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There aint no unconcious...
I have written a new article regarding regarding the finding of the new breed of neuroscientists who are proposing a "whole-brain" theory of mind, vs. the falsity of the premise of the Unconscious/unconscious or an unconscious process in light of the more current research on neurocognition. It refutes the need/requirement for address the Unconscious/unconscious or unconscious process to build meaningful cognitive and/or behavioral interventions.
This is especially relevant to NLPers and hypnotists using Ericksonian patterns in describing the neurocognitive effect of hypnotic protocols with regard to the finding of current neurocognitive research. While the languaging referring to "unconscious" patterns may still be useful, the day when such a thing as an Unconscious/unconscious or even unconscious processes as some think about them today is no longer relevant may not be too far into our future.
Dr. Sigmund Freud vs. Friar William of Ockham
Numquam ponenda est pluritas sine necessitate
[Multiples should not be posited without necessity]
Article Abstract: One of the primary theories of psychology for explaining cognitive and/or behavioral responses of individuals has been the premise of an Unconscious/unconscious first proposed by Dr. Sigmund Freud in the early part of the 20th century. This theory has continued to remain present in many circles and disciplines within psychology and therapy, often expressed in terms of an unconscious process. This article proposes an alternative explanation of cognitive and/or behavioral response of individuals that does away with any need to reference either an Unconscious/unconscious or an unconscious process. The technique of applying the simplest explanation possible using the current information from neuroscientific research forms the basis for the argument proposed by the article.
Ockham's banner has been raised in quest to better understand and explain human cognitive and behavior beyond the "black box" of Frued's Unconscious/unconscious and unconscious process, and stands ready for all comers ...
William of Ockham a Franciscian Friar of the 14th century posed a precept which has long since become known as "Ockham's (or Occams) Razor." This principal given in the Latin form above is often presented as: "When considering two equally plausible explanations, choose the simplest one." The idea being that when choosing from a set or sets of data the simplest, i.e.: smallest, set of data that explains and offers the highest level of accuracy in predicting the event/outcome will better serve the process of explaining what has happened or will happen.
In his explanation of human cognitive and/or behavioral responses Dr. Freud proposed an "Unconscious" that was a repository of historical data, mostly associated with stored psychical traumas. The primary process by which this occurs is referred to as "repression" as distinct from "sublimation." Essentially repression occurs when an event is too painful to remain in consciousness and is the mind's way of dealing with the psychic pain according to Freud. This hypothesis formed most of psychoanalytic theory and the practice of psychoanalysis that follows from this theory.
In essence what Freud suggested is that the stored information acts upon the individual ‘unconsciously' generating psychodynamic responses that show up in cognition and/or behavior that is unexplainable to the individual. The effect is likened to the material stored in the Unconscious leaking into the awareness of the individual in unrecognizable ways, e.g.: slips of the tongue, also known as "Freudian slips." This leads to neuroses and in more extreme cases psychoses.
The practice of psychoanalysis was designed to put patients back in touch with the traumatizing event creating "insight" that would eventually lead to a greater awareness of the patterns generated and acted out that were previously unconscious and beyond the influence or control of the individual. After gaining insight the individual would begin to gain greater awareness of themselves and their patterns of response and therefore greater levels of influence and control over their expressed behavior.
While the description above is rudimentary and rough, it offers a glimpse into the most basis aspects of psychoanalytic theory, without the details of practice - or "how" to address the issue of the Unconscious or gaining the required insight.
While many people don't abide by purely Freudian constructs of the Unconscious or the precepts of psychoanalytic theory, these concepts still "leak" into their understanding of the unconscious - usually in the form of "unconscious process." The form this often takes is that there is a complementary process that is occurring in the mind alongside the conscious process that is processing information outside of awareness. When the processing of the information that resides outside of awareness is complete it rises somehow to the level of consciousness and is experienced/expressed cognitively and/or behaviorally.
The idea of an unconscious process is present in the work of many therapists, including those using hypnosis, with the possible exception of the Radical Behavioralists. It is the essence of virtually all psychodynamic theories like those of Erikson, Horney, Rodgers, Maslow and others like the famous psychiatrist/hypnotist Dr. Milton H. Erickson, M.D. For the purposes of this essay I want to address the idea of an "Unconscious" as unconscious process from within the structure of Dr. Erickson's use of the unconscious in hypnosis.
The most basic formulation of this process is that there is a constantly running mental process that resides outside of conscious awareness that can be referred to in shorthand as the unconscious. While this may not be the same as the repository of data that Freud conceptualized it is a constantly present factor in the behavioral expression of the individual.
What Milton suggested is that the unconscious as described in the paragraph above had patterns or programs that it runs in relation to the data being operated upon. His formulations were designed to repattern or reprogram the unconscious process through the application of hypnotic protocol or technique. His particular protocols were often conversational and metaphorical, designed to affect the repatterning/reprogramming proposed above.
The premise of a psychodynamic practice regardless of the specifics or the direction taken remain largely based on the premise of an Unconscious/unconscious that drives material into consciousness that show up cognitively, behaviorally or both. This proposes a mental process that resides outside of the ongoing conscious process or present process that is running as a result of the immediate physiological processes of the brain-body system.
These kinds of descriptions of mental process are largely based in dualistic theories of mind and brain/body being separate entities. That is the "mind" resides somehow outside of brain. This way of conceptualizing this material becomes more evident when the current theories of neurocognition are applied to the concept of the Unconscious/unconscious.
