the original post of this thread (ie. are the terms interchangeable?), this is not helping to simplify matters. Like Freud noted, I'm not sure if you're speaking qualitatively or topographically, and chances are that the one saying it is 'unaware of any of it'.

What you refer to as unconscious material is partially correct in that we are simply unaware of it, but unconscious material can be made conscious through varying techniques, and it's upon this idea that psychoanalysis was formed in the first place, and other psychodynamic disciplines. Heck, probably 90% of psychodynamic therapy is making conscious what was unconscious, and helping the client deal with and integrate this material.

Through dreams in particular we get a direct glimpse at unconscious material, however, if dream material were 'subconscious' (indicating a subterranean consciousness), then our dreams would look like every day life, rather than the bizzare worlds we see in them.

nhoJ October 14, 2013, 7:02pm

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The unconscious is not merely a place of trauma, stst, and it never has been. There are some views that Freudians view the unconscious this way, but this is a gross over-simplification that becomes completely inaccurate (I should state that I'm not a Freudian by the way, but he did get certain broad strokes right in this area that we still use today).

Fair enough on 'institutional thinking'; I could focus on the scientific methods that got us here, but it would take more room than this entire thread and take me weeks to compile. Have you read the long answer I compiled for Stu_ck? Is there anything you take issue with there?

nhoJ July 12, 2013, 5:57pm

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Sorry, should revise a badly worded sentence above. It is violently misunderstood to impose the concept of conscious Secondary Process Thinking into the areas of unconscious Primary Process Thinking.

nhoJ July 11, 2013, 10:35pm

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This indeed makes sense when trying to reconcile things from an English-language standpoint, but when you're trying to impose this upon the actual facts and scientific literature, it really starts to veer into the realm of post-hoc reasoning. As for your last paragraph, don't be childish.

Firstly, as I asked Kishore, on what literature is this opinion based, stst?

If you were to examine the literature, particularly the work of the psychoanalytic community of the first half of the twentieth century and recent fields such as neuropsychoanalysis and other disciplines that study the interaction between psyche and neuroanatomy, you would see that conscious thought is a very narrow spectrum, which in Freudian language is called Secondary Process Thinking.

This 'subconscious mind' you propose has been thoroughly dispelled by psych literature (although I can't account for the misinformation found in Self Help/Pop Psychology), as you will see in earlier arguments. To say otherwise is to impose the violently misunderstood concept of Secondary Process Thinking in the areas outside of consciousness, and to force Secondary Process Thinking in the place of the unconscious mind's Primary Process Thinking.

If I understood a whimsical argument by Jung correctly, about the only time a 'subconscious mind' could be said to exist is when an alter-ego is forming in the unconscious; one that can threaten and overtake your current consciousness. Thus, if you do have a subconscious mind, you should be very worried indeed!

I've already stated this, but to quote Freud directly:
"If someone talks of subconsciousness, I cannot tell whether he means the term topographically – to indicate something lying in the mind beneath consciousness – or qualitatively – to indicate another consciousness, a subterranean one, as it were. He is probably not clear about any of it. The only trustworthy antithesis is between conscious and unconscious".

If you're going to be childish and bring "IQ" into it, then when it comes to authority of information, I think I'll take Freud and the body of psych literature over the opinions of an anonymous person on the internet.

nhoJ July 11, 2013, 10:32pm

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Super D, you're argument is backfiring in terms of the confusion issue. You want to clear it up so that it works in English, and so it appears, functions *relatively* well alongside psychology as well. So the 'subconscious' to you is the Preconscious material of your address, phone number... things readily available to consciousness. Cool, that sounds sounds workable....
...wait a minute! You now have to explain to whoever's listening, "but wait, my idea of 'subconscious' isn't the thing that's going when you're dreaming, that's another thing entirely". Generally when it comes to the unconscious/'subconscious' mind, people are mostly interested in relation to dreams - particularly their bizarre nature and symbolism - and this is not the part of the psyche you were just talking about.

