The Unconscious is a myth


We begin transcribing a statement from Freud about the unconscious. The transcription is necessary, as it does not exist in Freud's works a definition of the unconscious - in spite of the fact that he had introduced it as the conceptual nucleus of psychoanalysis (as has been shown in J.Laplanche and J.B.Pontals - Vocabulaire de la Psychanalyse - Presses Universitaires de France - 1967 - p.197/9).

From this lack of conceptualization of the unconscious by Freud, it is already clear the absence of methodological foundation, episthemological preocupation and the methaphysical implications of the freudian theory:

"The psychoanalysis leads to the statement that the psychic processes are unconscious and it also leads to comparison of its perception through the consciousness with the perception of the external world through the sense organs. This comparison will help us to enlarge our knowledge. The psychoanalytic hypothesis of the unconscious psychic activity constitute, to a certain extent, a continuation of the animism, which use to always show us loyal images of our consciousness, and on the other hand, the rectification done by Kant of the theory of the external perception. Just as Kant led us to consider the subjective condictionability of our perception and to not consider it equal to the incognoscible perceived, the psychoanalysis invite us to not confuse the conscious perception with the unconscious psychic process, which is its object. In reality, the psychic do not need to be as we perceive it. But we must expect that the rectification of the internal perception do not offer so many difficulties as the external perception does, and that the internal object be less incognoscible than the external world. (S.Freud, Metapsicologia, in Obras Completas, Volumen I. Madrid, Biblioteca Nueva, 1948, p.1045)".

It is easy to perceive in the transcription above, the dualistic view, the methaphysic, be it in the afirmation of internal and external reality, or in the admission of the incognoscibility of the world. The freudian position becomes more intelligible if we remind the explanations by Kant relating to knowledge. Kant [The Critique of Pure Reason - Chicago - Encyclopedia Britannica - 1952 - Great Books] considered the knowledge of the world, knowledge of the things, impossible to be accomplished as apprehension of the phenomenon. He use to say that the thing in itself can not be known, and that it could only be known through categories which would systhematize it, hence his negation of time and space as existent realities, as cognizables, and their status as categories of knowledge. This kantian view justifies the postulation of the unconscious. To Freud, the man in itself, the conscious activity, cannot be known; the only way it can be known is as representation of an unconcious reality (projection), from where comes the unconscious as logical category which allows the clarification of the human complexity. In the same way, in the concept of atemporality of the unconscious system, we find kantian influencies.

From an unitarian and objective point of view, there is no way to maintain Freud's position. It is not possible to admit atemporal existence. Such admission would mean the negation of the whole order of the universe. Besides and because of these dualisms, of metaphysical influence, the idea, the postulation of the unconscious, can't be verified, can't be confirmed. The psychoanalysis justifies itself saying that the unconscious is a logical constructum, and doing so, on one hand it explains the impossibility of experimental verification, but, on the other hand it creates another impasse, namely: being a constructum, the whole idea of unconscious system, from the First and Second topic point of view, is negated, that is to say, it is not possible to speak of Id, Ego, Superego, unconscious, conscious and preconscious as psychical agencies anymore. There is no way out. The unconscious is a myth, or in the words of van den Berg: "The conscious of the therapist is the unconscious of the patient" [J.H.van den Berg - O Paciente Psiquiátrico - São Paulo - Mestre Jou - 1966 - p.120], and from the same author, in the same book: "the phenomenologist never needs hypothesis. The hypothesis raises when the description of reality ends prematurely. Phenomenology is the description of reality".

At this point, from the phenomenological-gestaltic approach, the unconscious is view as a postulation, a myth, and from this position we will consider it.

