Mind, Unconscious Mind, and Brain
SANDOR RADO, M.D., D.P.Sc.
O NE may conceive of the mind as the loud-
speaker of the brain. This is a crude analogy
because mind is not only a loudspeaker but also its
and thus eventuate in reporting and awareness. In
reversed order awareness and reporting may elicit
activity at non-reporting, purely physiologic, levels.
own audience. However, even a crude analogy is
better than none. Psychoanalytic Exploration of Non-Reporting
Phases of the Goal Mechanism of Behavior
Awareness and Reporting Since time immemorial human beings have sought
Looking at it in this light, consciousness is our to understand, predict, and influence each other's
awareness of the running report produced as its behavior in terms of motives. But this effort was
inward expression by the underlying nervous ac- hampered by the fact that conscious psychologic
tivity of the brain. The latter may be called the data give only a fragmentary picture of presumably
reporting process, and consciousness, the awareness motivated behavior. The gaps indicate that im-
process. portant phases of the presumed goal-mechanism oc-
cur at non-reporting levels and hence are purely
The Postulate of Spinoza physiologic.
Almost 300 years ago Spinoza said: "The order In the last decade of the nineteenth century,
and connection of ideas is the same as the order and Freud discovered that the psychologic meaning, i.e.,
connection of things." motivational significance, of these non-reporting
Translating this into our language, we postulate phases can be inferred from convergent contextual
that the awareness process is exactly synchronous evidence gathered for the purpose by an investiga-
and exactly congruent with the reporting process. tive technic, which he devised and designated as
But the two processes are not identical. The the psychoanalytic method. And Freud demon-
awareness process is known by introspection, the strated that this inferred meaning can be stated in
reporting process by inspection; hence, operation- terms of "unconscious" tension, "unconscious" he-
ally, the former is psychologic, the latter, physio- donic sensation, "unconscious" emotion, "uncon-
logic. scious" thought, etc.
Freud used "latent," "hidden," and other cognate
Evolutionary View of Awareness and Reporting adjectives as equivalent to "unconscious." We sug-
In man, awareness and reporting are presumably gest non-reporting be added to this list. Terms
functions of the cerebral cortex; in other species, qualified by any one of these adjectives are extra-
presumably of the highest nervous structure at- polated psychologic terms. Speaking, for instance,
tained by the species. These functions have been of an unconscious or non-reporting desire, the in-
justifiably considered the trail-blazers of evolution- vestigator refers to a missing causal agent, which his
ary encephalization. investigation shows to have acted as if it had been
In the organism awareness is the highest, and a desire, though in fact it was a purely physiologic
reporting the next-to-highest, level of central in- event. Since the psychologic meaning of non-report-
tegration. ing nervous activity can be arrived at only by this
process of psychologic inference, naturally it can be
Non-Reporting Nervous Activity expressed only in an extrapolated language of psy-
The cerebrum and the rest of the central nervous chology.
system buzz with activity at non-reporting levels. To the emotionally inspired imagination, uncon-
In view of the fact that such non-reporting nervous scious mind appears like a department of mind
activity has by itself no effect upon consciousness, working "below," or "outside" awareness; as it were,
it is a purely physiologic activity. But this physio- like another, mysterious mind, a thing in itself.
logic activity may be relayed to the reporting level, Freud adopted this metaphysical conception of un-
From the Psychoanalytic Clinic for Training and Re- conscious mind, basing it admittedly upon Kant's
search, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University. philosophy of Ding an sich (thing in itself which
lies outside the conditions of possible experience) spite of our critical faculties, to speak of an "uncon-
( i ) . Unfortunately, this Kantian construction tends scious sense of guilt" . . . (4)
to remove the unconscious mind from the province
It would seem important to realize that uncon-
of investigation to the realm of metaphysical specu- scious mind is an extrapolated concept rather than a
lation. But to the scientific investigator there is thing in itself. For only through methodological
nothing metaphysical or mysterious about uncon- clarification such as this can the investigator hope
scious mind. It is merely a non-reporting organiza- to avoid spurious problems and effectively advance
tion of causative links between processes of which Freud's own scientific objectives.
