A considerable part of any person’s subconscious is made up of memories, wishes, impulses, which are repressed in this way. Of course any instinctive desire may be repressed, but it is easy to understand why the most frequently denied impulse, the instinct of reproduction, against whose urgency society has cultivated so strong a feeling, should be repressed more frequently than any other.
[Footnote 23: See foot-note, p. 145, Chap. VII.]
=Past and Present.= It matters not, then, in what state experiences come to us, whether in sleep or delirium, intoxication or hypnosis, or in the normal waking condition. They are conserved and may exert great influence on our normal lives. It matters not whether the experiences be full of meaning and emotion or whether they be so slight as to pass unnoticed, they are conserved. It matters not whether these experiences be mere sense-impressions, or inner thoughts, whether they be unacknowledged hopes or fears, undesirable moods and unworthy desires or fine aspirations and lofty ideals. They are conserved and they may at a later day rise up to bless or to curse us long after we had thought them buried in the past. The present is the product of the past. It is the past plus an element of choice which keeps us from settling down in the despair of fatalism and enables us to do something toward making the present that is, a help and not a stumbling-block to the present that is to be.
=The Association of Ideas.= It is only by something akin to poetic license that we can speak of lower and higher strata of mind. When we carry over the language of material things into the less easily pictured psychic realm, it is sometimes well to remind ourselves that figures of speech, if taken too literally, are more misleading than illuminating. When we speak of the deep-laid instinctive lower levels of mind and the higher acquired levels, we must not imagine that these strata are really laid in neat, mutually exclusive layers, one on top of the other in the chambers of the mind. Nor must we imagine the mental elements of instinct, idea, and memory as jumbled together in chaotic confusion, or in scattered isolated units. As a matter of fact, the best word to picture the inside of our minds is the word “group.” We do not know just how ideas and instincts can group themselves together, but we do know that by some arrangement of brain paths and nerve-connections, the laws of association of ideas and of habit take our mental experiences and organize them into more or less permanent systems. Instinctive emotions tend to organize themselves around ideas to form sentiments; ideas or sentiments, which through repetition or emotion are associated together, tend to stay together in groups or complexes which act as a whole; complexes which pertain to the same interests tend to bind themselves into larger systems or constellations, forming moods, or sides to one’s character. It is not highly important to differentiate in every case a sentiment from a complex, or a complex from a constellation, especially as many writers use “complex” as the generic term for all sorts of groups; but a general understanding of the much-used word “complex” is necessary for a comprehension of modern literature on psychology, psychotherapy or general education.