About two types of unconscious psychic: sub - and superconsciousness
Author - Pavel Vasilyevich Simonov - academic, specialist in the study of higher nervous activity from the collection "the Unconscious" vol. 1V, conference in Tbilisi, 1985.
To speak of the unconscious psychic is meaningless and unproductive without a clear definition of the term "consciousness". Of all the existing definitions, the most strict and consistent is the idea of consciousness as knowledge that can be transmitted, can become the property of other members of the community. Co-knowledge is knowledge together with someone (cf. with co-feeling, co-experiencing, co-working, etc.). to Realize is to acquire the potential to teach, to pass on your knowledge to another. According to modern data, the Gnostic zones of the new cerebral cortex must be connected to the motor speech area in the left (right-handed) hemisphere in order to be aware of an external stimulus.
This definition makes it possible to draw a line between the conscious and the unconscious in brain activity. If a person lists the details of the story picture presented to him, and after a certain time names the fragments that were missing in the first report, we have every reason to say that there is an unconscious perception and involuntary memory, that is, traces that later penetrated the sphere of consciousness.
In the vast sphere of the unconscious psychic, two groups of phenomena can be distinguished. The first category includes everything that was conscious or can become conscious under certain conditions. This group primarily includes well-automated and therefore no longer recognized skills. This also includes motivational conflicts that have been repressed from the sphere of consciousness, the essence of which becomes clear, for example, thanks to the special efforts of a psychotherapist. For this class of phenomena, it is advisable to keep the traditional term "Subconscious".
The sphere of the Subconscious also includes social norms deeply assimilated by the subject, the regulating function of which is experienced as "the voice of conscience", "the call of the heart", "the command of duty". It is important to emphasize that the internalization of social norms that are external in origin gives them an extreme imperativeness that they did not possess until the moment of internalization. The interpersonal origin of conscience is fixed in the very name of the phenomenon: a co-message, that is, a message that invisibly contains someone else or others besides me who are privy to the content of this "message". It is easy to see that Sigmund Freud's "Super-Ego", which is certainly different from biological drives, belongs entirely to the sphere of the subconscious and cannot be considered as an analogue of the superconscious, which will be discussed in more detail below.
We also refer to the Subconscious as those manifestations of intuition that are not related to the generation of new information, but only involve the use of previously accumulated experience. When a famous Clinician takes a quick look at a patient and makes a correct diagnosis, he often cannot explain what external signs of the disease prompted him to come to this conclusion. In this case, he is no different from a pianist who has long forgotten exactly how to act with one or another finger. The conclusion of a doctor, as well as the actions of a pianist, is guided by their subconscious.
We emphasize that previously realized life experience, whether it is a system of motor skills, knowledge of the symptoms of certain diseases, norms of behavior inherent in a given social environment, etc., is not the only channel that fills the subconscious with specific, external content. There is also a direct path that bypasses rational control of consciousness. These are mechanisms of imitative behavior. It is the direct impact on the subconscious that leads to the fact that the example of adults and peers from the child's environment often forms his personality to a greater extent than explanations of the usefulness and social value of a particular act addressed to the intellect.
In the process of evolution, the Subconscious mind emerged as a means of protecting the mind from unnecessary work and unbearable loads. Whether we are talking about motor skills that can be successfully implemented without the intervention of consciousness, or about a painful motivational conflict for the subject, the subconscious frees the mind from psychological overload.
The subconscious mind is always on guard of the acquired and well-learned. The conservatism of the Subconscious mind is one of its most characteristic features. Thanks to the Subconscious, what is individually learned (conditionally reflex) acquires the imperativeness and rigidity inherent in unconditional reflexes. This gives rise to the illusion of the innateness of certain manifestations of the unconscious, for example, the illusion of the innateness of grammatical structures acquired by the child through imitation long before he realizes these rules in school lessons of his native language. The similarity of the Subconscious to the innate was reflected even in everyday vocabulary, giving rise to metaphors such as "class instinct", "voice of blood" and similar figurative expressions.