If you object to the dorky sounding nature of Preconscious (and fair enough), and wanted to simplify it for the general public, I'd have this:
Conscious - as discussed
Basic everyday working memory
Unconscious - as discussed, however, note this the dreaming part in all of this

To substitute for Preconscious with simply "your basic memory" (or something similar) would have no conflict with psych, and be just as useful. Let the Freudians say Preconscious if they really have to, and in the meantime, it'd still be conscious and unconscious, which would make the psychologists very happy.

nhoJ May 22, 2013, 6:08pm

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On what literature is this based, Kishore?

nhoJ May 20, 2013, 9:28pm

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Cheers, man. :)

nhoJ May 15, 2013, 6:22am

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G'day Stu_ck,

Apologies on my delay, I finished my assignment a week ago, but came down with a dose of Man-Flu! ;)

Anyway, I've been mulling over how best to answer this, and I figure the best way would to be give a quick version that explains things in a qualitative sense, and then expand on things with a structural/topographical viewpoint. I'm not sure I can put things in layman's terms, but instead I will assume intelligence in the reader, and seek to explain any technical terms I use as best as possible without resorting to the bastardising effect of analogies, as well as maybe refute some myths along the way. If any terminology or concepts remain unclear, please highlight them and I'll try to explain them further, yeah?

This is going to be LONG. ;)

So, the quick explanation. Firstly, I must introduce the Freudian terms of Primary Process Thinking, and Secondary Process Thinking. Primary process thinking is the primitive, undeveloped, natural thinking of humans prior to the development of the conscious ego that comes with mental development over time (the ego being the basic conscious part of the psyche, responsible for reality testing, executive functioning, logical thought, and so on - more on that later). Primary process thinking is the natural state of the infant, is instinctive, 'irrational', and is the inherent language of the unconscious. Primary process thinking runs parallel with secondary process thinking, and when the conscious ego is dormant during sleep, secondary process thinking drops out completely in most cases and our body and psyche run purely according to primary process thinking - the natural, instinctive, primordial language of ourselves as an organism. Ever noticed how dreams are so chaotic, unstructured, and illogical? This is primary process thinking: the language of the unconscious.

Now, secondary process thinking on the other hand is the specific product of consciousness. It is the kind of thinking that is logical, rational, structured, and so on. Work out a tricky sum in your head, for instance, and that whole process was an example secondary process thinking: the language of the conscious. Such thinking takes time and development; the sort of thing that is inculcated by method during schooling for instance. Whereas primary process thinking (unconscious) is primitive, secondary process thinking (conscious) is sophisticated.

Now that you understand these terms, to give the quick answer, 'subconscious' implies only secondary process thinking: a secondary-process conscious-mind, and another secondary-process 'subconscious' mind below that. Anyone who has given even the slightest bit of analysis to the way they think, dream, and so on, can clearly see that such thinking is inherently ridiculous (particularly when looking at the bizarre nature of dreams, which are anything but rational and logical).

Now that we've explored things from a qualitative viewpoint, let's expand on things from a structural/topographical viewpoint.

Firstly, when I show someone a working model of the psyche, their usual reaction is, "oh, so it's the opposite of what you'd think". I don't mean this in a snobbish sense (well, maybe a little), but the general public actually had a more accurate view of the psyche *before* they thought they knew something about it. True, their thinking may have been mystical and perhaps only implicit, but it didn't have the profoundly misleading ideas that have sprung from pop-psychology. If you were to ask the layman, the general structure they would have in mind would be first the conscious mind, and from out of that comes the 'subconscious'. But in actual fact the structure works this way:
First we have the body -> from out of this comes the unconscious -> and from out of the unconscious comes the conscious mind.
On the subject of the body and highlighting primary process thinking, intuitions are an example of this (intuitions being unconscious thoughts, or 'hunches'). And it is quite apt that we call these "gut feelings", as recent research reveals that the gut has about the same number of neurons as a cat brain, and the heart has an even greater number, iirc. Perhaps the poets were right....

Before I further continue, I must introduce the term 'complex'. Bastardised pop-psychology has the term shed in a purely negative light, and beyond that, most people couldn't actually tell you what a complex is. A complex is merely a cluster of associations around a central theme. For instance, if we were to take the cliche of 'mother' as a complex, around that central node of 'mother' would be attached such things as: female, older, the colour of her hair, and so on. Complexes can be positive, negative, or simply neutral in their associations, and thinking without them would be impossible.

