The idea of the unconscious or subconscious wasn’t invented by Sigmund Freud, but he perhaps put forth the first wholly structured and completed concept of it.
Psychologists can argue as to what degree it can influence our behavior and just how deep it truly goes, but one thing is undeniable - it does exist.
What is the Subconscious?
To define the subconscious, we must see what its opposite is - the conscious.
Basically, every thought and action we undertake out of our own volition, the things we do which we want to do.
Being awake, as it were.
In contrast, the subconscious is the beliefs and drives, as Freud would call them, that are still a part of us, but we either mask them because we are uncomfortable or are simply unaware of them.
In more conventional psychology, especially Freudian psychoanalysis, these can take the form of defense mechanisms, such as projecting unpleasant traits of ours onto other people, regression into a more childish state, splitting our positive qualities from our negative ones in an act of denial, and such.
Discovering the details and ways in which our subconscious affects our conscious decisions and actions is a very important part, not only in solving our trauma and disorders but also in knowing ourselves better.
The Collective Subconscious
Working on the same principle, one of Freud’s students, Karl Jung, proposed a theory that delves even deeper into the subconscious.
Where an individual has his or her own consciousness and a vast shadow behind it that is every motivation and belief we are not fully conscious of, so does it exist on a multi-personal level.
According to Jung, the collective subconscious, also frequently known as the collective consciousness, is a guiding set of beliefs and motivations that every human share.
This isn’t through some magical telepathic link or hive-mind connection, but simple evolution.
The theory of the collective conscious states that within this murky set of ideas, humans instinctively gravitate towards their behavior and, more importantly, culture.
These images manifest themselves as archetypes - just like literature has tropes and common themes, so does human expression and conceptualization.
A solid point of evidence for Jung’s theories is that in almost every civilization across the planet, the same ideas appear even when there has been no contact between them.
The wise old man, the martyr, from whose sacrifice humans are freed, water as a source of knowledge, etc.
It’s almost impossible to summarize Jung’s many ideas without compromising their nature, but this is a simple example of some of them.
Overall, even if one does not believe in mystical, spiritual, or metaphysical ideas, the subconscious is scientifically proven to exist and is extremely important.
After all, our working memory just doesn’t have the capacity to store all the facts about ourselves, our likes, dislikes, interests, and preferences at a moment’s notice.
When you watch a movie or hear a song that deeply resonates with you, why is that do you ask yourself?
Is it random? Are our preferences simply genetic bits n our DNA that predetermine all of that?
Why is it then that we can dislike a piece of art in our youth and then grow to love it later on?
Maybe, the clue lies in our past, in some certain powerful, maybe powerful enough to forget and repress events. Or maybe even deeper, into something that speaks to all humans and all who came before?
Who knows. What is your biggest fascination with the human mind? Comment below!