Let us turn to the analysis of the second type of unconscious psychic, which, after K. S. Stanislavsky, can be called Superconsciousness or Superconsciousness. Unlike the subconscious, the activity of the Superconscious is not recognized under any circumstances: only the results of this activity are submitted to the court of consciousness. The sphere of Superconsciousness includes the initial stages of all creativity - the generation of hypotheses, guesses, creative insights. If the Subconscious mind protects the mind from excessive work and psychological overload, then the unconsciousness of creative intuition is a protection against premature intervention of consciousness, from the pressure of previously accumulated experience. Without this protection, common sense, the evidence of what is directly observed, and the dogmatism of well-established norms would have suffocated the "ugly duckling" of a bold hypothesis at the moment of its birth, preventing it from becoming the beautiful Swan of future discoveries. Therefore, discursive thinking is left with the function of secondary selection of hypotheses generated by superconsciousness, first by their logical evaluation, and then in the crucible of experimental practice.
The functions of Superconsciousness and consciousness in the process of creativity are comparable to the functions of variability and selection in the process of "nature creativity" - biological and then cultural evolution. Let us note at once that Superconsciousness is not limited to the mere generation of "psychic mutations", that is, to the purely random recombination of traces stored in memory. According to laws unknown to us, the Superconsciousness makes a primary selection of emerging recombinations and presents to the consciousness only those of them that have a certain probability of their correspondence to reality. This is why even the most "crazy ideas" of a scientist are fundamentally different from the pathological madness of the mentally ill and the phantasmagoria of dreams.
Modern neurophysiology has knowledge of a number of mechanisms that can lead to the closure of temporary neural connections between traces (engrams) of previously received impressions, whose correspondence or inconsistency with reality is found out only a second time by comparison with objective reality. Among these mechanisms, a special place is occupied by the dominant principle of A. A. Ukhtomsky. Now it can be considered established that Superconsciousness (intuition) always "works" to satisfy the need that steadily dominates the hierarchy of motives of a given subject. So, a careerist who is hungry for social success may be a genius in building his career, but he is unlikely to give the world scientific discoveries and artistic masterpieces. Here we should not fall into a bad "one-dimensionality". A great artist (or scientist) can be quite ambitious, stingy, play races and cards. He is a man, and nothing human is alien to him. It is only important that in certain moments of unselfishness, the need to know the truth and the truth completely takes possession of his whole being. It is at these moments that the dominant need will activate the mechanisms of Superconsciousness and lead to results that are unattainable in any other rational way.
Just as imitative behavior can address the Subconscious mind without being controlled by rational thinking, children's play is the most important means of training and enriching the Superconscious mind. Being free from achieving utilitarian, and up to a certain age and socially prestigious goals, the game has an end in itself and self-worth that directs it to solve disinterested and creative tasks. Children's play is motivated almost exclusively by the needs of knowledge. It is the need for knowledge that feeds the activity of the child's Superconsciousness, making every child a dreamer, discoverer and Creator. As we grow older, the needs of knowledge increasingly have to compete with vital and social needs, and the superconscious mind is distracted by serving a wide range of different motivations. It is no accident that truly great minds are characterized by preserving the features of childishness, which has been noticed for a long time and more than once.
E. A. Feinberg proposed to distinguish intuition-guess (generation of hypotheses) from intuition - direct perception of the truth, which does not require formal logical evidence. We believe that there is something fundamentally common in the Genesis of the two types of intuition, namely, the lack of information necessary and sufficient for a logically perfect conclusion. In the first case (intuition-guess), this information is not yet available, it will be found during the verification of the resulting assumption. In the case of intuition - direct discretion of the truth, it is impossible to get such information at all. It is important for us that the example of intuition - the perception of truth-once again justifies the term "Superconsciousness". In fact, discursive thinking provides material for decision-making, offers consciousness a register of formalized proofs, but the final decision is made on the level of intuition and cannot be formalized.
