Freud’s Conception of the Human Psyche

Freud believed that our feelings, beliefs, impulses, and underlying emotions were buried in our unconscious, and therefore not available to the waking mind. However, Freud also believed that there were levels of consciousness beyond just conscious or unconscious. To better understand Freud’s theory, imagine an iceberg.

The water surrounding the iceberg is known as the “nonconscious.” This is everything that has not become part of our consciousness. These are things we have not experienced and are not aware of, and therefore, they do not become part of or shape our personalities in any way.

The tip of the iceberg, our conscious, is only a very small portion of our personality, and since it’s the only part of ourselves that we’re familiar with, we actually know very little of what makes up our personality. The conscious contains thoughts, perceptions, and everyday cognition.

Directly below the conscious, at the base of the iceberg, is the preconscious or subconscious. If prompted, the preconscious mind can be accessed, but it is not actively part of our consciousness and requires a little digging. Things such as childhood memories, our old telephone number, the name of a friend we had when we were younger, and any other deeply stored memories are found in this area. It is in the preconscious mind that the superego can be found.

Since we are only aware of the tip of the iceberg at any given time, the unconscious is incredibly large and consists of those buried, inaccessible layers of our personality. It is here that we nd things like fears, immoral urges, shameful experiences, selfish needs, irrational wishes, and unacceptable sexual desires. This is also where the id can be found. The ego is not fixed to one particular part of the iceberg and can be found in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.

There is no denying just how influential Sigmund Freud was to the fields of psychology and psychiatry. His ideas completely changed the way people viewed personality, sexuality, memory, and therapy, and he is perhaps the most well-known psychologist in the popular vernacular a century after he first arrived as a notable scholar of the mind.