Consciousness, which plays a relatively minor role in psychoanalytic theory, can be defined as those mental elements in awareness at any given point in time. It is the only level of mental life directly available to us. Ideas can reach consciousness from two different directions. The first is from the perceptual conscious system, which is

Feist-Feist: Theories of Personality, Sixth Edition

II. Psychodynamic Theories

2. Freud: Psychoanalysis

Part II Psychodynamic Theories turned toward the outer world and acts as a medium for the perception of external stimuli. In other words, what we perceive through our sense organs, if not too threatening, enters into consciousness (Freud, 1933/1964).

The second source of conscious elements is from within the mental structure and includes nonthreatening ideas from the preconscious as well as menacing but well-disguised images from the unconscious. As we have seen, these latter hnages escaped into the preconscious by cloaking themselves as harmless elements and evading the primary censor. Once hi the preconscious, they avoid a final censor and come under the eye of consciousness. By the thne they reach the conscious system, these hnages are greatly distorted and camouflaged, often taking the form of defensive behaviors or dream elements.

In summary, Freud (1917/1963, pp. 295-296) compared the unconscious to a large entrance hall hi which many diverse, energetic, and disreputable people are milling about, crowdhig one another, and striving incessantly to escape to a smaller adjoining reception room. However, a watchful guard protects the threshold between


Eye of consciousness

Final censorship






Reception room

Reception room




FIGURE 2.1 Levels of Mental Life.

Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 27

the large entrance hall and the small reception room. This guard has two methods of preventing undesirables from escaping from the entrance hall—either turn them back at the door or throw out those people who earlier had clandestinely slipped into the reception room. The effect in either case is the same; the menacing, disorderly people are prevented from coming into view of an important guest who is seated at the far end of the reception room behind a screen. The meaning of the analogy is obvious. The people in the entrance hall represent unconscious images. The small reception room is the preconscious and its inhabitants represent preconscious ideas. People in the reception room (preconscious) may or may not come into view of the important guest who, of course, represents the eye of consciousness. The doorkeeper who guards the threshold between the two rooms is the primary censor that prevents unconscious images from becoming preconscious and renders preconscious images unconscious by throwing them back. The screen that guards the important guest is the final censor, and it prevents many, but not all, preconscious elements from reaching consciousness. The analogy is presented graphically in Figure 2.1.

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