The Superconsciousness draws material for its recombination activity both from conscious experience and from the reserves of the Subconscious. Nevertheless, Superconsciousness contains something exactly "Super", that is, something more than the sphere of consciousness itself. This "Super" is fundamentally new information that does not follow from previously received impressions. The force that simultaneously initiates the activity of Superconsciousness and channels the content side of this activity is the dominant need. It has been experimentally proved that when a subject is exposed to indeterminate visual stimuli, the number of associations of these stimuli with food increases as hunger increases. This experiment can serve as an example of the motivational restrictions initially imposed on the activity of the Superconscious. Let us emphasize once again that intuition is not a kaleidoscope, not a game of chance, it is limited by the quality of the dominant need and the amount of accumulated knowledge. No "generation of ideas" would lead to the discovery of the periodic law without extensive knowledge of the properties of chemical elements.
If the positive function of Superconsciousness is to generate a new one, then its negative function is to overcome existing and generally accepted norms. An example of the negative function of Superconsciousness is the sense of humor and laughter. Laughter occurs involuntarily and does not require a logical" understanding " by the subject of why funny is funny. Being a positive emotion, laughter occurs according to the universal pattern of mismatch between the forecast and the newly received information. But in the case of laughter, the information received does not just exceed the previously existing forecast, but cancels it and crosses it out. A classic example of this is the structure of any anecdote, which always consists of two parts: a false forecast and a canceling ending. The motivational basis of humor is the need to learn and save energy. A clever stroke of searching thought not only brings you closer to the truth, but also leads to the solution of a logical problem in an unexpectedly short way. In humor, the superiority of new knowledge over the imperfection, bulkiness, and absurdity of outdated norms always triumphs. Joining the needs of knowledge and saving forces of other side motivations - biological and social - gives laughter a lot of additional shades, makes it good-natured, malicious, arrogant, smart, stupid, carefree, etc., thus turning laughter into "the most reliable test of souls" (F. M. Dostoevsky). Partial awareness of the needs that drive a person removes the imaginary contradiction between the objective determinism of human behavior and subjectively perceived freedom of choice. This dialectic of behavior was shrewdly discerned by Boruch Spinoza. "The only reason people consider themselves free,"Spinoza wrote," is that they are aware of their actions, but they do not know the reasons for them." Human behavior is determined by its hereditary inclinations and environmental conditions, first of all - the conditions of social education. Science does not know the third factor that can influence the choice of the act performed. At the same time, ethics and the principle of personal responsibility are based on the unconditional recognition of absolutely free will. Failure to recognize freedom of choice would mean the collapse of any ethical system and morality.
Therefore, evolution gave rise to the illusion of freedom, hiding from the consciousness of man the motives that drive him. Subjectively perceived freedom and the resulting personal responsibility include mechanisms for analyzing the consequences of an act, which makes the final choice more reasonable. The fact that the practical motivational dominant, directly determines the act ("vector behavior", by A. A. Ukhtomsky), is integral dominant needs, steadily dominant in the hierarchy of motives of the individual (dominant life, or "Super-task", by K. S. Stanislavsky), along with some situationally dominant, updated extra the current situation. For example, the real danger to life actualizes the situational dominant - the need for self-preservation, the satisfaction of which is often in conflict with the dominant of life, the socially determined need to meet certain ethical standards. Consciousness (with the participation of the Subconscious) will extract from memory and mentally "lose" the consequences of certain actions of the subject, for example, the consequences of violating their duty, betrayal, etc. In addition, the struggle of motives will involve the mechanisms of the will - the need to overcome obstacles on the way to achieving the main goal, and the barrier in this case will be the instinct of self-preservation. Each of these needs will generate its own set of emotions, the competition of which will be experienced by the subject as a struggle between natural fear and a sense of duty, shame at the thought of possible cowardice, etc. The result of this competition of motives is either flight, or fortitude and courage. In this example, it is important to emphasize that the idea of personal responsibility and personal freedom of choice inhibits impulsive actions under the influence of a momentary situation, gives time to assess the possible consequences of this action, and thus leads to an increase in the dominant need, which is able to resist the situational dominant of fear.