Now that's out of the way, let me return to the conscious 'ego'. The ego - the chief agent of secondary process thinking - is itself merely a complex; a complex that grows out of the unconscious, much like a tree grows from soil. The ego takes time and development, and is arguably not even fully grown until adulthood. The conscious ego is merely an extension of the unconscious, and is entirely capable of being overwhelmed by it, and being re-absorbed into the unconscious (and even being replaced with an alter-ego - a competing cluster).

To not grasp this concept of conscious, rational, secondary process thinking, makes the understanding and diagnosis of such disorders as schizophrenia damn near impossible (and as such, my advice to people seeking a therapist is that if they speak of a 'subconscious', they should really just walk away and find someone else who actually has a working concept of the psyche).

So, we've addressed the chain of events in consciousness, and the implications of structure, so let's now address the 'sub' part of 'subconscious'.

As Jung noted, 'subconscious' is misleading because not only is the unconscious below consciousness, but it can also be above it. If we set aside the misleading 'conscious' part of 'subconscious' and just let things be, then not only would we have to invoke the term 'subconscious' for the things below, but also 'superconscious' for the things above (and note that all three of superconscious, conscious, and subconscious are given the unhelpful tag "conscious").

I had trouble making sense of Jung's explanation of the 'above' in that paper, but if you've ever had something like a spontaneous vision impose itself over your actual regular, seeing-with-your-eyes vision (as I have), such phenomena would be above consciousness, despite their contents being unconscious - without willed volition. What too of auditory hallucinations? Food for thought....

Continuing on the theme of 'above', let us concentrate on visual processing. The Gestalt psychologists in particular did much research on the automatic mechanisms regarding vision. Just look around you right now: did you see a bunch of random visual stimuli and go consciously go, "okay, straight line up, some across, certain colours: that's my monitor; oblong frame beside me, it's painted white: must be my door frame....." (and so on), or did just open your eyes and an entire visual field appeared before you, and you knew what you were looking at? Despite the fact that you were "conscious" or more accurately *awake* during the process, all of this processing was done outside of your conscious awareness. It was not conscious, it was *unconscious*. And such a vast amount of visual information would have been well beyond the capabilities of your psychically tiny conscious ego - I guess that would qualify as *above* consciousness. Consciousness is but a narrow searchlight within the murky darkness of the unconscious.

Right, we're likely all getting tired and grumpy now, so I'll finish up with topography in particular.

Freud was probably one of the most vocal advocates in rejecting the term 'subconscious', but ironically, it's Freud with whom the term is most associated (by people who've never Freud - he'd probably turn in his grave if he knew). Nevertheless, let's give the term the benefit of the doubt and re-explore it after seeing Freud's map of the psyche.

Imagine these in a pyramid of three sections:

The Conscious is likened to the tip of an iceberg, with the much greater portion of the iceberg lying below in the illustration representing the Pre-Conscious and the Unconscious. The Pre-Conscious is things outside of conscious awareness but readily available to consciousness when needed, such as your address, mother's name, and so on. The Unconscious is outside of conscious awareness, consisting of things forgotten, repressed, and so on. Now if we give the people who say "Freud's Subconscious" the benefit of the doubt and run with it, to what part of the psyche are they referring? Is it the Pre-Conscious, or the Unconscious... or is it both? Who could say, given that he rejected the term outright?

And lastly, let's look at Jung. Jung expanded on the idea of the unconscious, going much further than Freud. Apart from other unconscious components of psyche than just Freud's id (which I won't go into), Jung introduced the concept of the Personal Unconscious, and the Collective Unconscious. The personal unconscious is actually made of things that originated in consciousness, but the collective unconscious consists of the archetypes and instincts; the things that are your genetic inheritance as a human that are universal to all humans and guide your conscious development. Now if consciousness comes out of this, and is in particular shaped by this inherited collective unconscious, how could such a thing have originated and extended from your conscious mind? I've sometimes seen it re-phrased as the "Collective Subconscious", but such a thing would be a contradiction in terms and completely illogical.