The more prevalent theories in current neurocognitive studies suggest that the brain-body system generates the processes of conscious awareness referred to as mind. In other words "mind" is an affect of the physiological processes of the brain-body system. Extending this idea of "brain" here to include the full neural system that is present in the body demands including, but not necessarily limiting it, to the brain, CNS, glandular system and other neural processes distributed throughout the body proper.
Another way of referring to this is that the mind is an affect of the processes of perception, conception and cognition distributed throughout the body proper. This suggests that there is no "mind" without the processes that are distributed in the body that generate the affect know as "mind."
Using Ockham's Razor it can be stated that all mental processes that become explicit in consciousness in the form of cognition and/or behavior are a direct result of the processes occurring in the brain-body system that generate the affect known as mind. What current neuroscience has begun to suggest is that these processes occur in whole-form patterns distributed simultaneously in the brain-body system generating the affect known as mind by the interactions occurring in the whole-form systemic patterns. The interactions that are distributed and occurring in the entire brain-body system at any given moment in time generate the cognitive and behavioral responses of the individual.
Using the premise stated above there is no need to propose or account for an Unconscious/unconscious or even an unconscious process displacing any need to resort to this conceptual form. The questions relating to the historical material that is "unconscious" for the individual but seems to effect the cognitive and/or behavioral responses can be addressed within the structure of the proposed premise sated above simply by accepting that this material is only present for the individual in the whole-form patterns that are provoked in relation to some data in the external environment or represented by the individual internally.
If cognition and behavior are the result of the interaction of the whole-form brain-body system in response to data, either sensory data in the environment or conceptual data conjured by the individual mentally there is no need to explain it by means of an Unconscious/unconscious or unconscious process. A simpler and more direct explanation would be that the brain-body system is patterned by exposure to external sensory stimuli and internally represented stimuli and the feedback loops that occur as a result. Over time these response patterns are habituated in regard to these kinds of stimuli and patterns of data. When these particular configurations of stimuli/data, or a configuration that is similar enough to provoke the habituated response patterns, are present the habituated response patterns run in the brain-body system creating the cognitive and/or behavioral responses experienced.
These habituated patterns are literally "out of mind" until the stimuli/data that provokes them into being are present, then the brain-body systems configures itself in response to the stimuli in the habituated patterns generating the cognitive and/or behavioral responses associated with those specific configurations. The habituated patterns of the brain-body system can then be said to be the result of the feedback loops generated in regard to the cognitive and/or behavioral responses within the environment. This is an ecological pattern where the inhabitants in a system are patterned by the system to respond as they do to the stimuli/data present in the system, and the system is patterned by the responses of the inhabitants within it as they respond.
This premise follows the tenants of the behavioralists with regard to "reward" theory. The responses that are rewarded are repeated and those that are not are extinguished. Certain types of behavior generate positive rewards within the system furthering the action of the individuals creating them, while others types of behavior generate no reward or negative reward extinguishing the repetition of the behavior. The fundamental factor is the sense of satisfaction or completion the individual experiences in regard to the expression of the specific cognition and/or behavior.
What occurs within the interaction between an individual and someone running a psychodynamic intervention with them is the provocation of the habituated patterns of cognition and/or behavior in response to the stimuli/data presented. Then the response is either rewarded or not, generating satisfaction and/or a sense of completion for the individual to the level they are capable of experiencing it in regard to the pattern they've run.
New patterns can be provoked and habituated in this way by manipulating the stimuli/data presented and the reward given or withheld. This results in potentially new response patterns in regard to familiar stimuli/data configuration in the system, generating new responses. The more accurately the habituated responses are provoked and manipulated the more effectual the repatterning/reprogramming of the cognitive and/or behavioral responses will be. This is especially true when the perceived reward for alternative cognitive and/or behavioral responses generates high levels of satisfaction and/or completion in the brain-body system of the individual.
One of the systems for intervening in the habituated brain-body system that shows extremely effective results in some cases is that of hypnotic protocol, especially in the hands of a gifted practitioner like Dr. Erickson. The advantage of using hypnotic protocol is the ability to effectively replicate the stimuli/data configuration that provokes the habituated response. Then by manipulating the various aspects of the stimuli/data configuration and the reward given or withheld in regard to the response provoked, the potential to reform the response of the individual become possible. This type of intervention has the potential of creating new responses that become installed al as a new pattern of "habituated" response to the familiar stimuli/data configuration.
Using the tenants of Ockham's Razor it would seem that while it is difficult to categorically state what occurs in the "black box" of the human psyche, from the neuroscientific evidence available the proposition of a direct habituated response system to stimuli could effectively explain the cognitive and/or behavioral response patterns observed without the need to propose or defer to a Unconscious/unconscious. While more evidence will be required to state the case more definitively, for now it seems both reasonable and possible to construct a satisfactory means for building whole-form systemic cognitive and/or behavioral interventions without any need to resort to addressing the Unconscious/unconscious or unconscious processes.
While Friar Ockham's precept alone may not have killed Dr. Freud's most basic premise, with some help from the current generation of neuroscientists he may yet deal it a mortal blow.
Joseph Riggio, Ph.D.
Joseph Riggio International | Princeton
© 2006 Joseph Riggio & Applied Behavioral Technologies, Inc. - All Rights Reserved.
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