Thus, it is not the Consciousness itself or the will itself that determines this or that action, but their ability to strengthen or weaken one or another of the competing needs. This reinforcement is realized through the mechanisms of emotions, which depend not only on the size of the need, but also on the assessment of the probability (possibility) of its satisfaction. The need that has become dominant (practical dominant) will direct the activity of intuition (Superconsciousness) to find the optimal creative solution to the problem, to find a way out of the current situation that would correspond to the satisfaction of this dominant need. A thorough analysis of military memoirs of extraordinary pilots shows that masterful combat skills with the adoption of instant and unexpected enemy of the decisions of the person displayed with equal professional qualifications (the stock of skills) is not in a state of fear (the need of self-preservation) and not in a state of rage (the need to crush the enemy at any cost), and emotionally positive state of fighting excitement, a kind of "opponents", that is, if there are components perfect creative needs and educational nature, no matter how strange it may seem in a life-and - death struggle.
If the dominant need (the dominant of life) is so strong that it can automatically suppress situational dominants, then it immediately mobilizes the reserves of the subconscious and directs the activity of the Superconscious to its satisfaction. The struggle of motives is virtually absent here, and the dominant need is transformed into a practical dominant. Examples of this transformation are cases of self-sacrifice, when a person, without hesitation, rushes to the aid of another. We meet here with the dominance of needs "for others", whether it is a "biological" parental instinct or altruism of a more complex social origin.
The formation of a practical dominant can be a difficult task for the subject when the dominant and situational dominants are approximately equal in strength and are in a conflict relationship. On the other hand, the lack of practical dominance (in the unemployed, retired) is experienced by individuals extremely hard. No less sad is the absence of a dominant need (the dominant of life), when a person becomes a toy of situational dominants. "Deviant" behavior of teenagers, alcoholism and drug addiction provide many examples of this kind. We emphasize that a person, as a rule, does not realize the real reason for the painful state for him, giving a variety of explanations for his aimless and empty pastime.
Above, we compared the interaction of consciousness and superconsciousness with the role of selection and unpredictable variability in the process of biological evolution. We emphasize that this is not an analogy, but a universal principle of all development, which manifests itself in the "creativity of nature" (the origin of new species), in the creative activity of the individual subject, and in the evolution of culture. Here it is absurd to talk about any "transfer" of biological laws to the socially determined psyche or to the history of human civilization as a whole. Science has repeatedly encountered such universal principles. It is enough to recall the regulatory feedback functions that are found in the regulation of blood pressure (even in biochemical processes!), and in industrial management. This does not mean that we have "transferred" physiological experiments to Economics or the laws of social development to biological objects. It is not a matter of "transference", but of the universality of the fundamental rules of control theory.
We find the same thing in the dynamics of the origin of the new (wherever it occurs): in the process of phylogeny, in the individual (scientific, technical, artistic) creativity of man, in the history of human culture. The emergence of a new one necessarily implies the presence of four mandatory components:
- an evolving population,
- unpredictable variability of the evolving material,
- fixation (inheritance in the broad sense) of its results.
In human creativity, these four components correspond to:
- the experience of the subject, which includes the experience of contemporaries assigned to them, as well as the experience of previous generations.
- superconsciousness (intuition), i.e. transformation and recombination of traces (engrams) of previously received impressions.
- consciousness that exposes hypotheses (a kind of "mental mutation") first, logical selection, and then experimental, production-practical, and social-practical verification.
- fixing the results of selection in the individual memory of the subject and in the cultural inheritance of successive generations.
In the case of the development of civilization, the culture as a whole evolves, but the new (idea, discovery, invention, ethical norm, etc.) initially arises not in the abstract interpersonal and transpersonal space, but in the brain of a specific person, the discoverer and Creator. It is appropriate to compare this with the fact that, although the population is the evolving unit in biology, selection can only act through individuals. The unpredictability of discovery, its protection from the interference of consciousness and will, is a necessary condition for development, just as the unpredictability of mutations is mandatory for biological evolution. The complete rationality (formalizability) and arbitrariness of the initial stages of creativity would make creativity impossible and would mean the end of the development of civilization.
Let's explain this with an example. Let's assume that advances in genetic engineering and improved parenting have allowed us to form "ideal people". But they will be ideal from the point of view of our present, historically transient and inevitably limited ideas about this ideal. Thus, perfectly programmed people can be extremely vulnerable when faced with a future that requires them to have unexpected qualities. Fortunately, in the field of psychophysiology of creativity, we encounter one of those prohibitions of nature, the overcoming of which would be a violation of the laws of this nature, like the speed of light in a vacuum, the law of conservation of energy and the principle of complementarity. Therefore, all attempts to formalize and model creativity resemble attempts to create a perpetual motion machine or simultaneously determine the momentum and position of an electron in orbit.
