Chapter 1.6 But what is the unconscious?

What is the unconscious?

In regard to the creativity of artists, Day (1992, p.17) describes how the unconscious in terms of neuroscience is a metaphor for the right hemisphere of the brain, which is responsible for non-verbal thought such as visual and spatial awareness and is therefore better at random associations that require more ‘fluid’ concepts to exist. The right hemisphere is where the ‘Incubation’ stage of creativity is attributed and the left hemisphere is where the ‘Illumination’ stage is attributed (Day 1992, Arieti 1976). The primal, unconscious processes are better at random associations than the left hemisphere, which is responsible for secondary-level processing – where we ‘think about’ thinking.

Bogen (1999) shows how the right hemisphere, combined with the left cortical hemisphere, which is functional in language use and logical thinking, is what creates our creative and powerful thought processes. As conceptual representations form the basis for conscious thought, they show that this is where the thoughts and memories available to the conscious are attributed. Our thoughts require the translation of raw information into manageable conceptual representations; just as information is translated as it moves from the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere, so concepts need translation from unconscious to conscious representation (Arieti, 1976). Sartre’s description of the unconscious, which is a critique of Freud’s theories, shows how we process information before we are ‘aware’ of it, but underline that the unconscious is not a real place, simply a mechanism for assisting endocepts into meaning. Archard explains Sartre’s view that the unconscious is “the unthematized horizon [sic]” of the consciousness, “the term ‘unconscious’ serves only to translate that sense in which a person pre-reflectively understands something about him/herself, but is unable to formulate it conceptually” (Archard, 1984, p.56). His point is that the unconscious, as we experience it, and the ‘feelings of knowing’ are in fact the same thing and therefore a transitory state of mixing endocepts that either die or are translated, rather than a hidden realm of ideas. It is the horizon to our consciousness, the area that can only reflect and mix the inputs of its experience, as we have seen memory and imagination just the same experience to it.