What does “The Unconscious” mean?
The Unconscious is a manner of existence of psychic processes in relation to consciousness (Freud), i.e., psychic processes of which we know nothing, or say: of which we know nothing while they are happening.
This does not sound very big.
But what do we know of psychic processes that are supposed to be conscious?
Now, to ask: What do we know? means: What do we know of our own thoughts, sensations, perhaps even of wishes, desires, feelings etc. while we are having them? Nothing.
All we have is recollection, getting them out of the mind after we had them, and contemplate them as things of the past – i.e., that I had these thoughts. Conscious are the contents of thoughts, not the thoughts themselves. We are not conscious of having thoughts on, say, psychology, while we are having them. We can only be conscious of such thoughts afterwards, in retrospect.
Can we honestly call it Consciousness, if we don’t know what we are thinking, but can only know by interrupting the flow of thoughts on a subject + directing them onto ourselves?
The difference between The Conscious and The Unconscious lies in this:
Consciousness is easily attained – a switch and we know what we are thinking or doing. Not so with unconscious psychic events. These are not known as to their contents.
So the real difference is that we can make the ones easily conscious which we cannot do with the others. At the time of thinking, doing – we are not conscious of either of them.
[Thus continued Jupp’s talk “On Psychology” in 1941. These are his notes, slightly modified for better readability.]