email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek
As the title suggests, the author (a practicing clinical psychologist)
starts with the assumption that the unconscious exists, and then
proceeds from there. The book discusses the many answers that
have been given to the question, What is this thing called the
unconscious? Tallis follows the path of the evolution of conceptions
of the unconscious from that of the shadowy presence of a hidden
intelligence within each of us to that of a primitive automatic
information processing system necessary for survival. He offers
many fascinating clinical examples, but conspicuous by its absence
is the lack of any mention of the vast amount of research done
on the mind and the unconscious by the military.
The author begins in the mid seventeenth century with an examination
of the beliefs held by the thinkers of that era about such things
as the possible existence of a part of the brain that is constantly
active and works according to laws very different from the conscious,
the possibility of learning occurring below the threshold of awareness,
a universal unconscious (that Jung would later popularize as a
scientific concept), and repression (active forgetting). Chapter
2 picks up in the 1850's and discusses evidence for the unconscious
in such phenomena as mesmerism (later called hypnotism), the spiritualist
movement, automatic writing and drawing, and multiple personalities.
These, according to the author, provided the average person with
"a new demonology-sanctioned by science" (30).
The third chapter focuses on Pierre Janet, a brilliant but humble
French philosophy teacher who experiments seemed to reveal lost
traumatic memories, the psychological origin of physical problems,
psychic phenomena, and the use of hypnosis to treat hysteria.
This amounted to, what the author calls, the invention of psychotherapy.
Sigmund Freud appropriated much of Janet's work while Janet was
still alive without ever giving him credit for it. This is one
of many glimpses the author gives his readers into the fierce
competitive mind set of some of the most famous names in history.
The fourth chapter focuses on Freud's relationship with Josef
Breuer, their treatment of hysteria with hypnosis, and their falling
out due to Freud's insistence that unconscious sexual desire was
the primary cause of mental illness. This chapter follows the
cocaine addicted Freud as he becomes his own patient in psychoanalysis,
and come to believe that "The interpretation of dreams is
in fact the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious"
The fifth chapter deals with the power struggles between Freud
and his followers (notably Adler and Jung), Freud's success in
the United States, the adoption of Freudian language and imagery
of the unconscious into literature, art, and film, and how the
notion of repressed sexuality became less important to psychotherapists
as they began to turn their attention away from the unconscious
to the role of social relationships in the formation of symptoms.
Chapter six discusses the effects of the computer model of mental
functioning on Freud's psychoanalytic conception of the unconscious
by which 'censorship' is replaced by 'filtering' and 'selective
attention,' 'ego' is replaced by 'executive processes,' and 'the
unconscious' by 'preconscious' or 'automatic processing.'
Chapter seven offers fascinating accounts of modern research in
neuroscience which seems to show that unconscious brain activity
always precedes any conscious thought or action by approximately
half a second. This unconscious brain activity thereby (arguably)
displaces free will with determinism. The eighth chapter discusses
the functionalist perspective in evolutionary psychology which
says that the unconscious is a primitive area of the brain that
has evolved within the human species as a survival mechanism.
Chapter nine deals briefly with the controversy surrounding subliminal
suggestion in advertising, and then discusses the development
of subliminal suggestion as a form of psychotherapy. This chapter
also examines what research into dreams and sleep learning has
added to what is known about unconscious processes.
The concluding chapter begins with the puzzling exclamation that
"human thought and behaviour are determined largely by unconscious
processes. We obey orders that are issued from the threshold of
awareness, and we obey like automata" (171). I find this
conclusion to be startlingly unfounded in light of the information
presented in the previous nine chapters. Like Freud, Tallis is
clearly a man of his times. He falls into the trap which captures
many clinical psychologists: that of reducing thoughts and memories
to descriptions of electrochemical determinants, thereby erroneously
equating the constituents of mind-those elements which make each
human being a unique individual such as beliefs, values, fears,
and hopes-with the biological functioning of the brain. Tallis
also admits that this deterministic neurobiological perspective
eliminates any talk of morality because it "makes concepts
of right and wrong entirely redundant" (180). It leads him
to the Buddhist position of claiming that things and people are
neither good nor bad; they just are. This makes attributing either
blame or credit to an individual absolutely inappropriate. Unfortunately
this then leads the reader to the absurd conclusion that the person
calling himself Frank Tallis does not actually deserve any credit
for writing this book. His biologically determined organism does!
In the end Tallis declares that "the unconscious has proved
to be one of the most robust concepts in psychology" (182).
But it is clear from the preceding 170 pages that, while the term
'the unconscious' may be robust, Tallis has used it to refer to
a variety of different concepts: from a sinister second
person within each individual, to an automatic thinking process,
to structural areas of the brain. Despite the unsatisfying last
chapter, this book is a very entertaining, easy to read, and informative
history of the unconscious, and thereby of psychotherapy. The
author keeps discussion lively by giving many examples, both from
the distant past and from more recent clinical studies, of actual
cases in which practitioners attempted to cure what they believed
to be mental illnesses by means of some promising, and some horrifying,
approaches to their patients' unconscious.
Note: this book is available in the UK and internationally from Amazon.co.uk.
© 2002 Peter B. Raabe
Peter B. Raabe teaches philosophy and has a private practice in philosophical counseling in North Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of the book Philosophical Counseling: Theory and Practice (Praeger, 2001).