Defining consciousness continues to remain a contentious subject, with a multitude of divergent theories. The issue in defining consciousness lies within the domain of cognitive science, neuroscience, and psychology, in that no single identifiable factor contributes to the phenomenon of consciousness, but rather a knowledge of the factors which contribute to consciousness remain highly multifaceted in nature which contributes to the many divergent theories abundant amongst psychologists.
Sigmund Freud is an Austrian neurologist most commonly associated with establishing techniques in the methods of psychoanalysis. Through his studies, Freud came to the belief that some mental illnesses may not have physiological causation but rather may be the result of repressed desires, or thoughts. Studies on Hysteria, a 1895 book written by Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer, highlights one of the better known, yet controversial studies of Bertha Pappenheim, otherwise commonly referred to by the case name Anna O. Anna O. came to Josef Breuer for treatment of a condition known at the time as hysteria, exhibiting symptoms such as hallucinations, partial paralysis, cough, tactile anesthesia, blurred vision, and headaches. Having initially observed Anna, physicians could not identify any physiological causation of Anna’s symptoms, thus which prompted Anna in seeking the assistance of Josef Breuer. Josef Breuer sought to treat Anna through prompting of a recall of forgotten, or repressed memories, thus the inception of psychoanalysis. Breuer reported Anna absolved of any symptoms, heralding the therapy as an outstanding success. While Freud never actually observed Anna, after an exhaustive review of the case study, in addition to collaboration with Breuer, Freud became convinced that the root cause of Anna’s symptoms lies in a history of childhood sexual abuse. This began the process to which Freud would propose physical symptoms potentially in some instances being indicative of unresolved inner conflicts which may be alleviated through talk therapy, later known as psychoanalysis. Freud’s continual insistence on sexuality being the causation of Anna’s symptoms would eventually end the collaborative relationship shared by Freud and Breuer, as Breuer did not wish to pursue sexuality theory. Elaboration on the theory of repressed thoughts would eventually lead Freud to propose there existed multiple levels of the mind. Freud’s theories would continue to evolve, including dream analysis, exploration of the unconscious, including that which Freud is typically more known for, psychosexual analysis. Freud would develop a theory which in essence stated children early on are born with a sexual urge, and as a child progresses through several stages, if a child is unsuccessful in completing a particular stage, as an adult that individual may become psychologically unhealthy, due to inner conflict and repression associated with that particular stage.
Carl Jung initially a supporter and follower of Freud, due to a shared fascination with the unconscious, would eventually diverge from Freudian theory on sexuality leading to unresolvable differences between the two. While Jung agreed childhood development played a significant component in an individual’s future personality, Jung additionally proposed the significance with which future aspirations may contribute to an individual’s consciousness. More specifically, the variations from Freudian theory Jung would propose may be highlighted in three examples. While Jung did account for nature and purpose of the libido, he would propose libido as a generalized source of psychic energy which could motivate a range of behaviors not necessarily specific to sexual gratification. Jung would also propose the unconscious not only containing repressed desires specific to the individual but also to include those of our ancestral past. This would also include not only past experiences contributing to behavior but also future aspirations as well.
The study of how ancestral past could contribute to an individual’s current behavior would lead Jung to an investigation of how myths and symbols could permeate both conscious and unconscious thought. Jung proposed there existed many archetypes which permeate human consciousness due to a shared ancestral past, and it is these very symbols which consistently occur through dreams and myths shared across many cultures. While Jung proposed a multitude of archetypes, there exist four which are more commonly known or discussed. The initial archetype considered is that of the outward persona. It is this archetype which an individual will present outwardly to the world, and essentially this archetype represents that of conformity and is not indicative of the true nature of an individual. A second archetype considered is that of the anima or animus. This archetype is recognized as the opposite of our natural assigned gender in that a female would contain masculine characteristics represented by the animus as thus a man could contain characteristics of that of the feminine, represented by that of the anima.
Another archetype is that of the shadow, which essentially contained some of the more instinctive components of one’s nature which contribute to both creative and destructive forces. The fourth archetype for current consideration exists, that of the self, essentially a component of self-actualization in that this component represents the ideal state of achievement for an individual. It was Jung’s belief that repression of any of these particular components due to societal pressure could contribute to a number of issues, an example being society enforcing male repression of the anima or female repression of the animus. Additionally, it is presented many of these archetypes occur both in dreams and are continually represented throughout many cultures due to a shared common ancestral past, and a potential shared collective unconscious. An example is that of the shadow appearing consistently throughout stories or myths typically portrayed by a villain, as in the case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, Hyde representing that villainous component of an individual, the snake in the Garden of Eden, appearing in The Jungle Book as well, and numerous other myths.
While quite controversial in nature it cannot remain understated the significance to which Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud’s contributions have significantly impacted psychology. Psychological theory continues to remain a contentious subject today and Jung, a former pupil of Freud, even disagreed with many of Freud’s suppositions. Theories surrounding the conscious, subconscious, dreams, and psychoanalysis remain abundant, however, some of the difficulty in understanding the nature of consciousness lies in the absence of scientific knowledge appropriate to understand what actually contributes to consciousness or in the definition of consciousness itself.