Phew. I think that's it for now. Thank you all for your patience, I hope you don't mind such a LOOOOONNNGGG post, and if you'd like me to further expand on any of these things, let me know.


nhoJ May 4, 2013, 7:06am

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Put it this way, in the pop-culture sense, where liberty is taken with science on a daily basis, no, you can say 'subconsciously' as much as you like. When you start learning psych and realise 'subconscious' is a mistaken concept, it's annoying at first when you hear it everywhere, but you hear it so often you quickly resign yourself to the fact that the general public will probably always be saying it, and believing in the mistaken concept like other myths such as "you only use 10% of your brain" (you actually use pretty much all of your brain throughout the day).

On our first day of psych 101, we had a myth-busting session and it was pretty demoralising: say you know ten things about psychology - chances are that one of those things is correct. Unsurprisingly, many psych students drop out quite early, because we don't study what most people seem to think we study. Pretty depressing, huh?

So it depends, if you're happy enough with the myths of pop-psychology, and just want to weave a good story and don't mind talking down to your readers, knock yourself out. It's in the general English dictionaries, regardless of its incredible scientific inaccuracy. If on the other hand you want to be accurate and scientific, no. :-/

If you want to address things at different levels, the two correct terms are unconscious(ly) and subliminal(ly). Unconscious means something is completely out of conscious awareness, or incompatible with the conscious mind, and so on (more on that later). Subliminal on the other hand generally refers to attention and focus on stimuli - unlike something unconscious, something that is subliminal (such as a very subtle soundtrack that goes unnoticed) can generally be made aware of simply by conscious redirection of focus (ie. "Hey, go back to that last scene, did you notice the music in the background?).

To confuse your terminology even further (!!!), there's a difference between awake and conscious, and as noted above, asleep and unconscious. But I'm saving that for my larger reply to St_uck when I finish my assignment. As noted above, 'subconscious' and 'subconsciously' make things more convenient for English, but don't actually hold water in scientific sense; plus, they imply a structure of the psyche almost in reverse to its true form.

Actually, if I were a sci-fi writer, I'd love to popularise the proper terminology, because once looked at, the world of the unconscious and the conscious mind that grows from it is actually far more interesting. :)

nhoJ April 25, 2013, 8:41pm

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Sure, nothing wrong with that; although if it feels strange, maybe with 'unconsciously' somewhere different in the sentence... other than that, yeah, all good.

nhoJ April 25, 2013, 6:38pm

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While I'm beavering away on my assignment, in the meantime, if you're genuinely interested in the subject, check out Carl Jung's 'Man and His Symbols', available for a few bucks on paperback on Ebay, etc. It's an introduction to Analytical Psychology for the general public. Modern psychology is a pretty dismal and barren place as far as the unconscious mind is concerned; that book is from the '60s, which is one of psychology's coolest periods!

nhoJ April 23, 2013, 8:09pm

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Stu_ck, I'm in the middle of an assignment and can't give a decent (read: long) answer for a few days, but don't worry, I will get back to you ASAP.

Renee, the opinion of a hypnotherapist is interesting here. I'm unaware of what a CCHT course consists of. In your training, did you decently cover the works of Freud, Jung, and so on, ie. was in depth coverage given to the psychodynamic founders? And I suppose most importantly, did your training cover the generally credited fathers of hypnotherapy with Charcot and Janet? It was the latter two who came up with subconsciente, or 'subconscious' in the 19th century, and the psychodynamic theorists who disproved it in the the early 20th, postulating instead the 'unconscious mind'.

If you've covered the material in depth - noting that they almost all used hypnosis themselves - do you feel Freud et al. were incorrect in their assertions and alternative models, and from a hypnotherapist's POV, have you a counter-argument of your own?

nhoJ April 22, 2013, 9:55pm

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But what are we to do when it's a case of, "that's really not how it works"?

Snobbery aside, generally when a member of the public explains what they mean by their interpretation of 'subconscious', usually the explanation they give is precisely why we don't use the term (as we can see numerous times above, but for politeness' sake, I won't point out where). To use the least snobby analogy I can think of, using 'subconscious' in place of 'unconscious' is a bit like using 'white shoes' and 'black boots' interchangeably - it simply doesn't work and is completely misleading. And when you do learn about the structures of the psyche in psychology, you quickly realise that you really can't go on using the term in good conscience as it's like saying up is down, black is white, and so on.

