Our conscious experiences are thus indeed not only here and there, but usually the products of chains of processes which go on entirely on the physiological side. We have no reason at all to seek for those preceding actions any mental accompaniment outside of consciousness, that means, any subconscious mental states. Then, of course, this physiological explanation also covers entirely those after-effects of earlier experiences, especially emotional experiences, which the physician nowadays likes to call subconscious “complexes.” We shall see what an important role belongs to these facts, especially in the treatment of hysteria and psychasthenia, but the interpretation again ought to avoid all playing with the conception of the subconscious. Emotional experiences may produce there some strong stable dispositions in the brain system which become mischievous in reinforcing or inhibiting certain thoughts and actions without awakening directly conscious experiences. The whole psychological switch system may have been brought into disorder by such abnormal setting of certain parts, but the connection of each resulting accident with the primary emotional disturbances does not contradict the fact that all the causes lie entirely in disturbances of the central paths. It is a change in the neurons and their connections. To discover it we may have to go back to early conscious experiences, but in the process itself there is no mental factor, and therefore no subconscious emotion is responsible for the mischief carried out.
Both groups of facts have dealt with processes which were indeed not conscious but which we had no right to call subconscious in as much as they contained no mental process at all but only physiological dispositions and actions. We turn finally to the other smaller and more abnormal group of so-called subconscious facts in which the facts are mental indeed and not only physiological, but not at all outside of consciousness and thus again not subconscious. A conscious fact may easily suggest the appeal to subconscious theories to those who have accepted such theories for other reasons. There are, for instance, plenty of mental experiences which we do not notice or which we do not recognize. Yet if we find later that they must have influenced our mind, we are easily inclined to refer them to subconscious activity. But it is evident that to be content of consciousness means not at all necessarily to be object of attention or object of recognition. Awareness does not involve interest. If I hear a musical sound, I may not recognize at all the overtones which are contained in it. As soon as I take resonators and by them reinforce the loudness of those overtones, they become vivid for me and I can now notice them well even when the resonators are removed. I surely was aware of them, that is, had them in consciousness all the time but there were no contrast feelings and no associations in consciousness which gave them sufficient clearness to attract attention.
In this way I may be again led by gradual stages to more and more complex experiences. I may overlook and yet include within my content of consciousness most various parts of my surroundings; and yet the neglected is not less in consciousness itself than the attended. Much that figures in literature as subconscious means indeed nothing else but the unattended. But it belongs to the elements of psychological analysis to recognize that the full content of consciousness is always larger than the narrow field of attention. This narrow field on the other hand has certainly no sharp demarcation line. There is a steady shading off from the most vivid to the least vivid. We cannot grasp those least vivid contents of consciousness, we cannot fixate them as such, because as soon as we try to hold them, they move from the periphery of the content into its centre and become themselves vivid and clear. But as we are surely aware of different degrees of clearness and vividness in our central mass of contents, we have no difficulty in acknowledging the existence of still lower degrees of vividness in those elements which are blending and fusing into a general background of conscious experiences. Nothing stands out there, nothing can be discriminated in its detail. That background is not even made up of whole ideas and whole memories and whole emotions and feelings and judgments and volitions, but of loose fragments; half ideas and quarter ideas, atoms of feelings and incipient impulses and bits of memory images are always mixed in that half-dark background. And yet it is by principle not less in consciousness, and consciousness itself is not different for these contents. It is not half-clear consciousness, not a lower degree of awareness, only the objects of awareness are crumbled and fading.
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