What is myth? The myth is an idea, and therefore, the problem placed here is to know from where this idea comes from. We enter in the episthemological level of the question. We particularize our concept of myth, saying that it is an idea resultant of the search of explanation of a determinate phenomenon, or better, the myth is an explication of a determinate phenomenon. In this terms, the myth is almost synonimous of a postulate, of a hypothesis, of a dogma, of a phantasy and even of the logical thinking. Finding this last synonymity, things become absurd because if myth is equal to logical thinking, how can it be myth? Or even: what does characterize one and the other? To answer this it is necessary to place the problem of what is logical thinking? It results from apprehension of the relations which configure a phenomenon, being then, an explanation of the phenomenon. The myth is also an explanation of the phenomenon, but this explanation is a result of onesided and distorted aprehensions. So, everything consists of knowing why the unilateralizations and distortions occur. Explaining this, it is possible to understand the genesis, the essence of the mythical structure, independently of the field which supports it.

Imagine an observer and an object to be perceived on a determinate space. Think of this situation admiting screens between the two localized points. The presence of the screens has more or less importance on account of the distorted perspectives as quantity; qualitatively there will always be distortion or impossibility of configuration. Observing this (the plastic situatedness of the mythical perceptions), we will be able to understand the synonymity stated before and conceptualize myth as an a priori. This a priori develops itself in religious structure (the dogma), in social structure (the divers alienated institutions) etc. In the psychological sphere, this problem becomes a conglomerate, totally grounded on the individual as a matte, depriving him from his constitutive essence, from his human essence. In individual terms, the myth is the image we do of ourselves disconsidering the relations which configure ourselves. An image as such, is static, absolut, aprioristic. For exemple:

a) the search of adaptation, unknowing to what one is adapting, unquestioning the capability of the support of the predeterminate structures for that goal;

b) the necessity of comunication and relationship, without think of the levels in which this may occurs: if relational or positional, superfitial or nucleated, meeting point or vanishing line;

c) the desire to take responsability through the divers forms of commitment, an "objectification" which, in essence, antagonizes with what responsability is, I mean, its essential dynamic constitution been lucidity, authenticity, therefore freedom;

d) the satisfaction, or the personal realization, or happiness are myths as well, since they are sought after as solution, that is to say, in terms of future and not as configurations to be extracted from the present problems.

Finally, the myth can be equated as an image, as the role we attempt to represent before us, before others and before the world. Any image, being representation of the thing, is by definition adherent and responsible for the break of the relation being-in-the-world, it is disharmony, what means to say that all break of structures, all break of essencies, of configurative plans, leads to distortion, leads to myths, which can only be understood from decodifications, and here we enter into the biggest myth of the actuality (in the sphere of psychology): the complexity of the human being, and then... "as a myth can only be resolved by a myth and half"... it arises the psychoanalysis with its concepts of archetypes, instincts, human nature - all of them, static concepts which are almost irremovable, therefore, giving the impression that they can be understood, or yet, that they are all directing to the same point: the man, the religions, God etc.

Of what was said above, we conclude that the myth is static, therefore magical, in an universe where the only absolute is the relativity.

In the movement the myth wears down and this fact the history of the anthropological, social, scientific and psychological processes has already revealed to us. I mean, the myth itself can only be visualized through the non-myth, that is to say, the myth as itself is not a myth. Finally, we answer why Freud has elaborated this myth - the unconscious - as well as the cause of its maintenance. The perceptive distortion, resultant from a perception of the man as a sum of parts (instincts, unconscious, Id, Ego, Superego) originated a magical view [1] of the human process, and just here, in this elementaristic and mechanistic position, lays the psychoanalytic impossibility to embrace the human dynamic as being-in-the-world and, I claim, this error is not just found in psychoanalysis, but it is there at all subjectivistic metaphysics, distorting the relation of Figure-Ground, resulting from the break of the Gestalt, the break of the unitarian relation. This division of the unity, due to non apprehension of the bipolarity of the relational unity, generated the dualistic view and from it comes the idealistic and metaphysical hyerachization which states that the idea is primary and creates the matter [2]. [Extracted from my book "Psicoterapia Gestaltista - conceituações", Fourth Chapter, pgs.71 to 78]

