Human beings believe that they live their life in a conscious manner; that they are aware of their surroundings and know what is going on around them at all times. Yet deeper analysis of the word conscious leads to a more confusing thought process than a human being may be able to grasp. The Personal and Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung believes that “the unconscious contains only those parts of the personality which could just as well be conscious and are in fact suppressed only through upbringing”(344). In a more simplistic form, he says that the human brain is actually a more unconscious thought process and that what the brain produces to be conscious can actually be described as unconscious. Francis Crick’s The General Nature of Consciousness agrees in the same way that “people are not conscious of all the processes going on in their heads”(405). Both of these scientists argue on the same side of the psychological debate that the average human belief of consciousness is not what it is thought to be.
The other perspective on the debate is that the unconscious and conscious are to totally different aspects of our mind. Human beings do in fact live most of their lives in a conscious manner are some thing a scientist named K. Koffka believes. Koffka states that “the mind and that is specifically conscious, therefore everything mental must be thought of in terms of consciousness, even if be not conscious itself”(Koffka). If taken into great detail, Koffka is a firm believer that everything we say and do in a day is in total control of the conscious part of our mind. He does, however make clear that he also believes there is unconsciousness as well. “Therefore, when one found it necessary to go beyond consciousness in the description and exploration of the mind, one imagined the non-conscious one, fundamentally alike, that is, in all its aspects or properties with the exception of being conscious”(Koffka).
Jung makes a valid point in saying that what we believe to be conscious is actually what the unconscious describes to us. When going into great detail on the subject, our brain receives a message from our senses and then relays that information back to us. We believe that we have consciously created these thought processes. The real question is, did you actually stop and become unaware of your surroundings, consciously, thus becoming unconscious of your surroundings, and then proceeded to have your brain produce these responses? Jung states that “the unconscious contains all those psychic components that have fallen below the threshold, including subliminal sense perceptions”(344-345). The honest answer for most people would be no, and thus reinforcing the belief that our unconsciousness, at least, controls part of what we describe and believe to be conscious. This is a theory that both Jung and Crick believe in, and have written to great length on at support their own hypotheses.
Crick goes into great length to tell his readers that psychology is at a loss and in a great dispute about what, in fact, the conscious and unconscious truly are. Crick states that even though humans live in a state of total awareness all of their life, except when asleep, that even if they think that the body and mind are controlled by the conscious, the mind spends more time performing more unconscious thoughts and processes than it does performing the conscious ones. He believes that the brain only makes things seem to be conscious for our own sakes of grasping what occurs around us.
Lancelot Law Whyte was a psychologist who studied the mind before Freud. He believed that the “unconscious, in the term unconscious mental processes’ would be used to mean all mental processes except those discrete aspects or belief phases which enter awareness as they occur”(Whyte). By that he means that most of our lives we live in a more unconscious awareness. The only time we truly experience a conscious moment is when we live for the moment, when we mark a moment in our life, then recall on it later and finally when we actually need our thought processes in order to carry out a task.
In almost all other cases, we enter the day and end it in a more routine fashion. The term routine can be easily associated with this fashion, and a routine can occur very easily if we allow it too. Say you wake up in the morning, and you hit the alarm every morning. That is a routine, and then you get out of bed and you then enter the shower. There is your next routine, after that is all the things that go into getting ready for work. These are all examples of what a routine is.
A routine can almost be synonymous with the unconscious thought process. By this I mean that you carry out all of these processes without actually having to think about it. The unconscious woke you up, got you out of bed and got you going for the morning. You may still be groggy and tired, but for some reason you are in the shower and you are washing yourself. The next thing you know you are ready for work with coffee in your hand, and where did the coffee come from? This is how we exhibit unconscious awareness through our unconscious lives.
The term consciousness and conscious are most used in the field of medicine. They both describe a state that the human body was or is in at the time of a prognosis. This is also a term used in medicine to describe the brain during a point of trauma or during a common physical. The field of medicine and its use of the word conscious are probably what have lead people to think of their own lives in a conscious manner. When you watch medical shows on television and they use the words conscious or unconscious in those scripts, they use the word correctly, but it also puts those terms into the viewers mind subliminally, much as what Jung states. That people were instituted with a word and became familiar with it, only they didn’t know it was being used as a medical word and not as a common used. By this, I mean that words commonly used in medicine do not have the same meaning as those used in everyday situations. I believe that this is what has lead to a belief that we are fully aware of our surroundings and thus lead to the word conscious.
Most research seems to suggest that life is more or less lived in a large part of unconsciousness. There are some scientists and psychologists who still seem to believe that life is a conscious effort and that we live in total consciousness. Koffka is one who believes this, but on a grand scale, much like in this research paper, the number of doctors that believe unconscious is our conscious self far out weights that of the ones who believe in total consciousness.
In the case of consciousness versus unconsciousness, it is fair to say that we live a life of what we believe to be conscious, but in fact it is more of an unconscious effort to maintain what it is we describe to ourselves as consciousness. The truth behind all of the facts is that these two scientists have put a great deal of work into their theories and believe that the white between all the print is that we actually practice a life of unconsciousness almost all at once and that what little consciousness actually witness is all that the human race really needs to come to grip with that experience in all their normal day proceedings.
Jacobus, Lee A. A World Of Ideas. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002. 344-354; 399-408.
Whyte, Lancelot law. The Unconscious Before Freud. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books Inc, 1960
Koffka, k. “On The Structure Of The Unconscious.” The Unconscious: A Symposium. Ed. . Freeport: Books for Libraries Press Inc, 1966. 43-68.