I understand the reason people want to use 'subconscious', I really do, but it just doesn't work on any technical level, regardless of snobbery. It seems to me that subconscious makes things more convenient for English, but for as long as it stays around in our language like the thorn that is to therapists, it will continue to wreak damage to research and patients alike as their concept of the psyche is dangerously misled.

Or... we could all just get used to the idea of unconscious as a noun.

nhoJ April 20, 2013, 12:38am

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domingo, the problem isn't so much to do with sound or pedantry, but the idea that it creates in people's minds. If it were some random Latin word that had no meaning to the layman, this really wouldn't be an issue, but 'subconscious' instantly evokes connotations in the English speaker's mind. In psychology we need people to actually *understand* themselves, and when it comes to 'subconscious', it's genuinely impossible to properly understand the structure of the psyche (and I'd even dare venture that the erroneous term has actually done a lot of damage over the years in the way it misleads people).

Freud called for its rejection in his paper 'The Unconscious', largely to do with its ambiguity and misleading nature. In a later work, he said that when someone spoke of this so-called subconscious, that he had no idea whether they were speaking qualitatively or topographically, but chances are that neither would the very person saying it. The only clear distinction was conscious and unconscious, said Freud.

Jung further decried the term when he said that the unconscious is not only below consciousness (hence the 'sub' part), but can also be above consciousness too (but that explanation is too long to fit in this reply).

Indeed, so erroneous and misleading is this term that when I introduce someone to a map of the psyche and its dynamics, most of the time they say, "oh, so it's the opposite of what you'd think", in comparison to their erroneous conscious/subconscious paradigm. Unlike 'subconscious' would suggest, the unconscious exists prior to, during, and after consciousness. The conscious ego itself is merely a smaller complex that grows from the infinitely larger unconscious, and is entirely capable of being dissolved back into the soupy and primordial unconscious.

To use an astronomical example, 'subconscious' creates in people's minds a model much like the old idea that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and the Sun, stars, and other planets all revolved around it (with the Earth here representing the conscious ego). Whereas in reality, the Earth revolves around the Sun, which in itself is merely part of a much larger galaxy; much like the conscious ego is a tiny part of the psyche within the much larger unconscious. I guess you could subconscious is 'ego-centric'!

However I do understand people's hesitation to adopt 'unconscious' as a noun, due to the connotation of being comatose. I heard a psychotherapist side-step the issue beautifully by using the term 'non-conscious', which is really what the term 'unconscious' is implying in this case. If the emerging psychotherapeutic consensus was to adopt the term 'non-conscious', I for one would be happy to go along with it. However, I would never be happy with adopting 'subconscious', as it's so incredibly misleading and potentially damaging when people form philosophies of life around it.

nhoJ February 10, 2013, 8:23pm

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Much of what has needed to be said academically has been said, however I would add a few things to the debate about *usage*. Unconscious is indeed the correct term, and unless for reason someone is talking about the 19th century works of Janet, Subconscious is never correct; things are either unconscious or subliminal.

However, perhaps in a cynical way, Subconscious is a useful way of differentiating between those who don't know of what they speak, and those that do. If I'm hearing some brand new psychology theory and want to know if the person has all their facts straight, if they say 'subconscious', it's generally a dead give away that they haven't done their study. Many in the general public would think that we're just being academic and pedantic, but a basic rule of psycholinguistics is that language shapes thought. And the ideas that Subconscious creates in the listener's head are usually the opposite to what psychology actually teaches, and much time during a process like therapy goes into undoing the rather damaging view of the psyche that Western man usually has for himself, propagated by such erroneous ideas like the so-called Subconscious.

In the end, none of my respected associates would ever use the term, but politely demonstrate the ideas of the unconscious mind instead. There are however fast-buck merchants with little regard for the reader/listener trying to sell their ideas with little regard for the impact they are creating. If I knew a practitioner who clearly understood the difference and the impact of language on thought and used 'subconscious' anyway, this is not someone I'd be comfortable about. But for those who are ignorant of the terminology, when you see claims like 'unlock the power of the subconscious mind', it's a sure-fire way of knowing these people don't know what they're talking about.

nhoJ November 20, 2012, 7:56pm

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