Search Results for Secondary Revision
In Sigmund Freud’s classic work on dreams and the unconscious, The Interpretation of Dreams (German edition: 1899 & 1900), secondary revision is said to occur whenever we remember a dream’s content.
Freud says the original dream content is usually obscure, incoherent and highly symbolic, and our memory of it is fragmented at best.
On waking the conscious mind fills in the gaps to make some kind of sense out of the dream, even though our waking interpretation doesn’t necessarily fit with the actual dream content.
In his Dictionary of Psychology (Bantam: 1985) J. P. Chaplin calls this secondary elaboration, and says we essentially try to make a better “story” out of the dream content.
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Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Jew of Austrian parentage and the founder of psychoanalysis. He studied medicine in Vienna and then neurology and psychopathology. He was marginalized by the medical community for his interest in the idea of infant sexuality. Today he, perhaps ironically, is often frowned on as a reductionist.
Freud remains one of the great innovators of the modern age. He attempted to scientifically outline the idea of the unconscious which formerly had been represented in literature, philosophy and nineteenth-century occultism.
His psychoanalytic techniques of free association and abreaction were influenced by several other contemporaneous “doctors of the mind,” most notably Jean-Martin Charcot, but Freud made them uniquely his own.
His works were almost entirely destroyed by the occupying Nazis. In 1938 he reluctantly withdrew from Vienna to London, leaving behind several sisters, all of whom died in concentration camps.
A habitual cigar-smoker, his relationship with his daughter Anna became extremely close; she acted as secretary, friend and confidant. Freud eventually contracted jaw cancer but refused pain-killers because they dulled his mind and interfered with his work.
After Freud’s death Anna further elaborated on the idea of defense mechanisms, distinguishing herself as an important thinker in her own right.
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Black’s Medical Dictionary (39th edition) defines the unconscious as “a description of mental activities of which an individual is unaware” (p. 567).
In the West, the idea of the unconscious has an interesting history. It is found in the ancient Greek literature of Sophocles, with related concepts such as hubris, and in Shakespeare and more recent writers like James Joyce.
Philosophical debates about its character flourished in the 18th century among thinkers such as John Locke and David Hume.
More recently, Freud, Pierre Janet, Alfred Adler, Carl Jung and others have made important contributions.
Arthur Koestler says the idea of the unconscious was already known before the actual word ‘unconscious’ was coined. Koestler cites several examples where the notion of the unconscious is implied in the arts and philosophy-e.g. Dante, Kepler and Kant.
Koestler also says that consciousness and unconsciousness are not discrete states but exist along a continuum.†
From Koestler it seems reasonable to suggest that the range and character of this experiential continuum varies from person to person. In other words, some individuals consciously access different thoughts and emotions than others.
Perhaps most important is to remember that the unconscious is just a concept.
All too often it’s reified. Reification occurs when ideas are assumed to represent some real entity or thing–for instance, the sociological idea of ‘the state.’ Reified concepts may even point to detailed legal entities.
But the question remains as to whether the thing written and talked about exists as described.
A common mistake among contemporary writers is to say that Freud sees the unconscious as uniquely personal while his former protege Carl Jung sees it as collective. In actual fact both theorist recognize personal and collective aspects within their respective theories of the unconscious.
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† Koestler, Arthur. The Act of Creation. New York: Penguin [Arkana], 1989: 147-177.
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