However, nature has a remarkable power for righting herself, and it is only under an accumulation of unfortunate circumstances that there appears a neurosis, which is nothing more than a functioning of certain parts of the personality with all the rest dissociated. We shall later inquire more fully into the causes that lead up to such a result and shall find that the mechanisms involved are these processes of organization and disorganization by which mind is wont to group together or separate the various elements within its borders.
Gathering up our impressions, we find a number of outstanding qualities which we may summarize in the following way:
The Subconscious is:
1 Vast yet Explorable
The fraction that could accurately show the relation of the conscious to the unconscious part of ourselves would have such a small numerator and such a huge denominator that we might well wonder where consciousness came in at all. Some one has likened the subconscious to the great far-reaching depths of the Mammoth Cave, and consciousness to the tiny, flickering lamp which we carry to light our way in the darkness. However, ever the subconscious mind is becoming explorable, and it may be that science is giving the tiny lamp the revealing power of a great searchlight.
[Footnote 26: “The entire active life of the individual may be represented by a fraction, the numerator of which is any particular moment, the denominator is the rich inheritance of the past.”—Jelliffe: “The Technique of Psychoanalysis,” Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. III, No. 2, p. 164.]
2 Ancient yet Modern
The lowest layers of the subconscious, represented by the instincts, are as old as life itself, with their lineage reaching back in direct and unbroken line to the first living things on the ooze of the ocean floor. The higher strata are more modern, full, and accurate records of our own lifetime, beginning with our first cry and ending with to-day’s thoughts.
3 Primitive yet Refined
The lowest level, representing the past of the race, is primitive like a savage, and infantile, like a child; it is instinctive, unalterable, and universal; it knows no restraint, no culture, and no prudence. The higher level, the storehouse of individual experience, bears the marks of acquired ideals, of cultivated refinement, and represents among other things the precepts and prudence of civilized society.
4 Emotional yet Intellectual
Our records of the past are not dead archives, but living forces—persistent, urging, dynamic and emotional. They give meaning to new experiences, color our judgments, shape our beliefs, determine our interests, and, if wrongly handled, make their way into consciousness as neurotic symptoms.
However, the subconscious is not all emotion. It is a mind capable of elaborate thought, able to calculate, to scheme, to answer doubts, to solve problems, to fabricate the purposeful, fantastic allegories of dreams and to create from mere knowledge the inspired works of genius.