[1] - Two basic attitudes characterize the scientific-methodological cognitive explanation, as well as the perceptive apprehension of any reality. We name these attitudes as magical and as objective, as distorted or not distorted. The magical attitude would result from the unilateral experience of the configurative situation, as it comes through autoreferentiality, or superposition of the focalized situation through its plural dimension spatially or temporally. The autoreferentiality is the decodification of the reality in terms of knowledge already existents. Whenever this happens, there are in the cognitive relation, constitutive pre-existencies and this is why the real data (reality and derivatives, are employed in the sense of contextual description, as geographical environment; see Koffka) is substituted by a meaning which is extrinsic to its significant structure. This farness comes from the non pregnance of the configuration of reality, due to autoreferentiality. Through the various pre-existent knowledges, one stratifys schemes from where the known realities are moved to generic postulations. Having cognitive pre-existence (the autoreferentiality), responsible for the distance from the phenomenon which comes to be known or which is being known, the temporal experience starts to be apofanic (employed in the sense of derreistic experience; K.Conrad - La Esquizofrenia Incipiente. Intento de un analisis de la Forma del Delirio - Madrid - Alhambra - 1963). It emerges from this an spatialized temporality, structuring itself as a point from where delineates the configurative lines of what is there as object of knowledge. Well, if determinate situation existent now, begins to be perceived in confront, in comparision or through the past, it means that it is perceived through another, through a similar, but still other. What happens then is the analogic and deductive knowledge, cartesian knowledge as such. So, the same situation of 'now' can be perceived through the temporal structure of the 'future' and this already has the implication of visualized goals and justificatives which would explain what I know now. Nevertheless, this is different of memory and imagination (antecipation when the thinking is the mediator). These temporal dislocations act as if the phenomenon which has been known, perceptively apprehended or categorized, transforms itself into a space, an intersection point of time, that as such already becomes a positional variant, therefore, a space. These explanations about magical attitudes are enfatic demonstrated as concrete foundations for knowledge in any metaphysical position. That is the case with Kant, for exemple, in his concept of logical categories, the a priori, namely, the possibility of knowledge lays after or before what is given to know. The man was, for a long time, known and explained magically. The animism, the spiritualism and idealism are systematic stages of this position. The so called "to know one's ownself" is a typical representative of these approaches: "Oh man, know yourself in what you are not, to be then, a man!". This vocative appeal shows very well the basic attitude of magical preocupation with the know one's ownself. This attitude of searching what was not known of man in the man, was a result of the a priori that man was fruit of the divine creation: to know the creature had the implication of knowing the Creator, therefore, a dislocation and so, the distance was stablished and the man begins to be known through generic truths from moira, maktub, to God, Holy Trinity etc. It emerged indifferentiation between what is created and what creates, the prove of the Creator becomes the creature and vice-versa, all superposition. In this way, only through the transcendence that structures dogmas, the man can be known. The Socrate's "know your ownself", becomes love in the Theologic Summa of St. Tomas de Aquino, and to love means to have faith, the knowledge is the transcendence, and then comes the thesis developed by Kant that afterwords became the foundation of the unconscious in Freud. Finally, we verify that in spite of all elaborations which come from autoreferentiality, distance and contextual superimpositions, man does not know himself as a man, since he never looked himself but through absoluts, as a result was not possible for him to apprehend his relational essence, since he tried to know himself negating himself as object of knowledge, that means, always putting himself as a point without a plan inasmuch as taking himself as the central point of the knowledge of himself by himself.

Speaking phenomenologically and objectivelly, the knowledge of man, of the world and of the phenomenon exists by the apprehension of the relations which constitute them and are by them constituted.

[2]. This distortion happened to the materialists as well, they just changed the hyerarchical order: matter precedes the idea. The phenomenology gave the solution of this problem through the apprehension of totality - Gestalt - being-in-the-world, through the concept of consciousnees as intencionality (Husserl).

Vera Felicidade de Almeida Campos
- August 1996 -