we are aware. These non-reporting causative links
have to be psychologically inferred from, and may To, From, and At Non-Reporting Levels
be verified by examination of, these conscious proc- Today, I believe, the main forms of activity to,
esses. The point is that these inferred causative links from, and at, non-reporting levels, may be outlined
bridge the gaps and thus make motivational dy- as follows.
namics a workable scheme for the psychologic an- 1. Some phases of the behavior mechanism may
alysis of behavior. be lowered to non-reporting levels through autom-
The success of such extrapolated motivational atization, which saves conscious effort, and in-
dynamics encouraged the introduction of an extra- creases the speed, dependability, and predictability
polated psychologic structure, and pointed to the of performance.
need for a more explicit consideration of hedonic 2. Memories must be stored at non-reporting
and adaptive efficiency. This widened dynamic levels because they would clutter up the awareness
scheme is the conceptual foundation upon which level which must be kept free for the arriving sen-
Freud built the science of human behavior known sory messages. But they are on recall like the in-
as "psychodynamics." He also suggested the name formation stored in an office file.
"metapsychology," an obvious allusion to Kant's 3. Thoughts that have "sunk in," such as the
metaphysics. In our context, the term "metapsy- multiplication table, convictions, cliches, and more
chology" can only be interpreted to mean psychol- complex sequences, are on preferential recall. This
ogy advanced to a science of behavior through the mechanism may be used to rush old solutions into
methodical use of extrapolation. service, rather than to think afresh.
In the spirit of a true pioneer, Freud himself be- Automatization, storing, recall, and preferential
lieved that if a new line of an investigation has recall are efficiency mechanisms.
proved itself by its success, no time need be wasted 4. By automatically excluding painful memories
in examining its methodologic presuppositions. from recall, repression guards the awareness level
Amused by people who "keep cleaning their eye- against the onslaught of paralyzing, if not killing,
glasses instead of using them," he thus went to the pain. Repression is therefore an effective hedonic
opposite extreme of not cleaning his glasses at all. mechanism. By vetoing the recall of recorded in-
This omission left him in a state of methodologic formation, repression interferes with the mechanism
uncertainty which is exemplified by the following of rational thought.
characteristic passages: 5. Excluded from awareness by repression, un-
To begin with, it would appear that in the products wanted tension may either subside or linger at
of the unconscious—spontaneous ideas, phantasies, non-reporting levels. In the latter event, it may
symptoms—the conceptions faeces (money, gift), child contact repressed memories, gather momentum, and
and penis are seldom distinguished and are easily in- elicit activities of goal-finding and illusory goal-
terchangeable. We realize, of course, that to express attainment at non-reporting levels. However, a rela-
oneself in this way is incorrectly to apply to the sphere tive overflow of such latent tension will force its
of the unconscious terms which belong properly to way upward to the awareness level, or downward
other regions of mental life; in fact, that we have been to lower physiologic levels, or both.
tempted by the advantages offered by an analogy. To
Emotional tension which thus has become mani-
put the matter in a form less open to objection, these
elements in the unconscious are often treated as if fest, pushes for outward bodily expression and
they were equivalent and could replace one another (2). actual goal-attainment. It is from the events of this
. . . We then come to speak, in a condensed and not reporting phase that one can infer the events of the
entirely correct manner, of "unconscious feelings," preceding non-reporting phase.
keeping up an analogy with unconscious ideas which The discharge of latent emotional tension forced
is not altogether justifiable (3). downward via the autonomic nervous system
. . . But this new discovery, which compels us, in may be detected from the changes it precipitates
VOL. XI, NO. 3
in the affected physiologic functions. Whether or stand their meaning. Such understanding is of
not latent thought by itself may direct the discharge course facilitated if the individual has a faint aware-
into a particular organ is an open question. ness of his repressed yet overflowing emotional
To study and control the causes and consequences tension.