Since the Superconsciousness feeds on material accumulated by the Consciousness and partially fixed in the Subconscious, it cannot generate a hypothesis that is completely "free" from this experience. The theory of relativity or the idea of the Sistine Madonna could not have been born in the head of a primitive genius. Genius is often ahead of its time, but the distance of this advance is limited. Humanity undertakes to solve only those tasks for which it is relatively prepared. Here again we encounter an unpredictable pattern of "psychic mutations". Thus, the higher nervous activity of man, the core of which is his vital ("biological"), social and ideal (creative and cognitive) needs, becomes, in the words of V. I. Vernadsky, a great planetary and cosmic force among other natural forces.
The superconscious is much more responsive to changes in the social climate than the Conscious (not to mention the Subconscious). At the moment when everything around us seems to be immutable and settled for centuries, the most sensitive seismograph of the superconsciousness already registers the tremors of impending changes. And there are ideas that are so strange and unexpected from the point of view of the prevailing norms that it is difficult for the consciousness of contemporaries to come to terms with their predictable rightness.
We will conclude our brief essay with the formulation of several final provisions:
- Consciousness operates with knowledge that can potentially be transferred to another, can become the property of other members of the community. To be aware of external stimuli or events in the subject's internal life, it is necessary to involve the speech zones of the large hemispheres, as shown by numerous studies of functional asymmetry of the brain.
- The Subconscious mind includes everything that was conscious or can become conscious under certain conditions. These are well - automated skills, deeply internalized social norms, and motivational conflicts that are painful for the subject. The subconscious mind protects the Mind from excessive work and psychological overload.
- The activity of Superconsciousness (creative intuition) is found in the form of initial stages of creativity, which are not controlled by Consciousness under any circumstances. The unconsciousness of these stages represents the protection of emerging hypotheses ("mental mutations") from the conservatism of consciousness, from the pressure of previously accumulated experience. Consciousness has the function of selecting these hypotheses by logical analysis and using the criterion of practice in the broadest sense of the word. The neurophysiological basis of superconsciousness is the transformation and recombination of traces (engrams) stored in the subject's memory, the primary closure of new temporary connections, whose correspondence or inconsistency with reality is revealed only later.
- Superconsciousness is always focused on the satisfaction of the dominant need, the specific content of which channels the direction of "mental mutagenesis". Thus, "mental mutations" are initially unpredictable, but not random. The second channeling factor is the previously accumulated experience of the subject, recorded in his consciousness and subconsciousness.
- Incomplete awareness of the subject's driving needs removes the imaginary contradiction between the objective determinism of human behavior, hereditary inclinations, upbringing conditions, the environment, and the subjectively perceived freedom of choice. This Illusion of Freedom is a valuable asset, since it provides a sense of personal responsibility that encourages a comprehensive analysis and prediction of the possible consequences of an action. Mobilization of this kind of information from memory reserves leads to an increase in the need that steadily dominates the hierarchy of personal motives, which makes it possible to resist situational dominants (needs that are urgently updated by the current situation).
- The interaction of Superconsciousness with Consciousness is a manifestation at the level of human creative activity of the universal principle of the emergence of the new in the process of biological and cultural evolution. The functions of superconsciousness and Consciousness correspond to the interaction of unpredictable variability and selection in the origin of new Species of living beings. Just as an evolving population gives birth to new things through the selection of individuals, the evolution of culture inherits in a series of successive generations of ideas, discoveries and social norms that initially arise in the minds of specific discoverers and creators.
- Reducing the human psyche to Consciousness alone cannot explain the dialectic of determinism and freedom of choice, the mechanisms of creativity, or the true history of culture. Only the recognition of the functions of the unconscious psychic with the identification of fundamentally different phenomena of Sub - and Superconsciousness makes it possible to get an answer to many topical questions of human science.