of the stray discharge of a relative overflow of Whether or not a certain thought or action of
emotional tension is the task of psychosomatic an individual has a symbolic meaning can be de-
medicine, or more precisely, of comprehensive, termined psychoanalytically through the associative
psychoanalytically informed medicine. exploration and disclosure of its hidden motiva-
Departmental medicine was a product of the tional context. In the absence of a sexual context a
nineteenth century. Comprehensive, psychoanalyti- wooded hill (even with a brook below) is not a
cally informed medicine is a product of our time. symbol of the mons veneris; nor are, in the absence
6. The overflowing tension of a repressed desire of a dependency context a King and Queen symbols
may be discharged in a dream or daydream about of the individual's own parents.
the desired action. However, the repression, or in Psychoanalytic symbols are rudimentary expres-
other words, the fear of painful consequences, may sions of repressed yet overflowing emotional ten-
be strong enough to inhibit even this illusory expres- sion. Accordingly, the mechanism under considera-
sion and fulfillment of the repressed desire. In this tion may be called discharge through rudimentary
event, the overflowing tension of the repressed de- expression. This mechanism acts as a harmless
sire may precipitate discharge through some im- safety valve for tension at non-reporting levels;
agined or real action involving the use of psycho- however, in certain circumstances, it may result
analytic symbols that do not arouse this fear. For in disordered behavior.
instance, in a dream, a man's fascination with a 7. Presumably, all conscious thought is preceded
certain type of landscape may express and fulfill his by preparatory activity at non-reporting levels. In
strongly repressed desire for encountering a woman the personal experience of the French mathemati-
in the nude; his dream of the King or Queen, cian H. Poincare and other creative scientists, com-
President or First Lady, may fulfill his strongly re- plex new problem solutions may flash suddenly into
pressed longing for his own parents upon whom he one's awareness in an almost completed form and
would wish to rely for loving care just as he did in are then merely implemented at the awareness
early life, etc. level (5).
The overflowing tension of a repressed fear also 8. Freud inferred the characteristics of the fluid
may be discharged with the aid of psychoanalytic type of non-reporting thought from the study of
symbols; such riddance from fear is achieved by dreams. At still lower levels, non-reporting thought
undergoing the symbolic equivalent of the dreaded is increasingly stereotyped. All these levels of non-
event. reporting activity were formed during the early
Some of the symbols used in these ways of dis- years of life.
charge are typical, recurring in different languages 9. Abandoned adaptive patterns of childhood,
and cultures; some others are strictly personal, particularly of the child-parent dependency relation-
coined for the occasion. ship, may later reappear in the mechanism of dis-
In either case, logical reasoning, with its high ordered behavior. The reparative process elicited by
standards of reality testing, consistency, and dis- adaptive failure tends to reactivate them automati-
crimination, plays no part in the creation of these cally, although they have long since lost their
psychoanalytic symbols. They are, on the contrary, adaptive value. Naturally, repair thus miscarried
the products of an emotional, anthropomorphic, tends to increase the adaptive failure.
and altogether rudimentary mode of thought which To study and control the failures of psychologic
tends to identify with one another things which adaptation is the task of psychoanalytic medicine.
are rationally unrelated. Every human being passes 10. Presence of a characteristic set of non-report-
through an infantile stage of development marked ing patterns shared by members of the same cul-
by this mode of thought. But this abandoned, ture results from institutionalized indoctrination
archaic mode of thought is firmly deposited in the during the period of growth. Reappearance of this
mind at non-reporting levels, where it subsequently set of patterns in subsequent generations mirrors
generates for the individual symbols whose archaic the historical continuity and cohesiveness of the
meaning will be unintelligible at the awareness culture.
level. When these symbols arrive at the awareness Through like reactions of brains tooled alike,
level, it will therefore require special effort to under- much the same organizing principles of culture are
b o u n d to emerge a n d re-emerge from the perennial 2. FREUD, SIGMUND: Collected Papers, 2:165, London, 1924.
conditions of existence. 3- F R E U D ' S I G M U N D : The ES° and the Id, London, 1927,
4. FREUD, SICMUND: The Ego and the Id, London, 1927,
Bibliography p. 33.
5. HADAMARD, JACQUES: The Psychology of Invention in the
1. FREUD, SICMUND: Collected Papers, 4:104, London, 1925. Mathematical Field. Princeton, 1945.
VOL. XI, NO. 3